Outcast Tales: The First Journey Impression

The highlight of Outcast Tales is its narrator, whose wit shines through even as players likely lead their parties to doom.  This narrator has the charming delivery of Samuel Barnett.

Roguelites lends themselves well to prologues.  With the games often built around shorter playthroughs and players expected to die frequently, at least at the start, the bite-sized preview offers a good indicator of what they’re about.  Dying will happen often since Hardlane Studio’s Outcast Tales brings the difficulty in spades, but blends that with comedic timing that still brings a smile time after time.  There’s even Twitch integration to allow for chat to pick characters, classes, event choices, and level-up abilities and wallow in failure together with the player.  RPGamer got the chance to take an early look at its Outcast Tales: The First Journey prologue before before its release on Steam today.

Outcast Tales follows a band of outcasts living in a lawless Wild West-like frontier.  Being poor and having nothing else to do, they set forth on an adventure after acquiring a treasure map that beckons them east to find fortune and fame.  In a cute moment, the band of outcasts from the tutorial guest star as the team that sells the map to the player’s characters.  A neat touch is the tutorial showing the outcasts finding the map and thinking it will be a sucker’s dream.  Their journey east will take them through randomized events, difficult ruin squares, and shelters for rest.

This early look sees players create three party members from a combination of four classes and five different personalities, with more becoming available in time for the full release.  Beyond their skills, personalities and classes can be used to unlock different choices and actions in events so trying something new is rewarded frequently.  Each character starts with four abilities: a basic attack, a skill refresh, a class-specific skill, and a personality-specific skill.  Class specific and personality abilities can only be used once until the refresh ability is used, which makes them available again.  Different skills can deal damage, protect allies with shields, set up counterattacks, and more.  On the first level up, players choose an additional personality skill from three options, with level three providing an ability upgrade.

Poor Alice, never stood a chance in this black dice game.

Combat in Outcast Tales: The First Journey is hard.  Enemies often have similar or higher health level than the player’s party, and hit hard.  The only way to really survive is to perfectly time shields and counter attacks to minimize the damage taken, with enemy abilities are always telegraphed at the top of the screen.  The game allows for some strategy in figuring out what abilities to use when, though the need for a refresh can change some plans.  Some enemies have telegraphed weaknesses, but setting them up can also take a few turns.  Each battle grades players based on how much damage they received in a given fight, with highest grades still entailing forty percent of their health depleted.  That means ideally players will have to heal and rest frequently.

Resting isn’t simple either.  Unless at a relatively rare shelter, players need to use rations to rest.  Rations are limited and are also needed for movement, with each square on the map costing one ration, or lowering morale, which affects accuracy in combat.  The amount of rations used is equivalent to the amount of damage taken, so players that do worse in combat use more rations when recovering to full health.  Enemies will do a lot of damage making combat a risky yet usually unavoidable proposition.

Chomp is best boy, many runs have ended trying to keep that lizard safe.

The highlight of Outcast Tales is its narrator, whose wit shines through even as players likely lead their parties to doom.  This narrator has the charming delivery of Samuel Barnett.  He introduces many of the key events and commentates occasionally over big moments in combat.  Lines repeat after a while, but the prologue only featured a sparse amount of events to take part in.

One interesting aspect is the Twitch interactivity.  The timing of the prologue didn’t allow for this to be tested but due to the brutality of the game’s difficulty it seems built to both help struggling players, or serve to punish those who are finding it too easy.  Either way, the interactivity may add a lot to the comedy and fun of the adventure.  Streamers have a set of options and sliders to see what aspects are available to chat and for how long.

Outcast Tales: The First Journey is a fine look into a brutally hard turn-based roguelite that has enjoyable quirks with the Twitch integration and vocal talents of the narrator to be a lot of fun.  As new events and character ability choices get added things will only get more interesting.  For now, it is easy enough to relax with a smile while dusting through the inhabitants of this Wild-East.

Disclosure: This article is based on a build of the game provided by the publisher.


Ryan Costa

Friendly neighbourhood reviewer that thinks every RPG should be discussed, because one never knows where a hidden gem can appear.

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