Outward Xbox One review: A groundbreaking, yet flawed, open-world RPG

Outward has bold ideas, but it doesn't execute the fundamentals as well as it should.

In most role-playing games (RPGs) you start out the same way: You control a Chosen One-type character, and it's up to you to save the world from whatever universe-threatening force has risen to power. Outward, a new game on Xbox One, breaks that mold by putting you into the shoes of an everyday commoner. This adds a lot of unique and interesting challenges to the gameplay that help make Outward stand out amongst its peers, and in this regard, the game is excellent.

However, Outward is sadly held back by some issues with the fundamental aspects of gameplay, such as how combat feels and how the open world areas are designed. These problems don't ruin the game, but they definitely detract from the experience. Even so, though, Outward is a title that has a lot of really awesome concepts, and overall, it does more right than wrong.

Every choice matters

Outward's marketing tagline is "No remarkable journey is achieved without great effort," and that couldn't be any closer to the truth when it comes to how the game plays. In Outward, everything is a potential threat, from the bandits and the creatures you face in combat to the harsh climate you'll face while exploring. You can get poisoned by eating spoiled food, become lethargic from a lack of sleep, and bleed out from untreated wounds. This game turns everything into a survival mechanic, and since your protagonist isn't physically special in any way, Outward forces you to work hard for every bit of progress you make and think about every decision. If you just want to relax and chill out, Outward's challenging design will not be for you. However, if you're someone like me who loves a great challenge, you'll have a blast working to overcome obstacles and growing into a capable adventurer.

Outward turns everything into a survival mechanic.

Where Outward begins to stumble is in its combat and open world design. I'm happy that the developers improved how combat feels after I noted some issues about it in my preview for the game, but some problems still remain, such as inconsistent hitboxes and cumbersome attack animations that feel awkward. To a degree I, like that, since your character is just a normal Joe after all, but Outward lays the clunkiness on too thickly. Additionally, the open world areas can sometimes feel empty and lifeless, which is a real shame because I think the game's setting of Aurai is very interesting. Outward pushes you to explore, but when there doesn't happen to be anything that engaging when you do, what's the point?

Visual quality varies

Outward is gorgeous and mediocre-looking at the same time. The amount of detail on some models (especially the foliage) is incredibly high, while non-playable characters (NPCs) and some types of terrain look like something you'd find in a 2010 game. The excellent lighting, beautiful color palette and overall vibrant look of the game help mask some of these textures, but not always. Animations in particular are also hit or miss; for example, the movement animations look natural, but some of the ones that convey status effects are hilariously goofy. Luckily, the game's score is a different story. The soundtrack is, without a doubt, the best thing about Outward's presentation.

It runs well overall

For the most part, Outward runs smoothly and without any issues, which is always great to see. There's currently a weird bug where items might get deleted, but it only happened to me once in my playthrough so it shouldn't be much of a problem for other players either. Hopefully the developers fix it right away.

So should you buy Outward for Xbox One?

At the end of the day, Outward is an RPG with bold new ideas that it executes really well, but it's lacking when it comes to fundamental things like combat feel and open-world design — two things that are important to do well. Overall, the game is good, but it could stand to be a lot better.

If you love hardcore RPGs, then I'd say Outward is definitely worth picking up. However, if you're on the fence about this type of game, I'd say your best bet is to wait for a sale since a $40 purchase is a big one to be potentially disappointed by.


  • Excellent survival mechanics.
  • Interesting setting.
  • Fantastic music.
  • Great performance overall.


  • Mediocre open-world design.
  • Cumbersome combat.
  • Inconsistent visual fidelity.

Outward is available now on Xbox One and Steam for $40.

Brendan Lowry

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.