The Outer Worlds launched for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC in October last year. The game was critically-acclaimed, though not without its faults. We gave it a seven out of ten in our review, but now there’s a new version on the scene.
This new version is for the Nintendo Switch, and with the incredible ports that we’ve seen in the past for that console- with The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, DOOM, and Skyrim being just a few- I had some very high expectations for it. Sadly, The Outer Worlds on Nintendo Switch does not hold a candle to every other version of the game.
The Outer Worlds
Publisher: Private Division
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment, Virtuous
Platforms: Windows PC, Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One,
Release Date: October 25th, 2019 (Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One), June 6th, 2020 (Nintendo Switch)
In terms of content, everything that appears in the initial versions of The Outer Worlds is present in the Switch version. You can fly between worlds and explore each semi-open world, wasting just as much time as you did with your first playthrough.
All enemies and characters are also accounted for, and they’re no less full of incredibly well-written dialogue, or teeth that want to rip your throat out. Similarly, each location has been fully ported without concessions, at least in terms of scale.
However, there is a noticeable visual downgrade with this new version of the game, and I’m afraid that it really is quite a problem. Overall, the game just looks terrible, not even compared to the original side by side, it just looks awful.
If you loaded up The Outer Worlds on PC and put all the sliders down as low as they can go, the game would probably look about the same. I think that this is a real shame, because colossal games can clearly be ported to the Switch whilst retaining a high quality visual experience. It just isn’t the case here.
The overall problem with the way the game looks is made up of a few different factors. To start with, the draw distance isn’t fantastic, it’s probably about 50 yards before buildings and scenery become blurry marshmallows in the distance. The sky boxes still look gorgeous, but most small indie games can say the same.
One thing I will point out is that pop-in isn’t really a problem. I did notice it on some vegetation, but for the most part everything renders out of the mushy distance all at once in a way that I guess you could describe as smooth.
However, the bigger part of the overall visual issue is the massive downgrade to textures across the board. Everything from NPCs and enemies, to the towns, buildings, flowers, and even just the floor.
It looks like someone took the texture file, compressed it to as small as it could possibly be, and put back into the game. There’s no getting around it, you notice it every time you load up the game, and it’s genuinely disappointing to look at.
The issue with textures seems to be worst on NPCs. Characters that had interesting faces that showed emotions and expressions as you spoke to them, now look like they’ve been melted somewhat. Everyone also somehow looks older, which I find to be a truly bizarre side-effect of porting to the Switch.
With the largest issue out of the way, I wanted to touch upon some of the changes that have gone into this port. Firstly, the developers have done a fantastic job of working out how best to display everything without just shrinking it.
Every tutorial pop-up and dialogue box is still really easy to read, and that’s quite uncommon in Switch ports. In other games I’ve had to just guess at what’s being said because I couldn’t read the text, but The Outer Worlds has been built in such a way that you won’t ever have that problem.
One brand new feature with the Switch port is motion controls. I don’t get on with these at all, in any game, but when I tried them out I did find that they were stable and didn’t hinder gameplay. I’d argue that all Switch shooters should use motion controls, just because there are so many Switch fans who enjoy using them, and it’s nice to see that the developers went the extra mile here to please them.
Outside of Switch-specific controls, the game feels great to play. If, like me, you can’t stand the Joy-Cons blaring away at you with every rumble, then I’d advise turning the rumble off as soon as you start the game. There are a lot of rumble-inducing actions in this game, and it gets old very quickly.
The Outer Worlds is a fantastic game, and any Switch owners who haven’t played it before should definitely buy it and give it a go. While I have complained for a decent chunk of this port report about the visuals, that’s more because we have evidence of how good an open world game port can look on the Switch compared to this.
Virtuous had a huge task on their hands getting this game moved over from major consoles and PC to a much less powerful piece of hardware. On top of that, they had to up sticks and work from home for a portion of that earlier this year.
Even with the issues this game has though, the port is solid otherwise. I didn’t experience any crashes, and the framerate is totally consistent at 30 FPS in handheld mode. In docked mode it does take a hid due to the larger screen size.
If you enjoyed The Outer Worlds on a different system and want to play it on the Switch, then go ahead and dive in. My love for the game got me through the issues, but I know they will just be too much for others. I’d also recommend the game for anyone with a Switch who has never played it. This is a crowning jewel among third-party games on the console, and you shouldn’t miss out on it.
With that said, I would definitely wait for a sale to bring that price down. There are many other better-looking ports you could play in the meantime for the Switch.
To be clear, I’m gutted that I’m writing this, because I adore the game otherwise. The story is great, the writing is smart, and the game mechanics are superb. Unfortunately by the very nature of this being a game, it’s impossible to see past this very obvious initial hurdle with the Switch port. While playing the game on-the-go is fun, I’d just rather play it on a console because it looks better.
The Outer Worlds was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a review copy provided by Private Division. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.