Release Date: 31/08/1999
A poly-pushin' good time
It's been a quiet weekend in ol' Dunedin, which has given me time to reflect, look back, and finally clean the shitter. But we're not here to talk about my domestic failings instead, I'd like to do a throwback to an odd title from 1999 by Belgian developer Appeal, it's an action platformer with some obvious quirks (some more obvious than others) and sadly has gone rather overlooked. Outcast is an open world adventure that has you play as a man with the most 90's name imaginable 'Cutter Slade' who is stranded in a parallel world, mistaken for a god, AND ONLY HAS FIFTEEN DAYS TO FIND FOUR MAGIC ARTIFACTS AND SAVE THE WOOOOORLD!
So let's get stuck in and get the bad stuff out of the way first. The characters are one-dimensional, the mechanics are 'floaty', Cutter runs like he shat his pants, and as we established earlier the plot ticks more tropes that a Saturday night movie. Thankfully that's not what the game is remembered for, at least for me I remembered Outcast for its sheer scale.The first thing you'll know notice when playing is the games almost surreal voxel landscape this was done to maximise the play area of Adelpha's explorable regions, giving you an enormous area to awkwardly shuffle over.
If had to describe the controls of Outcast in one word, it'd be 'clean', the game is mostly controlled via the two mouse buttons (notice how I didn't say simple), right click has Cutter aim his weapon and left click does everything else under the sun which includes but is not limited to (swimming, jumping, talking, reloading, and interacting with anything that uses a proper or improper noun). This setup isn't ideal for anything remotely fiddly, and my immediate concern was about getting caught out trying to do anything in quick succession, luckily the game was covering its arse with a can of treacle and has everything run at a snail's pace.
Everything in Outcast feels so slow and floaty jumping, running, and even falling feel slow and lethargic, I don't know if this was a side effect of the 2 button control scheme or a quirk of the engine, but theirs nothing more disconnecting than controlling a character who moves like he has more important shit to do. Interestingly the slowdown also applies to your weapons meaning you have to line shots to where your enemies will be by the time your bullets float on over to them. This is more fun than it sounds, as most fights have you weaving in and out of enemies projectiles whilst you're trying to line up a shot. And that's the thing about Outcast, "it's more fun than it seems" you can quite easily shit on it's worst parts, but when you mix em' together it's fantastic!
Now for the good stuff. First, the music GOOD GOD THE MUSIC! Outcast brings a full orchestral score courtesy of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and it's nothing short of epic, Lennie Moore's score amplifies the scale the scale of the game, pushing and pulling the player along the alien landscape. The other major standout is the NPC AI, villages will go about their day, hiding or helping the player when the bullets start flying, slaves will assist you when they can but never under the watchful eyes of their captors.
NPC's have professions, personalities and skills which they employ for any even task, and if you get enough of them together they'll start competing. Obviously, this game lives and dies on exploration, but as you've likely guessed it more than delivers (this is the happy paragraph after all!) as cutters mission to retrieve four artifacts takes you through an awesome collection of truly alien landscapes, Bioware should be taking notes. So if you can break past the tedious opening segments you're in for a 20+ hour adventure that'll more than hold your attention throughout.
So what's the last word on Outcast? Well, if you got this far then you're at least curious, and you can more than easily sate that curiosity as the original devs did the impossible winning the rights back from Atari and releasing an updated version on Steam and GOG as well as working on a complete remake due this year. Outcast is one of those rare gems that could have only come from the late 90's it's grand, interesting, and ambitious as balls and more than deserves the token mention it gets nowadays!