The phrase “they don’t make them like they used to” has been uttered many times over the years. They don’t quite make movies the way they used to. Broadway shows just aren’t what they once were. Today’s music is nothing like the music from the good old days. And now, as we reach a point where gaming is constantly evolving, some design choices have fallen by the wayside. Case in point, in an age of trackable quests, waypoints and save states, the puzzle solving and challenge found in older games is lost in some modern titles. Enter Far-Out (or is it Far-Out Selene? The game’s screen and store name tell different stories), a game promising to deliver old school challenge with modern sensibilities. Is it up to the task, or is it too… far out there for modern players (I’ll see myself out for that pun… FAR OUT!). Let’s find out.
Beginning with the story, Far-Out tells the tale of Zack Paterson, the chief geneticist of the ship Selene. When he awakens from his hibernation pod, he finds that his fellow crewmates have yet to wake up, and so sets out to free them from their slumber. However, it soon becomes clear that something is not well on the ship, and as such Zack must use his wits and his grit to save his ship, his crew and, above all, himself. The story itself is told well enough, with a decent amount of optional world-building found within computer terminals. However, Far-Out is a game driven by atmosphere and gameplay first and foremost, and due to this time spent interacting with others (such as the ship’s AI), and comments from Zack are mostly limited.
Moving on to presentation – Far-Out is a definite mixed bag. The graphics are mostly clean and support 4K and HDR but for the most part look last-gen (with the exception of some good particle effects). The aesthetic in many ways actually reminded me of Perfect Dark Zero, with its crisp, almost clay look. Given that this game is made by a small indie team, this is far from a deal-breaker, but it’s not a graphical showstopper by any stretch of the imagination. Also found within the world are little advertisements and comic pages that look straight out of Fallout or The Outer Worlds with their pulp/retro-futuristic style. They are mostly scattered among the Selene, and can be easily missed, but provide a nice touch all the same.
As for the sound, the musical score is highly impressive, adding a nice space-age flair to the game. The voice acting, however, is a bit more mixed. The voice primarily heard is Zack’s, and his line delivery can vary. When he’s acting cheeky, formal or serious, he’s rather good. However, his big emotional outbursts among finding the fates of some of his crew teeters into Zero in Mega Man X4 territory. The other voices heard are sparse but decent, with Emmi’s VA being the standout of the supporting cast.
Now onto the most important part of the game, and the gameplay in Far-Out is again a bit of a mixed bag. The lack of instructions, for the most part, is clever and encourages exploration, although a few moments can be a bit too cryptic for their own good. The main gameplay loop, however, is mostly comprised of walking around hallways and interacting with the ship’s computer. The Selene is itself a well designed ship and there’s plenty to see and interact with, but much of it is just pointless. Worse yet is that every time you press the wrong button, Zack repeats the lines “This could be the right button” and “I know what I’m doing” ad-nauseam. It gets old… real fast. Still, the old school challenge is present and all three of the game’s main endings are incredibly satisfying. Far-Out is also challenging although, unlike back in the day, guides are available and easy to find if you get stuck.
All this being said, I question why the game was released on the Xbox One. As an experience, this would’ve made for a darn good VR title given how immersive the tone can be at points. It never quite feels at home on the One, with the point and click elements better suited for hand-tracking or the keyboard and mouse. That’s not to say that it controls poorly, but it’s clear that a controller is probably not the best way to be playing this game. It is worth noting that for those who game on PC, the game is also available there.
Perhaps the biggest proof that the game is not a perfect fit for the Xbox One, however, is in the number of performance issues and glitches. In my quest to 100% complete the game (it provides a very generous 1000 points of Gamerscore), I encountered a number of technical issues such as frame skips, frame rate drops and failure for textures to load in when viewing from a certain angle. Perhaps the worst glitch I encountered was when the game failed to load in necessary codes for the machines in the game (they’re randomly generated) and the right control stick stopped responding completely. Changing the sensitivity fixed the latter issue, but then a door I needed to enter wouldn’t budge. I ended up having to hard reset the game to continue.
Given the aforementioned issues, Far-Out on Xbox One is difficult to recommend at the £12.49/$15 USD price tag. However, I still had a decent amount of fun with the game. The puzzles themselves are clever, the music is great, the old school challenge is refreshing and the world-building entertaining. It’s just tied up in a package that doesn’t work particularly well on the Xbox One. If you want to play this, I’d recommend waiting for a price drop. I would also consider playing on the PC, as the keyboard and mouse might be a better fit. All in all, Far-Out is a game with great ideas and puzzles, but it doesn’t quite stick the landing.