Outward (PC) Review

By Renan Fontes 08.05.2019

Review for Outward  on PC

Genre mixing is always tricky. Not because there is an inherent problem in combining genres together, but because developers often fail to convey how or why two genres are being played off one another. An action-RPG with heavy survival elements, Outward is one of those rare titles to make it clear why genre mixing can be beneficial. In combining traditional action RPG gameplay, with survival design conventions, a rich world is created where every fight is one for survival, giving players a deeper connection to exactly that, and, by extension, the core mechanics. Unfortunately, where Outward shines conceptually, it fails to do so conventionally.

Hostility is hard to pull off in the gaming medium. On one hand, it might seem like common sense not to actively antagonize one's player base. On the other hand, a bit of hostility goes a long way in not just creative a richer world, but forcing an audience to master the mechanics at play. Outward does hostility well, at least on a surface level. Every facet of the title's design exists to create an obstacle that audiences need to overcome. Sleep isn't a suggestion so much as it is a necessity; players must make sure to keep themselves fed and hydrated; item management plays an incredibly important role where it cannot be overlooked by any means necessary; and any action is more about survival than it is the thrill of combat.

In those introductory moments, before the story opens up proper, these concepts genuinely give the experience a jolt of life unlike anything to release this generation. There's little to no hand holding involved, creating a world where death is always looming around the corner. Frankly, it's thrilling that an RPG is willing to go so extreme when it comes to its finer details. Far too often, titles - not even just in the RPG genre - hold back on their audience. Of course, there is the flipside.

Screenshot for Outward  on PC

Going too far with hostility creates an experience where players cannot necessarily trust the mechanics or concepts surrounding their journey. Hunger, thirst, and rest are frankly not well communicated in here properly. Logic dictates that health should be prioritized at all times, yet there comes a point when clear telegraphs, especially in regards to weather, would remove much of the tedium - which in itself is another problem.

After a while, these fresh and unique mechanics become tedious. Put simply, Outward outstays its welcome rather quickly. It's tempting to want to develop a longer RPG - after all, the genre often prides itself on length - but restraint would have allowed the core mechanics at play to shine more thoroughly. As is, they aren't built for a long lasting epic, especially not one that seems to walk a line between engaging gameplay and tedium.

Screenshot for Outward  on PC

Where there are some merits in the survivalist elements, the same light praise cannot be extended towards the actual combat. Battles are clunky, slow, and downright boring. There is no depth when it comes to combat. Even magic, which is only introduced after players have familiarized themselves with the core mechanics, struggles to add much to what might very well be one of the least interesting battle systems in gaming. It isn't as if combat is outright bad either.

There's elegance in simplicity. The problem is just that it's boring and leaves too much to be desired. Strafing with a bit of hitting can only be engaging for so long (not long at all.) In a generation that isn't hurting for great action RPG, it seems strange that the developers would take such a weak approach in a title all about survival.

Screenshot for Outward  on PC

If nothing else, the world at large is interesting and, at times, gripping. The story leaves much to be desired, with some truly dreadful narrative presentation and voice acting, but the actual moment-to-moment exploration is well done. On higher settings, there's even a beauty to the environments. The shipwreck that opens the experience transitions nicely into a seaside area that, frankly, would have made for an excellent tutorial stage if more fully fleshed out prior to the plot's kicking off.

In spite of the lackluster script, character interactions are surprisingly nuanced at times, giving the impression that this is a living, breathing world with people and not just characters. Of course, this does little to overshadow the fact that most side quests are too ambiguous for their own good, or that the story meanders far more than it's willing to let on - but there is a charm present nonetheless. Hostile and bland, Outward isn't worth trudging through for casual fans of the genre. More hardcore fanatics might find a unique way to kill a few hours, especially when played multiplayer, but there just isn't enough to admire or appreciate at the end of the day.

Screenshot for Outward  on PC

Cubed3 Rating

4/10
Rated 4 out of 10

Subpar

Outward isn't so much bad as it is outwardly bland. Bolstered by its genuinely endearing premise, and an emphasis on a more "human" approach to the RPG genre, the title is simultaneously held back by lacklustre presentation, an underwhelming combat system, and a main game that goes on far too long to justify the onslaught of hostility thrown at the player. The survival elements do help to keep the experience engaging, but, more often than not, they hold back what would otherwise be a rather atmospheric and pleasant action-RPG. The hostility on offer is a genuine strength on a conceptual level, but it perhaps goes too far, resulting in an RPG that can't quite overcome its flaws despite its qualities.

Developer

Nine Dots Studio

Publisher

Deep Silver

Genre

Adventure

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date 26.03.2019   North America release date 26.03.2019   Japan release date TBA   Australian release date TBA   

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