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The Top Shelf:
Outcast

Vol. 2, Issue 1 
November 10, 1999 
 

The other great thing is that the game continuously throws challenges at you. Just as you pass one major hurdle, another one will get set to present itself. However, these aren’t bulldozed down on top of you with no break; and I’m quite impressed with the pacing of the game, overall. With all there is to do, it's nice that the game doesn’t time you. Just because you didn’t take care of something immediately, doesn’t mean that you have to load an earlier game and try again. Don’t get me wrong, you can fail tasks or die (most of the time by doing something dumb like trying to pet dangerous animals; or in battle against soldiers) – but because its almost always a result of something you chose to do, it doesn’t get you frustrated with the game developers so much as yourself.

click to enlarge!

Exotic beasts populate the world of Outcast (44k)

The quests themselves vary from a simple message-bearing request, to killing a monster, to searching an entire landscape for an artifact, to going around and trying to get a whole group of merchants to lower their prices – and the proverbial “much much more!” The major quests in the game seem to follow a common theme, but each one requires different sub-quests and activities; so they never really get boring - though I will say that the entire explorable area of Adelpha is vast; sometimes taking several minutes to traverse. Throughout these quests (which, basically, comprise the game), you’ll constantly be dealing with the natives of Adelpha. The voice acting for these characters is superb; and the sheer number of people you run into breathes a lot of life into the game. I’d venture to say that a full 60 to 70 percent of the populace is unique and has different knowledge, needs, requests, and so forth. They also do a good job of sprinkling humor throughout the game; which not only provides a break from the seriousness of some of your tasks, but makes your character seem more “real” – and less of a goody-two-shoes, or digital puppet.

It's amazing that only a handful of people were used for the voice-talent of these natives – the digital processing and voice skills carry a vast array of inflections, mannerisms, and tones that uniquely identify them. Good variances in clothing and animation also help avoid the “cookie-cutter” effect seen in most games. There’s some repetition; but its not so high as to interrupt the enjoyment of the game. This brings us to the graphical elements of the game. I personally think that a great job was done with the graphics in Outcast – nice particle effects, detailed textures, and vibrant colors.

The one drawback (which everyone comments on) is the use of voxels to render the terrain. While it makes for very detailed landscapes, it forces the use of software rendering - severely limiting screen-resolution (performance is almost totally CPU-dependant, instead of video-card dependant). As a result, graphics are fairly chunky and not very crisp in most modes (things seem to kick into super-high detail during close-ups while conversing; which is nice). While being “ugly” at first glance, I can remember that only a couple of years ago, 400x300 mode was quite acceptable for Quake and the like. And if you give the game a chance (i.e. play it for more than 10 minutes), you will find that you quickly become accustomed to it; and the graphics take a back seat to the game-play and the story. As I mentioned before, however, there is evidence that the graphics really were done well – as details and effects can be quite pretty, especially in “close-up” mode. They also have included a bunch of anti-aliasing and other rendering tools designed to “nicen up” the graphics, even at their low-res., without causing major performance hits - and they do help.

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Credits: Illustration © 1999 Dan Zalkus. This review is © 1999 Noel Wade. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, goldarn it.