"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 (opens in new tab) 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 herded 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.
The case of the frosty mage
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.
The case of the glowing green pirate
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.
The case of deadly impatience
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.
The case of bandit-related hubris
"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.