I was originally going to make a list but given the amount I've already written that may get rather messy. So it begins! A new series of blogs from the same creator of the long, seasonal, smash-hit VIDEOGAME BLOG comes "I want I want I want I want I want I want...")
No. Change that to "I NEED". I need, I need, I NEED! Needs are what the instincts of living beings hope to achieve. Food, water, shelter, etc. But as a gamer I've developed another one. Sequels. Preferably, a good/better sequels to a myriad of games I've played in my entire life because some of them are plain great or just have some amazing potential to be better. Of course, how a game does in the eyes the publishers depends solely on the amount of money it rakes in. As a result some great ideas get swept under the market, hopefully to be resurrected in some way or another, a HD version or a spiritual successor. Anything to get it out in the chaotic stream of mainstream media. But enough tongue wagging; I need these sequels to these games.
Outcast was frankly, pretty shit to look at. To put salt into the wound, it still required a damn good PC to even perform on the lowest settings. Despite the big blocky graphics I had to endure, Outcast is perhaps one of my favourite games that had a lot of..."soul" in it (apologies for the coarse language).
Here's the premise, or something among those lines anyway. There's a massive black-hole in the North Pole that's sucking the Earth into some parallel dimension and shit needs to be done. You, Cutter Slade, a former NAVY SEAL, and a crack team of soldiers and scientists is sent through the hole to retrieve a probe sent by the US Government that more or less, messed up everyone's day. Waking up on the other side and separated from his team, Slade is mistaken as a Saviour by the world's inhabitants and is eventually tasked to saving this world whilst at the same time, saving his own. All this as he's trying to regroup with his team, repair the probe and get home.
At the time the story is pretty original but the main draw is it's world. Outcast uses an open-world format with four separate (and large) regions, each with a distinct personality associated with them. You'll begin in Ranzaar, the game's tutorial world essentially (as well as the best sound effects for walking on snow for any game I've heard) with it's snow-capped mountains and small, sloped, wooden huts. Not long after you'll travel between the hot climate of Talanzaar, a large city that's distinctly Middle-Eastern in it's design to the flat, wet farmlands of Shamazaar. Regardless of which region you're in each of them possess their own unique style and culture.
Which is well given the fact that Outcast rewards players who explore every nook and cranny of the world they've crafted. It's inhabitants have their own language, cultures and traditions. If you wanted to know more about something from that particular region it's simple as stopping a passer by and asking them about topics through it's simple but intuitive dialogue-tree. Small details like these really create the illusion of a real, breathing world. An element not found in many games, even today. In short, Outcast is one of the few worlds in which I've found highly immersible. It's very much a game, there's a lot of quests to do and there's plenty of items to hoard but simply running around is more then enough to stimulate my little primate brain.
Again, it's not pretty to look at but on a macro scale it looked (and still does) looked pretty good for a game that relied solely on software rendering. But visual stimulation aside, the sound design is something worth noticing. In fact, they're so proud of their soundtrack they straight up tell you that it's being composed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra in it's late opening credits. And they should be, it's a great soundtrack that's handcrafted to each world (again, contributing to the unique feel of each region) with it's booming drums and the wailing choir. Even if you don't own the game you can grab the soundtrack free from the dead (but archived) site. Otherwise, just pop Disk 2 of the game into a CD player a la Castlevania: SoTN if you own a hard copy. Did I mention that the snow sound effect was awesome? You should totally chuck a grenade in the water and listen. It just sounds...right.
What We Got
For what it was, Outcast was an amazing game at the time and many reviews gave it high praise (Gamespot naming it as their Adventure Game of the Year in 1999.) But steep system requirements and poor marketing meant that it never reached many PCs that it should have thus Outcast was a commercial failure. As a result, the Dreamcast port was cancelled and the sequel Outcast 2 was never going to see the light when the developer, Appeal, filed itself for bankruptcy in 2002. Some staff went off to found Elsewhere Entertainment, later acquired by 10tacle and renamed 10tacle Studios Belgium and began work on Totem, a spiritual successor to Outcast with a parkour flair. Unfortunately, that too was shelved when 10tacle had to close it's doors (though oddly enough their website is still up and running, oblivious to it's own in-existence and still making promises of releasing Totem with a release date of 2008.)
The beautiful thing about PC gaming is the mod scene. It's been twelve years since Outcast was released but a small team of modders, calling themselves Eternal Outcasts rather appropriately are working on re-making Outcast using the Crysis Warhead engine, dubbing it Open Outcast. If you want to try out the tech demo's they've released but don't own a copy of Warhead, don't fret. A demo copy of Warhead is all that is required to run the mod (and assuming you've got a decent PC too). Assuming that it'll be finished, the mod will also be free. Now isn't that lovely?
On the other hand, if you've still have any money left over after the Steam Sales then you're obliged to pick up a copy of Outcast over at Good Old Games for $5.99. Which also nets you the soundtrack, manual, "Making of" video, the out-takes and 90 pieces of concept art. That's a better deal then I got when I bought it back in the hey-days of the Spice Girls. And get it you should. Outcast is one of the few games which I consider both an experience and a game, which coming from me, is high praise indeed.