Spoilers for The Outer Worlds up until you reach Groundbreaker
I’ve been gleefully playing through The Outer Worlds and it’s hard to stop. A game hasn’t grasped me like this since 2018’s God of War. For those who don’t know, The Outer Worlds (from Obsidian) is an RPG that throws the player into a huge corporately owned universe with intense social commentary on capitalism, fun dialogue options, colorful worlds, and combat that’s a little better than Fallout. One of the best aspects of The Outer Worlds is freedom and choice.
For example, the basic storyline is that you play as a survivor from The Hope, a colonist ship in transit from Earth that crashed along the way. You find yourself being woken up from stasis by a strange scientist who wants to save everyone else on the ship.
The scientist, Phineas Welles, hopes the lost people of The Hope can change society for the better, which is run by a corrupt board of corporations. This is clearly the main questline, but Welles is a tiny bit shady with the amount of information he shares about his mission. The optimistic part of me wants Welles to be a good guy who really wants to overthrow the evil board, but if The Outer World taught me one thing, it’s that people are complicated. Just like real life, you never know what motives are hidden deep within someone’s mind.
When I got to the first planet, I realized that Welles has a huge bounty on his head by the Board. I could have easily chosen to turn him in and be set for life. This really impressed me. The Outer Worlds allowed me to subvert expectations and even alter the main quest of the entire game. I didn’t do it, because Welles plan seems like the best option for Halcyon, the setting of The Outer Worlds. Knowing that the option is available, skyrocketed my appreciation for the game.
There are many games that offer player choice but few are so deeply layered as The Outer Worlds. Most of the time, the good and evil choices are clearly defined and there is no long-lasting impact. I think about Infamous where choices are labeled red for bad and blue for good. I think about Mass Effect 3 where the influx of choices never amounts to anything meaningful. I also think about Fallout where there is often a compromise option or a way around the morally ambiguous decision.
There is nothing wrong with compromise options because it adds another layer of gameplay and thought to a situation. Sometimes though, games need to go full throttle into morally confused choices because they make for a more realistic approach. It is likely that your choices will negatively affect something, no matter how morally right the choice may seem. This also makes for a more memorable experience where the player is left to ponder their choice as I did so often in The Outer Worlds.
Not every choice in The Outer Worlds is so morally ambiguous but a lot of them are including the first main choice of the game.
The player is thrust into the town of Edgewater, which is run by the corporation: Spacer’s Choice. The tuna company overworks their employees and most notably holds a stash of medicine from its more underprivileged citizens even though there is a plague. Suicide is also illegal because it’s considered damage to company property. When you meet Reed Thompson, the leader of the town, you realize that he cares about the people of Edgewater but is brainwashed by the statuesque of corporations in Halcyon. There is also a group of deserters who couldn’t take the living conditions of Edgewater. They successfully grew a massive garden (with the help of dead bodies) and are living peacefully but have a violent opposition to Edgewater.
The player is tasked with deciding what town to divert power from. I was on board to help out the deserters but right when I was about to flip the switch, my companion reminded me of the ramifications of the choice. The people of Edgewater, even the innocent who are subject to the Spacer’s Choice, will most likely die without power. I just couldn’t let the deserters die-off because they became a safe haven for those mistreated by Spacer’s Choice. I kept to my guns and gave all the power to the deserters and boy did I feel bad. I came to find out the deserters would not accept anyone into their town unless they completely deny allegiance to corporations.
Now every time I return to Edgewater I am faced with the ramifications of my choice. The town is dark and dead with only a few survivors. There was no right decision no matter how I looked at the different outcomes. Obsidian successfully created a game where choices matter. Choices where a compromise is difficult and the lines are blurred- that’s the mark of a good RPG.
What are your thoughts on The Outer Worlds? Did you like the choices you had to make during the game’s story? What was the toughest decision you had to make in the game so far? Let us know in the comments below and be sure to stay tuned to The Nerd Stash for the latest in gaming, movies, TV, comics, and more!
For more on The Outer Worlds, check out our review of the game here.