Colin has been exploring the harsh world of Aurai in Deep Silver’s Outward, adventuring on a journey of death, looting and even more death. There’s a lot to love here, including the harken back to olden days where your hand isn’t held.
While there is definitely an overarching storyline featured throughout Outward, it’s arbitrarily presented to you. It’s almost a reward for surviving the harsh environments the game throws you in. The game begins with your player created character drifted onto shore after an expedition gone wrong and the majority of the crew left dead, you and the rest of the team were in search of treasure and gold, but your personal stake in the venture was to get enough money to pay off your ancestor’s Blood Price. You’re on a small island and are left to fend for yourself, and this serves as the tutorial of the game but after this point, you’re left to your own devices – Outward doesn’t hold your hand.
At first, glance, if you’ve played a Souls inspired game before, then you’re going to feel at home here with Outward. As you invest more time into the game, you’re going to start seeing what sets it apart from those other titles – The biggest being the games focus on survival; your character doesn’t have a rich background, you’re not a hero or someone destined for greatness. You are just an average person who has a Blood Price to pay, and as you find ways to clear that debt, you’ll find yourself in dangerous situations.
Your primary goal within the game is to stay alive outside of regular enemies; there are other elements at play. The environment is another critical antagonist in Outward as you have to ensure you’re equipped for the weather, make sure you stay warm, fed and hydrated and let’s not forget to rest either – There are a lot of systems at play here.
Early on the combat feels very static and difficult to come to grips with, feeling like a poor imitation of the games which have inspired it. While combat does feel stiff, taking a role play approach to explaining this helps make it bearable – You’re a commoner who is going out to fight, you’re not going to be a skilled warrior. When in combat, you’ve got a mix between light and heavy attacks available to you. You can lock onto your target which will enable you to strafe around your target, and you can dodge roll around at the cost of stamina.
One of my major annoyances with Outward is during combat; while your equipment feels weighty, once you land a blow on your an enemy they just brush it off and keep moving. Bigger enemies have a stagger gauge, and, once you’ve hit them enough, will stagger, opening them to attacks.
When I was first unleashed onto the world, I did what anyone would do in a Role Playing Game. I ran out to try and combat anything and everything which moved. I found a bandit chasing after a giant chicken looking animal and decided to intervene, killing the bandit I took his stuff and moved on. Next, I saw what I can only describe as a wolf, I defeated the first one and carved it up. The second wolf, however, overcame me.
As my health points reached zero, the body of my character hits the ground and fades to black. I was expecting a game over screen, but instead, I was met with a description of what the wolf was doing to me – It’s dragged me back to its den to eat me and after a brief loading screen and I’m allowed to defend myself; the controls are still fresh to me, and I’m randomly stabbing in the dark, I’ve been defeated again… Dying for a second time, I was definitely expecting a game-over screen this time, I’m again met with a description as to what is going on around me, and I’ve been saved by a local hunter who helps me back to safety – Death isn’t a constant here.
Outward feels light when it comes to an over branching storyline, but all of this flavor text when it comes to your character being defeated feels true to one of the game’s selling points, where each playthrough is going to be different.
Outward is a bit of mixed bag visually, at least for the PlayStation 4 version – Once you get past the gorgeous main menu of the game, you’re thrown into the character creation screen which presents you with muddy textures across all of the available presets; I was unsure if this was just the game trying to preload all visuals so waited five minutes, but the blurry textures persisted. While the game itself is plagued by low-resolution textures, there are a lot of complex models throughout the game. The armor and weapon designs are outstanding and really stand out compared to what else is available throughout the genre – Once you’ve got past the muddy visuals of the characters and find yourself in the game world, the visuals are impressive. There’s a broad range of areas and biomes, and all of the environments meet the expectations set by the fantasy genre.
If you’re on the fence with Outward, grab a snack and go check out our First Impressions video available over on our YouTube Channel!
Final Thoughts / Opinions
The moment you press Start Game you’re in for a difficult journey; Outward can be an intense beast when you first set off but is incredibly rewarding. The reason why I was struggling so hard in the beginning was because I was obsessed with the fishing spear, and because of this, I continued to die…
There is a significant focus on your character being human, and you’re going to be improving your character through trial and error. With a wide range of equipment available to you from the word go, you need to find what feels right – As you can imagine, certain weapons are heavier than others, which means that you’ll do more damage but will be left open to attacks if you miss. I’ve found that I prefer using sword and shield, but in my next playthrough, I’ll start focusing in other areas.
I’ve died a lot during my time in Outward, and this is mostly down to me going out unprepared or jumping into a Skyrim mindset, which just doesn’t work here… And that’s one of its strengths – There’s a lot to love for masochists. While so far I’m making the game sound very traditional with its weapon choices, it’s far from it. It’s just my preferred playstyle – There are guns which can be unlocked, a plethora of traps (Which I should be using more), and you can even unlock magic. I’ve avoided magic, but it’s available to everyone; you just need to unlock your mana and the ability to actually cast.
Throughout the majority of Outward, you’re trying to survive against whatever is being thrown at you and, if you’re anything like me, you’re going to spend too long stocking up and farming materials, just so you’re prepared. Luckily there are plenty of resources available online like r/outwardgame and the games extensive wiki – Without these resources, I would be mostly lost.
What’s most exciting about Outward has been the nostalgia back to the days where we didn’t have 100 waymarkers on your screen and had to keep notes as to the directions you’ve been given. You do have an in-game journal, however it often states “go to the tavern to ask for directions”.
All things considered, Outward is a fantasticly harsh experience which has had me at my wit’s end. I give Outward a solid: