Outward Xbox One review

April 11, 2019 by  
Filed under Xbox One, Reviews & Features, Xbox

Publisher: Deep Silver  Developer: Nine Dots Studios Genre: Action RPG  Players: 1-2 

Age Rating: 12+  Other console/handheld formats: PS4

If something is executed poorly in a game, it can sap the fun from it, making some of the better things feel wasted and as if they would be better off in a superior game. Outward is a good example of this; a game that has its heart in the right place, but one that deserved to be better thought out in some of its aspects.

Outward is an RPG with survival elements, and it has typical genre staples such as adventuring and combat. You’ll also be equipping your character with weapons and armour, and there’s also a crafting system present. Finally, there’s a basic character creation tool, which also allows you to select different races, which gives the game some replay value.

Outward’s world and story are fleshed out well enough, with the latter branching based on the path that you decide to take through the game, and while the visuals look cheap and dated, there’s a likeable charm in the overall look. Getting around the world, on the other hand, can be annoying at times, as the map is lacking in detail and doesn’t even show you your current position. In some ways it can be considered a good thing as it means you are forced to learn where everything is based on directions from other characters as well as the use of landmarks, but it will prove to be a source of frustration for many. I certainly spent way too long looking around for particular areas, and even though I wasn’t using my real life legs to get around, it often still felt draining after awhile. Still, there’s a certain satisfaction and relief to finally finding what you are looking for, which I’m sure is something a real adventurer would feel after searching for a lengthy period.

Given the game’s brutal nature, there’s frequent auto-saving, which stops you from going back to a previous save. You can’t save on different slots either.

When it comes to the combat, Outward has some good ideas, but they are rather wasted, it has to be said. Combat is based around light and strong attacks, blocking and stamina management, and you can also make use of traps, and eventually magic, but everything in the action just feels lacking and unsatisfactory. In a delightful touch, you are able to put your item bag on the floor to make your movements swifter during enemy encounters, although the combat itself is merely passable, lacking in grace with animations that should have had much more impact. I also found it difficult to judge what enemies were going to do a lot of the time, often making things seem like luck as opposed to anything else, while my own defeat sometimes felt unfair.

As for the survival elements, the need to eat, drink and sleep brought Medieval RPG Kingdom Come: Deliverance to mind. If you don’t keep your character in tip top shape, you’ll find detrimental things happening to your stats. You’ll also have to carefully manage your inventory, as carrying too much can significantly slow your character down, and it’s even possible to not be able to move at all, forcing you to drop something on the spot. Your character can – depending on the weather – also get wet, hot or cold, and you require a torch or a lantern during nightfall in order to see, which means that there really is a lot to keep in mind in terms of surviving the game’s world. It’s all well meaning, and these elements do fit into the game well enough and give you extra reason to plan ahead during your travels.

Outward also tackles defeat in a different manner from many other games. Yes, here you can’t actually die, with defeat resulting in many different scenarios, some better than others. It’s a good idea, and penalties come in the form of detrimental status changes, and sometimes even capture. You’ll also find yourself in different places, sometimes forcing you on a long trek back to where you fell. Yes, there’s no such thing as fast travel here, and you’ll have to use your legs each and every time you want to get anywhere. Well, it encourages exercise if nothing else.

Outward can be played cooperatively, and along with online play, there’s a very surprising but very welcome split-screen option. Playing cooperatively is undoubtedly the best way to play the game, and even helps to make it easier to tolerate some of its flaws, being that things are mildly better when there’s someone to watch your back. Don’t get me wrong, co-op in no way transforms the game into something brilliant, but at least it’s better to stomach the lacklustre combat and frequently finding yourself misplaced in the game’s world with a partner in tow.

Outward has a lot of good ideas in terms of the battle to survive the game’s dangerous world, and it’s also fun to explore, although some of the other areas of the game are badly executed, and many will also find that it’s an adventure that is overly punishing in its nature. It’s a game that is definitely best with a co-op partner, but has way too many flaws in its navigation and combat to be considered as anything other than a missed opportunity that often feels like more of a slog to play than anything else.