Review – The Outer Worlds (Switch)
RPGs and portable gaming devices are a match made in heaven. The Switch is already filled to the brim with RPGs, but the vast majority of them are the ones made in Japan, such as Digimon Story, Pokémon, Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy, and so on. With the exception of The Witcher 3, Skyrim, Divinity, and maybe one or two titles I may be missing, we haven’t had a lot of western RPGs released for the system. I was expecting for Bethesda to release one of their more modern Fallout titles after the massive success of the Switch port of Skyrim, but Obsidian and Private Division beat them to it with a port of one of the best games of 2019. A title many consider the best Fallout game of all time (despite not even being a Fallout game): The Outer Worlds. Who am I to complain about that?
The Outer Worlds was one of our favorite games of 2019. Our reviewer, Thomas, tackled the PC version last year and couldn’t praise it enough. The world building, the characters, the deep and customizable gameplay, and above all, the deliciously cynical sense of humor were all a delight. Being a massive Firefly fan myself, I couldn’t help but love how The Outer Worlds was obviously inspired by Joss Whedon’s 2003 masterpiece of a TV show. Everything from the whole Space Western vibe and soundtrack, to the fact that one of your companions is a priest with a shady past, pays homage to its clear source of inspiration.
The thing is, The Outer Worlds is a somewhat more modern game than most titles available on the Switch. Not to mention the fact that it has been available on Gamepass ever since its release. Is this still something worth getting on Nintendo’s system and if so, is there anything in which this particular port thrives over its PS4, Xbox One, and PC siblings?
There is just one advantage: portability. Being able to play a role-playing game full of memorable characters and small sidequests, which are perfect in short bursts, is great. The combat is still fun and the dialogue options are memorable, especially if you decide to do a “dumb run”, like I did. Using low intelligence stats unlock stupid and hilarious dialogue choices that basically turn your character into Mal Reynolds from Firefly if he had the intelligence of Peter Griffin from Family Guy. But all of this comes at a cost. A huge cost.
Simply put, the Switch version of The Outer Worlds is absolutely hideous. We are aware that more modern games often suffer graphical and performance setbacks in order to be playable on the Switch’s inferior hardware, but some of the downgrades featured in this particular port were really questionable, especially when you compare what was considered a priority during the porting process.
It’s rife with blurry textures which take a long time to load and only when you get close to the object in question. There’s a huge reduction in the overall lighting effect quality, as well as some noticeable glitches. Pop-ins are everywhere, with some objects like low-quality foliage, showing up right in front of you as if it were magic. Some particular circular objects look more like decagons than actual circles, as you can clearly see jagged edges everywhere. In short, imagine you’re playing the PC version of The Outer Worlds on the lowest specs possible. The specs you’d tinker with just to mess around and see how ugly an otherwise gorgeous game would look.
These compromises are all featured in here because this particular port focuses on a few areas, performance-wise. For starters, the character models don’t look that bad, especially when compared to the rest of the game. Whenever you’re talking to an NPC, with their face positioned in the center of the screen, it almost feels like you’re taking a picture of a normal human being standing in front of an abstract painting. The framerate, for the most part, is stable. I’ve only seen a few (albeit very annoying) slowdowns whenever I was fighting enemies in an open area, and mostly in docked mode.
There is one thing that is really impressive in The Outer Worlds that honestly shouldn’t have been: the framerate. Weirdly enough, this game runs at 1080p in docked mode and a full 720p in handheld mode. Considering the aforementioned graphical compromises, the big framerate makes the ugly visuals look even uglier. I would have accepted a slightly lower resolution, or even a dynamic one, if that meant having a slightly more stable framerate and better textures in return.
With that being said, there are still plenty of good things about this port. Just like a good chunk of other Switch games, this title features gyro-based aiming controls, which help mitigate the lack of precision provided by the joycon’s analog sticks. Cinematic cutscenes and menus haven’t suffered graphical setbacks, so they look quite good. Finally, I can’t help but emphasize once again that portability is a huge plus in this particular case because it’s an RPG. The genre and the console are a match made in heaven. The hideous visuals aren’t as egregious in portable mode, and the framerate is slightly less janky.
Is this the best version of The Outer Worlds out there? No. Should this be the version for you to consider purchasing in case you have never played this game before? Absofreakinglutely not. Is is still a fantastic RPG with one of the best plots and characters in recent memory? Without a shadow of a doubt. The Switch version of The Outer Worlds is visually disappointing, but the visuals don’t tarnish what this game does best: entertain you for hours and hours. Having this on-the-go is still great. Just try not to wear your glasses while playing. It will help you ignore the ugly textures.
Blurry textures, low-quality assets, inferior lighting effects: The Outer Worlds suffered a lot of graphical setbacks in order to be playable on the Switch. Weirdly enough, it runs at a very high resolution.
The joycons aren’t ideal for a first-person shooter gameplay style, but a good chunk of these issues are mitigated by really good gyro-based aiming controls. The RPG mechanics are still as good as they have always been, as well as the customization possibilities.
Thankfully, you don’t need a powerful GPU in order to feature great voice acting and music. The Switch version of The Outer Worlds still features a fantastic sound department.
Fun Factor: 9.5
It might be ugly as a pug on the Switch, and the long loading times can be an occasional nuisance, but it’s still one of the deepest, most customizable, and most hilarious RPG experiences of the last few years.
Final Verdict: 8.0
The Outer Worlds is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC and Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of The Outer Worlds was provided by the publisher.