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December 2022

Outcast 2 - A New Beginning

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Appeal Studios
Release Date: 2023

About Andreas Salmen

I'm sure this is all just a misunderstanding.


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PS5/XSX/PC Preview - 'Outcast 2: A New Beginning'

by Andreas Salmen on Sept. 26, 2022 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Outcast 2 is an open-world action-adventure features fast-paced, third-person combat as well as a non-linear science-fantasy story with dynamic plot progress based on player actions.

If you had to bet money on any publisher to buy and revive a decades-old video game IP, it would be THQ Nordic. The company is buying IPs left and right, and it's remastering and continuing games of yesteryear at a pace that puts Assassin's Creed to shame. Outcast 2: A New Beginning, developed by Appeal Studios, is the next sequel that I don't think many would've expected to see. I am not sure how many actually played the original Outcast on the first Xbox; I know I haven't. With that in mind, what is Outcast 2, and should you be excited?

In brief, Outcast 2 is an open-world action game where players take control of series protagonist, Cutter Slade. Outcast 2 is a direct sequel but does not require knowledge of the first entry. The team seems to have gone through great efforts to ensure that Outcast 2 is in line with the original's lore. As such, Cutter Slade is still trapped on an alien world, and he still wants to find a way home. The only way out is to help the local species, the Taran, and gain access to more advanced technology that further helps him save their planet.

Unsurprisingly, that means there is a vibrant open world for the player to explore. While we only saw and played a very short segment of the game, it seems that Appeal Studios has a few ideas about how to make an open world more interesting. For one thing, Cutter Slade can glide and somewhat fly using his jetpack and wingsuit, making it easy to traverse the world horizontally and vertically. Hovering is an equally viable way to get around and help the Taran townsfolk.

A word that repeatedly popped up in connection to that is "systemic quests." The idea is that Outcast 2 won't have clearly defined main and side-quests; instead, it will present you with a system that you can engage with. The given example was a recovered creature egg that, in order to hatch, requires certain conditions. Once hatched, the resulting monster defends the village against enemies, so to grow the beast, other conditions are important, like proper feed. Some of these can be skipped, but you'll lose out on their rewards, which could be helpful. In this case, that creature may eventually grow to 80 meters (262 feet) long and can be mounted, so it sounds like a good investment of game time.

However, the systemic quests will not influence the story in any way. Outcast 2 is not an RPG; it's a straightforward narrative shooter set in an open world. The only progress comes with gear, upgrades, and modifications to your two main firearms. Even though there are no RPG elements, this is not a short experience. According to the dev team, recent play tests show the game sitting comfortably at a length of 30-40 hours, so there seems to be a decent amount of content to look forward to.

On paper, all of this is great, and I particularly enjoyed the idea of tying everything you do to the story, world, and its inhabitants via the quest systems. However, the gameplay doesn't seem fully in place yet. We played an early section and fended off a massive earthworm from the village outskirts. It's very close in look and feel to an average PS3 third-person shooter, but given the vague release window of 2023, there is still plenty of time to refine those mechanics. The visuals are serviceable in their current state, but they're out of date, very bulky to control, and feel somewhat floaty.

Also, I am not skilled at traversal in this game, given that I landed on my face most of the time until I noticed that my character actually doesn't fly. He glides. As such, using your momentum correctly is key, rather than going straight down. The traversal mechanics aren't as fun and engaging as Spider-Man, but as your character develops, that could definitely change throughout the final product.

We've had far too little time to judge any of the mechanics in their current state properly, and the game is still in an early state. We also haven't seen a lot of what's been teased. Later sections, for example, will get you access to special upgrades, such as bullets that send your enemies into gravitational limbo and toward the sky. Another attracts a swarm of insects or birds that drop explosives on your enemies. There seem to be a whole range of ideas that may spice up combat encounters significantly if played correctly, but time will tell what awaits Cutter Slade at the end of Outcast 2 — and how fun it'll be to play at that point.

A lot of Outcast 2: A New Beginning hinges on the combat. If Appeal Studios manages to get the gameplay tightened up and delivers on its promises of systemic quests, Outcast 2 could be a fun shooter. It's colorful and upbeat, and it's unique in its traversal mechanics, so it comes down to execution and scope. We'll see soon enough whether the developer can hit both marks.

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