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Entry updated 9 April 2015. Tagged: Game.

Videogame (1999). Appeal. Platforms: Win.

Outcast is a three-dimensional action Adventure game normally played in a third person view, which is notable for the ethereal, otherworldly beauty of its visuals. The game begins after a probe sent to a Parallel World has malfunctioned, creating a hole in space which threatens to destroy the Earth within weeks. The player adopts the role of the somewhat stereotypical Cutter Slade, a former US Navy Special Forces soldier dispatched to the parallel Earth to shut down the probe. On arrival, the player finds themselves separated from the scientists who make up the rest of their team and hailed by the nonhuman Talans as their messiah. In order to get the help they need to complete their mission, the player must agree to overthrow the Talans' oppressive dictator. The alternate Earth of Adelpha is an impressive work of subcreation, with a richly imagined society influenced by Middle Eastern cultures, an extensive geography and a history which has left the landscape crowded with the partially understood artefacts of an older, more powerful civilization. The Talans themselves are remarkable for their detailed yet varied personalities, as well as for the alien vocabulary they use and which the player must learn.

Playing through the game, however, evokes a certain sense of bathos. The strongly modular story (see Interactive Narrative) encourages the player to travel across Adelpha, convincing local Talans that Slade is indeed their messiah, thus recruiting them to assist him in overthrowing their rulers. As a result, much of the player's time is spent performing mundane and sometimes repetitive tasks for suspicious Talans in order to persuade them that Slade is trustworthy and virtuous. The contrast between these activities and the profound significance attached to the player's mission can be jarring. Outcast succeeds impressively when players focus on the pleasures of exploring its strikingly well constructed alien world, but is perhaps less rewarding when they concentrate on the puzzle solution and combat gameplay which is traditionally at the core of an action Adventure game. [NT]


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