Title: The Outer Worlds
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Private Division
Available On: PlayStation 4 (tested), Xbox One, PC (via Epic Games Store)
Official Site: https://outerworlds.obsidian.net/
Release Date: October 25th, 2019
Where to Buy it: PSN, Xbox Store, Epic Games Store, Retail
After seeing the first trailer for The Outer Worlds, the game instantly became one of my most anticipated games of the year. A quirky space romp from the developers of Fallout: New Vegas? Sign me up, please. Now, after nearly 30 hours (and more to come!), I can confidently say that not only did Obsidian make an excellent game, but they might have outdone Bethesda at their own game.
Choose Your Adventure
The Outer Worlds begins as the mysterious scientist breaks into the colony ship Hope, a craft that has been drifting through space for seven decades. You become unfrozen from comatose, in hopes of saving the Halcyon Colony. You’ll quickly come to learn that not everything is as it seems in Halcyon, but you might be the only hope it has to survive well into the future.
After a cutscene to start, you’ll begin to customize the looks and traits of your character. You start with your outer appearance before moving to character traits and stats. Standard RPG stats like melee combat, light and heavy weapon expertise, and dialogue skills are at your disposal. You can even negatively affect these stats in hopes of bettering others — which in turn offers additional options such as “dumb dialogue.” Once you’ve crafted your perfect space adventurer, it’s time to save the galaxy. During gameplay, you’ll “unlock” a Flaw to add to your character’s traits. A Flaw decreases your stats in certain situations, say like your resistance to plasma weapons. In return, you’ll earn a perk point to find another way to improve your character.
Just like Fallout: New Vegas, and many other games that have moral choices, The Outer Worlds allows you to color in the lines of the story as you see fit. Do you want to play as the good guy, striving to save the galaxy while following the moral compass as it points north? Or would you rather be the tyrannical destructor and side with the corporations, blasting away anyone that stands in your way? How about a bit of both while smirking your way through dialogue choices that anyone with thin skin will grow offended by?
The choice is yours, and I agonized over each decision I made. For instance, do I offer life-saving medicine to a seemingly delusional older man, or do I instead provide it to a cause to save dozens of sick people? I let my choices stand — outside of a few moments where I saved to see the other side of the coin— to make it my truly my story. As always, I do find myself preferring a story told to me by the developer, but it’s always fun to be able to construct bits and pieces by my own choices.
I was also taken aback by how important each decision feels. There are small choices you’ll run into during the game, but there are plenty of big ones that can affect entire towns and populations. I was also surprised at how one early choice popped up in a late-game conversation I had with an NPC, with an accompanying mission to boot.
The story quickly develops into a conspiracy with the balance and survival of Halcyon dangling at the end. The Halcyon Colony is run by corporations whose primary goal, like many businesses, is to make as much money as possible. Unfortunately, things aren’t so peachy keen. Behind every tagline and jingle, is a story of struggle and despair. It’s almost unnerving how, other than the fact this game is set in the far-flung future, Halcyon’s struggles are practically a foretelling about life on Earth. Nearly every day, large companies like Apple and Amazon are shoving their latest product down our throats, almost as if consumerism has become the way of life. The Outer Worlds isn’t overtly trying to say that corporations are bad — let’s face it, Obsidian and Private Division want to make money to survive — but it’s hard not to see the writers didn’t have to look far for inspiration.
Unfortunately, the story does slump in the middle portions of the game, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to fans of the genre. These games beg you to explore and complete the various side missions given to you throughout the game. In many cases, I found these missions far more interesting than the main storyline, particularly the companion missions. Similar to Mass Effect 2’s party missions, each member of your team — who you bring on missions and they offer a stat boost to you — has a series of tasks they’d like you to help them complete. Doing so helps flesh out their character, provide massive amounts of experience points, and offer other rewards such as additional perks and money. I grew closer to my party members while finishing their questlines and even began choosing my party based on my enjoyment of said quests.
That said, there are a ton of missions to find, ranging from mainline and side quests to companion and faction quests. During my time, I know I haven’t encountered all of them. You’ll come across many missions naturally, while there are dozens of missions hidden in corners of the maps. As a matter of fact, my travels still haven’t taken me to a couple of planets in Halcyon, which makes me want to go back through and try and explore the last few corners I haven’t reached.
Explore The Outer Worlds
Exploring in The Outer Worlds is everything I love and dream about sci-fi stories. I’ve always been curious about what life on other planets is like, or even what the surface of other planets is like. I’m always fascinated with videos of Mars’ barren wasteland and new pictures of Saturn and Pluto. Each time I stepped foot on a planet in The Outer Worlds, I took a moment to gaze in awe. On my PS4 Pro, the game looks and runs great. It only helps with the sense of discovery. The gritty, lived-in nature of Halcyon removes the feeling of being the first on a planet — like in No Man’s Sky, for instance — but it’s all the more interesting to comb through abandoned towns and buildings and accessing terminals full of lore.
That’s what I love the most about The Outer Worlds. Obsidian reached far into their New Vegas days by giving players a world ripe with hidden story details. Every time I found a terminal, all I wanted to do was to read through emails sent back and forth between family members, co-workers, and bosses. One diary entry, in particular, left me feeling heartbroken as a family was split in two when the Hope (the same ship you were rescued from) disappeared. Again, this isn’t a squeaky clean world, as evident by the turmoil these corporations have created by draining resources, and it leaves plenty to discover and obsess over. Don’t worry, though; there’s plenty to shoot at as well.
Survive The Wild
Strange creatures roam the wildlands, and they’re by no means friendly. The designs of each creature add to the outer galaxy feel. They’re strange, yet familiar, but almost always deadly. In between, you’ll battle human outlaws as well. Combat just doesn’t feel like the strong suit of The Outer Worlds. It’s standard affair and feels too close to other western RPGs that have come before it. You can use melee attacks, light and heavy weapons, and a variety of elemental-based guns. During combat, you can slow time down, which, by aiming at certain spots on the enemy’s bodies, you’ll be able to maim or stun them. Slowing time is meter-based, but by leveling up and choosing the right perks, you’ll be able to utilize it more often.
Combat was at its best when I could use “science weapons,” special weapons that have unique effects. One example is a shrink ray, which yes does make enemies smaller for a short period. These weapons are only whispers in the greater world and must be found and help with the shortcomings of the loot you’ll find in Halcyon.
For the most part, I was finding standard pistols, shotguns, and energy weapons. Armor sets and helmets didn’t far much better. In this day of Destiny and Borderlands 3, developers that want to put loot in their games should understand that players want to strive to find insane gear. Of course, I haven’t found or completed every quest in the game, so maybe I just haven’t found the best stuff yet. It doesn’t help that a clunky inventory system plagues the menus. Important text is small, and I found myself swapping weapons and armor I didn’t want to at the wrong times. Throughout most of my adventures, I stuck with a consistent loadout because of this.
Refine Your Character
Leveling up your character in The Outer Worlds is not only a necessity but an overall enjoyable experience. The upgrade system is deep. After you build your initial character, it’s all about playing towards that playstyle and growing how you see fit. In most RPGs, I’ve found building up my persuasion and other dialogue options to be almost, if not more, important than combat, so I took that approach with my character. I’m glad I did because I was able to talk myself out of dozens of potentially deadly situations.
During conversations, the option to use my silver tongue popped up if I fulfilled the requirements. It was also helpful during combat, too. This is my experience, of course, yours will be different. And it should be. I know that during my next playthrough, I’m going to build up other skills I ignored throughout my adventure. The Outer Worlds is designed to be played multiple times; you won’t see everything or make the right decisions the first time.
If you want to take the more guns blazing approach, you can. If you want to stealth your way around a ship, go ahead. With each level, you gain a collection of upgrade points and perks to refine your character how you want. Again, I chose to build my character one way, you may choose another way. Don’t be afraid to experiment, but if you mess up, you can always respec yourself for a small fee.
It also helps that there are multiple endings. Similarly to Fallout 3 (and its sequels), the ending basically boils down to a series of slide shows, but the narration gives you the overall culmination of the story you’ve crafted. If you missed missions — I didn’t do an entire questline that unlocks a new party member — you’ll see the outcome of that decision. Again, choices aren’t always black and white, and I agonized over many choices, but it was awesome to see the pay off at the end of a long journey. My biggest complaint about the end is there’s no way to go back to before the final mission unless you created a separate save. Not a difficult thing to do, but it’s something to note if you miss the notification.
Verdict: The Outer Worlds is a game that feels familiar and different all at the same time, which makes sense considering the pedigree of the developer and the talent attached to this game. If you love Fallout: New Vegas, you’ll definitely get similar feelings here. The genre’s tropes and flaws are here, for better and worse. The Outer Worlds offers a deep world, engaging side quests, and quirky dialogue that make for an overall package that’s worth your time and effort. I know I’m going to keep coming back and exploring, not only what I have left to find, but to start another playthrough and make different decisions. I can’t wait to return to Halcyon for weeks to come.