Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Outcast: Second Contact (PC) - Guest Post

Today on Super Adventures, I've managed to drag guest poster mecha-neko back again so I get to take the week off! This also means that he's the one who'll be checking out the first few hours of that semi-recent Outcast remake, which makes sense seeing as he's the one who wrote about the original game way back in 2014. It's possible he's even remembered enough about it to make comparisons.

Hello there!

Five years ago, I wasn't as kind as I could've been to a game called Outcast, a PC action-adventure game about a man with a shiny visor and the orangest shirt in the multiverse travelling to another dimension to stop the Earth blowing up.

Outcast Second Contact title screen
Developer:Appeal|Release Date:November 14th, 2017|Systems:Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Now, for PC, PS4 and Xbox One, Commander Cutter Slade is back! Why? I honestly have no idea.

Fancy a look?

Just four months after my original post was published on Super Adventures, Outcast received its first major update in fifteen years to make it work a little nicer on modern computers. That was surprise enough, but then I heard that a proper remastered version was in development. I thought nothing of it. In fact, I thought that it had just silently vanished like the planned sequel. But then I saw Outcast: Second Contact for sale, boxed and new, for the Xbox One as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world, and my tiny cat mind was blown away. They'd actually done it. It was real, and right in front of me. This is why I described the makers of Outcast 'truly invincible' in the introduction to that post. Confidence, pride and the will to act upon it.

Of course, I didn't buy it then and there. That would've have been nuts.

But fate is a silly thing sometimes, and no sooner as I had told Ray that I'd seen the game for sale, than the voice of Humble boomed from the heavens and instructed humanity that if they felt like downloading a free PC copy of Outcast: Second Contact, then that'd be alright, as long as we did it real quick. Usually when this happens it's just a Steam key and I make a sound like a blocked vacuum cleaner and roll my eyes so far they hurt, but this was a DRM-free download. Time limited - literally disappearing from your account - because Humble just don't care about living up to their original high standards, but I'll take a DRM-free game.

So, yes, thank you, Humble. You infuriating buffoons.

Feel free to click on these little JPGs to view them in full, glorious Outcast-vision.

A sinister general approaches...

And finds our man, Commander Cutter Slade, enjoying a quiet drink alone in some peaceful, near-futureish bar. He's being recalled into action by this Major Vernon to fix a 'diamond priority' situation at a secret base.

This being your average cyberpunk future, Slade's secret underground dive doubles as a thirty-first floor balcony, and the Major has no issue parking a (previously completely silent) helicopter right outside the window to show that he means business.

"Got time to finish my drink? ...Guess not."

Yesterday, we're told, a military experiment launched a probe into an alternate universe.

"Where'd you wind up, Belgium?"

Everything was going wonderfully, and the scientists got some lovely holiday snaps, until a native of the other dimension looked at the probe funny. Now it's become a furious whirling tornado of energy, and in just over three weeks the entire planet will be completely destroyed.

Cutter takes this news well, considering.

We enter the secret military base down the spooky lift and encounter our team-mates who will join us on a mission into the parallel universe to fix the gizmo and stop the world exploding.

These scenes are shown in a motion comic style similar to the ones in Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops and Peace Walker: static images with gliding, rotating heads and limbs. I'll be frank: I don't think the style works; I'd rather they stayed completely static.

The style works (or at least is satisfactorily consistent) in MGS because it matches Yoji Shinkawa's dramatic inked character sketches used on the cover and in the manuals. And there's lots and lots of unique Snake images used, and lots of thrusting and diving and sneaking and motion. There might be a whole bunch of different Slade portraits here, but they all look the same to me. When the images move, it draws attention to how little the producers must have had to work with and how they're using the style as a method to deliberately avoid spending money on animation rather than letting you enjoy how nice the underlying illustrations that they're ruining really are.

Ahhh! It's Professor Xue, the angriest little wobbly parsnip on Earth!

He's a little pissed off since he thinks everybody's blaming him for the world blowing up and everyone dying, just because the last time he did antimatter experiments, the lab blew up and everybody died.

Something about his demeanour gives me the impression that he's possibly going to have a role as an antagonist in the coming story.

I haven't changed or faked this in any way, other than making it into a small-ish GIF. This is a retail modern 2017 A.D. game's serious intro cutscene. This is being sold, today, in a proper plastic case and everything, as a full price game, beside things like Bloodborne and Forza Horizon 4.

I'm less upset about what they've put here (though it truly is a struggling desperate apology of an animation) and what they took away.

Outcast (1999)

Outcast: Second Contact (2017)

Here's the final scene of dialogue from the intro before Cutter walks into the interdimensional device, in both the original 1.0 CD-ROM version, and in this Second Contact remake.

I really liked the old video. The whole sequence was my kind of deal, straight out of a TV movie. It might look dated now, but at the time, for a computer game, it was top notch. You can tell Cutter's personality from his facial expressions and gestures. Without these, all we have to go on is Cutter's voice, which makes him sound bored rather than the mixture of frustrated and understanding I get from the original video.

Anyway, after all that, Cutter approaches the interdimensional machine, for some reason completely unarmed and unarmoured, marvels at it for a moment and then steps inside, and everything goes all wibbly-wobbly...

Cutter awakens in the alternate dimension, recovering from the shock of having to watch that intro animatic. Thankfully, on this side, he is as far away from those paper dolls as it's humanly possible to be.

He's greeted by a strange fellow with a pointy head and an even pointier chin, who calls him 'Ulukai'.

Cutter responds in a rational, diplomatic fashion.

"Ulukai? What's that, some egg-head word for... holy shit!"

This fellow with the chin is Zokrym. And I hope you like his face because you're going to be seeing a heck of a lot of it for now. He's absolutely convinced that Cutter is the saviour of his race, the Talan, since he magically appeared on their planet as foretold in prophecy.

Since saviours of races are instinctively driven to get on with their prophesied tasks within minutes of waking from a coma, Zokrym decides to helpfully get Cutter up to speed with the complete and unabridged history of the Talan people and their plight under the oppressive rule of the merciless Fae Rhan, and the steps by which the Ulukai is expected to deliver salvation in one unbroken stream of words complete with (generous amounts of footnotes).

"Ah, skip it, Chief. This is too much!"

The Ulukai is supposed to track down five sacred 'Mons'. To get each Mon I need to seek out its respective 'Shamaz', the priest who has safeguarded the item by hiding it somewhere on the planet's surface to stop it falling into the hands of the bad guys. Zokrym seems somewhat frustrated by having to explain this to the Ulukai at all, since the Ulukai of course would already know all of this.

Cutter's response is, well...

He's actually remarkably composed about the whole mess. Sure, the Earth is going to be destroyed soon, if it hasn't already (we never do discover how long Cutter was unconscious), but panicking isn't going to help anybody.

He has a bit of a moan, but he's entitled to that. After that he's honest, straightforward, focused on his objectives, doesn't antagonise or patronise Zokrym or his beliefs, and makes it clear what he's intending to do and what he needs to do it. Cutter is a 100% Cool Guy.

Cutter tells Zokrym that all of this Ulukai stuff will have to be a secondary priority to the immediate task of saving the Earth. To do that, he needs to find the science team and his parsnip pal, retrieve his equipment, locate the damaged probe, and then fix it. I get the impression that Cutter does intend to follow up on his promise to Zokrym if and when he saves the Earth, because he's just that nice a guy.

Speaking of equipment, Zokrym knows where it landed: it landed absolutely everywhere!

Zokrym has Cutter's sci-fi visor, his magic backpack and his pistol, but all of the other weapons, ammo, medkits, explosives and tools that were supposed to land next to Cutter got scattered all over the planet. When the Talan discovered these otherworldly wonders, they did the natural thing and decided to revere them as sacred objects. Somewhere on this planet, Talan children are praying around a shrine to Cutter's rocket launcher, waiting for the day when a strange man in orange will kick down the door, swipe it, and use it to kick some Fae Rhan tail. I'm more than happy to oblige.

Cutter realises that the only way he's going to have any hope of achieving his mission is to demonstrate his worth as the Ulukai to gain the trust of the Talan and earn their help in locating the missing scientists and components. Which means I'm on the Mons. Let's go!

Both this and the paper-doll sequence have been shot-for-shot remakes of the original game; you can even overlay the two versions of the intro on top of each other and the timing hasn't changed one bit. Everything is as it was, not a single line of dialogue has been changed, with one very clear exception:


That will do just fine.

If you haven't read my old post, Outcast didn't have auto saves, even on loading screens between areas. To save the game, you had to equip a magic crystal called the Gaamsavv and then activate it. Holding the Gaamsavv locked Cutter in place for several seconds as it charged, leaving you vulnerable to attack as it emitted a bright light and twinkly chime deliberately designed to attract enemies and hostile creatures towards you.

You're looking at me as if I made that up!

In the event that you got drawn into Cutter's misadventures in Adelpha and forgot to invoke the Gaamsavv, or just couldn't be bothered, you could find yourself having to repeat hours of gameplay. Hypothetically (said the cat, with bulging eyes and clenched teeth).

Released from the clutches of the cutscene with Zokrym, I'm free to explore the snowy region of Ranzaar. The dialogue was skippable, but the guy had been waiting weeks to talk to Cutter; it'd be rude to just skip it all.

Ranzaar is a secret place, populated by the special few who have dedicated their lives to safeguarding the recovering Ulukai. The Talan houses are full of wooden logs, food, lamps, books, tapestries and so on, but I can't interact with any of it. This game comes from the pre-Havok era, so there's no realistic physics (or physics of any kind), so you can't have Cutter drunkenly thrash his way through Zokrym's dinner as you figure out the controls.

If I memory serves me right, before I'm allowed to leave Ranzaar and begin my Shamaz-seeking pilgrimage, I have to talk to that fellow Jan right in front of me and complete some simple training tests so that the guardians are satisfied their Ulukai isn't immediately going to trip on a rake and explode the moment he steps into the next world.

Test one: The shooting-ing.

Back in the day, Outcast already had vaguely Resident Evil 4-ish third-person hold-to-aim,-then-shoot controls, and they're recreated here. The pots are no match for Cutter's basic pistol, not that I had any chance of missing thanks to the bizarrely generous (but optional!) auto-aim: any shot within those brackets is a hit.

The pots are dead. The threat has been eliminated.

There's three other tests, but let's go and chat to some of these fellows around the camp first. I'm curious what'll happen if I complete some of the tests before I'm told about them.

I'm not sure what I think of this new design for the Talan. It's probably what they were meant to look like all along, but they all look the same to me. And they're all a little too human. And they all have the same voice.

I'm not convinced that there isn't just one of these guys and every time I turn the camera he has to run off-stage and quickly drape another scarf over his robe to pretend to be the next guy.

Up on the rooftops, Cutter completes the Test of Jumping and recovers his transceiver. Nobody picks up though, because they're all busy ironing the cat or something.

I'm not having any troubles moving around with the pad. Cutter moves about in an almost-realistic manner, but he's missing a bit of je-ne-sais-inverse-kinematics to make him look like he's interacting with the landscape rather than sliding around it like a rubber duck in a bathtub. Another thing that ruins the illusion is that Cutter's lovely cereal-crunchy footstep sound is very subtle this time, and because the floor isn't implemented with whatever mathemagic they used in the original game, you no longer leave footprints in the snow! It gives the whole place the feel of a being delicious-looking but inert plastic cake decoration. And I can see pretty far, not that there's any 'far' to see here since this village is completely surrounded by impassable rock.

The guy setting the challenges didn't have anything unique to say about the tests if I completed them before being asked to. Lame.

The other tests are the Test of Swimming, where I have to go into a shallow lake and retrieve a whole smorgasbord of ammo and crystals lying at the bottom (though, for 'sacred objects', there's tons and tons of ammo just piled up all over the place); and the Test of Sneaking.

It sounds simple enough: this blue-clad gentleman is going to place some fruit on the ground, and I have to use the various articles of cover dotted around the snow to approach him and steal it without him seeing me.

There's no vision cones, and surprisingly the radar is less informative than the reality, so you have to work off what you see (which is the opposite of how I've been trained to expect stealth games to work). If Mr. Blue sees you, you have to walk back to your X and start again.

In the old game, I failed this over and over again. So many times that the guy just gave up and said he'd tell Zokrym that I'd won it just to keep things moving along. This time, I am the victor, and his alien banana is all mine.

Not having to play at the original game's tiny 512x384 is a vast improvement, even though Second Contact's awful settings menu won't me take it above 1024x576. Plus, being able to use an Xbox One pad to move and switch stances is a lot nicer than contorting my fingers all over the keyboard.

Alright, they made the course vastly easier by adding a whole bunch of new crates and debris to hide behind instead of a couple of tiny near-invisible snow banks. But I still think I bloody well went and won it fair and square.

Anyway, my business here is concluded. I am 100% certified Ulukai-fresh, and I'm free to move onto Shamazaar.

This is the daoka, an ancient circular ring of stone, concealing advanced technology which develops a blue rippling field within the aperture when activated, and provides near-instantaneous travel to a distant place designated by the symbol decorating its outer edge.


Cutter says goodbye to Zokrym with a confident "Don't worry, I've never failed a mission yet."

Excuse me, Cutter, don't you remember...

... those inexplicable ninjas from the intro sequence?

Outcast (PC)
'cause I remember them all right. This doesn't look like a successful mission. Successful missions have less screaming at the camera.

In Second Contact, we a little more context for these guys. They're on an oil rig. As for why, we're still given absolutely no idea. There's just chains, screaming, lightning, and dangling ninjas.

I mean, seriously.

How did you even get up there, you silly bastard?

Splat! Cutter emerges from the loading screen face-first in the drink. Guess it was a one-way trip.

Second Contact retains the original game's pretty and impressive dynamic water ripples and reflections, though without any foam or currents it gives the appearance of a cartoonish viscous clear jelly more than anything else. The main danger with adding a sophisticated effect like this is that it draws attention to the parts of it that were deliberately omitted, which, when you see them, makes the whole scene look a little bit sketchy and unfinished.

For example: did you notice that the ferns on the left of the shot aren't being reflected? Vampire ferns.

Look again: Grazel the Talan isn't being reflected either! Vampire Talan!

Every Talan I've met so far has had his name, role, and (possibly) trust helpfully listed beside them on-screen. They're all labelled on the big map too, so I never have to get stuck trying to find 'the guy with the orange scarf' amongst dozens of identical chins. In theory.

Outcast: Second Contact does not lack for colours! Well, saturation. It has two colours. But they're my favourites.

I'm supposed to be sticking to the south edge of this region in order to locate the Shamaz, but I just want to run aroud the place and take pretty screenshots.

Let's see consult the map and see if it can give me a clue.

That is a map and a half.

It somehow shows me everything... and nothing. Good if you're a fan of contours. I can't tell if those are rivers, walls, hills or paths. And any one of those rectangles could be a Shamaz hiding spot. Or a shop. Or a well. Or an enemy turret.

If every one of those distant red dots is a foe, I'm in a serious predicament. If every one of those distant red dots isn't a foe and I have to talk to them all (the friendlies were red in Ranzaar), I'm not sure that's a better outcome.

Let's have a look at the closest group, there on the right, and see if I can't introduce myself.

Oh no!

I saw a couple of Talan having a snooze beside these pointy rocks, but then the music changed to an understated battle theme and soon I was dodging glowing plasma blasts all over the place.

These shooting controls don't feel right and I can't explain it.

I loved the era of video games where third person shooters stopped being awkward, almost-working embarrassments and became wild, creative and very silly. Perhaps the first 3D PC game I ever played was H.E.D.Z., and the first Xbox game I ever played was The Thing, which simultaneously sold me both on the genre and console gaming as a concept. I could build myself a castle out of the third person shooters I own.

Moving Cutter about in combat makes the camera rumble all over the place, but the default sensitivity is tuned to be a little slow as if I'm somehow supposed to be able to make precision shots. The Talan don't seem to have any weaknesses other than 'shoot at them' (not that the auto-aim would let you do anything else). The two targets here are basically invisible (one about half-way along the plasma beam, one just above Cutter's head), and the radar is too small to be of any help. My choices here are 'panic', 'flail about', 'click really fast', and I choose all three.

That circle on the rock indicates that there's a foe on the other side who's semi-aware of me. I suppose I could... nah, I don't see myself doing a lot of sneaking this game. Even the wonky, blocky world of GoldenEye 007 had a little precision and closed-in-ness that you could occasionally grasp to make dealing with individual encounters more controllable. Here, Cutter stands out like... like... like a man wearing a bright orange T-shirt in the middle of a grassy field.

I remember this crate and barrel from the original game! I remember them being some of my favourite characters because they talked the least.

Oh, there's the daoka. That explains how I kept getting thrown backwards and forwards between the two worlds over and over when I started, until I very gently drifted far enough to the edge to not immediately get sucked back in.

I can't say I like this interface much. I thought that thin line underneath the lightning bolt was my sprint stamina, but it's really my health. Those two enemies really messed me up. In Outcast, the health was in the upper-right (but equally non-descript), and you couldn't sprint at all.

Ahh... haha. Here's a classic 'we're using somebody elses engine and we have no idea how it works' mistake: when a menu comes up (such as when you go into dialogue or activate the weapon wheel), everything is supposed to freeze. Certain things do! Many things don't...

Tap the weapon select button mid-action and Cutter will be suspended in the air, flailing about, while the enemies all stand around nervously, looking confused and fidgeting, as if everybody is performing the game on stage but somebody has forgotten their lines and nobody is quite sure who, and nobody is going to accuse anyone else or ask for a prompt for fear of ruining the scene.

I only have one weapon so far, and the game semi-spoils the surprise by telling me which ones I've yet to find. Wait a minute! Since when was Cutter's backpack a jet-pack!? That wasn't in the old game!

That's enough messing about. I want to Gaamsavv but I honestly don't know how. On the PC... well, on the keyboard on the PC, you'd use one of the F-keys to equip the crystal. I don't even know how to bring up my inventory with the pad, or if I have one. (Well I know I have a pad, silly. I don't know if I have an inventory.)

I'm real confused. I need help.

Here we go. Um. Where is it?

It has to be one of these, but it's neither of the two centre buttons. I'll guess it's either Y or B, but I don't recall picking up a computer. The caption makes it sound more like something I'd use in a vehicle. I'll try it anyway.


And then the game refused to make the screen go away. I can hear the sounds of the game playing in the background, but I can't dismiss the help screen. That's great. Just what you want when you're near a bunch of enemies and trying to figure out how to save.

My advice: Never accidentally trigger this help screen.

Say hello to Cutter's 'On board computer' (B button / circle button). At last.

Let's try out some of Cutter's equipment.

In the olden days, all of Cutter's sci-fi gizmos were only indicated by their codename, giving no clue about their purpose. Now, eighteen years later, they've been given single word descriptions! So I can now exclusively reveal that the F-LINKs are teleporters! But I have no idea what they teleport or how to use them or how many times I can use them. There's two of them, different types. I feel like I ought to save them.

Well, I can confirm that the Tracker item makes an arrow appear at Cutter's feet that points you to the nearest Talan. Not any plot-critical Talan, just some random farmer with no name. It also makes a screeching awful, low-fidelity sonar sound repeatedly, and there's no way to disable it except loading your earlier save. Great work.

Here I thought the daokas were unmarked, but this helpful Adelpha theme park map shows I'm in Shamazaar, land of 'a tree'. It was on top of the daoka ring back in Ranzaar, where I started. Other attractions include 'a different tree', 'some waves', 'a fish' and 'a tower'.

The Talan folks in Ranzaar were very, very eager to tell me all about the culture and climate in each of these regions, each with their own Shamaz and Mon to snag, but not how to get to any of them. Ranzaar only had one exit and it led to that damn pond. I feel sorry for all these poor animals if the Talan have to basically throw them in the sea to teleport them from place the place.

I'm a little lost. I'm just wandering back and forth along the Southern edge of the map expecting something to happen.

And now I'm in a swamp. Fabulous.

There's spiders all over the place and everything's gone wrong. This is what happens when you try to venture out of the boundaries of the region map. Where the heck is that Shamaz village?


The swamp led me back to land, where I found this fellow, who is a 'riss' farmer. When I talked to him, the game gave me the familiar radial menu bursting with topics to choose from.

By now, the voice director for the intro had decided to hand off his responsibilities to his pet cactus, because Cutter suddenly has about as much charisma as somebody asking a pretend doctor about dandruff in an infomercial. The Talan NPC dialogue pronounces various key words differently from line to line as well, which I suppose adds a little bit of sonic variety to the single alien voice actor.

What's less impressive is the very restricted range of gesticulations that Cutter uses alongside his speech. His hands are frozen in a half-cupped position and he jiggles about nervously non-stop on the spot. Together with the loud, monotone delivery of Cutter's questions, he resembles a Lego man who's desperate for the toilet.

This game consistently provides very, very nice screenshots for the back of the case though. Since you can talk to NPCs anywhere, the game uses some science to place the camera in the correct position and have it cut between angles in real-time during dialogue. It impressed me in the original, and it still impresses me here.

The faces are a treat too; they're growing on me. For example, this guy is not a happy man.

Amongst the many nouns I can ask about, I have the option to LOCATE TALAN. But, luckily for me, I don't need to ask him about the Shamaz, because...!

I've found the un-named, un-marked town where the Shamaz lives!

A nearby house has shelves-upon-shelves of ammo and gadgetry. I decide to help myself, since it's all mine anyway. If anybody asks what the hell I'm doing stealing all their stuff, I'll just tap the T-shirt and say "It's fine, I'm Space Moses."

One of the residents of the town calls himself a 'recreator': someone who has dedicated themselves to figuring out the secrets of the Ulukai's items and how to reproduce them. With only a hammer, an anvil, and no opposable thumbs, this guy can rattle off a few mags for any of my futuristic Earth-guns with no problem.

He also has a lot to say about reducing the morale and effectiveness of the enemy forces too. He says that if I can convince the administrator in charge of food production to stop feeding the soldiers, then they'll be weaker in combat and fewer in number. There's a whole section in Cutter's computer dedicated to tracking the status of the troops in each location, for folks who would rather play the role of a cunning saboteur and underground hero-of-the-people than, say, a crazy, loner, dimension-travelling disaster magnet.

Hey, do you remember this guy, folks? It's Zalinass, from... well... Outcast!

He's the one that looks after the alien dinosaurs, and he's still just as loopy as I remember him. He'll teach Cutter how to ride one, if you have the money, and if you can stand him.

Despite what I said before, Cutter does have a personality. But he's a confused, frustrated human being trapped on an alien world, and the only thing he can do that will help him progress is to read off endless lists of questions. He doesn't sound like he's into it at all.

Speaking of sound, the audio quality for the dialogue itself is astonishingly bad. It's like placeholder dialogue recorded in a spare room with a webcam's built-in microphone so everybody had to raise their voice just to be heard. I've not heard anything like it outside of a Flash animation.

If you're wondering why all the extradimensional aliens speak English, it's because... because. In my original Outcast post, I mentioned that the manual includes a note on Cutter's skill with languages, so let's just roll with that. Outcast: Second Contact was released in 2017, so the manual... well, you know. Cheeeeeeeeeeeap.

Here's Shamaz Zeb. Whew, what a trek! I've finally accomplished something!

Unfortunately for me, Zeb has absolutely no useful information whatsoever. The nasty forces of Fae Rhan have a habit of tracking down those who oppose them and making brutal examples out of them, magic super-healing priest or otherwise. Zeb selected the short straw at Shamaz school and was soon sent to sit in the seat as the second Shamaz. They were a little hasty in his promotion though, as nobody except the previous Shamaz (now deceased) knew where the Mon was hidden or how to get to it.

Kinda puts a whole space-spanner in the whole space-prophecy works, doesn't it?


There is one person who may know! There's one brave Talan who decided to rush headlong into Fae Rhan territory to seek revenge for some other atrocity. He might have some information on where the Mon could have been hidden. And to find him, I need to find someone else, and to find him I need to find someone else, and to find him I need to find someone else, and to find him I need to find someone else, and to find him I need to find someone else, and to find him I need to find someone else, and to find him I need to find someone else, and

Right, where was I? I was... running along the South edge of the map (wait, they have Talan words for 'day' and 'soul', but not the compass directions?), exploring a little. Beside the dinosaur pens of the un-named town, there is a second daoka! It's being guarded by the bad guys and they haven't seen me yet, so my first instinct is to be as stealthy as I can.

My second instinct says I've got four hundred bullets and fast-firing pistol for a reason, so I crank up the crazy and run right on in. And then something explodes! What a lovely explosion! Have a medal, game, for cheering me up.

With that debacle concluded, I have secured the daoka leading to Talanzaar. It's the central one on the world map, which means it's either a super useful hub full of shops and info, or the main bad guy's base which I really should avoid at all costs.

I was wondering why there wasn't a town centred around the first daoka leading to Ranzaar. It seemed to me like it would be a natural thing to do until I realised that for however long this conflict has been going on, the guardians have been trying to keep their location a secret. They probably deliberately submerged their daoka and keep it disabled except in extraordinary circumstances. It all makes sense!

I think that might be a recurring theme in the world of Outcast: it's all a bit 'huh, but why?' until you find out the 'why'. And then you're just left with 'huh?'.

The next step in my Mon quest is to talk to a Talan riss-picker, who wants me to bring the Shamaz over to him to heal him. Zeb agrees, but doesn't follow me out of his safe little hut (smart man). I zap back over to the injured Talan, maybe to tell him that maybe the two of them ought to meet in the middle perhaps and save me all this wandering, but he seems to be much better off for the long-range healing that happened when I wasn't looking. I feel like there was supposed to be an escort mission here, but everybody involved was so exhausted they decided to just stick it on the slate.

What I'm supposed to do next, in my chain of talking to guys who tell me to talk to guys, is deliver one of these dino fellas carrying riss to one of the Talan in the riss fields so he can count it all up. He refuses to talk about anything else, since if he doesn't complete his work the bad guys will beat him for working too slow. :(

I talked to Zalinass, who gave me the item that I'm supposed to use to attract the twon-ha, but no matter where I stand or what I press, nothing happens. I'll have to come back to this line of inquiry at another time.

I'm really trying my best, but the game just doesn't want to be played normally.

At least the music phenomenally expensive-sounding orchestral score is nice. Turn that stuff up!

This is the temple in the upper left of the map that I found in my original post. Same impenetrable energy barrier, same danged bomber birds. I even tried dropping some hilariously oversized cartoon comedy dynamite near one of the emitters and shooting it, but it was unaffected.

I've been getting a lot of use out of those F-LINKs, in the end. They're just like the teleport marker from Flashback, except you can't throw them or do anything interesting with them except return to places you've already been, which ruins all the fun. They're a little hard to use since you have three of them and they're hard to tell apart in the ugly monochrome menu. Switching between them on the gamepad is a pain too. Cutter also immediately picks up the marker when he materialises, so you have to remember to redeploy it if you want to keep the free-healing Shamaz as your safehouse. Still, I'm not knocking the insight of whoever realised that wandering back and forth across a vast empty field doesn't make for the most gripping game experience.

Okay. Last time I played Outcast, I zoomed right on into Talanzaar and got myself shot to bits.

This time, I am not going to quit until I retrieve the Mon hidden in Shamazaar, through fair means or foul. That's assuming that everything I need to accomplish that can be found here, which isn't a safe assumption to make at all. The game could very easily have me doing a Link's Awakening, venturing to the farthest corners of the world to trade knick-knacks with everyone until I have the things I need.

I'm optimistic! Let's go exploring!

It's such a relief to see a building. I've been dashing across these tiers of riss fields for an age, and there's only so much of it a man can take.

I keep waiting for the part where I'll hear a human voice on the radio to break up the monotony, and have a voice I can look forward to hearing. Maybe then the game will start to feel like I have a real objective rather than this fake Ulukai stuff.

That temple in the distance is one of the many buildings that are scattered across Shamazaar. For want of anything better to do, I decide to run right at it and shoot every single red dot I can find. The enemy don't see it coming! If there's going to be enemy reprisal squads coming for the riss-pickers, they'll have to make do on their own because it's not long before I'm totally out of ammo!

I've set up my F-LINKs all over the region, letting me zap to and from the Shamaz for healing (not that death is that much of an obstacle in this game). The recreator is also earning his keep, and I'm keeping him well fed with crystals and metal in exchange for pistol rounds.

For reasons of immersion, you have to navigate a dialogue tree to request a small number of magazines, then you have to be sure to exit the tree (because the misleading animations will make you think time is passing when it isn't) in order for him to start making the ammo. Out of the menu, he won't actually move: Cutter and the recreator will just stare longingly into one another's eyes for a minute of real time before he'll wave to you and you can enter a new dialogue to accept the six magazines he's produced for you. And then you can do that again, and again, and again, because you'll need a lot of ammo since the enemies don't drop any, and there's no damn way to simply pour all the crystals and metal you have into the recreator's mouth at once like he's a hungry cartoon kid in a cereal commercial.

Aha! This is Shamaz #2: Shamaz Harder. He's got all kinds of Shamaztastic prophesy to share with me, but his soul is all used up from having to heal all the Talan who've been beaten by the bad guys, and desperately needs a 'magwa' plant in order to rejuvenate himself.

After writing the first Outcast post in 2014, I had a quick snoop at some walkthroughs to see what I was missing. I don't remember all of it, but I vividly remember asterisks and capital letters in the vicinity of the word 'magwa'.

I'm told that the next part of this quest series is to find another Talan somewhere (indistinguishable from the others except for his gregarious attitude, Eastern European accent and broken English) who'll sell you a magwa. There's only one magwa in the game, and this is the only way to get it. Occasionally, if you're lucky, the dialogue for buying the magwa will play but you won't receive the magwa in your inventory, and you won't be able to rejuvenate the Shamaz. If that happens, you'll just have to reload an earlier save. And if it keeps happening, you'll just have to keep going further and further back until you find a save where it works.

And occasionally, if you do receive a magwa it might just disappear anyway (external link).

As far as I know, this was eventually patched in the original Win 95 Outcast... but then it was re-broken for the Outcast GOG release (external link to GOG forum). And then it was patched again, but then re-re-broken for the Outcast 1.1 enhanced engine release (external link to GOG forum)! Outcast fans appreciated the nostalgia, but appreciated the very quickly released patch more. And then in Outcast: Second Contact, since it was directly based on the original game code, it was re-re-re-broken and received two additional patches back-to-back (Steam forum changelog) to fix the two separate tasks of receiving the magwa and giving it to the Shamaz.

I'll do my best to carry on, but it's not impossible that my time-limited, never-to-be-patched-because-you-can't-redownload-it Humble edition of Second Contact might be permanently bugged.

Having exhausted all the non-violent, diplomatic approaches (there aren't any), I've shifted into full-crazy-violence mode. I can't tell friend from foe, but if somebody gets an awareness indicator above their head, they're getting a full magazine to the chest. And then another. And then maybe they'll die already.

The Talan religion, which all good-guy Talan share, forbids violence against their own kind, but they're certainly lapping up my newfound bloodlust. Every time I return to the Shamaz (which is very frequently), I'm told that more and more Talan are starting to believe in me, which is a confidence booster if nothing else.

There's a real odd collection of sound effects in this game: stock pistol sounds, and pain grunts and yells that are right out of GoldenEye 007. Not similar: same.

The enemies here are crafty blighters. If I ran towards those enemies in front of me, they'd start hiding behind the buildings and the trees. Then, enemies would start attacking me from behind, having sneaked around the left edge of the buildings, out of my sight.

Hours passed, and neither of the Shamazes nor the recreator could help me with the magwa, except for advising I talk to the riss farmers (i.e. everybody) in the riss fields (i.e. everywhere) about it. One of the Talan hanging about lit up with the title 'Smuggler', and a wave of relief washed over me.

With the magwa obtained from the smuggler ("HEY, I'll give you a discount because I like your face!"), I can give it to my new Shamaz and move things along a little.

"About that magwa."
"Have you found one?"
"Yep, sure do."

Cutter's blithe delivery of this script fluff (YouTube link, 37:47) is too adorable. And then the Shamaz just pushes the onion into his shoulder and gives a happy sigh. This probably looked better in the original port.

The newly re-pepped Shamaz is happy to heal me, and give me a whole slew of new nouns for Cutter to idly yell questions about. Regarding the Mon, he says that there's a special tablet that contains instructions that may lead to ancient treasures, or enlightenment, or something along those lines.

I need to go back to the first town once more and talk the Talan in charge of riss production again. The administrator, Maar, was entrusted with the safekeeping of the tablet while the Shamaz himself is busy being enslaved. It's frustrating yet understandable how all the independent tasks seem to lead back to the same couple of people; it's becoming apparently that these aren't alternative ways to reach the same end goal, but different ways to receive the same objective.

He's keeping the ancient tablet locked in a hilariously gigantic wooden chest, which he helpfully picks up and drops outside for me.

He lost the key. But thankfully he has a sterling plan to get the tablet out of the box.

"Ooh, Ooh, I know. You can open it with the loud sound that the dynamite makes. That works for 'rocks', it will work for 'box' cause they sound the same. Maar is highly smart."

This is kind of why I didn't want to talk to Maar. This is the guy I was supposed to convince to stop supplying food to the soldiers. He was chosen for the task because his mind is a little malleable. To get Cutter to convince him to stop the production wouldn't be easy because this guy can't tell right from wrong or day from night. Plus, it just sounded to me like it would end badly and get all the riss-pickers killed by death squads. Frankly, I'm surprised that my own hyper-discreet tactics of running straight at every enemy I see, shooting my blammy gun all over the place and teleporting back to the only possible guy in the world who can heal me and who I would obviously go to for help hasn't resulted in a little bit of strife for the downtrodden masses. I decided to just leave Maar alone until I'd either killed or dissuaded every bad guy in the world in advance, just in case.

So, how can I open a locked wooden chest? Obviously, I shouldn't use the super-rare dynamite, because that would break the irreplaceable ancient tablet I'm trying to retrieve.

The actual solution, even listed in Cutter's computer, is, in fact, to use dynamite.

Don't be mean and detonate it while Maar is still standing next to it.

Also CRIPES what was that screaming just now? Did I hurt Zeb in the blast through the house? Or was this chest full of SOULS?

Here's the ancient tablet.

The hourglass-like symbol represents Chaos, which is what occurs when the four elemental essences are out of equilibrium. It also represents Game Over, for particularly observant and nerdy Outcast fans!

I decide to take it back to the Second Shamaz to see if he's got the giant cosmic Game Boy I'm supposed to insert it into, but instead he treats me to a very long explanation (one that even Cutter tries to weasel out of) and he annotates the tablet with some red smears (yuck) indicating which essence goes with which corner of the symbol.

I'm the king of the castle, and they're all dirty rascals!

My objective now is to collect little key-stones shaped like each of the essences that the Shamaz #2 drew on the tablet. The Talan riss-pickers tell me that long ago three of these stones were locked in the rectangular storehouses within the region. Each Talan I talk to about the stones has a different, very vague interpretation of the myth of the essence stones, which goes to show they definitely don't have computer games on this planet, because somehow I think I know exactly how this is going to go.

I've found a couple of them already, but only because I knew exactly what I was looking for and didn't trust the game to point them out for me. Items in this game are very, very difficult to see, even with the visor enabled. It's supposed to point out ammo, plants, crystals, as well as important things like keys and stones, but for some reason it's nowhere near as proactive as it was in the original version. Occasionally, I'll hear 'Key Located', and I'll have to immediately stop what I'm doing and spend half an hour combing the ground within my field-of-view to make sure I find the key.

I was worried the storehouse keys would be finite, since logically they would only drop from (non-respawning!) enemy guards near to the storehouses themselves, but there are a couple of extra keys dotted around the place for when (not if) you get impossibly stuck.

Let's check out the Chaos tablet again, and put it next to a map of Shamazaar.

Here's the situation: there are a number of temples surrounding the Temple Fae in the centre of the map. I need to insert each of essence stones I've collected into their correct corresponding temple in order for the central one to open up and let me get killed by a hideously unfair boss encounter heroically leap in and save the multiverse.

Luckily I'm really good at games, me. This is what I'm going to do.

The four stones seem to have a sequence to them. Assuming that the Temple Fae essence stone (the 'mountains'-shaped one, which I don't yet have) has to be inserted last, that means that if I follow the arrows the Pac-Man one at the top has to be inserted first. And there's an offering temple at the far North! Perfect. Then I move south-east, along the arrow, and use the zig-zag stone in the temple in the farthest East. Also perfect.

But there isn't a temple in the West, just a storehouse. And the last temple is in the north-east! That doesn't match up with the shape of the Chaos symbol at all!

I suppose I could turn the symbol on its side a little, and put the Pac-Man in the temple I've labelled 3, then zig-zag in 2 and lightning in 1. I'm just grasping here...

If only somebody had left behind a clue!

Wanna know what's real silly and confusing? My original plan of 1, 2, 3 was the correct solution! When I put the three pieces in the machines, I got a cutscene of some platforms moving in another location, so both this gigantic zig-zag clue, and the idea of turning the symbol forty-five degrees must've both been... wrong?

I'm afraid I simply don't understand why my solution worked.

I didn't know it at the time, but this squat building in the centre is the Temple Fae, and it's supposed to be the focal point of the entire adventure. I cleaned it out first, since it seemed the weakest of the places I was supposed to assault!

It was just a couple of courtyards and balconies, leading to the two daokas in the back. Now I could travel to any region I choose! Since I was dead set on completing Shamazaar, I left the rings alone. Plus, they were already active before I fiddled with the essence stones (I guess for players who really wanted to skip this planet).

This time, I'm going to have a thorough look around and see where those platforms I moved could be.

And no sooner do I approach the daokas does the one guy I've been trying to track down for the last five hours tumble out of it like a sock escaping a washing machine.

He's the guy who ran off in search of the Mon, thinking it was a weapon he could use to free his people, but poor Naarn's seen better days. I can't talk to him; he's either unconscious, or dead. Sorry, friend. I'll take that block of cheese you're holding and finish this pizza in your name.

The block turned out to be the fourth essence stone I needed to unlock the path leading to the Mon. Who knows what challenges lurk within! Within what, I don't yet know, but I feel like I'm making real progress on this prophecy thing.

Hey! I know that box!

Way back when, when I first found the first Shamaz, I followed a conversation trail that led to the twon-ha maniac Zalinass telling me about how he found the Mon's hiding place accidentally himself a while back. It was on top of the Temple Fae, surrounded by fire. And here it is!

The damn stupid thing is I could've just climbed up here without the essence stones at any time, like this! Well. Perhaps not exactly like this. Perhaps with a little less fire.

What can I use on this box? I've got a bunch of plants and stones and things. Some spare storehouse keys, thankfully. And some O2 canisters. That will probably not help the situation any.

I wandered around the fiery box for a while, wondering whereabouts in it I'm supposed to insert my magic cheese. The three first essence stones only activate a few platforms leading up the box. Turns out the fire switch was at the bottom of the staircase the whole time. You put in the final block, the fire goes off, and the box is yours. Simple as that.

When you mantle the platforms and approach the box, the game breathes a monumental tidal wave of relief in the form of a magnificent orchestral fanfare, and Cutter retrieves the contents of the box. Is it some key to the temple containing the Mon? Is it a map?

*** No, it's the Mon itself! I've found one of the five ancient Mons! ***

Poor Naarn, he was so close.

Cutter realises he's actually seen this particular item somewhere before, but the subtitles are broken here so you folks at home will just have to peer really closely at this screenshot and perhaps you'll realise what's been going on and why it's so essential that these Mons be found.

If you're wondering what happened to the prophecy, what happened to the promise of a vast and dangerous temple to explore, what happened to all the mystique that was building up as I set Cutter upon the path of the Ulukai... what can I say?

Also: that area in the top corner with the bomber dino-birds and the energy shield? Totally irrelevant to everything.

I return to my assorted Shamazes to give them the good news, but the dialogue options (even with Zokrym) are surprisingly limited. After checking in, I get a holographic radio message from one of my team-mates. She's alive! And being held by aliens, in another region, with sand, and a pyramid, through the... you know what, never mind.


Outcast: Second Contact isn't very good. Don't buy it. You won't like it. It'll remind you of many other things you do like, and you'll feel frustrated that it's not enough like the things you do like, and too much like the things you don't.

The daft thing is, if I saw that boxed copy of Outcast: Second Contact in the shops again, I'd probably buy it so I could sit with a friend on a sofa and take it all very not-seriously. Company (but not co-op) would make the prettiness, the daftness, the highs and the lows all much more enjoyable. But it would have to be very, very cheap.

I played through Shamazaar a couple more times, hoping that playing it through faster would make it seem less of a chore but I just got frustrated that I couldn't use my future knowledge to break the game. Naarn doesn't tumble out of the daoka in the centre until you've done dozens of quest dialogues and gotten a few essence stones. If he appeared as soon as you rid the Temple Fae of enemies, you could use his essence stone to disable the fire, jump up the ramps to get to the top of the temple, and pick up the first Mon in less than ten minutes. You're not supposed to be able to do that, which is why it would have been fun if you could!

Because you have to trigger all these dialogue sequences, the game ends up feeling like a successor to old computer RPGs in, say, the Ultima vein. Or, heaven forbid, MegaTraveller. Imagine Outcast viewed from above: a big square world with some occasional features, and a very confusing and very difficult to find main quest. Somebody a lot smarter than me compared Outcast to Little Big Adventure, which is not a fight I'm convinced Outcast walks away from intact.

But you don't need to listen to my moaning. This remake is very important, despite what I've said in this post and the original. Outcast: Second Contact puts Outcast right where it needs to be: in front of, and in reach of, everybody. No more PC-only shoulder-shrugging or old-game compatibility moaning. Everybody can judge Outcast for themselves, and if nobody likes it, it's probably because it wasn't ever very good rather than being a victim of circumstance.

Thanks for reading! If you want to leave your own opinions about Outcast or its remake you can use the comment box below! If you want to have a guess at what the next game is you can use the comment box for that too! And if you want to follow mecha-neko on Twitter you can find him using this link: @mecha_neko!


  1. I thought it was Rodland but it's not Rodland.

  2. This was an enjoyable, fun read. Good ol' SuperAdventure review in its classic style!

    1. That's mostly due to my influence I think. I try to make my posts a little bit tedious so that mechaneko's seem more fun and interesting by comparison. All part of my cunning plan to let the praise in the comments go to his head so that he'll write more of them for me.

    2. You're very welcome Lun! :) Thanks for reading - I'll be back!

  3. Next game is...Keio Flying Squadron, maybe? The character design is certainly familiar.

    1. Damn, you got it right! I didn't think anyone would guess it this week.


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