The Outer Worlds is a big adventure squeezed onto a small platform, but does it work as well as it should on Nintendo's hybrid console?
It's interesting to see what gets included and the condition it ends up in, every time a game meant for more capable hardware is squeezed down onto Nintendo's hybrid console. Some developers have managed to impress despite making big compromises, and others have trimmed a little too much for their own good. Next up, thanks to Virtuos, Obsidian Entertainment has managed to bring one of last year's most appreciated role-playing games to a platform that we can keep in our (deepest) pockets and play on the go. So let's see how well they have succeeded.
For those who may have missed our review of The Outer Worlds last year, this is a first-person role-playing game trying to capture the spirit of Fallout: New Vegas, but this time on a different planet. This means lots of freedom in terms of how you shape your character and there are often several different solutions to any problem that emerges during your adventure. Deep lore, a wide range of abilities, personable companions, branching dialogue, and the various factions that you can interact come together to create the kind of experience that we haven't seen much of today as the AAA industry often has a slightly more streamlined view on modern role-playing games.
Just like in the original version, you play as a survivor aboard a ship called Hope; a huge vessel sent as part of the second wave of the colonisation of the Halcyon system. You're rescued by the rebel scientist Phineas Welles in the hope of being able to correct the chaos that has spread among the various planets during the 60 years that you've spent on ice. Having made your character and then played through a tutorialised introduction, you are then, for the most part, free to explore and find your place in this anti-capitalist satire where the corporations have run amok and everything has a catchphrase.
And it is with pleasure that I can say that The Outer Worlds is, on the whole, well preserved on this new platform, although the Switch port is not entirely without its flaws.
The most noticeable hit that the game has taken on Nintendo Switch is the resolution. Publisher Private Division said it aimed at 1080p with the console docked under the TV, and then 720p in portable, which sounds excellent. But this is simply just a goal for the dynamic resolution, which allows the game to regulate its internal sharpness and clarity as needed. This is a popular technique, and it feels very prominent here. In the game's more open areas, such as the plains outside Edgewater, I quickly lost detail and objects far away looked smeared together into pastel-coloured shapes, and this was still playing docked. Also, throw in an aggressive aliasing technique and you'll understand why the image was very blurry.
General objects, models and textures have also undergone substantial downgrades. Soil, plants and some costumes are incredibly poor when it comes to detail, but this too can vary. Much has been trimmed down in the hope of being able to remain stable while we shoot robbers or talk our way through settlements, but this is still not enough to create a seamless gameplay experience. It wasn't the most engaging shooter on an Xbox One X, and it hasn't got any better on the Nintendo Switch.
Now, I shouldn't be too harsh. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt also got a lot of graphical downgrades, but it's also a game of significantly greater magnitude. Could it be that I'm also a little spoiled with excellent conversions of Metro: Redux, Alien: Isolation, Dark Souls: Remastered and even The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. In any case, these titles all have the excuse of being games with their roots in generations even older than Xbox One and PlayStation 4, so we have to keep our expectations reasonably realistic. And nevertheless, while I did encounter these problems I was still quickly back into the story, talking with entertaining companions, and traveling between planets.
Another Switch-focused addition is support for aiming with the motion controls that are built into the Joy-Cons and Pro Controller. It can be a nice addition when it works, but I found it rather inaccurate here. As I said, this is not a game with pure action as the main focus, so I chose instead to play with aim support, especially when using the small and low sticks on the Joy-Cons. There are plenty of settings just for this, however, so you should be able to find the sensitivity settings that suit you best.
And so, despite the very noticeable visual downgrades, this is still the same game as before. Would I recommend it on Switch instead of playing it on one of the other consoles? Probably not, but it is a working substitute in the absence of anything else. That's because, regardless of texture resolution, The Outer Worlds offers the same level of flexibility and role-playing on Switch as it does everywhere else. Do you want to create a character with such low intelligence that their stupidity opens up new dialogue choices? Well, you can. Do you want to play it sneaky and avoid physical confrontation? That choice is yours, too. It's still an excellent game at the end of the day, even if it is better experienced on other formats.
7 / 10
Same games and content, flexible role-playing, interesting world, lovely companions.