Outward Preview – The Barefoot Explorer
No shoes. I ran around with no bloody shoes on in Outward for most of my time with the game. For a long time, I didn’t even realise that my shoes were missing. It was only when I noticed how quickly I was getting too cold that I saw my bare feet.
How long had my poor character been forced to trudge around without footwear? How long had they stubbed their toes, stepped on stones and felt the chill of the ground through their soles?
At that point, all other progress in Outward halted and my quest for shoes became paramount.
Outward Game Preview
Outward wasn’t on my radar until recently. Having now spent a lot of time playing it, the hardcore RPG from Canadian developer Nine Dots and publisher Deep Silver is definitely a release I’m looking forward to.
Part Elder Scrolls, part Dark Souls and brutally unforgiving, Outward is a fantasy survival RPG that masochistic gamers are going to lap up.
After more than a dozen hours, I was still yet to leave the first area. Due to the scale of the map, the number of activities to complete and punishing difficulty, Outward was proving a tough beast to master. But that’s the point.
Outward casts you as a nobody. A member of a small village with no magical quest or destiny. You’re literally just some bloke. In the beginning, you’re shipwrecked while on an expedition and lose valuable cargo, incurring a blood debt to your tribe.
You’re given five days to remedy this which is the impetus for your journey. Completing this first quest requires that you pay back your debt or earn favour from someone else in the tribe. When you’ve paid your debt, the plot continues to unfold and you’re tasked with joining a faction and exploring the world at large.
It’s at this point that Outward opens up and doesn’t stop growing.
You’re given almost unlimited freedom in how you approach and explore the world in Outward but that freedom comes at a high price. Your character is laughably weak and unskilled and death waits for you behind every rock and bush.
Being a survival game, Outward features the standard hunger, thirst and rest meters but also includes heat and cold, disease and more.
Like many other RPGs, Outward also includes a weight limit. However, in Outward, this is almost the most important factor to consider. Carrying anything more than a few items requires that you equip a backpack. They come in various sizes and quality, with the bigger, better packs holding more equipment.
Back in Pack
On the flipside, the bigger the backpack, the slower you dodge roll and sprint. Like everything in Outward, backpacks are a double-edged sword. Thankfully, at the press of a button, you can drop your backpack and gain some much-needed speed. A negative to this approach though, is that you lose access to anything in your backpack.
If you’ve assigned potions or other essential items to your quick-access slots, you won’t be able to use them during battle, if you drop your pack and they’re not in your pocket. It’s unlikely they will be as your pockets can only hold a pitiful number of items and being overweight slows you to a crawl.
Battling without my backpack greatly improved my speed, but meant I had to approach even more carefully as I had no way to heal should I need to. It wasn’t long before I was carefully exploring and keeping a watchful eye for any enemies.
Pacifism is OK
Simply strolling around the map comes with its own hazards. Without the right clothes, you can catch a cold that debilitates your already pathetic stats so much that my only option was to run and hide from every fight.
In fact, it was a strategy I adopted for nearly every encounter. Enemies in Outward are strong, fast and relentless and death came for me more times than I care to remember. Thankfully, Outward game mechanics don’t include genuine death.
Instead, when you’re health reduced to zero, one of a few things can happen. You can awaken as a prisoner of some bandit tribe or another, wake alone on the ground somewhere near where you fell, wake returned to your home village or next to fire lit by a good Samaritan.
In all cases, you’ll still have (most) of your possessions and will be able to continue your journey. However, often times, the location you awaken in will be so far from your destination you’ll spend a significant amount of time getting back on track. You’ll also, usually, find a host of new places to explore that getting back to the task at hand takes a backseat.
This is how I lost my shoes.
Bloody Shoe Thieves
Full of bluster and overconfidence, having murdered some weak mushroom men, I strolled into a bandit camp near my village determined to show them what for and earn some much-needed coin.
I lasted all of two minutes.
Outward’s combat is slow, deliberate and quite difficult. It’s very much been inspired by the likes of Dark Souls and requires patience and skill. Unfortunately, I had neither. Armed with a hatchet in one hand and a shield in the other, I assumed I could swing my way to victory and chop every bandit down.
Instead, I was humiliated time and time again. One bandit proved difficult enough, but facing off against two or more was suicidal. When I fell, I woke imprisoned and missing my gear.
I found my backpack nearby with everything still inside, or so I thought. I re-equipped my armour and weapons and escaped, tail between my legs. When I finally made it home, determined to buy a better pack and head off to the next area, I realised that some coin was missing. Thinking it must have been taken as punishment for my “death” I sighed and continued on my way.
Not until I reached the second major city, did I notice the missing shoes. Here I was, a freshly minted explorer, requesting to join one of the high families, barefoot, infected with a cold and struggling to walk under the weight of material in my pack.
Thankfully, my advocate didn’t seem to notice, so I was in. That part of my quest may have been over, but my quest for shoes was only just beginning.
Outward will be available for PC, PS4 and Xbox One on March 26, 2019.