Obsidian’s action RPG The Outer Worlds first launched last year on the Xbox One, PC, and PS4. It was a generally beloved thing that really wanted you to know that it was from some of the minds behind the original Fallout games and also Fallout: New Vegas. Although it looks like a Bethesda game on the surface, with its blend of mechanically heavy first-person combat and menu-driven dialogue sequences, its much tighter scope and scale also fondly reminds me of the original Mass Effect.
It was one of my favorite games of 2019, and I was pretty excited when the Nintendo Switch port was announced. It was developed by Virtuous, a large collection of satellite studios with extensive porting and development support experience. It sells for $60, which I happily paid on launch day and maybe should have reconsidered. Virtuous made the recent excellent BioShock collection ports on Switch, and when I saw how well those ran, my hopes were high for The Outer Worlds in spite of its bigger memory footprint and Unreal Engine 4-powered visuals.
Unfortunately, the Switch version of The Outer Worlds is severely compromised, and it is equal parts impressive and profoundly disappointing. I understand that the game had to be dramatically altered to run on the Switch’s slower mobile processor and limited amount of RAM, but the scope of the downgrades to every technical aspect is immense.
The game originally occupied nearly 40 gigabytes of storage space on the enhanced consoles and PC, and a little over 17 gigabytes on the base model consoles. The Switch version clocks in at around 13 gigabytes. Every single visual asset in the game has been simplified, and it feels like the conversion was done with a heavy hammer rather than a careful hand. Polygon counts are lower for every model in the game. Texture resolutions are dropped significantly on all surfaces. Most of the shadows and shading effects are reduced in resolution or deleted entirely. The clouds are gone. Level of detail pop-in happens constantly, sometimes grinding the game to a complete stop and greying out the display…