Outward is a sandbox RPG where there's more to losing a fight than dying

Outward is a sandbox RPG that has a bunch of fascinating systems, from its novel, hands-on magic to the consequences of defeat, though they’re sadly not shown off in this strangely meandering trailer, which you can watch above. It’s also got a release date now, and you’ll be able play in March. 

The trailer is mostly concerned with reiterating the fact that you’re not a special Chosen One with incredible powers, you’re just a regular person, though one who can become pretty handy with a sword or casting spells. So not that regular. It’s a tough, dangerous world, where you’ve to survive by eating, maintaining a healthy body temperature and trying not to get stabbed. 

So it’s hard and there are survival mechanics, but that’s par for the course. The interesting stuff is in the details. Magic, for instance, isn’t as simple as casting spells whenever you want. It’s ritual-based, so you need to prepare items and a magic circle before you start burning enemies to a crisp with a fireball. You need to put in the effort, not just wave your hands and mutter some gibberish. 

The dynamic death scenarios might be its most unusual feature. When you’re defeated in combat, you might not be killed. Instead, you could be captured and forced to work for some bandits, so you’ll need to find a way to stage a breakout. The consequences range in how elaborate they are, so you might simply be lucky enough for a god to intervene, bringing you back from the brink. 

While I was a bit dismissive of the survival stuff above, I actually like the sound of it. Food isn’t just food, for example. So if you scoff down some meat from a big predator before a battle, you’ll be all fired up and ready to tear your enemies apart. That’s great for a warrior, but if you’re more into magic, you’ll be looking for different ways to prepare.

I don’t typically like faffing around with inventories that much—we don’t have enough time on this marble to spend it rummaging around in digital sacks—but Outward’s inventory system is tied to things like the role you’ve picked for yourself and has a direct impact on combat and exploration. See, you can only carry ten items on your belt, so to carry more, you need to invest in a backpack. If your dream is to fill a swimming pool with gold, you might get a huge backpack to contain all the stuff you’ll be buying and selling, but that will make you slow and get in the way of combat.

There’s multiplayer, too, letting two players work together (or at least share the world) in local splitscreen or online. So if you need someone to carry your bags and hold the torch when you’re exploring dark caves, or if you just need some bait, rope a friend into helping. 

Outward is due out on March 26, 2019.   

Fraser is the sole inhabitant of PC Gamer's mythical Scottish office, conveniently located in his flat. He spends most of his time wrangling the news, but sometimes he sneaks off to write lots of words about strategy games.