The Outer Worlds is the latest game from Obsidian Entertainment, who famously brought you Fallout: New Vegas, are back with another first-person RPG. If I were to quickly summarise this game, for anyone that was interested, I’d simply say “It’s Fallout in space”. Now I don’t want to spend the entire review comparing the two, but since Obsidian have had their hand in that series, it’s only natural to work off what you know.
The review will be coming once the embargo has been lifted, this is a placeholder until then, be sure to bookmark it and check back later!
What Is Outer Worlds?
The game is set in an alternate future that diverged in 1901, when U.S. President William McKinley is not assassinated by Leon Czolgosz at the Pan-American Exposition. As a result, Theodore Roosevelt never succeeded him, allowing large business trusts to dominate society well into the future, where megacorporations have begun colonizing and terraforming alien planets. Originally bound for the furthest reaches of the galaxy, a colony ship's faster-than-light travel goes astray, leaving it abandoned at the edge of colony space. The player character awakens on board from cryosleep only to find that most of the passengers are still in hibernation, and begins a journey to a nearby colony to investigate the true nature of the corporations. The game features several factions and a branching story that reacts to the player's choices.
The Outer Worlds follows the traditional RPG style of being able to create your own character and level up as you progress through the game. You character has different abilities and stats that can be enhanced through gameplay, to help you overcome obstacles within the game e.g. improving your speech to negotiate better deals or solve problems peacefully. During the game, you'll unlock perks that will grant special abilities and help develop your style of play. Players can also encounter and recruit NPCs to their team, electing to bring two companions at once. These allies can develop and enhance their abilities and fighting style.
The plot appears to be a fascinating concept when you read about it, although I will admit, I don’t think that’s initially portrayed from the start. It seems like the motivation for carrying out your main quest is also not inherently as clear or personal as some other RPG games, so it does feel tough to completely immerse yourself within the world and the characters within it.
As the plot describes above, you’re being sent to another world and need to be frozen for 10 years. Sounds good right? Sets up for a juicy story. Now it’s time to queue the stereotypical disaster and creates the basis for the game’s plot. The ship obviously doesn’t reach its destination and you’re frozen for over 70 years, woken up by a scientist called Phineas Wells. While the rest of the ship remains frozen, he points out that being suspended for so long can cause a painful death in most cases, but he has managed to save you with his own chemical creation. He recruits you to seek out more chemicals, in order to wake those still in hibernation. That’s essentially the motivation to go on your adventure. It feels like the motivation could have been stronger here, I’d be lying if I said I was fully immersed in helping these faceless strangers, in a plan I’m not entirely familiar with.
When you compare it to other games, you realise why this story feels a bit flat. In Fallout 3, you’re trying to find out why your father escaped your vault, why he left you behind and where he went. In Fallout: New Vegas, you’ve been shot in the head and saved, allowing you to find your unknown assailant and enact revenge. Fallout 4, your child has been taken from you and your wife has been murdered - the common theme? It’s personal.
The small stories within the game fail to make up for this either, it was a struggle to find a character I was inherently invested in. That’s not to say the characters were lifeless, far from it. I’m also puzzled as to why the new environments and creatures are not more dramatised. A lot will have changed in 70 years and to miss out on it would be a big deal for anyone; this is not conveyed in The Outer Worlds and would have been a great opportunity to start that emotional rollercoaster for the player. Instead, everything comes across as being normal, TOO normal in fact.
The gameplay is smooth, most RPG games can be quite clunky (especially in combat), I think this is one game that even with a controller, I have little qualms to express. Granted, it’s not Call of Duty smooth, but it's smooth for a game that features many FPS elements - they’ve taken care not to overlook this fundamental aspect.
What I think that The Outer Worlds does right, is catering to new and old players of the genre; which I think is an incredibly difficult thing to do. The tutorial takes place as part of your first outing, after landing on Terra 2 (the first world you visit); streamlining you down a pathway, where you will get to grips with the fundamentals quickly. If you’re new to the game, you’re in a safe environment to learn and those with experience will be able to wade through the shallow end with gameplay at the forefront to keep them invested. Not an excessive amount of dialogue or cutscenes are used, nor unnecessary hand holding - you’re allowed to explore and learn all you need to know as you play with information pop ups appearing at the correct times.
VATs is reincarnated in the form of ‘Tactical Time Dilation’, a mechanic where you can slow down time to help you in combat; with perks to make this mechanic even better. This seems like a great idea, but there were only a handful of opportunities that I can remember using it. I imagine its use becomes that much more valuable the more difficult the game is.
With companions comes unique abilities that you can use on command; this is placed on the D-Pad. It would have been handy to keep your weapon selection on the D-Pad and has instead been placed on the Triangle/Y button, allowing you to hold it down to pick a specific weapon rather than cycling through your main 4. It made for switching weapons a little bit fiddly to begin with.
Structure And Layout
Unlike Fallout, the game is split into different planets and destinations that you can visit with your ship ‘The Unreliable’. It makes sense when the focus of the game is around Space and the many planets within the galaxy, but it does make for a lethargic experience when navigating. This wouldn’t be so bad if fast travelling was available, it can only be used in the world you’re located; with them not being overly big, it's not the most useful tool.
You can pick what missions you want to do, when you want to do them and how you want to do them. What’s great within The Outer Worlds is that they are separated very clearly into different categories and use images to indicate where that mission takes place. One of the many great things about an RPG is allowing you to explore and create your own story. The Outer Worlds stays true to this, but I did feel that because I was confined to a small area rather than one large map, I was autonomously led to follow the overarching story and discouraged from exploring.
There is a satisfying depth in terms of customisation, I do however feel like it isn’t as detailed as it could have been. It wouldn’t shock me if Obsidian compromised on the details to make things a bit easier to handle for newer players - something I can completely understand. It also seems like the number of weapons available have been greatly reduced, which isn’t the end of the world, but it’s always nice to have some variety. The modifications and upgrades for your items are also really simplified, which is not necessarily a bad thing if you tend to overlook this aspect of the game.
What I will praise Obsidian for is the customisation you can add to your companions; something that I haven’t seen in a game like this before and adds a new element of depth when exploring or taking on missions.
Flaws are something that have occured in RPGs past, but they are directly linked to your actions in the game and can not be easily fixed. Within my game, I fell off of high ledges too many times, crippling my legs. This meant my walking and running speed were permanently slowed. This is understandably annoying, but also a feature I admire - as you can also gain features to improve your character.
The graphics are nice, they won't blow you away, but are a step-up in comparison to some RPG titles. For most people, this isn’t a deal breaker, it’s about the content within the game and I couldn’t agree more. The game is certainly easy on the eyes and the character models are well detailed on closer inspection. I have to compliment some of the buildings and environments while playing, particularly in some of the key establishments. Due to the futuristic nature of The Outer Worlds, it can be easy to make things look shiny and a bit cartoony, however I don’t feel like this is the case. There’s colour, there’s shine but it’s reined in by the gloomy and gritty atmospheres present. A very core theme that seems to run through most of the settlements, is the struggle for power. Some have power and riches while those worse off, want it. This is distinguished by the contrasting colours and lights plotted throughout the settlements and the conditions of their living quarters.
The big question that remains is "How much game time will I get out of this?" The Outer Worlds features 30-40 hours of gameplay; plenty of time for those looking occupy their free time as the days get shorter and the weather gets colder.
It’s worth pointing out that this game only features a solo adventure, you will not be able to play with friends or experience anything else. The solo adventure gives you more than enough content to play.
It’s likely the game will feature DLC in the future, which will bring new stories, locations and items to play around with and extend a great story.
Is It Worth It?
Although it may seem like I’ve been harsh on The Outer Worlds, I have to stress that this is genuinely a very good game. I think where I might sound harsh in my review, it's because you can’t help but compare it to what’s come before. The Outer Worlds is a fun game, with a unique spin on the genre, taking a proven concept and revamping it. It’s also worth picking up in a time where we’ll be bombarded with online multiplayer driven games and not nearly enough story driven titles; it’s also been some time since we had a good RPG to play.
My verdict is that if you’re eyeing up other games in the next month, I would probably wait until Christmas when you’ll have more free time and you can really dedicate yourself to something like this; as it requires you to sit down and play for 1-2 hours at a time. If you’re a big Fallout or Skyrim fan, it’s a no brainer on whether you should grab this game and I would recommend it to any fan of RPG titles.