Gaming trends come and go, like all trends and fads. They often leave behind dozens of half-baked ideas and cheap money-grab attempts that only tried to get in on the current bandwagon while failing to provide a worthwhile experience to the consumer. Others, however, take these basic ideas and play around with them, often resulting in titles that are unique on the market despite their somewhat unoriginal influences.
Outward, I’m happy to say, is one of the latter. Developed by Canadian studio Nine Dots and published by Deep Silver, this game was released in March 2019. The trends it uses as basic concepts I spoke of before are the strain of punishing action RPGs modeling themselves after the renowned Dark Souls series, as well as the somewhat declining survival gene.
The gameplay itself revolves around the concept of adventure and adventuring. So many similar games boil down this idea to “go-to place A, kill thing B” without considering all the aspects that would come into it if it were a real journey. In Outward, you have to keep track of and manage things like thirst, hunger, and sleep. In addition to swords and spells, your backpack needs to be full of waterskins, non-perishable food, sleeping bags, cooking pots – basically, everything one might need if they wanted to travel in a medieval-type setting.
This might sound like an annoyance and boring busywork, but Nine Dots implemented it in fascinating ways. The world you’re thrown in to is harsh and unforgiving, and you will suffer if you don’t take it seriously; not just in terms of combat, either. Dying of thirst because you didn’t consider water would be hard to come by in a desert, for example, is an easy way of cutting your adventure short.
As such, preparation is the name of the game here. Instead of just bursting out of the usual quest hub area and mopping up quest markers throughout the area, every step you take into the wilderness is something to plan out and consider. The climate, how long the way is, what dangers can be expected, and many other things must be considered.
The combat is, as previously mentioned, somewhat inspired by Dark Souls – only its difficulty is due to different reasons. It is somewhat clunky and unapologetically punishing. Again, rushing in guns blazing is a sure way to get killed, and your attacks need to be planned out and methodical. Just remember to drop your backpack before the fight, and mind those nasty infections.
Being developed by a small team with a very limited budget, it’s not much to look at. Also, the world might look huge and full of wonders at first, but you will quickly learn that it can sometimes feel empty and yet confined for such a game, which is amplified by Outward’s purposeful lack of fast travel.
All in all, Outward might not be the best title of 2019, but it is undeniably an original concept that tries to bring some realism to fantasy RPGs. If any of this sounds like your cup of tea, its definitely worth a look.