Outcast: A New Beginning review – a fitting name

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Outcast: A New Beginning has been at the hands of its developers for just shy of 25 years. It’s the sequel to one of the first truly open-world games, and since 1999, the world of Adelpha has lived on in the hearts of its cult following. Everyone loves a good underdog story. You won’t find one with Cutter Slade, the horse-mouthed protagonist. However, backstage and behind the curtain of development, there’s a story of commercial failure, cancelled sequels, an emerging cult-classic, and a bittersweet ending. The Outcast sequel oozes potential and passion but falls short to the curse of an uninspiring plot.

You awake in Adelpha, a nostalgic setting for those familiar with the original Outcast. The game, a pioneer of voxel graphics and open worlds, might have flown under the radar for the mainstream audience despite its innovation. To others, though, Outcast’s vibrant world stood out. Adelpha was layered with texture; the native Talans peppered the map with intelligent dialogue and missions woven into the narrative through exploration and digging in the right places. Amid the current catalogue of modern cookie-cutter RPGs, which trap you with a repetitive gameplay loop of trite objectives, optional shrines, and the same recycled sidequests, games have lots to learn from Outcast on the art of subtlety and exploration. In many areas, A New Beginning builds on inventive foundations, though it still succumbs to many of the overused tropes and plot devices that render many open-world RPGs mundane.

A close up of Cutter Slade.
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Outcast: A New Beginning is a game close to being overrun by science fiction cliches. There’s alternative dimensions, outerworld saviours, and a half-witted scruffy-looking nerfherder. Cutter Slade, the abrasive main character, returns to helm the story. He’s exactly what I imagine Han Solo would have been like had he been played by Mel Gibson instead. A soldier for the WNA, Slade mysteriously awakens in Adelpha and is soon hailed as the prophesied messiah by the natives, destined to rescue them from invaders. Seizing the opportunity, he aids the Talans, hoping it will help him return to Earth and his daughter.

The plot wanders dangerously close to that of James Cameron’s Avatar. Humans colonising an indigenous alien species, ultimately thwarted by an off-world human hero. Perhaps sacrilege to fans of the franchise though it may be, stepping into the role of a Talan fighting for their people would have been a refreshing change from this overused trope.

A close-up view of a weathered brown boot standing near a detached robotic blue arm on a rocky surface with lush greenery in the background, symbolizing "Outcast: A New Beginning.
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If you can overlook the underwhelming writing of the game, you finally get to dig into its meat. Adelpha is a pulsating landscape garnished with vibrant foliage and slimy creatures. I can’t find much fault in the homeworld of the Talans, and the quarter of a century spent dreaming about this world has paid off. Giant sequoias are lined with bioluminescent shrubs. Their roots are winding and purposeful, often allowing you to climb across them to explore the map. The terrain is diverse, too, and you’ll explore settings marked with fire and sand, yet still hard-coded with the same Adelphan DNA. 

The settlements are open and complex, too. You’re initially let loose in the jungle and trees but, like Zelda’s Kokiri Forests, this serves to show you that not everywhere is as ideal as this. Not too long after you sink your hooks into Outcast, you’ll find homes carved into the cliffside, mountains and palaces rising out of deep lagoons, though ravaged settlements will quickly encourage you to pick up arms against Adelpha’s invaders.

A Palace in Outcast: A New Beginning
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The world is hand crafted, organic, and its scale feels wholly appropriate. Where science fantasy tropes run wild in its writing, Outcast: A New Beginning deserves much praise for its environment.

Not only does ecology play a part in the game’s look and feel, it’s drilled into its narrative, too. Although I might have complained about tropey side quests earlier, I couldn’t help but appreciate that at least they relate to a core theme of the game – restoration. Progressing through the game can feel somewhat rewarding in this sense. You unravel the mystery of Slade’s isekai in Adelpha and as this happens nature returns to life.

An outcast character in an orange suit stands beside a large, fantastical quadruped creature in a lush green environment within a video game.
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The overarching plot is fairly standard, and awkward dialogue and voice acting inhibits full immersion. The first few hours bombard you with Adelpha’s lore, and you will be excused for fumbling over the many keywords and names that build the civilisation’s myths. Had it not been for the charming artistic direction of the Talans, I’d have struggled to enjoy the game’s storytelling. They look weird. Not so much in the sense that they only have three fingers, but in that the character models actually feel alien and uncanny. Somehow, despite the veil of orange textured skin and Shrek ear bits and bobs, the natives of Adelpha stand out from one another. They are unique, and each of the characters is distinct enough in design to breathe a little life into proceedings. Still, though, it’s far too easy to skip through NPC dialogue. Exposition runs rife and melodrama takes over. 

A character in "Outcast: A New Beginning" review converses with another, who is wearing a red robe and appears to disapprove of humor, referencing something called "the essence.
Image captured by VideoGamer: Nemek echoes my sentiments towards Slade.

As you can tell, I have quite mixed feelings towards Cutter Slade. He’s blasé, annoying, and it’s easy to see through his transparent veil of disinterest. He, of course, helps the Talans, but every time he spoke I considered dropping him into the basin of the deepest lake, putting my controller down and making a cup of tea, not to return for a little while.

The same doesn’t apply for all of the enemies you encounter in Adelpha. One of the first enemies you’ll repeatedly encounter early on is an entirely forgettable robot – the very type you’d encounter in the practice shooting range of a competitive shooter. Iterations of this that are bigger, slower, and shoot louder guns are also found throughout the enemy camps, though they get a little more complex as you progress through the game. While Cutter Slade’s mobility and dynamism does bring an element of fun, it’s hard to feel motivated to mow down robot after robot with uninspiring cutscenes tacked on afterwards.

Three characters standing in an industrial-looking hallway facing a large, bright doorway in the "Outcast: A New Beginning" review.
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While there’s a clear momentum to the plot, its direction is in the hands of the players. Non-linear quest design allows you to carve out Slade’s adventure in whatever order you’d like, and the truly open-world map fully endorses this. Mountains are not just there to pad the scenery, they are a hub of exploration and spelunking. Swamps and lakes are not just a canvas to flout glittery reflections and ripples, but deep below you’ll find quests and treasures.

Physical exploration is tightly tied with the narrative web. Though it’s sometimes hard to care about the side quests and missions, the near unlimited freedom to complete them whenever you want is empowering. On your way to unlock a nearby shrine, it’s easy to get lost in the multitude of distractions nearby, though when the novelty of freedom wears off, you realise you’ve been sucked into many of the same uninspiring RPG mini-games that you’ll find in unimaginative triple-A titles. While there might be a purpose to enticing a giant bug back to a Talan village, or doing a parkour exhibition over some tree trunks, it does drag at times.

A mystical creature resembling a dragon stands in the center of an ancient, overgrown auto draft.
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The high science fantasy setting helps solve for one of my biggest gripes with open-world RPGs – traversal. Early on you’re equipped with a jetpack, it’s clunky at first, shooting you up into the sky and restrained by cool-downs. Soon, though, you’ll unlock upgrades and new skills that let you soar and glide over craggy underpasses and scenic landscapes, or dodge enemy laser beams while darting towards them to finish with a heavy melee blow. Through snow, storm, or sand, the game doesn’t stop encouraging you to explore, and even gives you all the tools and more to do so. The controls for movement might be clunky at first, but you’ll quickly learn the way of the jetpack.

The jetpack does invite dynamic movement into combat neatly, which otherwise would succumb to the homogeneity of third-person shooters. If you liked the combat in Mass Effect, this shouldn’t feel too alien at all. Don’t expect the same doom and gloom though. This is a game about life and exploration, in which action thankfully takes a backseat. Where other games in its class lean into horror and violence for excitement, Outcast at least makes an effort to stand on its own. Fitting.

Outcast: A New Beginning review - A character with a rifle on their back looks towards a mountain range in a vibrant, futuristic game setting, with an objective marker in the distance.
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Performance (on the PS5, at least) was not perfect. Fidelity in the Graphics Mode is phenomenal, though I’m a bit more keen on a consistent frame rate. When using Performance Mode, I had no issues with textures, shaders, and realism, though you’ll still be spiked with random stuttering and frame drops.

True to the original game, Outcast is not afraid to veer away from the archetype of modern open-world RPGs. You won’t feel like you’re being sold a spectacle that fits a particular niche, instead Outcast: A New Beginning encourages you to appreciate a world in which you can feel its creator’s passion. It’s not often that you see a Double-A passion project make it through development and get published. Nor is it common to see a sequel 25 years after the original game. If the story behind this game’s creation has anything to say, it’s that Outcast tries to defy convention and stray from typical patterns. It’s not perfect, but it’s fun to be Cutter Slade. Sometimes, that’s enough. Where adjacent RPGs – think Starfield and Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora – fall flat in innovation, Outcast: A New Beginning doesn’t.

PS5 review code provided by publisher.

About the Author

Amaar Chowdhury

Amaar loves retro hardware and boring games with more words than action. So, he writes about them daily.

An outcast stands before an ancient doorway flanked by statues, contemplating an unseen mystery within.

verdict

Where it innovates in design, Outcast: A New Beginning simultaneously stumbles over its own two feet with a clunkiness emblematic of other games in its niche. The game isn’t better or worse than its competitors – but it’s different enough to deserve some attention.
6 Soundtrack excels Immersive environments tied to the narrative of exploration Engaging and dynamic movement Jarring main character Uninventive plot