I bought outcry blindly from a bargain bin being attracted by its cover artwork. So basically, like in my Dear Esther Review, I had no idea what the game was and what I was getting myself into. I noticed however that even though the game had a very dark coverartwork with some dude having steampunk-like metal stuff on his pale, emotionless face and very grim, dimly lit, yet very pretty screenshots on the back of the boxart it had a german USK rating of 6. This just means that you can buy this game if your 6 years old. Somehow I was a bit disappointed by that as it basically means that there won’t be any horrorelements or creepy stuff in this game even though coverartwork and presentation makes you think there would be. Outcry or “Sublustrum” (original title) is the first game release of the russian developer team “Phantomery”. Sublustrum is russian for “twilight”… if only I could put my finger on why they renamed it for the english and german release… 😛
Also notice that I’m no native english speaking person so if this review lags good grammar you know what the fuck is going on.
So let’s get into Outcry, shall we?
In Outcry, you play a writer who has come at your scientist brother’s bidding to check out something he discovered. This is explained to you in a filmeffect heavy intro sequence. Notice how this sequence is not only very cheap but also very artsy and explains everything you need to know without yelling exposition at you or blowing stuff up as it happens in most big-budget titles. I really like this sequence and will probably make something in its style sometime around this year.
The game starts in your brothers appartment and the first thing you’ll notice (if you started as unprepared as I did) besides the”vignette filter” optics and bloomish-eeriee images is that it is not a realtime 3D game. This will be a real disappointment for the first couple of seconds as the visual style of the game is so damn awesome that if it would be a real 3D title, it would have been the best looking game ever. So yes! We are now playing a point and click adventure where you can move the camera around freely in a 360° ratio.
The first thing I did was randomly wandering around the house clicking at things and seeing whats happening. Later in the game you will notice that thats the entire gameplay of this thing. Yes! There is no real sense of progress unless you finally found out what the hell to do. You might now probably think that I do simply suck at point and click adventures but that is not the problem. the problem is simply that there is no journal nor any on-screen messages telling you what the current objective is. I like that in general…but in those story heavy adventure games where you get a complex story and a whole lot of information thrown at you (mind altering drugs and soundcombinations, strange machinery in the living room, ancient cultures, foreshadowing, a missing brother, objects you don’t really know what to do with) This might be a bit too much for the modern gamer where the usual mission is more or less to go to point A, Kill Person B and return Object C. In outcry, you don’t get any main “questline” to focus on, no obvious hints or idiot proof explanations.
Another issue with this game is the lag of feedback whether you have just done something right or wrong. If you are tampering around with objects you sometimes don’t even know if your action has done anything or not so you find yourself wandering around looking for changes that didnt even happen. The game does also waste a lot of your time as finding objects is more a matter of luck and clicking on everything on the screen than logic and perception. This becomes a bigger issue later on in the game where logic (which is a very important part of point and click adventures) gets completely abandoned and you are finding yourself in more surreal, dreamstate like levels. I for one found those visually fantastic and from time to time a bit frustrating to play through.
I find it a bit weird that the great visual design of the first couple of levels get abandoned later on and a lot of the atmosphere is lost. That however is a matter of taste and you can decide for yourself.To sum it up, in the first part of the game you screw around with a lot of machinery to get your brothers personal-interdimensional portal thing rolling again and…well, go after him. I don’t want to spoiler too much that’s why I use this simplified form of sentences.
The journal entries and latters and notes you picked up throughout the game so far pretty much prepared you to what happens now. You wander around in your missing brothers psyche and subconsciousness (and not, that is not the same thing). This is well executed and gives you a rather unique dreamlike feeling… especially since such a concept has rarely been done without horror elements.
Adventure veterans will find themselves rather assaulted by the dreamworld puzzles as they are… completely abstract. I can tell you, I have a 140 IQ and didn’t figure these things out (or what the fuck I was actually doing…and why??). I more or less went through this game by randomly clicking around until something happened. I had fun doing it though as I am a very illogical, spontaneous person. If you are more the logical, calculating type of guy you will find yourself loosing interest in this title very fast.
Be warned: the english translation seems done poorly but I found the german translation to be very well executed.
I haven’t found the ending to the story to be completely statisfying…I somehow expected a bit more from it but well, it explained most things and was well done.
So what can I say about outcry? It’s an alright adventure game with a lot of substance and innovative ideas but also a lot of flaws that drag it from being something great to being an okay game for fans of the genre. Everybody else will probably like the game’s style but wont play on more than 2 or 3 hours as it can be frustrating.
Thanks for reading.