Developer: Appeal | Released: 1999 | Genre: 3PS, Adventure
This is a post in a nostalgic series with transcriptions of my diary sessions of the many games I played from 2000 and onwards, translated and adapted from Danish. There will be spoilers in these diary sessions.
All images are courtesy of MobyGames and shows the best 512×384 resolution.
April 19, 2001
I’ve had the original CD-ROM of Outcast for a while, but my DVD drive wouldn’t acknowledge it. Now I had a plan. First I installed a 317 MB alternative version from a “collection” and ran it. It started without problems but was very limited – no speech, no movies, no CD audio music. Then I renamed the folder and installed the original CD version. As usual it wouldn’t recognize my DVD drive. I then copied the executable file over from the limited version and hey presto; I now had an original that worked with my DVD drive with all music, movies and speech intact. Then I deleted the limited version.
Played a little bit of the game. I managed to get through the training level in the beginning where I had to sneak past my teacher Jan. The game had to be run in the penultimate resolution of 400×300. The best, which was 512×384 or something like that, was stuttering too much. Somewhat disappointing on a 1,2 GHz PC, but at least it ran reasonably well in 400×300 with all graphical details set to high. The game looks old fashioned today because of the low resolution, but I also know that it’s a long and challenging game. Some reviewers say 50+ hours – try comparing that to the 10-15 hours of Heavy Metal: F.A.K.K.². There are also sub quests and even sub quests within sub quests. It might make the game confusing and introduce the non-linearity I’m not comfortable with yet.
Nevertheless I will now give it a chance and then we’ll see. I paid a lot of money for the original game.
April 20, 2001
Infiltrated parts of Shamazaar – one of five or six big regions in the entire game. The game didn’t really grab me at first. Partly it was because of the many errand boy tasks that seemed slightly stressful. Most of them were about finding a talan which is what the people in the game are called. It requires asking everyone about directions, and it takes time and wandering. At the same time this is worsened by receiving another sub task as I finally meet the guy, and he won’t solve my other one until then. Worst of all is that some of the tasks deliberately leads me to a talan that stands next to a cluster of about 5-10 soldiers.
Killing soldiers in this game is a considerably arduous process that involves a whole chain of questionable design choices. First of all, the pistol I start out with shoots extraordinarily slow bullets that I can follow with my eyes. It often runs out and has to be reloaded. This leads to the biggest bummer of them all – because I’m shooting with an “all in one” action button, our hero typically does something else while reloading it. Usually it’s jumping up and down on the spot. Jumping while in the heat of battle is not awesome. Most of the soldiers (and their leaders) are also equipped with a lot better weaponry than I am. So suffice to say, soldiers are not something I casually start a fight with. Unfortunately they often patrol the rice paddies that are prevalent in Shamazaar, which makes my inquiries frustrating. I was cursing a bit at this time.
But in spite of the low resolution of 400×300 and the blurry graphics, there is something refreshingly unique about the bizarre voxel graphics. The sound effects and the movie style music are also brilliant, not to speak of the impressive character animations and the convincing alien planet atmosphere.
I could also feel that I got better at handling those pesky soldiers. The game deserves another chance.
April 21, 2001
Outcast is a frustrating game. I was repeatedly annoyed by small bugs or questionable design limitations. I’m sure one of them is a bug, but I can’t tell if it might be caused by the way I bypassed the copy-protection check in the executable file. The problem occurred when trying to ride a creature called a Twon-Ha – a mix between an ostrich and a lizard. Most of them time it wouldn’t move when I asked it to. Later I figured out that I could sometimes make it move by shaking my mouse up and down. Other things were by design, however, like making myself invisible for 10-15 seconds. I couldn’t shoot or fight at all in this condition which wasn’t very useful. Luckily it turned out that it was possible to drop dynamite in camps with soldiers. At least that was useful – then I could blow a few of them to smithereens at a safe distance.
But most of the tasks were feasible – and completing the minor ones are not all that insurmountable after all. All of the tasks are listed in a short and concise manner in a notebook, and the individual tasks are emphasized until completed. I also got a lot better at beating the soldiers. I learned how to kill them from far away – in spite of the low resolution, where I’m only shooting at pixels. I could also use the terrain of my surroundings to protect myself from their weapons. Also damn necessary that I learned this because there are a lot of soldiers that needs to be eradicated.
Past midnight I finally managed to solve the final tasks in the Shamazaar region and get the first of five Mon’s which seems to be the main task in each region. There are about five or six of these so I believe the reviewers when they say there may be enough entertainment for 50 hours or more. Luckily it has a very unique style that doesn’t look like most other games. No wonder it took four years to create it.
April 22, 2001
The game managed to really captivate me as time went on. The problems I had in the beginning are almost gone. Especially after I discovered that I could buy better weapons in a big city called Okriana, which was placed in the Talanzaar region. The city had an impressive size and that even without loading anything in between. Other 3D engines could learn a lot from this. I also completed the lava region Motazaar, and it involved a lot of jumping on pistons and avoiding rolling stones. The reward was a very funny cutscene in the end – a lovely trip together with a shamaz on a flying lizard named VoVo. Our hero, Cutter Slade, was absolutely not comfortable with this and it also ended in a crash landing like in the best of comedies. It was wonderful with a silly cutscene like this in an otherwise serious game – that is, if you disregard the endless flow of Cutter’s wisecracks when talking to various talans.
I also solved some tasks in Okriana itself and saved Marion from the area behind a barrier in Shamazaar that luckily didn’t work anymore. Then I embarked on a difficult region called Okasankaar – a region with islands and dangerous waters teeming with bizarre snakes and fierce fish. There were also a lot of soldiers that the terrain or the huddled city Cyana sometimes made difficult to deal with. Nevertheless I still cleaned up in many areas and also visited the almost deaf fisherman Oru on a northwestern island.
April 23, 2001
Finally acquired the third Mon (of five) in the region Okasankaar. Apart from solving minor puzzles, I also fought an impressive boss monster together with the old fisherman Oru on the isolated island Gorgor. Oru was eaten after a surprisingly long cutscene leading up to the event. Even I managed to get eaten while flopping up and down in its jaws like a “T. Rex” until I managed to finally get it down.
85% of the region is now completed, except for a few minor tasks and a big one – finding a big lighthouse stone in Motazaar in order to get the talans in Okasankaar to quit delivering fish to the soldiers. I briefly tried to find this stone in Motazaar but without luck. I have to look at that later. I did succeed in blowing up the damn robot dragon in Shamazaar, though – but apparently there was nothing to gain from it.
April 24, 2001
Felt like I was stuck at first. Went forth and back in most of the known regions and solved more or less unimportant trifles. I was missing a Daoka (which is a gate much like in the movie Stargate) for the final region Okaar. Eventually I managed to spot it on a small island in the Okasankaar region. I just had to swim up north east from the large swamp area – there were buoys to keep the fierce fish at bay.
Played a little in the new region. My friend Peter once said this was the prettiest region of them all, and there’s some truth to it. The many trees and dilapidated temples look amazing, and there are a lot of predators and poisonous fungus. There’s also an interesting twist – I met an Amazon Indian race that didn’t speak and they are constantly in doubt about whether I’m friend or foe. This works both ways and is quite well done. Never have I been in so much doubt about going for my gun or not. I let them be to begin with, but later I had to pop a couple of them anyway to free a shamaz.
So now it looks like the tone is already set.
April 25, 2001
Played a major part of the Okaar region. I rolled a large stone down on top of a waterfall to close off a river, by which I could reach a key where the waterfall used to be.
In a big arena in the western area I also spent a lot of time fiddling around with an enormous red dragon. It was even bigger than the Gorgor I shot in the Okasankaar region. The trick to defeat it here was to shoot it in the neck, but it always looked in the direction of noise. I solved this by putting down some dynamite in one side of its lava pit, then walked over to the other side and detonated it at a distance to make it turn around. I repeated this four or five times before it finally bit the dust from all my neck shooting.
Later I also cleaned out a temple. It was swarming with the toughest type of soldiers in the game – the ones with red jackets – but I still managed to finish them off. I have now worked up some skill in putting them down properly, assisted by a sensible array of weapons I also know how to use.
After this it looked like I was stuck again in this region. What am I missing?
April 26, 2001
In spite of having played Outcast intensively several days in a row, it was still as absorbing as always.
I completed the final tasks – the lighthouse in Okasankaar, making Hezu see some sense in Talanzaar, and putting up the tree flutes in Okaar. I also fetched the fourth Mon in the penultimate region. The game now started to show cutscenes more frequently. I once again solved a part with Marion in Okaar, but then I was put through one of the most frustrating twists in the game – the soldiers captured Cutter Slade in a trap and snatched all my weapons. I had to fight my way out using only the measly pea shooter. It felt like the developers tried to create a certain balance in the difficulty, but I really didn’t like it. They should just have exposed Cutter Slade to even more resistance instead. I did win this part in my second attempt, but the end sequence against the mighty Kroax continued in the same vein. Although I did get all my weapons back, the ammunition was now sparse.
The cutscenes grew in intensity and were both epic and filmic which was a joy to watch. The talans were convinced that they should rebel against Fae Rhan and the rest of his soldiers (a lot of them had already walked out at this point) and it was this that ended with the fight against his subject Kroax that loved to teleport around the palace.
After finishing him off I was shown the final couple of cutscenes, and they were very satisfying. Marion did die after a bullet to her back from the palace leader Xue, but it was well done – it even had a slow motion sequence that reminded me of The Matrix. But apart from that it all ended well and the talans were free of the tyranny of their previous tormentors. The ending had good closure and definitely didn’t prepare for a sequel. It was actually quite nice and refreshing for once. Too many PC games have to prepare for a sequel all the time. The best cutscene came after the end credits were finished – all of the main characters were now dancing in a small arena in Okaar to dance music. I was all smiles.
The game ended with 101% of the main tasks and 66% of the bonus tasks done.
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