Not every game can be everything you expect. Which can make it all the more sad when something you hoped would be special doesn’t quite to turn out the way you wanted. It doesn’t necessarily mean the whole game and experience is bad. It just casts a bit of a pallor over things. Which is exactly happened with The Outbound Ghost.
The Outbound Ghost is a Kickstarter success story. Outbound used to apparently be a pleasant town. However, everyone there is now dead after a succession of tragedies. First, cursed, poisoned water killed a majority of the villagers. Those who survived that ended up killed. Everyone’s a ghost now, with unfinished business keeping them from ascending. That includes the player. However, your initial ghostly avatar’s identity is unknown, due to an unfortunate case of amnesia. What’s left is to aid the spectral citizens now inhabiting Outbound so they can ascend, deal with the otherworldly monsters, and try to get some answers. (Spoiler alert: A lot of things don’t get resolved.)
The Outbound Ghost very heavily leans into the Paper Mario vibe. All ghosts appear as though they are hand-drawn on paper, moving through environments. The turn-based battles feature elements from it and Pokemon. Rather than fight as yourself, you send out Figments representing elements of your personality to act as party members, each with their distinct attributes and attacks. Their assaults feature timed elements to inflict more damage. It even channels a bit of Bravely Default, as you can spend a turn Aethering Up to gather more AP to attack more. You also encounter lots of personable characters, some more than others, all with tasks to complete.
Many of my issues come from that execution. The battles lack bite, even on the Normal or Hard difficulties. They aren’t terribly engaging unless it is a boss fight. But instead of all bosses being equally sound and strategic, sometimes you’ll happen upon a completely unbalanced one without any warning that you’re about to encounter an unreasonably strong foe. There’s no map, which can make finding your way easier. Fast traveling is there, but when you aren’t sure where to go. Which is an issue, because some quests aren’t always clear about what to do next. They’ll involve fetch quest elements and backtracking, but you won’t exactly know where or how.
I also encountered some bugs and glitches. However, Conradical Games already noted the build of The Outbound Ghost that appeared on consoles isn’t the one that was supposed to launch. A patch is on the way. Know that the game can crash on you, so save whenever you can.
There are some things that The Outbound Ghost does that are neat. Tons of approachability options are there. When you start the game, you can randomize the order in which you get Figments and Aspect recipes and meet Apparitions. All of these seem to encourage replays. Especially since the four difficulty options include a Spectral (Extreme) one and an option to restrict how many Figments you can acquire. I’d even say it is rather accessible, since the Easy difficulty is really just there so you can see the story and you can start the adventure with every Figment.
I’m also really happy with how Conradical Games is approaching development. There’s a New Game+ element on the way in December 2022. There’s also going to be more to do, due to post-game bosses and party chat joining the new sidequests that already came up. They even are going to rework the things that aren’t working as well, like UIs and fast travel.
The Outbound Ghost is, for me, an experience about adjusting expectations. Yes, I expected more. More charm. More to the narrative. More substance. It isn’t a bad game. Rather, it can just get a bit tedious. Especially since the gameplay elements and visuals mean it will be constantly compared to the original Paper Mario and Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling, both of which are more unique and vibrant titles.
The Outbound Ghost is available on the PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, and PC.