Outward takes me back quite a bit. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before, but it takes me back to the day when games weren’t as easy. I did not take the intro videos and emails sent to me as such. I’m not very good at Dark Souls and the like so the difficulty aspect caught me way off guard. (Yes, I did the tutorials.) There are many aspects to enjoy here all the while getting kicked in the teeth. Is it worth the hassle? Is it really that fun? Can a filthy casual (like myself) enjoy the game? Is it worth the $40? Let me break it down for you.
I’m going to start with something small and talk about the aesthetics because I was not impressed with them. That’s weird too because all of the pictures and videos look fantastic! If I were playing this on the PC, I’d assume there’s some setting that I’ve messed up on somewhere. Even when forcing the output of the PS4 to 1080p (no, I don’t have a Pro and a 4K TV) it reminds me of a high-end PS2 game / 1st gen PS3 title. Honestly, that’s not a big issue for me. What bothers me is when I see the stock photos and gameplay videos and wonder why mine doesn’t look like that. I’ve seen other comments about it as well and I’m just not sure what to think. Without the facts here to remind me, the gameplay is smooth enough so that even if it looks like I’m running the game on a potato computer, the gameplay is fun enough to look past and simply figure the developers went with a more retro look.
Now, while something can be fun, it doesn’t mean that it also can’t be very frustrating. Judging by what I just said and my past reviews, you’ll probably guess where I’m going with this line of thought. Outward is tough, but tough in a different way than normal. Preparation in everything is key here and I do mean everything. Later on in the game, you’ll have some items that kill some of the nit-picky stuff for you, but that’s because you’ve been preparing up to that point. You’ll have to manage your inventory because if you carry too many items, it weighs you down to the point of stopping you dead in your tracks (quite literally at times). If you haven’t figured out the measured approach to combat, you’ll probably rush in and treat it like any other RPG, but this time you’ll get mowed down by a stupid freaking turkey. (I was injured and just wanted to get back to town and this turkey stalked me until I almost got to the gate where it blocked my path and then pecked the last bit of life off of me. It’s like it was waiting for me to get close to the gate and have some hope of surviving before it attacked.) You’ll need food and water and appropriate clothing before you venture out. There is so much to keep in mind.
There was a lot to unpack in that last paragraph; let’s breakdown combat a bit more. Once again, if you master it, you’ll probably have an easier time like some of the people streaming on Twitch. (Freaking showoffs…) When you start, go slow and watch your stamina. Running, dodging, blocking and attacking (regular and special moves) all take stamina. If you run out, it might behoove you to back up a bit and take a breather. Patience and watching what the enemy does is key to getting your hits in when they aren’t getting theirs. You can both slap-fight each other until your stamina runs out, but that’s not good for your health. Dodging at the right time can put you in a better position for some good hits, but it might be better if you just block the two/three hit combo and then follow-up with one of your own. That is unless you know how the enemy attacks and you can dodge behind them. I’m pretty terrible at it, but it looks awesome when done correctly. I favor the shield, but I still have a difficult time not doing combos that are too long and usually opening myself to an attack. Getting in a good solid strike seems to be what works best for me at this point.
Everything has a cost. Over time, your max health and stamina will get smaller so even when you eat something good for you, it will only regen back to a specific point. Make sure you take a (tent if you’ve got one) bed roll to sleep on. When you sleep, you get your max health and stamina back and can use some time to repair your gear as long as you sleep long enough. I usually try to get my sleep to end at the morning so I have more daylight to play with. Sleep will lead you to being hungry and thirsty so you’ll have to refuel when you wake. Hopefully you’ve been hunting and cooking. Certain foods will satisfy your hunger only while others will give you some health back. If you cook in a kitchen, you can make even better meals. I tended to pick better meals up off of dead bodies… because that’s a thing here. Also, I didn’t have access to a kitchen at this point. There are items that can give you a boost to your stamina regeneration and there are great potions that can fill you all the way up. None of which will be given to you in the beginning. You’ll have to forge your way through this game to gain access to those cool toys.
*****Score pending until I’ve played Co-Op more.*****
Premature thoughts: There’s no hand-holding in Outward. There’s no marker on your map to see where you are so you’ll have to use landmarks and your eyes. It gets cold and hot and your clothing is important. Stamina and health deplete over time, but you can brew potions to help if you figure that out. Traps can help in fights, but you’ll have to carry supplies around which adds to the weight which can slow your progress down significantly. Outward is tough and mean and cruel, but maybe with a friend I won’t die as much. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.