GamingReview: Outward Definitive Edition

Review: Outward Definitive Edition

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A crafting survival RPG that strays into simulation territory as it wants you to do everything yourself, Outward – an RPG of the fantasy variety – removes all modern conveniences from fast travel to levelling up, making you walk every inch of the map and defeat enemies just to get you meal to meal.  

This is mostly in the name of exploration and discovery rather than quest-led gameplay as you pull out your own bed, grab a huge cooking pot and stare at the stars when it’s become too dark to continue exploring. As the trailer states ‘Forget what other games have taught you’, Outward certainly does head in a different direction to what you might expect – a somewhat realistic one. 

That’s just the base version though. Today we review tepid trailblazer, Outward Definitive Edition, which is an upgraded version of the original with gameplay adjustments and the 2 DLC (The Three Brothers and The Soroboreans) that originally released for the base game. The 2 DLC are a mixture of grinding and story additions to the end game content with The Three Brothers allowing you the ability to build an entire town.

It’s hardly a small endeavor either, you need to complete quests, purchase blueprints, acquire resources, build over many in-game days, upgrade and maintain as well as having requirements for each building once its built. It’s a lot of grinding, but it’s satisfying having something created something permanent in-game, and I actually enjoyed the idea of it far more than the base game.    

The mana meter for your character is pitifully small, meaning that in just a few swings of your weapon or a short run will leave you completely gassed, which is more than a little tedious when you actually just want to travel somewhere without falling asleep on the way there.

It might be presumptuous to say, but the chances that you’ll like Outward will likely be determined by how much you already like the genre going into this experience, as I just can’t see any players being converted to the fantasy crafting genre from this mediocre title and any action game fans coming in are likely to be disappointed when comparing it to other RPGs on the market.  

Not being a AAA game, Outward works to its perceived strengths though, wanting every excursion to be a life-threatening and tense adventure on its own, but in doing so, forgets to make the individual elements that make up each one actually enjoyable. With bare maps, no fast travel and an egregiously bland gameplay loop, you have yourself a game that may take more from the player in time than it gives is satisfaction.

The main reason for this is that loot runs – the component that fuels the entire machine – provide little to no excitement, or motivation to move onto the next one, as the slow, floaty and repetitive action mechanics dull the proceedings and the hope you might loot something worthwhile often leads to disappointment as the best possible outcome and item that needs to be crafted, is likely something you have no idea about. 

Furthermore, you are encouraged to be clever with your loot as your bag can barely hold any items, so not only do newcomers have a hard time trying to figure out what is actually necessary, but you are forced to throw away a lot of – potentially – helpful things if you do not wish to constantly be running back home to store them in your stash. 

Ironically, despite the game wanting you to figure it out on your own, unless you are willing to spend hours upon hours of figuring it out, chances are the game’s overwhelming start will likely force you to find out online.  For those who haven’t succumbed to the subscription gaming’s version of channel skipping which makes you jump to another game at the first moment of discontent, this does mean that there is a lot to do here and those that enjoy getting lost in the minutia of making your own weapons and items will certainly have something sink their teeth into. 

There are plenty of builds and different weapons to choose from over the length of the game, but with few attacks each, it takes an awful lot of time to get to the point where the accumulation of skills and weapons make it worth it and don’t seem like the same lunge over and over. 

In that sense, the action is like a poor man’s version of Elden Ring, where you jump dodge around an attack strike and repeat, hitting an enemy whose only reaction to your attack is a depleting health bar.

One thing that everyone is sure to agree on though – unless you are playing with a PC mod – is that Outward does itself very little favors not including a fast travel ability. Combine that with a very slow run (and low energy levels for a sprint) and it really slows the entire experience down to a crawl.

This is clearly aiming to be part of the ‘realism’ of the adventure, but it also makes the game feel gimmicky and unnecessary at times. 

Graphically, the game does admirably well considering the small development team, but there are some performance issues, constant loading screens and bugs that you are going to encounter throughout.

The day/night and even different seasonal cycles, are – in theory – a fantastic addition to the game, but none of the NPCs ever change their programmed route even in the dead of night or ever go home. The importance of sleep is further demeaned as there is no sleep meter and you don’t actually have to do it, meaning that you could survive indefinitely without even bothering. Health and food items feed into this poorly as they do an irritatingly useless job of healing you, so it just feels like its forcing you to sleep to feed into its realism. 

This is made more superfluous by a generous death system – which often drops you off with 25% health and your items on the floor – as its benefits are not that far off that of sleeping. When you are lost with the unhelpful map that refuses to show you where you are on it, dying to be moved to a marked part of the map is actually more preferable than sleeping to stay alive. 

The story has four different factions that you can join and they all offer unique skills and equipment for the quests that they ask you to undertake. This allows you to create many different builds for the decent variety of weapons available. It also means that you won’t fully understand the story until you’ve played the game 4 times through despite there only being one ending. 

Depending on where you die, you get a different mini story before you get going again.

The original also included a multiplayer mode and, in my opinion, this is really where the game shines as the negatives are mitigated somewhat when playing with buddies either locally or online.

Outward is quite the divisive title and will likely continue to be a dichtomy amongst gamers. Some will love the lack of hand holding, the long walks and the creative combination of crafting and survival gameplay, while others will pick apart its average implementation and frustrating mechanics. It is often said that when trying to write a story, it is helpful to think of the ending first and write backwards. Outward seems to think that the gameplay needs to be much the same, putting the onus on the player to make it fun through a significant time investment and hoping something sticks, instead of first making the formula fun.

SUMMARY

+ Building DLC
+ Survival and crafting has depth regardless of its quality
+ The game has legs, which ironically you'll be using a lot
- Travelling is very slow
- Non-menu based gameplay is frustrating all round

Played on PS4. Available on Xbox system, Windows and Switch.
Alex Chessun
Alex Chessun
Currently obsessed with the Yakuza series (minus no.7), Alex is an avid fan of immersive Open World games, quick pick-up-and-play arcade experiences and pretty much anything else good. He also desperately wants Shenmue 4 to happen - a lot.

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Review: Outward Definitive Edition+ Building DLC <br/> + Survival and crafting has depth regardless of its quality <br/> + The game has legs, which ironically you'll be using a lot <br/> - Travelling is very slow <br/> - Non-menu based gameplay is frustrating all round <br/> <br/> Played on PS4. Available on Xbox system, Windows and Switch.