I've had a chance to play Outlaws of the Old West over the past couple of days. Virtual Basement has created a drop-dead gorgeous world that one can literally get lost in. Its stunning vistas promise a game filled with the wonders of old-time America and the thrill of discovery that that era brought to explorers, pioneers and bandits alike. Logging in, that's what I expected, but the reality was something different.
Outlaws of the Old West will be hitting early access on Steam later today, a fact worth mentioning given some of the rough patches I hit from time to time. Is it the Western we've all been craving? Let's see.
Once the choice is made to get going, prepare for some long loading screens. Snail Games, the parent company of Wandering Wizard and Virtual Basement, has the same issue in its other open-world sandbox game, Dark & Light.
When load screens are finally over, the journey begins with character creation that isn't too bad, but it's not nearly as detailed at this point as that found Dark & Light. Regardless, it's enough given that Outlaws is a first-person "sandbox crafting and survival game." Customization options include gender, hairstyle and color, eye color, skin tone, and clothing color. I'm reasonably sure that more will be added in time.
After a character is complete, the game begins with the player waking up in a coffin, though thankfully not a buried coffin. Once up and out, it's off to rootin' tootin' fun, right? Well...not really.
The vastness of the American West is presented in Outlaws in all of its rich, yet lonely, beauty. The vistas are genuinely breathtaking, but the emptiness of the surroundings is daunting. This being the goal, I suppose, I set about collecting rocks and sticks and crafting necessary tools to be able to pick away at boulders, chop trees and protect myself with a sharp pointed stick.
Being an "open world sandbox crafting and survival game," one would imagine that there would be some instruction on how to go about crafting. Don't get me wrong: It's not hard to figure out if you have experience in this genre, but for anyone who has not played a game like this before and who may be interested in an Old West type experience, this is troublesome. Perhaps the goal is to add some kind of tutorial over time, and I'd certainly be behind that.
You see, I want to be able to make clothes, construct a basic shelter, set up crafting tables and so forth. The problem is that I can't figure out how. My poor character is schlepping around a stone hearth, a woodworker's bench, a stone mason's table and so forth, but I can't for the life of me figure out how to put them down and, damn son, this sh*t is heavy!
I know what you're saying. "Suzie, you're not cut out for the life of a sandbox game. Go back to your theme park!"
While you may have a point, the thing is that I'm intrigued by Outlaws. I'm interested enough that I ran in every direction I could think of for long minutes at a time without seeing anything beyond a rock- and log-strewn landscape and a variety of wildlife. But damn did I ever get good at picking up sticks and stones, tapping away at boulders, hewing trees down and picking flowers! I also got pretty dang competent at using a slingshot, if I do say so myself. I managed to bring down a pack of wolves, a rabbit, a couple of deer and even a buffalo. Now if I could figure out how to use all that cool stuff I collected...
Pro Tip: Don't fight a bear with a pointy stick...or a buffalo...or a wolf...or a bunny...
In all the time I spent in Outlaws, I never ran into a town or any sign of human-made structures. I mean, theoretically, at least, someone had to put me into that coffin and drag my supposedly dead carcass out to the middle of nowhere, right? Whoever "they" are remains a mystery, though at the end of my last game session, I did finally find human NPCs in the form of a pair of bandits: A bank bandit and a TNT bandit. I managed to kill both with my slingshot despite them having firearms. I looted them but, sadly, only got some TNT and a few bullets. What I actually wanted were their clothes. FML...
If the potential for Outlaws is like what is found in its trailer, then I'm all for it. I believe that the world needs a great Old West-themed game and maybe in time, this one will become that in time. In the short term, it's a gorgeous world that needs a lot more direction, more content, more optimization and an actual tutorial.
If the mystique of the American West pushes a button in you, you'll want to get in on Outlaws of the Old West as it embarks on early access later today. You can do so for $14.99. But I'd recommend waiting to see what, and when, new content is added because, cowpoke, y'all need more.
Bill's Added Thoughts:
This was one of the rare cases where we got two codes to try out the game before its Early Access launch. And I can agree with Suzie... there's not much to this you haven't already seen in a great many other games in the Survival Genre. That is to say "Yet". The developers have grand plans to make this into a real MMO (if you count 100 or so people as enough for an MMO), but right now it's nothing like the excellent announcement trailer. It's a big open, poorly optimized world of nothing.
Crafting is intuitive, but the UI is bland, and it's hard to know what you need to do to make life liveable. Meanwhile, the slow speed of hunger and thirst is welcome, but the lack of wildlife to find and kill to make things just means you'll spend way too much time collecting sticks and rocks - JUST. LIKE. EVERY. OTHER. GAME. IN. THE. GENRE. At this point, I dare say that Wild West Online is a better waste of your time than Outlaws, and in this day and age I don't think Early Access games can get away with being so incomplete.