Monday, 15 April 2019

Outward (Xbox One) - Review

My son was very excited when Outward turned up in the post. We had decided earlier that week that we needed to put a little bit more effort into spending time just us two, before he's a teenager that doesn't want to admit to gaming with his Mum. We don't game together half as much as I'd like to these days, mostly because his friends will spam him with invites to play Fortnite and fill the split screen that I'm using until I give up and let him do it. This seemed like a good game to try out together after his little sister was in bed, and would hopefully be less frustrating than playing Lego games with him when he was smaller. 

It wasn't.

In fact, it may well have been more frustrating, but for once this wasn't down to my son. The days where he apparently couldn't follow simple instructions are long gone (hallelujah!) so there was no repetition of 'go to the left. No, the left. THE LEFT!' which made a nice change. We changed his settings to appear offline too (why didn't I think of this sooner?!) so my screen was my own. 

YES Outward is a couch co-op game - not many of those around anymore are there? I think this fact was the biggest draw for me and my son. It's nice to be able to sit down and play a game together, sat together, you know, the old fashioned way. A lot of the couch co-op games we do have (mostly Lego) have been played to death by now. We needed something new. 

We loaded up and made our characters. And I'm just gonna say it - man this game is not pretty. I don't want to descend into slating a game just because of how it looks, but the graphics on offer here make the game feel much older than it is, which is a shame. I'm not as fussed by graphics as my son is, but even I was taken aback. It's been a while since I've played a game that isn't visually stunning. That isn't to say I've stayed away from games because of their graphics - not at all - but more that games in general just seem to be presented better these days. 

The tutorial is huge and weaves around a big map which allows you to skip over certain parts if you want to. This game is pretty in depth, with a lot of different mechanics to learn. If I'm honest a lot of the tutorial went in one ear and out of the other. I felt like it was too much information - without much time to digest it. I learn by doing, and really you could just read the prompts and continue. I would have liked it if the tutorial required you to do a number of different things in succession to make sure you had a firm enough grasp of the concepts. Instead there was a room per concept, with a quick info panel to read and a dummy in the room to try it out on. It didn't really give you an idea on tactics. We wandered around what we hope was the whole of the tutorial level and entered into the game proper. 

The story is pretty interesting, but as ever I won't spoil that here. Suffice it to say that the world they've created has some pretty interesting ideas. Unlike some other RPG's you do not begin this game as a hero. In fact you're a very normal somewhat downtrodden, citizen of a town called Cierzo. 

In order to leave town you will need to collect some items that you will not be able to survive without, a weapon, a backpack and a waterskin. We quickly found these items and ventured outside. 

We died. 

You come to within the walls of Cierzo. My bag was somewhere near the gate but first I had to take care of the negative status' affecting my character. Bandages were applied and we took it in turns to rest on a bedroll. And we left again. 

We did better the second time, but still ended up being taken back to Cierzo to recover. Outward is a really challenging game, that required a lot of trial and error on our part. It's safe to say in our first hour, we didn't get far. 

My son really enjoyed it though. And I have to admit I am surprised. I thought that he would lose patience with the repetitiveness required to get better but I was wrong. He picked himself up and tried again, and even gave me a pep talk on not giving up. And when we finally killed out first monster he high fived me gleefully, more proud of this accomplishment than he's ever been of a kill on Fortnite. 

We're since spent many more hours exploring the world of Outward together and I have to admit they've been some of the best hours I've spent gaming in a long time. The game has many issues and I have to admit, I don't think I'd play it alone. But playing it with my son has been an immense pleasure that we've been unable to find anywhere else. It's a game that challenges both of us, which has allowed him to help me out of sticky situations. This doesn't happen with the Lego games we usually play together. 

It isn't the prettiest game you'll play this year. Hell, it probably isn't even as pretty as some games you played ten years ago. But the story is interesting and the world they've created is great. It's not massively populated, but it works well. And this game isn't going to break the bank. 

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