#415 Outcast

Posted: 2nd November 2018 by Jeroen in Games
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736th played so far

Genre: Action/Adventure
Platform: PC
Year of Release: 1999
Developer: Appeal
Publisher: Infogrames

Some games have stood out for a long time and I’ve been looking forward to trying Outcast from the day I first saw previews in gaming magazines. It was quite proud of its voxel technology – something that turned out not to go as far most of the time – but also created a semi open world, where you could go where you wanted and do what you felt like. It was amazing at the time and I remember reviewers needing to get used it a bit.

Our Thoughts

Through a weird accident, our protagonist Cutter Slade ends up on an alien planet, wanting to repair his ship and find his colleagues so he can go back to earth. And of course you get involved in the going ons on this alien world, with one group now dominating the others. You become a resistance fighter while trying to get everything together so you can find your way back.

You do this by walking around the world. It’s not a fully open world, instead consisting of several separate areas that are linked through portals. The tutorial village lead to another area, which have several more – almost all guarded by the warrior caste. You’re free to wander around any of the areas though, as long as you can avoid or beat these enemies, and I got to see a few different areas. Each have a bunch of missions – some plot based, I think often taking down the warrior leader of the area but also convince the others to stop or start doing certain things that weaken the warrior caste. Other side quests are similar, adding to your equipment or getting resources to upgrade those.

The world looks suitably alien and everything is done to enhance that feeling. The landscape looks alien enough, even if there are recognisable shapes. The customs and names are different enough to stand out. There’s a lot of lore and it feels like they’ve taken a lot of care to build something consistent. This even plays into the general AI – everyone seems to have their rhythm through the day, interacting and making sense, and they all respond to what goes on around you. This also extents to enemy AI, which feels natural in how it calls for help and responds. It’s still a bit stupid, but clever enough and while later games make it better, for 1999 this feels very realistic.

The downside of the game is its weak combat. I found it incredibly difficult – not helped, I guess, by the fact that the enemies start out at their strongest and get weaker. There aren’t single enemies to take out early and it’s easy to get drawn into a battle if you’re not constantly vigilant. I managed to make it from one side of the map to the other without being seen, but it’s far from easy, and taking out enemies near a portal took a lot of abusing the AI by hiding. Not that stealth generally works – they still know where to find you, instead you have to rely on weak pathfinding. It’s a bummer, because it’s something that keeps you from enjoying this world by having to be too careful. I see why it’s needed, but a rebalancing for the modern day would be helpful (although, of course, I guess there’s the call for smoother controls that feel more modern that would fix this).

Final Thoughts

Did Outcast live up to my expectations? To be honest, despite my excitement I wasn’t expecting something incredibly amazing either. It wasn’t as dated as it could have been, and while the combat was clunky, the world it presents still feels good. The Kickstarter campaign for an HD remake failed, but several versions of that remake have been developed – I guess it would have fixed things, but at the same time, I think a sequel would be better. Get back to this world, and see what new stories it can tell.