The Outbound Ghost Review (PS5)
Stop running Adrian!
Available on: PS4/PS5/Steam/Consoles
Genre: Turn Based RPG
Publisher: Digerati Distribution
The beginning of The Outbound Ghost is jarring. We get a voiced intro telling us that the town of Outbound was a nice place until the water was poisoned by the local swamp. The population dwindled until there were just a few, and then a serial killer decided to just take care of the rest. And then, you’re plopped into the game with little fanfare with a burning car behind you and leaving you to move forward in silence. This was jarring, so much that I thought something was skipped, but that’s just how the game starts. I did find this was intentional, but it just didn’t work and honestly it might have been better without the voiced intro as the other characters tell you what happened anyway.
Anyway, Chapter 1 has you play as a ghost with amnesia and silent protagonist syndrome. You actually get to rename him and I’ll just call him Protagonist for this review (as his canon name is kept for a later reveal). After getting over the confusion of this jarring beginning and moving forward, you run into Michael and his sister Mary. Or, well, the ghost of Michael and Mary. Michael wants to find the serial killer that killed everyone, using his detective skills to try and sniff it out. Though, he seems a bit too willing to blame outsiders without any evidence as he thinks you did it just because you don’t live in Outbound. Meanwhile, his sister Mary is sweet, trying to explain the situation so you don’t take Michael’s actions personally.
After progressing through the area, you learn that every ghost has a burden and they must deal with it to ascend from this purgatory, which is why Michael is so focused on finding the killer. You also learn, after convincing Michael you’re cool, that there is one other ghost with amnesia named Adrian. So you go to talk to Adrian, who then proceeds to want nothing to do with you and runs away. You, of course, decide to chase him down so he will talk to you. Little do you know, chasing Adrian down lasts for the whole game instead of just for a little while.
While finding the serial killer seems like a main plot point, it’s not. In fact, not a lot of characters care and you go hours without it being mentioned again. You also don’t help other ghosts with their burden so they can ascend, only four characters ascend and it’s more like you happened upon it. You pretty much are just chasing Adrian down with some B-plots sprinkled in to give some drama.
The Outbound Ghost has 4 chapters and despite the Protagonist having classic protagonist written on him, you actually change characters with each chapter. Chapter 2 has you play as Mary, showing you what happened while Protagonist was separated from everyone and the relationship she has with Michael. They actually have a falling out while chasing after Adrian due to Mary suddenly being able to see figments and Michael takes it as Mary caring for some stranger more than him (which…no? Don’t be stupid Michael).
Oh, and you also get to see that Protagonist goes from a silent protagonist to someone that could suddenly talk and doesn’t have amnesia anymore. He gains his memories off screen.
All in all, it feels the developer knew what points he wanted to hit in the game, but couldn’t find a way for them to coincide with the “finding the killer” major plotline nor find a way to weave them together in a satisfying way. And then couldn’t really find a way to end the game so tried to do an ambiguous ending that doesn’t work as nothing that was built up reaches an end point (let alone a satisfying one).
I hope I don’t sound too harsh here, but the story was such a letdown. The Outbound Ghost has an interesting premise, but it squanders it with an extended chase scene and the abrupt ending.
Okay, I think I talked more than enough about the story, now let’s get into the gameplay! You’ll be traveling throughout the whole area that Outbound in located in. Each area is big, and perhaps too big at times, which some things scattered around for you to pick up or do as you’re passing through. The main thing to look out for are enemies, or apparitions. There is a system to do a surprise attack to have the first strike, but considering even they have a paper aesthetic, it seems hard to get a surprise attack in. Well, there are a bunch of bushes scattered around everywhere and you can hide in them, waiting for apparitions to walk by, and dash into them.
Combat is pretty easy here. Instead of fighting apparitions yourself, you send out up to four Figments instead. Figments are pieces of your emotions with a ghostly form and they all are different from one another (at least combat wise as these guys are silent until Chapter 4 after the missable tutorial). When it’s one of your Figment’s turns (which you can luckily see the turn order), you have a couple options. There’s a basic attack you can do, which will pop up a little slider that you basically press in the middle to have a “perfect” hit. Though, you do want to do it soon as the green does fade away. Skills of course take SP and range from heals, status effects, or attacks which act the same way with popping up the slider, but will bounce around differently with different timing. To defeat enemies you can go straight punching everyone and dealing with status effects against yourself (which can be pretty annoying), or go full ham on status effects yourself.
However, there is no way to defend yourself like you would in Paper Mario or Paper Mario-like games despite the game hinting that you would be able to later. Instead, you have Aether Up which works as a defend action until that Figment’s next action and a way to get another action point so you can kick the apparition’s butts even more.
While I didn’t get a feeling that the combat became repetitive, I can see how it will be for some. I also have to say that I wished that you could see what status effect a Figment or apparition had. I had a few moments where I looked away when a status effect was applied on my characters and I have no idea what the icons correspond to (and stronger and lesser versions look the same anyway). Plus this would let you see what the status effect did without having to scroll through the status glossary (and on that, I wished the skills said what the status effect did in its description).
You can equip three Aspects to a Figment to give it a small boost in a stat, an ability it otherwise wouldn’t have, or a risk-reward type effect. Aspects are crafted with items you find around the world, with the anvil you craft them on being right by campfire save points. However, I found a lot of these Aspects niche and situational, or the risk felt greater than the reward.
Also, after a while, it becomes useless going for items, especially ones that are off the beaten path or a place you have to drop down into, since you most likely won’t find yourself crafting a lot of aspects. Aspect books, being red glowing spots rather than yellow, stop appearing after a while and there are only two items you’d want to find. It just becomes a “oh wow, I went out of my way to get some dirt…”.
As you progress through the game, you’ll get more Figments to add to your party, whether it’s through the story or through optional boss fights that you can find hidden in the world. The ones you find hidden in the world will have you enter the battle through a tombstone and these battles can be pretty hard. While I did think the optional Figments felt like it should have been accompanied with a memory based on their flavor text when they join you, these fights bring in a challenge and a new Figment to change your team up.
There are a few instances where you have to light up (or extinguish) torches to unveil a hidden area) and some locked gates that you have to lockpick. There is a minigame for lockpicking, but honestly it just became unnecessary. If you have enough lockpicks to lockpick a lock, you’ll do one of those sliding puzzles where you need to get a block (a screwdriver) to the lock, but you need to move other blocks (the lock’s springs) out of the way first. However, as you go further into the game this becomes unnecessary as keys will just have you pull the key block to the lock and later puzzles have you move just one spring. I would think these get harder as you progress, not easier.
I also have to mention that there is quite a bit you can do to alter the difficulty of the game (aside from changing the difficulty). You can apply a special setting at the start of a new game, like randomizing apparitions or blocking non-story Figments from joining you, and alter various things like how much damage you take/do and how much EXP you get. On Normal difficulty there are a few difficulty spikes, with one at the beginning of Chapter 4 being one that blocked me personally, and it can be helpful. I just put up my EXP gain up a little bit and temporarily set the game on easy so I could get past the difficulty spike in Chapter 4.
There is a post-game, a Chapter 5 as the game calls it, but this is mainly just a way to get the last few things/Figments you didn’t get as well as Apex Figments (aka the bosses you fight in the main game). There’s no added story here, despite being called Chapter 5, so you can safely end it here unless you want to get every Figment.
Performance wise, aside from the occasional battle transition taking a few seconds longer than usual, it’s good. I didn’t notice any moments where it slowed down or had frame drops. Though, I did come across some bugs and oddities like some models just not showing up or levitating, not being in the place you shouldn’t be before a cutscene (like behind a fence) causing the character you’re playing as to be stuck in the background, and an instance where my character got stuck after talking to someone (which luckily was fixed by fast traveling somewhere).
It took me a while for me to decide, but I wouldn’t recommend picking up The Outbound Ghost. Especially if you’re expecting a Paper Mario-esque game. I loved the graphics and style this game went with, liked the soundtrack, and for the most part liked the combat. However, The Outbound Ghost is the kind of game that lives or dies by its writing and narrative and that’s where it falters and trips. I really wanted to like Outbound Ghost, but it turned out to be bland and forgettable.
Honestly, you’re not missing much if you decide to pass on this game, but if you want to give it a shot anyway, I’d suggest waiting for a sale.