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It's like the whole game is a framework for what could have been if the developers had more manpower and a bigger budget. And that framework is kind of a shaky one, too. The game has more than its fair share of rough edges, bugs, and puzzling design decisions.
Here's an example that made me want to quit Outward forever.
I just completed a quest that allowed me to use magic and found myself on a beach, itching to try out my new skills. A heavily armored bandit was patrolling a nearby road and after a stern talking to, he was kind enough to lend me his tower shield along with his mace. The bandit's hideout, an ominous fort, was nearby. I walked in. Another bandit inside offered me some tea. He looked shifty, so I refused, he refused me right back and we had to fight over it. His friends joined in, so I got plenty of opportunities to use both my new magic and my new mace.
When that all was over with, I was left with some loot and a couple of keys. I pressed onward, expecting to clear out the entire fortress. Only the rest of the bandits inside were friendly for some reason. I explored the place, ran a few errands for the bandits, mined some ore in their slave mines, then found another chatty individual. He was not too pleased to see me and decided to express this by sticking me with a bunch of arrows. I did not expect this and ended up falling to the bandit's dirty tricks, but not before noticing that still, while he and his henchmen were trying to kill me, the rest of the fortress remained friendly.
After the fight, my character was thrown into the mines. Which posed a problem, since the obvious ways to get out of there included jumping into a dangerous-looking pit and mining enough ore to buy your freedom. The kicker was that I have already mined all the ore while exploring the place earlier. Not to worry. I simply asked one of the guards to let me out, which, to my great surprise, he did. Outside, I retrieved my stuff, applied some poison to my club, drank a few potions and took my revenge. Afterwards, my backpack was filled with loot, and my character wasn't feeling too hot. One bandit leader remained. I decided to come back for her later.
Walking back to town, I decided to reorganize my backpack. I figured that since I've opened all the doors inside the bandit fort, I didn't need the keys any longer, so I threw them out.
This was the set up. We fast forward a bit. I'm working for my faction when I get a side quest to deal with some bandits threatening my home town. The same bandits from before, so when I get the quest, I only have one out of the three leaders left on my to do list. Almost tasting an easy victory, I make my way back to the fort. And find out that the doors that I have previously opened, are now locked again, and the bandit that dropped the keys no longer exists.
So I go back into the cold and try to remember where I dropped those keys, hoping that they didn't despawn too. After a while I find them. Slightly annoyed, I set a course for the fort again. On my way there I'm distracted and have to quit the game while trekking across some random mountain.
When I come back, the game treacherously spawns me high in the air and lets the gravity do its dirty work. My character “dies” as a result of me loading the game. My eye begins to twitch.
My character regains consciousness back in town. Which means five or so minutes of backtracking. This would be annoying enough, but then, when I open my inventory, I realize that half of my items are gone. And it wasn't a case of the game not saving some recent loot either, since many of the things that disappeared were with me almost from the start.
This was when I had to chuckle and step away from the computer. I wanted to start writing the review there and then, but after a short break, I kept pressing on.
A bit later, another quest in my main quest chain sent me after some kidnappers. I tried to follow the directions I found on some piece of paper, but since the game gives you a simple map with no glowing trails or quick travel opportunities, I got lost on my way to the kidnappers' hideout. I stumbled into a manticore's lair instead. The beast was fierce. I was underprepared and udnergeared. But I also had lots and lots of potions. Having drank most of them, I fought the creature. It was a close fight, but in the end I was victorious. The manticore dropped some random loot, and among it, what could possibly be the strongest sword in the game.
My enthusiasm was revitalized. Armed with that sword I was able to cut through everything the game threw at me from that point on.
And that is the quintessential Outward experience. The game can be annoying, irritating, and downright unpleasant at times. But it keeps you coming back for more, and when something does go your way, it feels extremely satisfying.