Developed by Nine Dots Studio – Published by Deep Silver – 1-2 Players – Out now on PC, PS4 (version tested) & Xbox One
You’re in a world where you’re paying for the wrongdoings of your lineage, making amends for the actions of generations passed, both figuratively and literally. After returning from a voyage of which the spoils could help make amends, the ship you are returning home on hits some rocks and you are washed ashore. The journey it seems, has been fruitless. And now the leaders of your home town are breathing down your neck for compensation because of who you are, and your voyage has cost you as they’re charging you for the time you were away as well. In order to settle the debt, you have to go out into the big wide world, carrying out quests and hoping any bad guys drop money. Things start off pretty steady and standard for rpgs of this type, although there are no cinematics and most character interactions are text based. The back story gets filled in by messages on the loading screens (which take their sweet time). You need to pay attention to the messages however, as it tells exactly what is happening and why, almost like a dungeon master.
You’re pretty much dropped in at the deep end, left to find everything you need to progress and the only way you’re going to find out is by asking around everyone in town. And there’s a lot of people. A fair few contemporary games hold your hand a little too much and it has been quite the bone of contention of late. Though if you are one who likes to figure everything out for themselves, you’re in luck with this. There’s pretty much nothing in terms of tutorial. Although you are told little tid bits here and there about items, and the wide world etc, you rarely get any prompts regarding the functions of the in game controls and menu systems. And the less said about the map, the better. There’s no way points, and little in the way of any description about destinations and other towns. Everything you find out is through tedious character interactions where only half the dialogue is recorded if any at all.
The combat has a few variations, depending on what weapons you have, for instance, spears and other large two handed weapons are great for offensive attacks, but leave you open to counters, but swords and daggers allow you to equip shields, meaning you’ve got more of an all round attack and defense. There’s also projectiles with the likes bows and pistols, which are more suited to long range attacks, so there’s plenty to suit all preferences, and that’s on top of magic spells. The physicality of the combat is a different issue. When you’re facing off against a baddie, be it a bandit or a giant enemy crustacean, the control feels very disconnected. Although you’re entering commands, you have to wait for animations to finish and it looks quite sloppy as the character models clatter into each other.
Visually, while it’s no dogs dinner, it certainly isn’t up there with the best looking games of the generation. The overworld is a vibrant mix of lush greens, and different coloured flora and fauna, giving it a nice vivid look with some really effective light, but character models and certain environments give it a budget feel that wouldn’t be out of place in some free to play games. The music for the game is fantastic, however. Epic, jovial and exciting, particularly the main overworld. It really adds the to the sense of adventure and gives it that extra bit of scale. Once the day starts to turn to night, the score steadily quietens down and is taken over by a much more sinister one, which is very slow and dramatic in contrast, but it’s also accompanied by the sounds of crickets and other insects you hear at night, giving it an ominous yet comforting aura.
Overall its a very mixed bag, with the good elements being outweighed by the bad. There’s a great adventure in here but it’s bogged down by slow game play and sloppy functionality. You can’t help but look at Outward and think that it’s the result of someone that played Neverwinter online and decided to have a crack at making their own version, but missing the mark. And Neverwinter is free to play and a genuinely brilliant RPG, too. If you like an in depth adventure where you have to figure everything out for yourself, look no further. Ultimately, it feels somewhat aimless and disjointed.