OutwardXbox One, PS4, PC¦ RPG
Probably one genre of gaming that struggles more than any for console gamers, is that of the RPG. Yes, the Role Playing Game, long since a basic staple for the PC gamer, who armed with keyboard and mouse, can negotiate the often bewildering options they will need to understand and master on any major quest.
But when consoles came along, they just didn’t have the high spec needed for all that dungeon raiding.
Fast forward some time, which is easily done in an RPG game, and consoles are super powered beasts. Still not as powerful as the high end gaming PCs mind, but now can somehow have this type of game squeezed into its innards for your gaming pleasure. And Outward is one such game.
It’s always a little disconcerting when you wake up in a strange place in just your pants – particularly in real life - but even in a game environ. And that’s exactly how your adventure begins in this old skool RPG. You wake up on the beach of Cierzo, after being washed up after the ship you were on crashed against the rocks. Apparently the lighthouse wasn’t on, causing the devastation. It appears that they weren’t you’re lucky pants you had on, after all.
You return to the settlement, only to be confronted with a bill for your rent. You’re given only five days to pay it, or you’re out on your ear.
Unlike Conan Exiles, a title that sees you on a daily basis in your pants, your character gets some cheap, bare threads to cover up his bits, fairly quickly. This means you can go about your task with at least a modicum of dignity.
Once you have a few basics which can be found in the base, the gates can be opened and you can set foot outside into the open world ahead.
The developers Nine Dots believe that one of the selling points for this game, is that you start your journey as a regular person, with nothing special about you. That’s all well and good, but doesn’t make that much sense when, before you can say “hey Presto!” you’re character is casting spells like Harry bloody Potter. You could argue that we all have a little magic inside of us [we definitely don’t], but it’s a stretch to be able to cast spells and call yourself an ordinary Joe.
Probably the more accurate selling point is the ability to take part not only online, but also locally in split screen. Considering the stereotypical RPG player however, it’s difficult to ascertain if they could actually cope emotionally sitting in the same room as someone else whilst playing. There’s also the issue of how it would work opening menus in one screen, as the other played on. We played on our own, adopting the full spirit of an RPG player, so can’t comment on whether or not the screen gets busy in split screen or not. Although it probably does.
One of the main reasons that these kinds of games don’t work on consoles, still, is that they just don’t have the serious grunt power needed to play them at their full potential. To that end, the console version of this game at least, far from embraces 4K technology. To say that graphically it was dog ugly would be unkind, albeit accurate. It’s certainly no Hyrule.
It looks just as you would imagine an underpowered PC game to look on a console. It looks retro in every kind of way; so much so that it’s not a million miles away from resembling the intentionally blocky Minecraft.
And due to the fact that it either didn’t have the budget, or just lacking the sheer power under the console’s bonnet, there’s nothing in the way of a cut scene. Even the dialogue is cut short in conversation, with only the first line of it being spoken, before silences falls as you’re expected to read the rest of the speech bubble on your own.
The problem is, not just with this game, but with all PC based RPG’s that are unrealistically squeezed into consoles, this: console gamers find playing this type of game too fiddly and restrictive, mainly down to using a gamepad that simply can’t cope with all the various inputs needed. And if you’re a hardened PC gamer, you’ll just stick to playing this sort of thing on a PC.
This type of game is just far too clunky for consoles. Thankfully, it’s nowhere on the same kind of outrageously poor level as the recent Kingdom Come, but it just feels like an unnatural fit for a console.
That said, there’s no denying it has a certain retro charm. The world is nicely designed, and there is a certain amount of fun to be had in exploring it. You know, for an RPG on a console. It also has a pleasing aim-assist for enemies, which certainly helps when attacking mythical whatsits.
It also has one of the most rousing and impressive soundtracks to a game we’ve heard in some time.
It may be an issue of timing too, regarding a fondness for it, as its release ties in with the excellent ITV2 comedy Dead Pixels, which follows the exploits of PC gamers playing titles such as this.
But as console gamers born and bred, if we want to go off on an adventure in a gaming wilderness, we will always choose riding off on horseback as Arthur Morgan, across the Wild West, over this and its kind, any day of the gaming week.