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Outward Review

Edited by: Tiffany Lillie

Outward, developed by Nine Dots Studio and published by Deep Silver, is an open-world survival RPG. Your journey begins in the aftermath of a shipwreck, where the money you desperately needed to pay off your blood debt has been lost to the whims of the sea. The task of paying off your debt is just the stepping stone to a much larger adventure fraught with exploration and danger.

PLAN WISELY

You play as an ordinary adventurer, with all the challenges that being a normal person brings. Having to worry about hunger, thirst, temperature, health, and stamina, means planning out your journey is a must for survival. Should you forgo warm clothes to free up inventory space and risk the ill effects of freezing, or should you bring extra clothes and deplete your stamina by being over encumbered? Given the limited inventory space, you must manage your items down to the last detail and decide what is worth keeping.

In addition to planning your inventory, you also need to plan which skills and buffs you’re going to invest in. Though the initial character creation lacks variety, you can customize your character greatly through the skill trees available. For example, you can choose to focus on building up your skills in two-handed swords for melee combat, or invest in magic-based skills once you’ve discovered and chosen to use mana throughout your journey.

The need for inventory management creates an extra layer of difficulty to the survival aspect and forces you to think about your next move instead of charging forward blindly, which adds a nice touch of realism. The skill trees also help to add some interesting variety and customization to your chosen play style, as well as offer up some future replay value.

COMBAT

As you venture into the world of Aurai, you’ll come across an array of vicious beasts and hostile humans to fight. Unfortunately, the combat feels pretty clunky at times. It can take a few hours to get used to the mechanics, and even then the fighting still lacks a certain fluidity. You block while watching your opponent’s moves, trying to learn their attack pattern, then strike while they cool down and immediately go back to blocking as the process repeats, until one of you is defeated.

On top of that, actions don’t cancel in a fight, meaning you have to wait until your attack fully plays out before you can block again, leaving you no way to change your moves to match your opponent. Your opponent’s stamina also recovers much faster than your own and there doesn’t appear to be much pacing in that as soon as you start out, the enemies are already at a high difficulty and can kill you in two or three hits. Though the beasts are interesting and you might enjoy the challenge that fighting in Outward brings, the combat design could be improved.

WORLD DEPTH

Your journey takes place in the various regions of Aurai and while there is a nice amount of variation between the regions, there is not much depth to the world overall. The NPCs are lifeless, with only merchants and quest givers interactable. The factions are each unique and interesting on their own, but there’s not much of a reason to care for the characters in them due to the lack of personality presented. Additionally, only the first half of the NPC’s lines are voice acted, leaving the last half for you to read, and the voice acting does not always match the text box, which takes you out of the story. 

In terms of interacting with the world, there is not much there either. You can harvest plants and explore the area, but many of the structures and buildings are cosmetic only. For example, you might be wandering through the Hallowed Marsh and discover a large stone tower on top of a hill, only to sprint up there and find there’s no way to enter it. The dungeons are pretty fun to explore and can be interacted with fully, but Aurai itself feels rather empty at times.

THE ENDLESS WALKING

The only way to traverse across the world and continue your travels is through walking. Though this feature isn’t too bad early on, giving you ample time to explore every corner of the regions, it can quickly become tiresome. There are no deaths in Outward. Instead, your stats are reduced when your health drops to zero and a random death event is rolled, such as a wandering traveler finding your bruised body and taking you to the nearest town, or a group of bandits enslaving you. This mechanic definitely helps to create some variety as you play, however, it might also teleport you to the other side of the map, forcing you to spend another twenty minutes walking back to where you were. Once you’ve experienced this four, five, or even ten times, it becomes increasingly tedious. While not wanting to implement the ability to fast travel is understandable in a difficult survival scenario, spending a large chunk of the gameplay walking isn’t very appealing.

5

The Verdict: Fair

Building an interesting and layered world is a crucial aspect of the open-world RPG genre, and unfortunately Outward lacks the depth needed to stand out among other titles. It's a refreshingly difficult take on the survival genre, and allows interesting variations in play style, but its appeal is significantly hindered by tedious mechanics and a superficial world.

See About Us to learn how we score

Jade Swann
Written by
Friday, 26 April 2019 05:41
Published in Adventure

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Jade Swann is an avid video game player and fiction writer. She loves getting lost in open-world RPG’s, making tough choices in story-driven games, and is a big fan of the horror genre. Some of her favorite games include Fallout 3, Fallout 4, Skyrim, Planet Coaster, and The Sims 4. When not immersed in the world of video games, she can be found reading, writing, or spending time with her very lazy Boston Terrier.

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