Video games are the easiest they’ve ever been. That’s not a knock or a dig, it’s a brilliant thing. They’re fantastically accessible, anyone can even pick up a mobile phone and have a brilliant gaming experience in 2019. Outward isn’t one of those accessible games. Outward doesn’t want to be. Outward is a complete throwback to an almost forgotten age and in premise alone is a really refreshing prospect. An open world RPG with no help or handholding? A complete player led adventure? Sign me right up yesterday.
I absolutely love the way Outward begins. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Dragonborns and Chosen Ash are not good protagonists. Who wants to be some faceless godlike chosen one? I want to be a no one, a Link starting off near the Great Deku Tree who is thrust into an epic journey because that’s the hand fate has dealt. This idea of anyone becoming a hero, anyone wearing the mask is wonderful and Outward really embraces this element of the hero’s journey. Another aspect of the hero’s journey Outward absolutely nails is discovery and exploration. You are really encouraged to travel and encounter anything and everything that you possibly can.
Everything you do has a purpose. Every conversation, every step, every quest no matter how repetitive or basic, it all adds up in terms of your character’s development and place in the world. There is a lot to do in the world and you’ll never have to look far for something interesting to pop up. You’ll easily be able to invest over one hundred hours into the game. There are no quest markers here and the map is as minimalist as it gets. You’ll have to explore and learn the land if you hope to become successful. This really makes it feel like your story. Other elements that help to get you invested are the importance of food and clothing. If you don’t have a balanced diet you’ll suffer, don’t wear winter clothing in the snow and you’ll freeze. These survival elements are very welcome in an RPG.
One of Outward’s most old school mechanics is one of my absolute favorite mechanics: local co-op. An entire RPG that you can play on the couch (or online) with a buddy. Everything is harder and the challenge really increases but being able to experience this world with someone else, being able to explore the various gameplay possibilities, is just a downright great time. The most important thing here is that it is genuinely you’re story, from the moment you leave your lighthouse it just feels like there are endless possibilities. I headed straight out of the walls into the wilderness, definitely strayed way too far and was cut down but some sort of lobster without it breaking a sweat. What happens when you die is pretty fun but the main point was the small little doomed adventure I embarked on.
The game looks absolutely fine. It won’t offend your eyes but it won’t light up your world either. Some of the character models are really intriguing and well designed, so are the weapons. For the most part the world has all the typical fantasy tropes. This isn’t a bad thing, it actually means the world is very varied and interesting to explore. The audio follows the same rules. It’s absolutely fine and even charming. I encountered a few random bugs but nothing that ruined the experience for me.