We’ve been excited to jump into Outcast – A New Beginning, and with a demo landing as part of Steam Next Fest we took the opportunity to do just that. Alas, some unfortunate bugs, less than inspiring gameplay and frustrating movement has given us pause when it comes to the modern open-world sequel of this classic.
The demo, which is free for anyone to play right now, is split up into three sections: exploration, combat and story. The exploration throws you into a slice of the open world, and you’re pretty much free to travel wherever you want, engaging in some open world activities. Your only limit? You have 20 minutes until the demo’s over. You can, however, jump in twice if you want – but we found 20 minutes was enough to sample most of what’s on offer.
The story segment is similar: again, you have 20 minutes to explore and do as you please, although the focus here is talking to characters and completing missions for their settlement. The combat section is the only one that’s markedly different, allowing you to take over an enemy outpost, destroying everyone who stands in your way.
We probably had most fun in the combat section. While both the exploration and story sections of the Outcast – A New Beginning demo allowed us to fight, here the focus is solely on the game’s third-person combat. You can melee attack and shoot your gun, either shooting from the hip or looking down the sights for a more precise aim. Shooting feels fine, but there’s nothing truly special on offer here. You can jump or glide in the air, allowing you to get an advantage over your enemy, and as you shoot you’ll hover in place which is a nice touch.
We didn’t encounter a great deal of challenge: while our combat area – a huge battleship of sorts – was decked out with places to duck into cover, we barely needed to enter any of them, and standing in the line of fire didn’t do a great deal of damage. We were playing on normal difficulty, however, so turn it up higher and you’ll likely have to be more careful, but we would have expected to play with at least a little more caution.
Enemies, at least in this area, were pretty samey. There are some flying robots, and a few different types of walking bots, each with their own styles of attack. Hopefully, other areas will have more enemy variety – out in the world we encountered a few different types of creature at least.
Let’s talk about the exploration segment of Outcast – A New Beginning’s demo next. We encountered a couple of unfortunate glitches here. The first cut our first playthrough short as we got stuck in a wall, rendering our character completely useless unless we quit the game. Our second 20-minute run was a little more successful, but we were still blighted by a glitch: one particular mission asked us to kill 17 of a particular type of bug, but it didn’t spawn enough enemies for us to complete it.
They’re somewhat forgivable, however: Outcast – A New Beginning is still six weeks away from launch, and so there’s a good chance there are still patches and polish to go onto the finished project yet. We can at least hope that these bugs might have been ironed out by then.
What we’re not so sure about, however, is the game’s traversal. Despite having a jetpack strapped to his back, moving around as protagonist Cutter feels surprisingly arduous. He can glide and boost, sure, but gliding feels janky at best, with Cutter unnaturally jerking up and down. On foot he feels slower than he should be, and with no fast travel to speak of in the demo, getting from A to B isn’t anywhere near as fun as we’d hoped it would be.
The exploration segment has a couple of optional missions that challenge your traversal abilities, putting you against the clock as you make your way to various checkpoints. Needless to say, we failed miserably, unable to get the required speed or fluidity needed to reach each spot. Is that our fault? Perhaps there’s something we missed; something else we need to do to be able to glide more quickly through the air, perhaps. Even so, there’s certainly some disconnect with how fluid movement should be and how it currently feels.
There’s one thing Outcast – A New Beginning does have going for it, though: it looks beautiful. Its world is luscious, green and bright, and hopping from its vast jungles to its cosy, detailed settlements is a treat for the eyes. Character models are fine, if nothing quite to write home about, but it’s the environments that really shine. Even if moving around them isn’t as fun as it should be, taking it all in as you pass by really is a pleasure.
We don’t want our experience with Outcast – A New Beginning’s demo to completely sour us on the full game. There’s still time for some changes to be made, and we’re hopeful bugs will be ironed out and Cutter’s traversal can be improved. But we’re certainly keeping our expectations in check. This isn’t a AAA release, and it certainly doesn’t feel like one. Imagine a mid-2000s Ubisoft open world game and you might be part way there – albeit with nicer visuals.
Outcast – A New Beginning launches on 15th March and will be available on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC. Its Steam Next Fest demo is available to play now.