Open Outcast is a to-be free total conversion of Crysis Wars, planned as a successor to Appeal’s original 1999 release Outcast, a game that remains in many ways the artistic pinnacle of voxel-based graphics. While Novalogic’s series - Comanche and Delta Force - were always the best-known trumpeters of the technology, and though voxels have been utilized in a far lesser role in various strategy games and even in the level editor of Crysis, it was Outcast that made the world of volumetric pixels all its own.
Though the original never saw its promised sequel after the Belgian company went out of business (you can see existing screenshots of the project at Unseen64), the ageless gem is now fortunately available at GOG.com, in full working order - if you’re interested in running your old mothballed copy, the OpenOutcast team have a good tutorial.
The original remains utterly beautiful to this day mostly thanks to its stronger-than-most audiovisual direction and rare feeling of “being there.” The same, however, can also be said of the new fan version:
A February 2010 downloadable test, Oasis 1.0, already exists for sampling; a revised and polished version is promised to follow shortly. While its gameplay currently consists rather exclusively of menial back-and-forth and carrying missions, and although the dialogue from Cutter Slade (perhaps in an attempt to better synch the dialogue with the protagonist’s name?) remains littered with off-kilter enunciations and uncharacteristic, fourth-wall breaking quips, the wealth of work and craftsmanship already present in the project makes what little game there is to be experienced ultimately quite pleasurable and a joy to look at.
While the current 1.0 version is still clumsy and admittedly bug-riddled, its team is publishing a flow of updates at a development blog that illustrates many of the tasks that go into developing such a large-scale hobby project.
A potential point of contention for Outcast fans might nevertheless be the game’s narrative: as detailed in a blog entry, the team have chosen not to emulate the storyline of the original game, instead brainstorming an all-new narrative. Another bump in the road for the project might also be the questionable popularity of Crysis Wars; while Crysis Warhead certainly sold well, not too many mod projects have been released on the platform to date. Perhaps the forthcoming “Wars” version of Mechwarrior: Living Legends will change the landscape to the better?
Luckily, as the game is single player, it can be tested out with the Crysis Wars trial, as detailed on the project’s Moddb page.