STORE COMMUNITY ABOUT SUPPORT
Login Store Community Support
View desktop website
We're over halfway through 2019 already, and as ever, there are always too many games to play on PC. Below, we've collected every game that's scored 80% or above from our reviewers since January, so you can browse through them in one place. Don't forget to check out our ever-updated list of the best PC games, too, for broader recommendations of what to play next. We'll keep refreshing this page as we get closer to the end of 2019.
"Part of Amid Evil's appeal is that it ignores certain annoying, speed-hindering FPS conventions scaffolded onto shooters since the '90s. There's no fall damage. You can breathe underwater. Elevators won't crush you if they catch your shoulder on the way down. They'll just clip through you as they should. Accidental deaths have their place in games, especially when they're comedic, but here they'd only get in the way of the fun and the speed. They aren't missed."
Verdict: At its best when the screen is full of enemies, Amid Evil is a badass monster mash.
"Along with the score, at the end of every level Pedro gives you a gif of a highlight to save or share. Postcards from murderland, they slice My Friend Pedro into a handful of enjoyable seconds. Its take on bullet-time is fun for more than seconds, though. Unlike Superhot or Max Payne I never got tired of its bullet-time thanks to short levels, high variety, and a storyline that's purest nonsense."
Verdict: Breezy fun that also rewards combo-chasing mastery. Barrel through the story once for a laugh, then replay the best levels until you are John Wick on a skateboard.
"Codemasters has had the handling down for years now. It's twitchy and frightening, and gives you just the right amount of rumble in your hands as you wrestle your car implausibly fast over an impeccably rendered apex. It feels in this game, as it has for many prior instalments, like a carefully struck balance between detailed physics modelling and 'sim-cade' accessibility."
Verdict: F1 2019 retains immaculate handling and visuals while adding cinematic spectacle and junior series racing.
"Superficially, Outer Wilds is a first-person game about exploring a small solar system containing a handful of quirky planets full of weird and interesting phenomena. You fly to a planet, you look at some stuff, you die. You fly to a different planet, you look at some different stuff, you die. More significantly, though, Outer Wilds is a mystery sandbox. It reminds me a lot of Her Story or Return of the Obra Dinn, in that its solar system feels like a puzzle that I piece together by connecting small, often seemingly unrelated details."
Verdict: Beneath its charming and inventive worlds, Outer Wilds hides a cleverly unfolding mystery.
"But what's interesting about Observation is that you don't play as Fisher. Instead, you play as SAM, her AI helper. The station is an extension of you, and its cameras are your eyes and ears. You can, when asked, open doors, cycle airlocks, assess damage, and all manner of functional duties. But something seems to have awoken in you. A flicker of self-awareness, perhaps. And an ominous command from an unknown party has infiltrated your programming: BRING HER."
Verdict: A stylish, understated, and subtly chilling psychological thriller with a compelling mystery at its core.
"If you've got the patience and dexterity to take full advantage of its melee combat, Mordhau can be a real treat. Especially in the Frontline mode, slashing and stabbing across its beautiful and well-designed maps was really entertaining once I got my feet under me. The high skill cap and lack of good supporting roles can make it feel tiring at times, but it's mostly worth it for the satisfaction that comes with increasing mastery."
Verdict: High skill cap melee combat is equally rewarding and daunting, though the archery and support roles could use some work.
"Where Yakuza Kiwami felt like an expansion to Yakuza 0, Kiwami 2 is larger, fuller and more varied than Yakuza 6, its Dragon engine predecessor (which isn't available on PC—the series seemingly being ported in order of storyline). While I still slightly prefer Yakuza 0, this is well worth your time."
Verdict: A triumphant remake of Yakuza 2, full of fun diversions and featuring one of the series' best stories.
"But the good news is that the stuff that defines Mortal Kombat is also here in gore-soaked, self-aware spades. The fighting is the best it's ever been. The fatalities are sickeningly inventive. There are enough unlockables to keep you busy for months. But it's the story mode that stands out, stitching together 27 years of MK lore into something that resembles the best bits of a Marvel movie."
Verdict: A deep, customisable fighter that just happens to include the best video game movie never made.
"I've spent whole days (and countless in-game years) invested in wars and plots, some ending less favourably than others, but Imperator is endlessly fascinating and I expect to be digging through it for ages."
Verdict: Huge, inventive and the reason I'm sleep deprived. It's brilliant.
"Heaven's Vault is exquisite. I've finished my first playthrough of the archaeological sci-fi adventure, so the main narrative mysteries like "What happened to roboticist Janniqi Renba?" and "What exactly is Heaven's Vault?" are known. The reason I immediately headed into New Game Plus is that the real puzzle at the heart of Heaven's Vault is translating the world's Ancient hieroglyphics. That's still unfolding and it's absolutely stunning."
Verdict: Heaven's Vault communicates the beauty of assigning meaning to symbols, and thus the people who wrote them.
"Script carbuncles aside, Anno 1800 is a rich and sumptuous city-builder, easily the grandest and deepest Anno to date. Its early game is a wonderfully relaxing experience, while the later stages will have you scratching your mutton-chops and happily stretching your braces in equal measure."
Verdict: Despite an annoying story mode, Anno 1800 is the biggest and best entry in the series to date.
"Ace Attorney hooks you the same way any good crime serial does: you want to know whodunit, and how, and once you do, you want to point your finger at the criminal in a heroic fashion and laugh. I dare you not to be sold on Ace Attorney as soon as the verdict hits the screen in big, bold letters, and the room erupts into cheers and confetti."
Verdict: Just what a visual novel should be—fun characters and the rush of solving mysteries make you eager to keep going.
"Outward's unusual design provides a different experience than I've found in most RPGs. It completely breaks the common habits of fast-traveling, gaining a fortune in loot, becoming an all-powerful god, and reloading saved games when things don't go as planned or you make a choice you regret. It makes minor setbacks feel like major obstacles to overcome and it makes small victories feel like utter triumphs. Outward is harsh and occasionally frustrating, but it does what so few games do. It requires you to put real thought into the choices you make, and it makes those choices feel like they really matter."
Verdict: A few rough edges don't stop Outward from being a gem of an RPG.
"Sekiro's combat system serves up exciting new challenges to the end and the shinobi fantasy is powerfully realised in every savage deathblow and perfectly timed parry. If you're up for the challenge, Sekiro will reward your patience with some of the most spectacular, nerve-wracking duelling on PC."
Verdict: A brutal, uncompromising action game with sensational sword combat. From Software has done it again.
"This is a very complete-feeling follow-up to The Division, from a team that clearly learned a lot about its audience after a series of successful, high-value updates. Dedicated players know they want this already. For everyone else, this is an exciting, moreish shooter set in an impressive world that already offers tens of hours of enjoyable shooting and cool loot."
Verdict: A packed, rewarding, and frequently thrilling looter shooter that should have a bright future.
"Baba is You deserves its critical acclaim. It's part logic puzzle, part existential quandary, part love letter to how much potential is contained in the tiny building blocks of language."
Verdict: Baba is You manages to take the familiar idea of nudging blocks and solving puzzles in a fresh direction. Brilliant.
"Hypnospace Outlaw is, rather unexpectedly, one of the best detective games on PC. Its puzzles are layered and complex, but never unfair. It respects you enough to let you figure things out at your own pace, and with almost no hand-holding. But if you do hit a wall (trust me, you will) there's a well-designed hint system buried in there too. Its internet is a joyous explosion of art, music, creativity, and weirdness, and a pleasure to explore. And it's a nice reminder of when the internet felt like a cool underground club, rather than a pervasive Hell from which there is no escape."
Verdict: A satisfying detective adventure based around a weird and wonderfully imaginative retro internet.
"The setting lacks the flair and imagination of the genre behemoth Bayonetta, and those boss fights make it a slightly more uneven experience, but there's a greater variety of combat styles and a higher degree of challenge that will will keep me playing until Capcom hopefully releases another one. If you enjoy third-person brawlers DMC5 is a must, and if you've never tried one before, this is a great place to start. What a treat."
Verdict: Three great characters and a beautiful, fluid combat system make this a must-buy for hack-and-slash fans.
"Although this isn't a complete overhaul of the last Dirt Rally, it does feel like progress. Certainly progress in the visuals, which look more than just four years down the line in this game. Progress in the level of immersion, thanks to tiny touches like driving beyond the finish line to the steward after each stage. And certainly progress in a sense of overarching structure to singleplayer racing, thanks to the team management conceit."
Verdict: Simply the best rally sim around, building on its predecessor's already fine foundations.
"After a couple years of seeing battle royale games release in unfinished states, Respawn's confident spin on gaming's most popular trend has completely reinvigorated my enthusiasm for the genre. It'll need consistent support and long term updates to stay exciting, but Apex Legends is one hell of an opening salvo. Free, friendly, and consistently fun, it's the best battle royale game available today."
Verdict: Apex Legends is a quiet revolution in how we communicate in games, and an excellent team-based battle royale I can recommend to anyone, caveat-free.
"Civilization 6: Gathering Storm bites off a lot, but it proves more than capable of juggling big concepts like climate change and global diplomacy. It turns them into coherent but still complex systems that you'll constantly be interacting with, even before you start noticing that the beaches are vanishing. The climax doesn't live up to the build-up, but Civilization 6 is still a richer game for all the expansion brings."
Verdict: Gathering Storm is an ambitious expansion full of welcome additions, even if it does falter at the end.
"In spite of the niggles, it's an absorbing space strategy game, and we don't get enough of them. The many featured factions as varied and characterful as you would expect from the 40K universe. Tyranids infect enemy vessels with swarms of hungry monsters, and latch onto enemies with long space tentacles. The Eldar are fast and near-invisible at the start of a fight. The Orks, well, they crash into stuff. If you're a fan of the universe there is even more to enjoy here. The voice acting sometimes goes full ham, but this is one of the most authentic attempts to capture the grandiosity of Warhammer 40,000. Emperor knows, many have tried."
Verdict: Involved, spectacular, space battles packaged into satisfying campaigns, and great fan service too.
"Evocative, witty and razor sharp, Sunless Skies turns text into a reward: you'll find yourself seeking the right combination of items just to open up new lines of conversation. They’re the most important currency in a game that gives you a clutch of weird and wonderful tales to tell, even when you fail miserably. In these moments you'll realise that while you may not have achieved your goal, Failbetter certainly has."
Verdict: The sharpest writing around, wrapped inside a surprising adventure that’s tough but rarely unfair. Failbetter's finest hour.
"The essence of what makes a great card game is readily available here: the joy of building a machine and optimizing it as much as you can. As is the bottomless surprise, the highs and lows of roguelikes. If that isn't enough, recently added moddability is already adding new decks, enemies, and cards to tinker with."
Verdict: A strategically deep deckbuilder that, with any luck, has spawned a brilliant new subgenre.
"This is pretty much the ultimate refinement of the classic Resident Evil formula—but with the added intensity of RE4's slick, dynamic over-the-shoulder combat. The result is a game that is comfortably among the best in the series, and a thrilling survival horror experience in its own right. It's not as surprising as RE7, but as an evolution, and a celebration, of vintage Resident Evil, you couldn't ask for much more."
Verdict: A tense, challenging, and beautiful remake of a classic survival horror game, and with enough fresh ideas to make it feel excitingly new.
"I've still got to expand from a dustbowl community to a fortress; to send an expedition of battle-hardened warriors out into distant wilds while back at the township artisans and workers rake in profits thanks to the clockwork-like regimen I created. Kenshi is huge, amoral, and opaque enough that I'll be deciphering it it for a very long time."
Verdict: Work through the presentational ugliness and technical awkwardness, and you’ll find an experience of frightening depth.
Outward is both a hardcore fantasy RPG and a game where you can never die. When you fall, the story carries on. Maybe the outlaw who knocked you down captures you and you have to escape from a bandit camp, maybe a hunter finds you bleeding on the ground and drags you back to town. It's an unusual combination of fiddly and forgiving, and it's proven a hit with players.
Guillaume Boucher-Vidal, CEO of the indie studio responsible for it, Nine Dots, recently gave an interview to Gamasutra about how Outward was made, explaining how a small team was able to create an open-world RPG without needing to crunch.
For starters, they reigned in the scope. Early in development they discovered environments were taking longer to craft than expected, but monsters were coming much faster. He explained that, "as we advanced in development we realized that we were able to make a much higher number of enemies, but we had to slim down the number of environments. We could sort of shape the game according to our own abilities while we were developing. It was more effective, and it was also a matter of maintaining the velocity."
Boucher-Vidal also suggested that a reliance on iteration and prototyping to "find the fun" were wasteful, and that sticking to a pre-production design document rather than experimenting during production helped them stick to a schedule. "I see the game design job as being closer to an architect or director," he said, "like you would see on movies where you actually have a plan laid out and try to execute it."
You can read the full interview here.
Without looking at my map, I know exactly how to get from Cierzo to the Enmerkar Forest. Straight out the gates, right at the fork (bandit camp to the left), steady on at the next fork, left at the foot of the Conflux mountain, follow the road southeast past the Vigil Pylon, then the southeast-most exit on the left before reaching the shipwreck. I swear I dictated that all without checking the map. In any other RPG I would struggle to perform the same basic task with a shred of the same certainty. Not without flicking my map open for a split second at every fork in the road just to make sure I'm not remembering incorrectly.
Outward has already raked in praise for the sense of exploration it inspires. Despite that, it lacks a few things that most games about exploring huge open worlds count as givens. Outward's map doesn't have a handy player marker showing my location that I can obsessively check. It doesn't have a minimap, either.
I've never been so happy about a missing feature in an RPG. In fact I don't miss it at all. Reliable, detailed maps are a scourge on open world games. In Skyrim or The Witcher 3 or Dragon Age: Inquisition I succumb to the impulse of checking my map about as often as I check my phone during dinner. I couldn't get you from Whiterun to Windhelm by memory if Lydia's life depended on it.
Outward broke me of that habit quickly. Without a minimap to watch like a hawk, I initially relied on the main map. With no icon showing my current location, Outward's regional maps function more like tests than answer keys. They're suggestions at best and red herrings at worst. Case in point: the first patch notes for Outward mention moving the map marker for a bandit camp in Chersonese to accurately reflect its actual location.
During my first ten hours, I was prone to pulling my map out if I felt particularly disoriented, but now I can typically get from point A to point B on memory alone. Instead of keeping my eyes glued the top right corner of my screen, I take a quick study of my map when I leave town and then watch for landmarks in my surroundings.
We’ve already heaped praise upon Outward for presenting us with the challenge of actually starting at the bottom of the food chain, but its greatest success has been in forcing me to give up my most embarrassing weakness. I’m not blessed with the ability to slay monsters simply by virtue of being the protagonist. I’m not given the gift of magic just for being born. And if I want to safely navigate the world, I have to drag my eyes away from the map and actually learn to recognize my surroundings.
At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old gamer, RPG maps have made me lazy. They're meant to be helpful, bringing order to vast worlds. More often than not, they shrink the world around me to the size of a compass and all the hard work of environment artists flies right under my nose. I can't begin to count the number of times I've noticed something new in a game that I've walked past a dozen times. In Outward, the little details are burned into my memory.
While playing co-op online with a friend, we were walking the route from Cierzo to the Enmerkar Forest. He sprinted up to the cart and tent near a fork in the road on the east side of the Conflux Mountain, asking "Is that a building? I wonder what's in it." I immediately remembered. "A dead guy." I answered. It's not the greatest feat of memory, but that cart and tent are a landmark that I know my way by. In another game, I'd have easily confused that same location with another and pulled up my map to verify where I was actually standing.
Aside from checking the position of a location I haven't explored yet, I've given up Outward's map entirely. When waking up from a defeat scenario, I'm able to stand up and use the distant, hazy Vigil Pylon on the horizon as my compass. When playing with a friend who asks, "Are we going the right way?" I can confidently answer yes. Outward's landscape is full of color and detail that I know I'd have missed if it allowed me to rely more on a map marker than actual landmarks.
And there's one more benefit—bandits can't sneak up on me since my nose isn't always buried in a map.
A game where you can never die sounds like it'd make you fearless. Why worry about failure when instead of dying in a battle you simply fall unconscious and wake up somewhere else?
It turns out the opposite is true in fantasy RPG Outward. Failure costs you something more precious than a videogame life: It costs you time. Time to heal, to rest, to repair your gear and restock your supplies, to fill your belly with food and cure your ailments with potions, to travel all the way back to the site of your defeat to try again—and possibly to fail again. Immortality is far more terrifying than death.
You can't just reload your last save when you lose a fight, because Outward constantly auto-saves your progress. Every lengthy trip across the map (there's no fast-travel or mounts), every purchase at a vendor or skill upgrade at a trainer, every decision in a questline, and every single fight, is an event that needs to be very carefully considered and prepared for. The auto-save and never-die principles of Outward are harsh, and feel punishing at times, but beyond making your failures meaningful they also make triumphs, even tiny ones, monumental.
Combine this with enjoyable survival elements and a brilliant magic system, and Outward becomes a rare gem. It's got plenty of rough edges, but it's an RPG where traditionally mundane tasks become complicated, where normally simple decisions become weighty, and where it feels like every single choice you make really matters. I love this game.
I also, sometimes, hate this game. Honestly, most of my stories in Outward are of failure. The time I spied a bandit in the distance and laid out several tripwire traps only to discover it was a bandit wizard who then knocked me unconscious from range with ice magic, never even getting near all my traps. The time I took off my bulky backpack to allow myself greater mobility in a fight only to realize I'd left my magic book inside it, and thus couldn't cast any of the rune spells I'd just learned. The time I walked into a castle and chatted with a chieftain who was perfectly friendly until he stripped me of my belongings and threw me into his dungeon.
I even failed my very first quest. It seemed simple: Earn 150 silver coins to buy back my house (a lighthouse, in fact), which had been repossessed by my town's leaders to repay a debt I owed. I set out to recover an unusual mushroom from a cave, hoping it'd fetch a nice price from a collector, but along the way I lost a fight to two bandits, who dragged my body back to their fort. I managed to find my gear, escape, and heal myself, but I stepped into a spike trap and lost consciousness again. This time I was dragged to safety by a mysterious benefactor, but I woke up on the far side of the map. By the time I made it back home—which took me through a fort filled with angry ghosts I was in no way prepared to handle—it was days later, and the time-sensitive quest to buy my house had expired. Now I owed 300 silver. It was nearly a week later before I even had a proper bed to sleep in.
In any other RPG I probably would have just reloaded my last save and avoided most of those headaches. Maybe I'd have fought those bandits again and won after a few tries. Maybe I'd have avoided that spike trap and made it home on time. I definitely would have skipped that damn hellish ghost fort. But while I didn't enjoy everything about the difficult trip back home, it's now a part of my character's long and troubled history of devastating failures and eventual successes, and each time I return to my lighthouse I remember everything I went through to acquire it.
Plus, I gained a long-lasting bitter grudge against those bandits, and dozens of hours later, even after having a peaceful and productive meeting with them as part of the main quest, I went back to their fort and killed every last one of them. Revenge is a dish best served without quickloading.
There are downsides to Outward's systems, too. One quest sent me searching for a hideout (bandits again) and owing to Outward having no quest arrows and not displaying your own location on the map, it took quite a lot of running around and searching based only on the vague directions I was given. While exploring an area on some cliffs, I slid down an incline and got stuck between the cliff and a rock wall. I couldn't wiggle free and remained trapped in the sliding animation. Since you can't fast travel or reload a save, there I stayed, for two real hours, hoping I'd eventually slip into unconsciousness from lack of food or drink or sleep.
It never happened: my meters all ran down to zero, but they never lowered my health, only resulting in debuffs for my stamina. Even contracting a disease from exposure (I took off my clothing when it began to rain) didn't knock me out. I eventually had to go into the game files and delete my last several autosaves, which put me back at the start of my journey to find the hideout. I don't mind losing time from a defeat in Outward, but losing real world hours from getting stuck on some world geometry was deeply frustrating.
Magic in Outward involves more complexity than just keeping a mana meter filled. The fireball spell, a staple of fantasy games, is essentially like throwing a lit match at someone. It's weak unless it's cast while standing in a magic circle, which is another spell that requires physical components that need to be collected and sometimes even crafted.
Once the circle is cast, the fireball becomes explosive and deadly, and the preparation required to unleash it at its fullest turns it from just a reflexive keypress into a satisfying sequence.
Spells and skills can also be used in conjunction with one another: I can cast a Warm Boon spell that allows me to cast a second spell which infuses my weapon with flames for extra damage, and then use a Gong Strike ability to bash my burning weapon against my metal shield, letting loose a shockwave of flames. Learning these skills and combos and putting them to use makes the magic feel, well, almost like science. Like something that has real rules and procedures. Spells aren't all-powerful, but it still feels like you're doing something powerful when you master them.
Like everything else in Outward, magic has a cost. Gaining the ability to cast your first wimpy fireball requires first fighting (and probably failing) your way to the center of a mountain, and then permanently sacrificing a portion of your physical health and stamina in an arcane ritual. The more powerful you want your magic to be, the weaker you'll be physically.
There's not a massive open world in Outward, but winding dungeons, hidden caves, and the relatively slow pace of travel across the four regions makes it feel bigger than it is, especially when you're just starting out. While cities are full of NPCs, there are typically only a few to talk to, pretty much just the quest-givers and merchants (who often have their own simple side-quests). The voice acting is so-so (I muted it because I'd rather read conversations as text) and the writing is generally good if fairly standard fantasy fare with the occasional jarring anachronism, such as when a king complained that one of the factions "took their sweet-ass time" preparing for a peace negotiation.
There aren't a huge number of different enemy types in the world, and once killed they'll remain dead for days, so retracing your steps across the four regions of Outward can occasionally be completely uneventful (though it can sometimes be a relief to make it from one area to the next without having to fight anything). The main quest I finished for one of the three factions wasn't terribly long in and of itself, though combined with side-quests and frequent setbacks and my hesitant exploration of the world, it took me roughly 50 hours to complete.
And I'm ready to make a new character and play another 50 hours. Unlike games such as Oblivion or Skyrim, where a single character can climb to the top of every guild or completely unlock every skill tree to become a living god, you'll need multiple characters in Outward to explore every possibility available. You're restricted from advancing completely through every skill tree (there are eight in total, and you can unlock the upper tiers of only three with the same character). This is yet another instance of your choices being weighty ones—I spent hours making multiple visits to several skill trainers, hemming and hawing, before finally deciding on which skill trees to follow—and it also opens the door to future playthroughs where you'll experience the world in a different way with a different set of skills and abilities.
You don't need to brave the harsh world of Outward alone—co-op play is available, either online or locally with split-screen, and adventuring with a friend is supremely fun (not to mention, extremely rare for a singleplayer fantasy RPG). There's a big flaw in co-op, in that only the person hosting the game will gain quest progress, but I still had a great time playing a few hours with Wes as we explored, fought, fled, divided up loot, camped out under the stars, and occasionally ran into our own failures. (You can, at least, revive a fallen companion.)
Outward's unusual design provides a different experience than I've found in most RPGs. It completely breaks the common habits of fast-traveling, gaining a fortune in loot, becoming an all-powerful god, and reloading saved games when things don't go as planned or you make a choice you regret. It makes minor setbacks feel like major obstacles to overcome and it makes small victories feel like utter triumphs. Outward is harsh and occasionally frustrating, but it does what so few games do. It requires you to put real thought into the choices you make, and it makes those choices feel like they really matter. Most of all, it makes you approach each and every encounter as if your life depended on it—even though you never die.
"Lauren we haven’t killed anything all night!" my partner wails as he rushes underprepared and under-equipped into another fight that he’s going to lose. Outward isn’t his kind of game. I knew that and I made him play with me anyway. And now we are both dead, or as dead as Outward allows you to become.
In Outward, taking on multiple enemies alone early in the game (or ever, really) is ill-advised. I’ve only survived so far by being a horrible coward. Even as a pair, we've needed to approach encounters cautiously. Failing to properly block an incoming attack is a mistake that you’ll only get to make once per fight, and my partner didn’t get the memo.
In only a few hours of split screen co-op, my partner he me into a number of doomed fights. Out of what must be described as love, I was often distracted from my own portion of the screen to nervously watch his progress and wound up dead myself. (He finds it absolutely vital that I note, here, that he revived me at least a couple times and not the other way around.) Here are four examples of his exploits from just one night playing Outward together, and some advice on how to keep your own co-op partner from getting you into the same jams.
I will take responsibility for wandering into the Blue Chamber's Conflux Path near the middle of Chersonese’s purple mountain. "I’ve actually never gone in here before. We could try exploring it," I said. Famous last words. By this point we’d already had a disagreement with a Pistol Shrimp (it has lightning claws, we were dressed in rags) but that defeat didn’t damper my partner’s excitement. He takes a practice swing with his mace in the antechamber behind me because it had been a whole five minutes since we’d last gotten our faces zapped, so I guess he forgot how it felt.
I made some cautionary comment like "Don’t rush in" which, as you can see, had the intended effect. He sprints past me and in my mind all I see is that cliche slow-mo movie scene where two lovers run to each other across a field. Except this is my lover and he’s running towards someone prepared to give him the release of death. The mage knocks my partner on his ass with two frost spells and finishes him off with the third while I whiff a few swings at our assailant’s backside. I quickly revive my partner after dodging another frost spell behind a pillar. To his credit, he does say "Okay, now run like hell," as he stands up. We turn tail and don’t go back to the Conflux Mountain that night.
Lesson learned: Get the Mace Infusion skill from Taleron in Berg that absorbs magical attacks before fighting any wizards.
After waking up from our frost bandit defeat, my partner and I sleep-scum our health back and turn south to explore. Along the southern coast of Chersonese we find a curious cave called Pirates’ Hideout. "I feel better about this one," my partner says. I do not feel better about this one, but I go along with it just to see what’s inside.
We crouch in the darkness, slowly approaching the rickety cabin built inside the cave. There is a burning green skeleton inside. He is not bothered by being on fire, but we will be, I’m sure.
"I’m going to stab it in the butt," my partner says. I sigh in my head. And probably also out loud. My partner takes a swing and misses, which is apparently becoming a real problem for us. The skeleton returns with a swing of its own. "Lauren, it dispatched me in one hit," my partner says, less perturbed than I would like him to be. I honestly try to kill it. Really, I do. But where my partner is a one-hit kill, I am only a two-swing affair. We pass out and wake up in yet another cave.
Lesson learned: If it’s glowing and you are not, then you’re undergeared.
After losing several fights, I suggest maybe we venture out of Chersonese and into the Enmerkar Forest. I haven’t been to the area yet and foolishly think maybe the new zone will be interesting enough to distract my partner from his bloodlust. This is the point at which he says, "Do you realize we haven’t killed a single thing yet?" Operation Distraction: critical failure.
The first living thing we see on the road to Berg is something glowing purple from afar. "Don’t run towards it!" I say. Because some of us learned the above lesson about enemies that glow. Others didn't. "I’m going to run more towards it," he says. Apparently he’s forgotten how to lock onto enemies because he appears to be holding his shield up in random directions. After being dispatched quickly, he gives me a helpful report on the purple thing’s abilities. "Uh, it’s attack speed is: fast."
Lesson learned: Hold your shield in the right direction.
"I really want to kill something," my partner says. We’re nearly to Berg. We’ve almost made it to a place where I can redirect his interest to something like ineffectually stabbing townspeople. He aggros the bandits and then hides behind a huge rock. I love this man, I remind myself. I will help him fight these bandits and not leave him to die.
To his credit, my partner does end up dealing with his half of the bandit problem while I dance around with my own attacker, half looking at my own portion of the screen and half looking at his in case I need to save him. The distraction is eventually my undoing and I’m taken down right as my backup arrives. I did manage to inflict poison on our last enemy with my Mushroom Halberd before going down, which might have been our salvation!
"He’s poisoned, if you back off him—" I try to say. The last bandit swings around my partner’s shield and we’re both defeated.
Lesson learned: Don’t be a screen-looker.
We did eventually make it to Berg, against literally all odds. It was about that time that my partner lost interest in Outward, having no murderous success in the two hours we played. In life we see eye-to-eye. In games, well, I’ll just let him go back to Apex Legends while I travel to Monsoon.
If you haven’t heard yet, Outward is hard. I’ve found myself limping away bloody from fights with basic enemies like hyenas that in any other RPG I’d have stomped under my boot during a tutorial.
Based on the chatter online, I don't think I've died quite as many times as most people, and I’m feeling generous so I’ll send you off with the pro-level skills that have kept me alive even when surrounded by three bandits. The secret is: be a coward. Not an average craven who runs from fights when they realize that they’re in over their head, but a truly masterful coward so afraid of direct conflict that you plan the death of your assailants before they even spot you.
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, as I’m seldom known to say until now. Spare an eye for everything nearby that’s likely to kill you, because chances are they might like to kill each other instead!
Results can be mixed, but I’ve had decent luck sprinting away from various aggressive wildlife and leading them into the open arms of a bandit duo. Make sure to observe the outcome from a safe distance so the winner doesn’t immediately turn their murderous attentions back to you. If it was a close fight and the winner is looking ragged, by all means step in to deliver the killing blow.
Traps are relentless in Outward, often peppering the ground leading up to enticing chests or dark tunnels. You can use them to your advantage in the same way. Relentlessly.
Tripwire traps are easy to set up with no prerequisite skills. That may seem like a safety hazard but... I guess that’s the point. After your trap is built on the ground, any number of sharp objects can be put inside as offensive material. Metal and wooden spikes (which can be crafted or found in supply caches in the wild), spare weapons, or predator bones looted from the corpses of hyenas that you had bandits kill for you. You can even stick a fishing harpoon into a trap. Repeat ad infinitum.
You won't set off your own traps (nor will your co-op friends) so feel free to be an absolute scumbag and sprint backwards through a hell of your own design with an enemy hot on your tail.
It’s hard to miss the icon that pops up every time you dodge roll while wearing your backpack. Outward clues you in early that this is a suggestion to shrug the weight off your shoulders while fighting, but it’s still easy to forget this maneuver in the midst of a fight.
If you’re going to drop your stash mid-tussle, make sure you’ve organized your inventory appropriately and are keeping items you need in your pockets, not your backpack. I feel like an idiot after freeing myself of that weight, circling my enemy, and realizing that the fire stone I need to cast more powerful spells is stuffed in the bottom of the backpack that’s now being guarded by my enemies.
Don’t lose a fight without your backpack on, though. If you lose all your health while wearing it, chances are good you’ll wake up with your pack lying nearby. But if you’re taken down while your pack is off, you’ll have to run all the way back to that spot to retrieve it.
If you’ve taken a chunk of damage, lay down to restore your health and stamina. Don’t be afraid to sleep outside, even at night or in the snow. Split your time wisely in the sleeping menu between resting and keeping guard and you’ll have no trouble with ambushes. The extra time spent guarding to ensure your safety can cost you extra thirst and hunger, but rarely to such a degree that drinking and eating before lying down can’t prevent disaster.
There’s also a camouflaged tent for sale in Berg that reduces the likelihood of being ambushed. And watch for clusters of butterflies floating around in the open wilderness. Their usefulness isn’t immediately obvious but if you throw down a tent or bedroll in their midst, you’ll find yourself in a safe zone with no chance of being ambushed while sleeping.
When being a coward, it’s important to dress the part. If you’ll be lugging around all those recommended traps and metal spikes, you’ll need plenty of inventory space. Larger backpacks are worth the investment and if you’re feeling a little scummy you can take advantage of a cheat to earn a 110 capacity backpack in the bandit camp nearest to Cierzo.
As for armor, you’ll want to stock up on pieces that give you a boost to movement speed so you can go fast. In the opposite direction of danger. The Pearlbird Mask, a rare loot drop from dead pearlbirds, adds 20% movement speed. The Master Trader Boots and Garb add a total of 20% movement speed together. Just this once, I prefer function over fashion.