These days most major PlayStation 4 and Xbox One games are getting ported to Nintendo Switch. There's a reason for this: people care about Switch versions a lot. It's one of the first questions you're expected to ask any time a game is announced.
But even if it's theoretically possible to port a game over to Switch, should you? In the case of notable success stories like The Witcher 3 and Divinity: Original Sin 2, the answer is "yes." But in the case of duds like Overwatch, and now The Outer Worlds, the answer is an emphatic "no."
To put it mildly, The Outer Worlds on Switch is a bad port. Its graphics are a muddy, blurry mess; its textures a green and brown slurry that at times feel like a throwback to the days of the Nintendo 64. Pop-in is near constant whether in handheld or docked mode—indeed, it's actually more noticeable on a TV owing to the larger screen. Assertions that it would target 1080p while docked appear to be wishful thinking. The whole thing feels as if it just barely fits on Switch.
Granted, the original game had its share of issues, particularly on PC, but its especially noticeable on the Switch. Performance issues abound, particularly as you delve further into the game, with frame rates that will frequently drop into the 20s. Some of the open world areas lose elements like foliage and trees, giving it a rockier and more barren look than the original. It's all coated in so much vaseline that I actually started getting a headache.
It's a shame given that The Outer Worlds is overall a very good RPG, if a somewhat conservative one. Released last year as a spiritual successor of sorts to Fallout, The Outer Worlds was warmly received as an alternative to Bethesda's RPGs. It was developed by a team led by Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky, who played key roles in the development of the original Fallout and Vampire: The Masquerade-Bloodlines. While it was ultimately overshadowed by Disco Elysium, which wound up being our Game of the Year, The Outer Worlds still had much to recommend it in terms of humor, art design, and depth of choice.
Indeed, when I booted it up on my Switch, my first thought was, "Hey, this seems pretty good!" In the Outer Worlds, you take on the role of "The Stranger," who is awakened from cryosleep and dropped into a world largely defined by runaway capitalism. As in most RPGs of this sort, your first order of business is designing a character, and so I rolled up a protagonist built around long-range weapons, stealth, and charm—the sort of character, in other words, who would be extremely overpowered in Skyrim. With the exception of some rather small text—a consistent issue for the Outer Worlds—the experience was largely pleasant.
I subsequently landed on Terra 2 and began to explore. The game proper is basically a stripped down first-person shooter with time dilation mechanics and gadgets, including a shrink ray. Like Doom and several other games, The Outer Worlds includes gyroscopic aiming, which I found to be adequate. The shooting is certianly not The Outer Worlds' strong suit, but that's what the time dilation is for. All told, its vibe is not so different from Futurama's, even featuring its very own mad scientist in Phineas Welles. The loading screens, which thankfully aren't overwhelming in the Switch port, consist of retro futuristic advertisements for products that wouldn't be out of place in Disney's Tomorrowland.
Initially, I found myself thinking that The Outer Worlds was a good enough RPG to recommend, even if the port was pretty rough. After all, with the exception of Skyrim, there aren't really any other RPGs like The Outer Worlds on Switch. The structure also translates surprisingly well to handheld, proving an engrossing experience with headphones.
The tech problems kept cropping up though: pop-in, bad textures, slowdown, even crackling audio. When I say this port is rough, I mean that it is rough. The blurriness makes it so enemies are constantly blending into the landscape when viewed from a distance, and the frequent texture pop-in is distracting during conversations. The character models are adequate, but wind up losing certain details like scars, lessening their overall sense of personality.
So while I wish I could say, "This is a good RPG with a lot of depth, you should play it now that it's on the Switch," I find that I can't. It's not a good port.
Ultimately, The Outer Worlds is perhaps more evidence that we should stop begging for everything to be ported to Switch. Some games are just better on a more powerful console. Even The Witcher 3 port, which I think is basically a miracle, doesn't really come recommended on Switch.
To be fair, not everyone can afford multiple consoles. If I only owned a Switch, I would probably be thrilled to have a good port of The Outer Worlds. But it's worth asking, "Is it worth it if the port is so compromised that it's practically unrecognizable?" Maybe it's better to stick with games that fit the platform's strengths, even if those games don't necessarily include first-person CRPGs.
Developers continue to wring more and more power out of the Switch, often with impressive results. But with the new generation of consoles almost upon us, the gap is only going to get larger. Luckily, we're in an era where graphics don't matter as much anymore, and a memorable art style can take you a long way to success. That tells me that the Switch will be just fine, even if its future doesn't necessarily include more games like The Outer Worlds.
In any case, please play The Outer Worlds if you can. It's a smartly-developed RPG with a lot of personality and heart, and it's on every major platform at this point. I wouldn't recommend the Switch version, but if you must play it, it'll be out June 5.