Outcast originally came out on Windows in 1999. I’ve always heard good things about it and it’s been on my to-play list for quite some time now, but I just never managed to get around to it. Luckily, original developer Appeal decided to remake their cult classic, so it seemed that the time was right to finally play this game.
Outcast is a story about an emergency expedition to a parallel world (which oddly has very few actual parallels to our world and might as well have just been an alien planet), where naturally, things go wrong and you’re forced to quest and blast your way to victory. It’s a third person sci-fi action-RPG that feels almost like an early version of Mass Effect with a dash of fantasy thrown in, and it does have some mechanics that were pretty ahead of their time. It’s open world, non-linear, has a reputation system, and you can do optional side quests that allow you to weaken the enemy forces as a whole. These are all pretty standard features in modern games, but in 1999 this would have been pretty groundbreaking stuff, so it’s easy to see how it could have grown such a following back in the day.
Most of the gameplay mechanics like combat, the inventory system, and the conversation system are noticeably clunky and dated, yet they still hold up remarkably well and manage to provide many hours of fun despite their age. There are a few areas that really could have used a little updating though. Boss battles in particular are overly simplistic and unpleasant even by old standards, the lack of explanation for the many different item types is a bit baffling for a modern manual-free game release, the crafting and stealth systems are almost completely useless, and it has some of the most ridiculously convoluted questlines I’ve ever seen in a game, but again, none of these flaws were big enough to dampen the fun of the core gameplay.
The new environments and textures are not just a simple HD remaster, but have been entirely remade and are actually pretty great looking for a modern non-AAA title. The characters however are not nearly as fun to look at. The human character models and the “aliens”, most of whom look completely identical, are really outdated looking compared to the fancy new environments and creatures, and end up standing out quite a bit.
In fact, the characters are the worst thing about this game in general. The dialogue and voice acting is just plain awful. Even by semi-obscure 90’s PC game standards, it’s remarkably bad. Even Duke Nukem had wittier one-liners than Outcast’s hero Slade Cutter. It’s an incredibly un-funny game that persists in trying to be funny over and over again, and never pulls it off even a little bit. The conversations, even when they aren’t trying to be funny, are painfully boring and bursting with nonsensical “alien” lingo that make every chat a chore to get through. I got so sick of the horrible in-game cutscene talks that near the end of the game I just started skipping them, and this is not something I ever do. I really can’t think of a single game that I’ve done this for on a first playthrough. I even skipped the ending because I cared that little about the story at that point and was just ready for it to all be over.
I suppose that it’s something of a backhanded compliment to the gameplay that I still kept playing even with all the flaws, and having lost all will to care about any of the plot or characters. This isn’t a short game either, clocking it at 20 hours or more, so I guess I must have enjoyed it more than I didn’t, or I’d have turned it off much, much sooner. Though there were moments that really made me question my will to continue, like this:
So what does this all mean for Outcast – Second Contact? Did I like it? Would I recommend it? I think that this is another of those games that only people who have an appreciation for older games would be able to enjoy, and even then I’d probably be a bit hesitant. It has a lot going for it and I have to admire the ambition it had for its time, but there are too many flaws to suggest that anyone rush out and play it immediately, and I wouldn’t recommend it at all to anyone who prefers modern games. I feel like a great opportunity was missed here, because if they would have put as much work into updating other areas of the game as they did with the new graphics, Outcast – Second Contact could have been something special again instead of just a rusty, creaky relic with a fresh coat of paint.
Outcast – Second Contact is available now on PS4, Xbox One, and Windows.
Disclosure statement: Review code for Outcast – Second Contact was provided by Big Ben Studios. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.