Obsidian Entertainment looks to the stars with the release of The Outer Worlds, a science-fiction, first-person RPG. This title will give players the chance to build a family of space-faring misfits, tackle the challenges of the struggling Halcyon colony, and forge your own path in one of this year’s most anticipated releases. Does it live up to expectations?
The Outer Worlds Review
The story begins as you are awoken from cryosleep by a slightly eccentric scientist by the name of Phineas Wells. You quickly learn that a ship of colonists, Earth’s best and brightest, are under threat, as your ship failed to reach its intended destination. Arriving at a Colony on the edge of known space, you’re thrown into a political minefield as The Board, a corporation that acts as a totalitarian government, fights for power with various other corporations and rebel factions. At least that’s how it appears.
Much of its environment centers around different corporate factions, each fighting to instill their own agenda on a miserable populace through fear, manipulation, or other dastardly means. You’ll have chances to thwart these corporations, aid their cause, or sometimes a little in-between. It features the same tongue-in-cheek corporate propaganda often seen throughout Fallout, and it’s executed at a similar level. It blends thought-provoking slogans and catchy jingles with well-timed and well-delivered humor.
The Outer Worlds’ narrative follows that familiar style throughout, but it’s done so in a way that is immersive and satisfying. It doesn’t take itself too seriously; from quirky one-liners to hilarious quest-lines, there’s plenty worthy of a chuckle, but that doesn’t detract from the surprisingly serious nature of saving this one particular corner of the galaxy. Obsidian Entertainment has demonstrated this ability plenty of times before, switching from comedic elements to serious storytelling while managing to ensure each compliments the other, never having one aspect overpowering the experience. They have delivered once again.
Character progression and advancement is always at the forefront of The Outer Worlds. Exploration is constantly rewarding, offering new weapons, mods to customize your armor, special ingredients that can be combined in a medical inhaler to provide a boost to stats and health. All of the core elements of a great RPG are in place, and are executed brilliantly. This is further enhanced by an inspiring stats and abilities system.
Seven primary skills house 18 different secondary skills, featuring everything from hacking to leadership and each offering bonuses in different aspects of gameplay. Whether you want to be a sweet-talking gunslinger or an intimidating brawler, practically every path is viable as nearly every situation in the game has multiple solutions available…if you’re patient enough to seek them out.
The Outer Worlds is a journey of choice and consequence, a journey that will push your moral compass to its limits. This is not an adventure of simple ethicalities. While some choices offer a black and white solution, for the majority of this experience, you will question, you will ponder, and ultimately, you’re going to make a choice that comes back to kick you in the ass. And that’s fine; in fact, that’s fantastic.
The morally grey area of many of the games decisions initially left me frustrated, annoyed I couldn’t carve the path I desired. Instead I was navigating a labyrinth of twists and turns, drip fed information when the developers saw fit. It wasn’t until I really started sinking my teeth in the core of the game that I came to appreciate the accuracy of this seemingly random adventure. Life is not black and white, you will often make poor decisions, make mistakes, and it’s that journey that forges who we become and in it’s own special way. That’s exactly what The Outer Worlds is trying to achieve. It’s your story, your journey, but it won’t always work out the way you hoped it would. You’ll smile, frown, celebrate and regret, sometimes all in the space of 15 minutes. Take it from me – I accidentally blew up a town.
That desire to instill success and failure into the player spreads outside of the narrative and into the physical aspects of gameplay. One of the games more innovative systems is Flaws, special abilities that appear after suffering certain failures, offering a choice. Do you want to suffer a permanent penalty in exchange for Perks? Some of these Perks are huge, offering additional damage, carry capacity, and stat boosts. In a nutshell, they are the backbone of the character progression. Ultimately, it’s a choice you will have to make, and yet again, one you may seriously come to regret. Choosing to become Robophobic, which makes you take additional damage from Robots, only to instantly encounter a huge robot boss battle…that was a choice I will never forget.
One issue that has long plagued the first-person RPG space is the fluidity and impact of the combat. Fallout’s shooting, for example, never feels as good as a game that adopts the shooter aspects as the primary driving force of the genre. Instead, it offers players a shooting system that’s just…not as good. That was one of my primary concerns when jumping in to The Outer Worlds, but it doesn’t take long to realize that The Outer Worlds is a little different.
I definitely enjoyed gun combat more than melee, something about throwing myself inches from the jaws of a giant Mantiqueen just wasn’t appealing, but there’s skills and mechanics that fully support both varieties of combat. The level of precision, the responsiveness of the combat, the impact of the bullets and hits; it comes together to deliver a first-person combat package that feels almost as smooth as the best FPS games on the market today.
Adding further depth, satisfaction, and a feeling of being a total bad ass, are Companion abilities. There’s a total of six Companions you can unlock, each with a distinct personality, moral compass, and preferred alcoholic beverage. Each Companion also brings with them a unique Companion ability, special actions they can use in battle. Unleashing a clip of my customized Assault Rifle Ultra into an enemy felt great, until my clip ran dry – but that’s fine, I’ll launch Felix’s Companion ability and watch him drop kick a giant robot. It’s as satisfying the first time as it was the 50th time.
The Outer Worlds’ Companions offer far more than mere combat abilities. While each can have their arsenal of weapons and armor customized, and Perks unlocked, it’s the companionship that truly makes these characters shine. They’ll entertain you during elevator rides, they’ll question the morality of your decisions, they’ll argue when they think you’re wrong, and they’ll sneak live cows aboard your ship to poop in the cargo hold. Each character is charming in their own way, excellently voice-acted, and most importantly, memorable.
The Outer Worlds has quickly cemented it’s place as one of the best RPGs of the current generation. Excellent combat, exploration that never gets stale, characters that never grow old, stories and events that hide endless secrets…The Outer Worlds is simply fantastic.
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