I don't usually play action/adventures. But after reading so many good things about Outcast, and how it was more adventure/action than action/adventure, I decided to give it a try. Besides, it had a god mode - a nice durable one that doesn't have to be reentered at the beginning of every level. I've been told that you don't need god mode for this game - that you can just run away from enemies most of the time. But I didn't find this to be true. Besides, I'm such a bad shot with a weapon that it is quicker and easier to use god mode and pummel my enemies to death with my fists than spend a lot of time wasting ammo. I know this isn't the correct way to play the game, but I enjoyed it.
Outcast's gameworld is vast. Although it is 3D, the game engine uses voxels and does not require a 3D graphics card. The minimum requirements are for 200 MHz with recommended specs of 300 MHz. Since I played on a computer with 400 MHz, I don't know how well it plays on a 200 MHz computer.
Outcast comes with 2 CD's. You install from the first one and play off the second one. No CD swapping.
Outcast, like most action/adventures, is keyboard controlled. It is also mouse controlled. You can change the way your character, Cutter Slade, is facing with the mouse. The arrow keys control movement and the direction he's facing, though in a different way than the mouse. The back arrow will turn Cutter so he is facing you without moving the background image. The mouse will turn Cutter around, but you'll stay behind him so the entire screen image will turn with him. If this sounds confusing, it isn't really.
There are a lot of other keyboard controls. You can make Cutter jump or run or crawl along the ground or dive into water. You can make him draw a weapon and fire. There are a lot of keyboard controls to learn and at first it may seem overwhelming. I tried out all the controls early in the game to try to learn them, but I always had the manual ready in case I forgot. Most of the time I had no trouble. But every once in a while I'd have to refresh my memory about some little-used control option.
It is possible to play Outcast from either 1st or 3rd person perspective. Since I get motion sickness in 1st person 3D games, I used 3rd person most of the time, switching to 1st person only when I had to shoot spiders to collect their salivary glands or something. By the way, spider salivary glands are useful. You use them to make ammo. And it's fun to watch the nasty spitting things flip over and go belly up.
Outcast has a very complex story. Cutter has been sent to a parallel universe to correct some sort of anomaly that threatens to destroy his world. A scientific probe sent to prove the existance of a parallel world has ceased communications and somehow triggered some manner of chain reaction that has resulted in a black hole which threatens to engulf Cutter's world. I can't say I fully understand how a little probe could cause so much damage. Chaos theory I suppose. Anyway, Cutter and 3 teammates are sent to the parallel world, Adelpha, to find the probe and correct the anomaly. Only something goes wrong along the way and Cutter is separated from his teammates. Backstories on the different team members are provided in the game manual.
As the game opens, Cutter awakens and meets the inhabitants of the planet, called Talans. These particular Talans have rescued him from the clutches of the evil Fae Rhan because they believe he is their saviour, the Ulukai. Apparently they believe this because of the symbol on his shirt. Cutter expresses his incredulity in something less than polite terms. Nevertheless, he and the Talan who is the rebel leader come to an agreement. Cutter will help the Talans with Fae Rhan and the Talans will help Cutter locate his teammates and the probe. After being supplied with his backpack, Cutter is given a "Gaamsaav" (which allows you to save your game) and sent out to explore this first world, Ranzaar, to gather information about the 6 worlds on the planet of Adelpha by talking to Ranzaar's inhabitants, and to pass a few tests to prove he is worthy. The tests are fairly easy, with the exception of the sneak test. But if you fail after 3 tries of the sneak test, the Talan who is testing you says never mind, I won't tell, it will just be our little secret that you failed. And after you pass the 4 tests, it's on to Shamazaar, the world of temples, to do good deeds, impress the inhabitants, kill soldiers, and try to figure out what's going on.
The 6 worlds of Adelpha are
Ranzaar, the world of snow (where you start out)
Shamazaar, the world of temples
Okasankaar, the world of marshes
Talanzaar, the world of the city and hub of Adelpha
Okaar, the forest world
Motazaar, the mountain world
Shamazaar is the largest world and I often got lost before I got the hang of using the map. The HUD (heads up display) is visible at all times to tell you which direction you are facing (north, south, east, or west) and you can call up the map in the lower right corner. Unfortunately the map is not labelled, but it does show your location with respect to enemies, friendly Talans, and animals. Most of the animals are friendly Twon-ha, but there are also nasty cheetah-like things that you have to go shoot to complete one of the side quests.
Twon-ha are fun. After running around the immense world of Shamazaar on two piddly little legs looking for things, it was great fun to finally acquire a long-legged Twon-ha and go bounding over the riis fields and leap up small cliffs at 3 or 4 times my former speed.
Each of the 6 worlds is distinctive. You move between them via glowing aqua-blue portals that you must locate.
Shamazaar was mostly green fields, with occasional temples or pools of water. At the center of Shamazaar, Fae Rhan has a temple of his own, full of soldiers.
Talanzaar is essentially the city of Okriana, which is surrounded by a deadly desert. If you step too far out in the desert, it gobbles you up. End of game, god mode or not.
Okasankaar, the marsh world, has vicious man-eating plants and a dinosaur-like monster that you must battle at some point in the game. It isn't really that hard. I got him on the second try. But if you get eaten while in god mode you get an added bonus - your movement keys now control the dinosaur, at least for a little while. There is a sort of logic in that.
Talanzaar was the world I liked the least. It was a mining world and though you hear that in the past it was a green and beautiful world, now it is all barren orangy red rocks.
Okaar was the forest world. Besides trees, it had statues, shrines, and a large river with many interesting things on the bottom. There is also a walled-up area with a really bad-tempered dragon creature in it. You fulfill one of the side quests if you are able to kill it, but I never could. I'd think I finally got it and then out it would come again - a big ugly head on a long neck that would come out of a pit and shoot explosive fireballs at you. You'd think heaving explosive charges into the pit would eventually have gotten it. But no! That just made it mad. You need the right weapon with the right weapon upgrade to beat it, but I thought I had that weapon upgraded enough.
Most of your time playing Outcast you will be helping out individual Talans as you try to locate the 4 Mons which are supposed to help you defeat Fae Rhan. The Mons exist on 4 of the different worlds. In order to find the Mon, you must question the inhabitants, and for them to help you, you must often help them. Much of my time was spent looking for the people I was supposed to be helping. The best way to do this is to ask one of the nearby Talan where the person you're looking for is. This works well in Shamazaar. The Talan either tells you, for example, "many steps east of here" or, if the one you're looking for is close by, he'll point to him. But in Okriana, there were many buildings, so when the helpful Talan is pointing out my quarry, he often ends up pointing at a building. And the guy I'm looking for may be inside the building, on the other side of the building, or 2 or 3 buildings away.
Outcast is non-linear and you can move between the worlds as much as you like. However, there are so many side tasks that I preferred to finish as many of them as I could before moving to another world, where there will certainly be more side tasks to accomplish. You need to accomplish a certain number of side tasks in order to impress the Talans enough that they will believe in you and help you. But you don't need to do them all to finish the game.
I should mention something about the weapons. Most of them can be bought in Okriana. Most of the upgrades for these weapons can also be bought in Okriana, though it may be tricky to find the exact merchant with the weapon or upgrade you need. The merchants are usually distinctive from other Talans because they tend to be plump and dress in silken robes and turbans, while most Talans are really skinny and dress in something simple. However these arms merchants tend to wander around Okriana. So you may have to wander the city, asking every merchant you meet what he has for sale.
Ammo can either be found lying around unattended on rooftops or in storehouses, or it can be created by some of the friendly inhabitants who are blessed with the ability to create such things. Cutter only has to deliver the raw materials to them and then leave them for a while so they have time to generate the ammo.
The weapons are known by numbers and letters. Why they couldn't just say gun or mortar-thrower I don't know. I was always having to look up the more advanced weapons in my manual, though I do remember the standard gun was the HK-P12. Those who enjoy combat will probably enjoy formulating the best strategy to attack a group of soldiers, using the most advantageous weapons and positioning Cutter behind buildings and other barriers. Here's a list of the weapons:
HK-P12 - Standard issue sidearm - 2 upgrades available
UZA-SH - Tracer - 2 upgrades available
SLNT-B - Dart gun - fires lethal poisonous capsules - recommended for long-distance combat - 2 upgrades available
HAWK-MK8 - Perforator gun - 2 upgrades available
LN-DUO 500 - Boomer gun - mortar-like explosive - 2 upgrades available
FT-74 - Flame thrower
In addition, Cutter will sometimes find dynamite to use to clear debris, etc. I believe the LN-DUO 500 is the gun you need to get the well working again. Next time I play the game, I will experiment more with using the weapons on the soldiers instead of only using the weapons at the few times when fists were ineffective.
The music for Outcast is outstanding. It is provided by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and sounds like the soundtrack from an epic movie. Fae Rhan's soldiers will occasionally attack you. You are warned of their presence by the game's music, which changes to a threatening march at their approach.
Outcast was made to work with DirectX 6.1. I played it with DirectX 7a with essentially no problems. I don't know how well it would work with DirectX 8a. There is a patch for Outcast that is almost 12 MB. You can download it from Adrenaline Vault http://22.214.171.124/pcrl/patches_temp.asp?patch=outcast
or this Outcast tech help site http://www.outcast-game.com/english/html/in_support_patches.html
and probably from other places as well.
There was one point where my screen froze during a conversation with the ammo maker in Shamazaar. During conversations in Okriana, I sometimes noticed the screen going all blue or all brown as one of the characters was talking. Eventually I realized this was because the camera changes position according to where the character is standing. It always wants to view Cutter from the same distance and from the same angle during conversations. And in crowded Okriana, the camera sometimes chose a viewpoint from inside of a wall. Hence, the entire screen became the color of the wall. It was possible to avoid this little bug by being careful about where I positioned Cutter before initiating a conversation.
When you manage to finish the game, there is a little surprise waiting for you after the credits. Don't miss it.