Outward Review (PC)
Warning: If you are in any way affiliated with the development of Outward, it’s probably best you don’t read this review. I appreciate the time and effort that went into making Outward, but I’m about to tear it a new one. This review also contains bad language.
You have been warned…
Before we get into the review of Outward, I need to air something. Fuck this game. I haven’t felt such rage for a game in a long time.
Outward is an RPG that, by it’s own admission, is hard. It wants to convey the feeling that adventuring is dangerous and should not be taken lightly. It wants you to think about the equipment you have. To ensure you are ready for whatever eventualities you might face before leaving the safety of civilisation.
Now that’s all fair and well. But the tools that the game provides you to handle this are lacking. Inventory systems are the bane of my life, and Outwards is no exception. It’s probably even one of the worst.
Collect all the things!
You have two inventories, your pouch (or pocket) and your bag. Either one of these can become overloaded, causing your player to either slow down or become unable to move entirely. Over-encumbrance. I get it. It’s a frustrating and needless feature. Just don’t let me put more things in my inventory than it can hold. Job done.
Outward does use the two inventory system in a neat way though. When you get into combat, you can drop your bag in order to gain a bit more of a dexterity advantage when dodging attacks. Once your foes are defeated, you pick your bag back up again and off you go.
Oh, only you tried to loot the foes and now cannot move to get your bag because your pockets are too full…
The equipment in Outward in your standard fantasy RPG affair. Swords, clubs, axes, bows etc. There is a nice crafting system too. You need to learn recipes and can combine items found in the world with your weapons to enhance them. There are also cooking recipes, along with alchemy.
And that takes us on to the magic system. The number one issue I have with Outward.
Use all the spells!
First you need to go through a whole trial in order to gain magic. You will likely die a couple of times trying to get there (more on that shortly) and at the end of it all your learn Spark. The magical equivalent of flicking a lighter. Great, you can now light your own camp fires without flint. GG.
But it’s ok. You move on and train with other scholars to learn new spells. Only most spells that you learn will need to be used in combination with others to become effective. Now that actually sounds like a neat feature, performing spell combos for a massive effect. But this brings us to the next issue I have with Outward.
Which button do I push?
Quick slots are a must in RPG games. All those skills and spells that you are going to learn and use in combat. Probably combined with a few key potions to keep you going in battle? We’ve seen games that come with multiple quick slot bars, but at the least you expect they number keys to each be a slot.
Not in Outward. Outward uses Q, E, R and 1 through 5. Eight slots total. OK, that’s only 2 less than most RPGs, but bare in mind what we just spoke about in the magic system. You have to use multiple spells to make an effect you are actually looking for. So suddenly, three buttons of your quick slots are consumed to pull off one spell! How are you going to have space for those bandages, potions and other weapons?
GiT GuD or Die Trying
And you are going to need those bandages. As mentioned earlier, Outward is hard. Here’s a couple of examples:
Early on in the game, after completing the first few quests I decided it was time to venture to the next region. I had an understanding of combat and had gathered enough equipment that I felt prepared. I set off from the starting city of
Cierzo and knew I had to head east and to the other side of the mountain.
We should make a note here. The map in Outward is just that. It’s a map with a few key location indicated on it. Nothing else. No key. No indicator to show where you are. No way to look at any other regions, or in the cities/camps unless you are there. At first I thought this was a terrible feature, but then it grew on me that you actually have to pay attention to where people tell you to go, and learn to understand the landmarks, hence the above directions.
Anyway, just as we set off it began to snow. Cool, I thought. There are varying weather conditions and that is neat.
Only, my character is starting to feel cold. So I found a wolf den, killed it’s inhabitants and took shelter. Crafting a fire to keep warm by I passed some time brewing some tea that would also help protect against the warmth. Onward and Outward!
But it was still snowing.
I got to the edge of the mountain I had to go around and my character was really complaining about the cold again. I’d even contracted the cold disease. There was no shelter around, so I set up a campfire and pitched my tent. After a nice warm cup of tea (which cured the cold) I rested by the warmth. However, my camp site did not go unnoticed and my slumber was disturbed by a bandit. After dispatching of him, I tore down the camp and continued onward, seemingly having had enough warmth to keep me going.
Yet it was still snowing.
I came around the east side of the mountain and joined the main path that was surely the road out of the region. More bandits. These were dispatched of, but what I hadn’t noticed was the giant Mantis Shrimp thing round the corner. It got me. Dead.
I respawn back in Cierzo. Time to heal up, sell the useless crap I’d collected in the last outing and head Outward once again.
“How bad could the cold be?” I thought. Turns out, pretty bad. I took the northern route around the mountain this time. Seems the cold had even driven the bandits off the path for the most part. My character was complaining bitterly about the cold again, but I thought I had enough tea to keep me going, along with my torch for a bit of warmth. Finally I meet the Mantis Shrimp again. This time I bested it and carried on.
However, while fighting it I hadn’t noticed my temperature drop all the way down. With half health I bandaged up, drank some more tea and got my torch out to carry on.
It wasn’t enough though. Suddenly my characters health just disappears and I fall down dead again.
Back to Cierzo once more. I sell all my wares that I’ve found along the way. Suddenly I have a decent wee purse, so I go visit the blacksmith. Just so happens he has a set of Fur armor for sale that has cold resistance. Excellent. I make a confident purchase and step out of Cierzo and outward one final time.
Oh, the snow has cleared and now I’m too hot…
Later in the game I’m trying to clear a dungeon that’s been overrun with bandits. Bandits I can deal with, especially now that I’ve got some better equipment. What I didn’t expect was the two Assassin Bugs that were about to ruin my day. Here’s a tip in Outward. Avoid multiple enemies at all costs. Especially ones that are going to need at least ten hits each to kill!
My first death is fine. I respawn back in the city that this dungeon is under. However, my bag did not. It seems to have been left in the dungeon. Heading back in, the Assassin Bugs have moved up right to the door. I walk in and insta-death.
This time the game respawns me outside in the wild. Remember that point about the map? Well now I’m cursing it again as I have no idea where I am. I emerge from a shack, still without my bag for supplies, turn right and start walking.
Little did I realise that if I had turned left, I would have seen the alternate entrance to the dungeon. No worries though, I run into some other uglies, die again, and end up back in the city. Next time I die in the dungeon I realise the entrance is there. I lost count of the number of times I died in that dungeon.
And this is
And I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve died playing Outward. I probably wouldn’t want to know the answer. It’s frustrating, and really not fun. I may not be their target audience, and that’s OK. But by making your game overly difficult you can’t really expect non-hardcore RPG players to enjoy it.
We could maybe put up with the difficulty if the rest of the game was up to scratch, but it’s not. It doesn’t even come close to publisher Deep Silvers other offerings. Kingdom Come: Deliverance, for example, had countless issues but its solid story and level of charm, combined with the rich historical background, made it a good game.
Outward unfortunately has no charm. The graphics are low quality, there’s no beating around the bush on that one. Even for an RPG. Animations are janky. Enemies will spawn and drop in from the sky. You’ll be thankful that they sometimes get stuck on top rocks, until you want to loot that rare item they had! The main story line has yet to inspire, and the side quests do largely go unnoticed. Until they tell you that you ran out of time to complete them, without ever hinting there was a time limit.
Two things about Outward do bring me back to it. The first is the music. From the minute the game launches the music is spot on. It’s always there in the background, perfectly complimenting what is happening in the game. The second is that there is this huge open world to discover and much more to see of the game. But getting through it is just such a chore that I don’t think I will ever get to see it all.