The Outer Worlds on Nintendo Switch is a Handheld Mess

Bringing The Outer Worlds to Switch was clearly a tall task, but the concessions made to make the game playable on the platform makes it hard to recommend.

The Outer Worlds from Obsidian was one of 2019’s best games. It appeared on many Game of the Year lists and we here at DualShockers bestowed upon it a review score of 9.5/10. Unfortunately for me, it was one of those games that got caught up in my constantly growing list of games that I started but never finished. I played maybe an hour of The Outer Worlds before abandoning it for MediEvil and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. In that short time, I got a glimpse of the game’s charm and gorgeous graphics running on a PS4 Pro. It was definitely a world I wanted to revisit in the future.

Like so many others, I found myself with a lot of extra time on my hands due to the pandemic of 2020. As a gamer, social distancing wasn’t an entirely new concept to me and I approached quarantine as a perfect opportunity to tackle some of my backlog. The Outer Worlds seemed like an obvious one to check off of my list, however, I never estimated the hours my Animal Crossing: New Horizons addiction would require. Now, as things re-open and we learn to live with COVID-19 and accept the “new normal” way of life, I’m back to work but with reduced hours. This fluctuating up and down of my time makes the recently released Nintendo Switch version of The Outer Worlds very appealing.

I knew that The Outer Worlds on the Nintendo Switch would take an obvious hit on the game’s lush graphics due to the system’s lack of power when compared to other platforms. However, the ability to play anywhere seemed like a worthy trade-off. Recent ports to the Switch such as The Witcher 3 and DOOM have proved that the hybrid console can still provide a quality experience even if the source material is presented in a slightly downgraded form. Unfortunately, The Outer Worlds suffers from poor frame rate issues and an unfortunate graphic degradation that feels like its due to more than just the limitations of the Switch’s power.

Virtuos, who previously handled the task of remastering Dark Souls on Switch, was responsible for porting The Outer Worlds. While the game still offers all of the charm of the original game in terms of story and experience, it still falls well below the standard of every other platform it’s available on.

The sci-fi RPG offers several options for different combat styles ranging from melee to sniper. It’s rich skill progression and weapon customization really makes a difference in how your character performs. I typically build my RPG characters to resemble assault classes as I like to shoot things in-game. The trouble I encountered here is that the Joy-Cons don’t offer the most precise aiming or shooting. This is further complicated by the aforementioned frame rate issues that typically get worse when enemies are present. Using melee weapons and hacking and slashing through the enemies seemed to be the more effective battle option. There is also an option to use motion controls with gyro aiming. I appreciate the feature, but it wasn’t really my cup of tea.

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Another strength of The Outer Worlds is the charm of the NPCs. If you so choose, you can have them come along with you on your adventure. Normally this inspires rage in me, especially when the companions are not an option and forced to tag along. Generally, I find them more of a hindrance than a help. I’ll admit, in The Outer Worlds, I actually enjoy the company of the NPCs. The most popular character is easily Parvati, voiced excellently by Ashley Burch. To many, she represented the heart and moral compass of the game and was my companion throughout my entire playthrough of the game.

The Outer Worlds is one of those games where everything just seems to work. It’s a compelling and often grim story is set in an alternative world in 1901 where President McKinley was never assassinated and Theodore Roosevelt didn’t succeed him to break up large business trusts, which led to a society dominated by big corporations who in the future begin to colonize space. You play as the Stranger, also known as the Unplanned Variable, who awakens from hibernation on a colonist ship lost en-route to Halcyon, which is on the verge of destruction due to various factions fighting over controlling the colony. The choices you make and the character you decide to become will directly impact the outcome of the story. There are several endings all affected by your choices and responses, which will inspire multiple playthroughs.

The dialogue is well written and offers responses in several tones such as quirky, sarcastic, or directly to the point. Despite the often humorous moments, the story is a dystopian tale of corporate greed. All characters seem to have been thoughtfully created with their own unique personalities, so much so, that picking a faction to side with is a painstaking choice which requires the player to carefully consider who they side with.

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The Outer Worlds on the Switch doesn’t start off looking too bad which gave me the false hope that perhaps all games can be ported to the console. However, once you get a bit more into the game, it becomes painful to watch. Even if you can find it in your heart to look past the poor graphics that seem to alternate between PlayStation One to PS3 level in quality, the grainy visuals and muted colors often make it difficult to play. The dumbing down of the game’s bright aesthetic along with missing textures and objects seems to dehumanize the game.

I tested The Outer Worlds in handheld and docked modes. Unfortunately, both suffer from graphical and performance issues. Due to the upscaling feature on my TV, the game looks better in docked mode but also performs the worst. Handheld mode gets you a slight performance boost but looks terrible and feels as if the FOV is a bit claustrophobic. There are no graphic adjustments to experiment with in the options menu. While I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a graphics snob, it really came down to the fact that the performance issues are so intensified by the shoddy graphics that, at times, the game was more frustrating than fun.

Pulling off all of the quirks and nuances of The Outer Worlds on a handheld console was no doubt a Herculean task that was bound to suffer from some compromises. It’s just too bad that these concessions ultimately make me recommend you only play the Switch version if it is your only option.

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