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SummaryHow quickly love can turn to hate...
The GoodSadly, this review is only going to echo the other negative reviews for this game. Outcast is, frustratingly, a game that offers so much, that made me fall in love with it, then it stuck a bad-tasting boogot in my mouth and sent rabid gamors to revert my essence (i.e. The game hurt me. Badly).
Well, let's start at the start seeing as this section is where I talk about what made me love this game, if only for about 8 hours.
Yes, you are presented with a beautiful world. You start off in a snowy region and soon travel to a lush region of green grass and rivers (with lovely reflection effects on the water). The voxel-based engine is unique and the world is presented very differently to any other 3rd. person adventure you may have played. If games are a kind of virtual holiday, then this starts out seeming like a perfect trip that you'll never forget.
The default controls (I used keyboard + mouse) are intuitive, and the 3rd. person camera works well. Controlling your avatar is a snap and I had a real feeling of control as I saw how easily I could leap, climb, crawl, swim, jump and fight. Your first tasks act as a basic tutorial on the game's controls, and I experienced a genuine burst of pride as I worked out how to complete the 'sneaking' task - This, I thought, was really exciting, involving gameplay!
Initial conversations with the game's characters seem good. Yes, you are presented with a lot of 'alien' words which are confusing at first. However, repeated conversations and the in-game lexicon (or in-manual dictionary) allow you to become familiar with things and tell a 'mon' from a 'daoka.' There is even an underlying sense of humour which made me laugh out loud a couple of times. Pity this changed as the game went on...
What else? The music! Fantastic. I was blown away by the fully orchestral score. It made my character's quest seem so much more 'epic' (Oh, the irony!)
The first time I sat down to play this game, I couldn't stop. I kept meaning to, but I just kept on. I think I played for about seven hours straight. I was up 'til 6am, and a game hasn't done that to me in years! Those seven hours were *fantastic* - Make no mistake. I explored the green land of Shamazaar; I completed tasks, picked up items, helped people out, bought and rode around on a 'Twon-Ha,' discovered the mystery of the idols and worked out that this game was an adventure, an RPG, and perhaps best of all, a tactical combat game!
Personally, I think the combat in this game is awesome. Enemies show a degree of intelligence and the optional (but highly recommended) on-screen map can be used to plan your moves and gain a tactical advantage. There are plenty of exciting sounding guns - The first weapon feels like a pea-shooter, but you can do certain things (I won't spoil it by telling you what) to weaken the enemy forces as a whole. Then the combat becomes somewhat easier. You have several cool gadgets at your disposal, including an invisibility device and a hologram generator (straight out of 'Total Recall'). You have explosives that can be dropped and remote-detonated, tripwires and perhaps coolest of all, personal teleporters. You are encouraged to make creative use of these devices, to get in and out of areas sneakily, to hurt the enemy in novel ways. I loved the combat in the first main area (Shamazaar), which culminated in an attack on an enemy stronghold. The level of difficulty felt just right - Challenging, yet not frustrating.
The BadIt's quite shocking how quickly my feelings changed after that first heady seven hours of joy. I left the region of Shamazaar, and went to the huge desert city of Okriana. The more I played after that, the more everything grated on my nerves to the point where I eventually decided to stop playing this game because I couldn't take it any longer!
There are two main problems that kill this game: The conversations and the tasks. Talking to people seems fine at first, but after I'd talked to about 50 different characters, it started getting *really* annoying. There are only a few different voices that are used; Everyone is male, adult, generally obsequious, and they all talk about the same things; Rambling on about the evil Fae Rhan, heaping praises on you, the great saviour, the 'one,' the 'Ulukai,' then sending you off on some trivial task to some far-off destination to talk to another character with exactly the same personality. You are meant to be the god-like saviour of this world (cliched, archaic storyline but there ya go), yet you are reduced to running around doing menial errands that these people are too useless to do themselves. For instance, you meet some guy who makes beer. But he's going to go out of business, because he's had to put his prices up, because the guy who supplies his water has put *his* prices up. So you have to go find the water guy. But there's a problem with his well. So you have to fix that. And then you find out you have to talk to three other merchants in three other parts of the HUGE city, and convince them to drop their prices (which in turn involves more menial running about) and... Oh god... This is NOT fun, and is complicated by the huge size of the map, the sheer number of characters around, the stack of names that are thrown at you... Grr!
After running around Okriana for several hours, any humour in the conversations was now long gone, for me, particularly as the humour is actually rather limited (e.g. This character is stupid! -or- This character tells incredibly long and boring stories just so your character can make a feeble wisecrack about how long and boring they are!). And there are no likeable characters. Greedy merchants! Beggars who are sickening in how much they whine about their lack of money and how much they love and revere you! Really dumb people (usually signified by them constantly referring to themselves in the third person... Ugh)! Really boring people! And everyone is incapable of achieving the most basic of tasks! WHY!?
You see how upset I am? No, I don't mind performing tasks in RPGs, but they have to have some level of interest and variety. Also, it helps if you like the characters or care about them in some way. It still amazes me, in a game like Chrono Trigger, that even the minor characters with one or two lines of dialogue seem able to convey some element of intrigue, personality or humour through what they say. Here though, the design team seems to believe that 'More = Better.' Not always! Everyone you speak to is so long-winded and what they say is repetitive that it drove me to distraction.
There's also a lack of imagination when it comes to the design of these people, their clothes and their environments. Hmm... These guys work in the fields, which resemble rice paddies. Aha! They should wear Chinese hats! And the whole desert city of Okriana... Well, it's in the desert, right? Okay, so everyone is wearing turbans and the place is full of Arabian-style bazaars! Great! No, actually it's lazy, bordering on stereotypical and stupid. This is meant to be an alien world!
Another problem: The items you can pick up... Now don't get me wrong here. I like amassing items as much as the next virtual kleptomaniac. I like to finish a game with spare clips of ammo and some unused life crystals because I explored every corner of every map. But the problem here is that items are *everywhere*. And you are constantly informed of this by a female voice saying things like 'Stable energy source -- detected.' Then an indicator box will appear around the item. At first, this seemed like a good idea. But seriously! Items are everywhere. And while it's nice to get ammo and rare gadgets, about 70% of the items you find are an assortment of odd crystals, shells and plants. The only use for these things that I have so far found is to take them to a guy called a 'recreator,' who can use say, a couple of shells and a bit of fruit to make more ammo for your weapons. But this is totally pointless, as ammo is freely available, scattered everywhere! After playing this game for a couple of days, I am so sick of constantly being told to pick up useless lumps of metal and sticks of crystal. I'm even sick of finding useful stuff like ammo.
I'm sick of talking to the same basic character again and again. I'm sick of hearing about the tyranny of Fae Rhan and the imagined greatness of me, big powerful human man Ulukai! And I am sick of this game.
The Bottom LineWhat a shame. If only Outcast's adventure aspects could match up to its beautiful environments and great action.
I ignored the advice of a friend who warned me about this game. I didn't listen. And three days later, Outcast has been uninstalled and is sitting in my 'sell on eBay' box.
So don't make my mistake! This game lets itself into your heart and promises great things, only to reveal its true nature: It is repetitive and DEEPLY irritating.
I've seen the screenshots. I want to fight giant beasts in water and woodland regions! But I can't take it any longer!