Reviewed on Xbox One X

Outward is an open-world survival game that doesn’t hold your hand. Caught in a horrible shipwreck, you wash ashore with no resources and the task of saving your village. You can do this by one of two ways: either helping out a villager or raising a certain amount of gold. Unfortunately, it seems that this is impossible due to the difficulty of the experience. Outward requires you to build yourself up, but it’ll take you a while to get there.

When you first play Outward, it’s beneficial to start the tutorial. It’ll teach you everything from combat to spells, and how to survive in this unforgiving world. Combat is very difficult because in many ways it’s like Ashen. You’ll die a lot until you get the hang of it. While many enemies aren’t as terrifying, some end up throwing lightning bolts and other dangerous projectiles at you. However, keep in mind that no matter who you come across, every creature has a lot of health. You’ll end up being murdered by a crazed chicken or massive lobster on many occasions.

Death plays an important part in Outward because it’s random. When you die, you don’t just spawn back in the safety of your town. There’s a chance that you’ll be held captive by ruffians and forced to work in a mine until you can escape. There are tons of scenarios like this which make “respawning” a challenge.

Just like Sea of Thieves, Outward relies on emergent storytelling where you can craft your own memories. While there is a basic narrative with good voice acting, it’s all about finding better gear so you can take on tougher challenges. Initially, you’ll be scared to fight even a lone bandit, but eventually, you’ll be taking on hordes without even breaking a sweat.

Outward may not have a realistic visual appearance, but it focuses on true-to-life mechanics. You’ll have to eat and sleep in order to stay alive. Even weight plays an important role because if you’re fighting enemies, you’ll probably want to drop your heavy backpack and pick it up after you’ve defeated them. Keeping your backpack on slows you down and can be quite lethal.

Many gamers will quit Outward without giving it a shot due to its challenging difficulty and steep learning curve. However, just like Elite: Dangerous, if you keep at it, you’ll begin to enjoy it immensely. When I started playing the game, I was dismayed and quit after an hour or two. However, it has this unquantifiable factor that keeps you coming back for more. I believe that this is related to its complex open world and secrets scattered around every corner.

It’s unfortunate that the multi-hour experience doesn’t look very good on consoles; even its Xbox One X support is flawed. You’ll be greeted by sub-par lighting, a low resolution and other visual issues that take away from the experience. Luckily, the performance level is decent enough and sticks to its target most of the time. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than other survival games on console. I’m looking at you Ark: Survival Evolved!

Outward costs $40, but that seems just a little too expensive given its visual presentation and animation quality. However, there is a lot of content here. Had the graphics been modern on consoles, I would’ve recommended it in a heartbeat. Additionally, given its difficulty level, it won’t appeal to that many gamers. If you keep playing it, it becomes really rewarding and addictive, but it requires a lot of trial and error to succeed.

If Outward seems intriguing, you can pick it up at Amazon here.

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