Watch survival RPG Outward's 'ritualistic' spellcasting in action

The RPG-survival sandbox Outward looks promising, and more than a little daunting: Magic, for instance, is a lot more complicated that simply chugging mana potions and blasting superheated magma from your fingertips. "It's a lot of work to cast spells," Chris wrote in his recent preview, although that's a big part of what makes it enjoyable, too. 

"In Outward, spellcasting is a process, one of preparation and crafting and ritual," he explained. "It makes spells feel weighty, makes you deliberate before using them, and having used them, feels like an accomplishment (or a waste, sometimes, if you use them on creatures that perhaps didn't justify it)." 

That complexity of spellcasting is emphasized in a new video focusing on combat, in which developer Nine Dots Studio says that it wanted to take "a more ritualistic approach" to magic in Outward. Step one is learning a spell, in this case Spark, which as Chris said is "weak" and "wimpy," handy for starting a fire but not much else. But if you use alchemy to convert a mana stone to a firestone, and if you've learned how to use the firestone to create a fire sigil, and you cast Spark while you're standing in the sigil, now you're cooking with Fireballs. 

"This may sound impractical in a combat situation, but you can make firestones or buy them from an alchemist in preparation for what's ahead," the narrator says. "You could even cast the sigil in anticipation of a sight and lure your enemies to your spot, then dodge in and out of your sigil to quickly throw multiple fireballs for as long as your sigil is active." 

It reminds me a bit of The Witcher or Arx Fatalis, which also put a premium on pre-fight planning: It feels like a hassle at times but it can also be very rewarding when that up-front strategizing pays off. Hopefully Outward will be able to strike that balance between effort and payoff, too. 

Combat won't be quite so ritualized, but it will require more than just hitting enemies over the head until they fall down. Warriors will have their own special abilities to draw from, like poisons and traps, and battles must be approached tactically to ensure that you don't get pounded into paste while you're fighting the good fight. (Remember, you're not the Nerevarine in this one, you're just a guy—a tough guy with potential, yes, but still very much on your first day of Heroes 101 class.) 

Outward is set to come out on March 26. Find out more on Steam or at ninedotsstudio.com.