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Outpost

From the Database of Home of the Underdogs

GAME DESIGNER:Bruce Balfour

GAME DEVELOPER:Sierra On-Line

GAME PUBLISHER:Sierra On-Line

Copyright 1994, Sierra On-Line

Outpost is one of the most over-hyped and worst fiascos in Sierra’s history, and a game so poorly executed it should never have been released. How awful is the game? Ty Brewer says it all in his prologue to the review of much-improved sequel Outpost 2:

Outpost was first released… just as the transition from floppy disks to CDs was reaching critical mass. The large capacity of CDs enabled Sierra to produce a game with stunning visuals and looked like a sure-fire winner. The game box was covered with quotes from such publications as Popular Science and Omni, the now-defunct futurist magazine. Ah yes, I remember that winter, taking my precious Christmas cash to the electronics store to purchase just one computer game. Outpost was it. It had great pictures, testimonials about the realism and gameplay, and the look of a sure-fire hit. Fresh from months of SimCity, I fully expected “SimCity in Space”.

The stunning visuals were sparse – most of the visuals were what you saw on the box. The “screen shots” were completely misleading – most of the shots weren’t really taken from the game. Worse, the gameplay and manuals were pitiful. I don’t mean just bad – it was a pain to play this game. Forget the hyped expectations the game had set for itself on the box, forget the stunning testimonials, the game was just plain bad… and boring.

The game was work just to play. If any game was a candidate for a return, Outpost was it. But I didn’t return it. There was something about the game’s devotion to hard, real science that appealed to me. Perhaps I hadn’t given it enough time? I played on. I played and played and played. The game got worse. Before I knew it, I was playing this game just to prove that it could be played and to show that I was not going to be beaten by this sorry piece of digital hell.

What was so wrong with the game? I’ll sum it up in one brief description of a portion of the game. At some point your orbiter arrives at a planet and you must launch your equipment to the surface. A screen comes up with something like 8 buttons. You must click the buttons from the top to the bottom, then press “OK”. Well, that’s it. That’s what passed for “fun” in Outpost. I just can’t imagine someone at Sierra thinking that pressing 8 buttons from top to bottom somehow added to the gameplay – “Doh, I forgot to press the first button! This game rocks!” It was this apparent disregard for gameplay elements that doomed Outpost. Oh, I’ll never forget this handy keyboard setup: Ctrl-1 thru 3 for underground levels 1 thru 3. Too bad it was Ctrl-0 for the surface. What that meant was you couldn’t cycle through the levels of with one hand – to see the surface level, you had to use your right hand. What would have been so hard about Ctrl-1 being the surface and 2 thru 4 being the underground levels? Oh yeah, that might make you spend more time playing the game and you would realize the game was plain awful.”

Now you have a chance to find out just how bad the game really is. Be warned, though: this Real Dog IS much worse than you think.



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