The Outer Worlds: A Relief


Maximilian Looft

If you read my review for Fallout 76 last year, you’ll see the irony in this. Up until the release of The Outer Worlds, I was doubtful; I was sure it was never going to amount to much while everyone else was enthusiastic. For me, this was due to a mix of viewing alpha gameplay that looked too clunky before release, and wounds that still stung from games like 76. I was waiting for this game to release and just flop. So, I was surprised when this turned out to be a great game.

For anyone who has been unaware of this game, The Outer Worlds is a sci-fi role-playing game developed by Obsidian Entertainment — the company that developed other famous RPGs such as Fallout: New Vegas, KOTOR, and Pillars of Eternity — set in the solar system Halcyon, where the colonies are controlled by comically yet grim over-controlling corporations.

After the failure of 76, gamers turned their hopes toward this game, branding it “New Vegas in Space” or “New Vegas 2.” Again, I saw this as another hype-train that would only lead to more crushed hearts and painful disappointment, but I was proven so wrong.

Warning: Minor spoilers start now.

Right away, this game sets its tone of grim humor on the player. You are awoken from cryo-sleep on a lost colony ship by the particularly-mad scientist Phineas Welles, to aid him in fixing the Halcyon system of its dystopian-like corruption.

Soon you find yourself on the planet Terra 2 and are thrust headfirst into how this world works. Though a few hundred years in the future, the colonies have an aesthetic similar to the wild west, often drawing lines with steampunk in appearance, doing it in such a way that even I find it enjoyable. It’s in the town of Edgewater where you discover how people live. Wages are low, company slogans are driven into your skull, days off of work require you to pay, and everyone is a company asset. Just to top it off, one of the first side quests you’re given is to retrieve gravesite-fees from workers who haven’t paid up yet.

I don’t want to sound like everybody else, but this feels just like a Fallout game in all the right ways, from the atmosphere to the sprinkles of dark humor to how you progress your character.

From here, you get the rhythm of the game. You learn which quests to accept, how to approach combat, and how to develop your character. If you’ve played Fallout 3 or NV, it actually feels a little pointless to explain the gameplay because of how similar it feels. But for those of you who haven’t, for an RPG, it’s all fairly standard. You continue to do quests, you face tougher enemies, and your equipment progresses as well. Combat and speaking with NPCs is what you’re going to be doing most in this game, so let’s get into them.

Whether you’ll find the combat here enjoyable or not depends on how you found the combat in previous Fallout games. The gunplay can be considered clunky, but it is favorable to melee. To extend upon the fair amount of weapons in this game, there is the workbench system. Although not as elaborate as other games, it allows a limited amount of weapon and armor customization.

Combat becomes easier when companions are present. In a way, having companions is similar to Mass Effect 1, where there are six in total and you can bring two with you at a time outside of your ship, The Unreliable. These companions provide basic combat assistance, but each one comes with their own special skill, such as the first companion you can pick up, Parvati, who has a sledgehammer slam attack.

Speaking of special skills, you have your own from the very start. The Tactical Time Dilation (TTD) allows you to slow down time and observe the strengths and weaknesses of your enemies. This is another similarity to Fallout, very similar to the V.A.T.S. system. Although useful, I find myself forgetting about this feature a lot, most of the time using it by accident.

For any good RPG, the option to not fight should always be available, whether it be through stealth, intimidation, or bribery. Having completed the game, even though I often find it easier to let my gun be my problem-solver, a no-killing run is likely possible.

Being in dialogue with an NPC truly shows how flexible you can be. Instead of being flat and only allowing a Kind, Sarcastic, or Kill response, you always have a wide variety of ways you can converse, and the type of character you are enhances that. It’s similar to the older Fallout games: high persuasion and you can get your way out of a fight or earn a bit more pay, good at engineering and you can propose a different way to fix some machinery, and so on.

The perks you gain, though, are somewhat flat. Most of them are combat-related perks and don’t change how you can approach defining your character and their choices. This does make leveling up a little boring, as there isn’t much to look forward to in that aspect.

Perks aside, leveling also allows you to allocate points into skills you want to be proficient in. Again, these affect your character and choices, and what you can do. Of course, the higher your skill is with lockpicking, the more advanced lock you can get by, and so on. Not much else here needs to be explained.

Being properly immersed is one of the most important factors for having a good RPG. Immersion can be displayed through books you find, the variety of architecture and wildlife, and even the smallest things, such as the details you find in the trees and rocks. But good developers can truly make the world feel alive through the characters.

Companions, store vendors, pedestrians, and enemies play their role to flesh out the world you’re playing in. It all comes through the words they say, the small talk your companions occasionally make while you’re on a mission, how they chime in when they agree or disagree with what a certain NPC says, and how they’ll sometimes pull you aside and talk to you about something personal. Though this isn’t the first time any of these have been done in a game, it all just works here.

Two of my favorite characters in this game happen to be the first couple of companions you can get — Parvati and Vicar Max. Both are from Edgewater, each showing different aspects of the Halcyon colony, yet are very different people.

Parvati, a grease-and-oil-smeared engineer, is ironically the sweetest and kindest person in your entourage. Despite the despair of corporate slavery throughout the colony, she manages to find something happy in just about every aspect of life. She stands in stark contrast to the world you’re thrown into, a welcome character who lightens the mood.

Vicar Max, though a man of the cloth, is more accustomed to this rugged reality. His belief that the universe itself works as an equation, that we are all bound to our destinies, fits himself along with the Board, the group that rules everybody and everything. Order is the equation of life, even if it means he has to use violence to obtain such order.

With these two at your side, they’ll often give their input during your journey, making the adventure a little more lively, and it’s always better to have a couple of friends by your side.

Perfect games do not exist. Though there are many great things about this game, not everything stands as a monument to perfection. But this section will be really short, as there isn’t a whole lot to complain about. Almost every gameplay feature, aside from the boring perks, stands on its own. Checks that section off.

As for quests, many of them are quite enjoyable, but it’s a shame that one of the companion quests — spoiler, it’s for Parvati — is so unenjoyable. It’s a fetch quest to obtain items for her date, and it goes on way too long.

Finally, as for bugs and glitches, I can say this game is fairly solid. After 23 hours of play, the only glitch I’ve faced was when Felix’s companion quest had somehow automatically failed, even though I hadn’t done anything. Quite annoying, yeah, but not a huge loss either.

If I could use only one word to describe this game, I’d use “nostalgic.” It looks and plays like so many great and older RPGs, and it is so refreshing to get a game this good in a market often saturated with other bland AAA titles.

The Outer Worlds is a fun, pretty, and overall an enjoyable experience. It’s been so long since I have been satisfied with a proper RPG, and I could not recommend it enough for anyone who needs a bit of reassurance that great games can still be made.