Before The Outer Worlds was released, I admit, I had a pretty low bar for the game in my mind. I thought, ‘if this is Fallout in space, I will be a happy man’.
It definitely plays like Fallout, and even looks like Fallout at times, but I feel it’s important to clarify: The Outer Worlds is wholly its own adventure from beginning to end. It certainly borrows from previous Fallout outings (thanks to developer Obsidian having created Fallout: New Vegas back in 2010), but it also borrows from the best that the genre has to offer. Mass Effect. Knights of the Old Republic.
The story treads some familiar beats: the player character, one of the original colonists sent out from Earth to the Halcyon system, have been stuck in suspended animation aboard the Hope for 70 years, while the rest of the system has evolved. You’re woken up by scientist Phineas Welles, who needs your expertise (whatever that may be) to save the system from the reach of the Board, the collection of corporations that owns and operates the system at large.
The Outer Worlds takes the idea of corporate ownership to a twisted dystopian future, taking you on quests that have employees spewing corporate platitudes left and right, a Lifetime Employment Plan for citizens who can’t afford basic amenities, and corpses being evicted from graves if fees aren’t paid on time. There’s an undercurrent of humour at all times, and it enhances the dialogue in a really fun way. RPG veterans will know the Persuade skill is one to maximize, and indeed, doing so can lend itself to some really fun interactions.
As with most RPGs in this vein, the largest doses of entertainment are derived from the choices you make. You can choose to steal a piece of research and sell it on the black market, or you can give it back to the rightful owners and see development continue for the betterment of the system; you can shakedown a shop owner for protection money, or look the other way. The story choices are pretty fun as well – there’s a ‘good’ choice and a ‘bad’ choice for every mission, and The Outer Worlds has mixed things up with a third ‘compromise’ choice as well. It involves more leg work, and more checks to be passed, but in the end it can alter the story in more satisfying ways.
As previously mentioned, Obsidian definitely borrows pretty liberally from RPGs that have come before, but it’s to the benefit of the player. Everything is pretty both intuitive and pretty simple, including character creation. Truth be told, it almost is too simple – attributes don’t have numbered points, instead ranging from ‘good’ to ‘very high’. Further, while some skills are incredibly useful (Persuade, Hack, Lockpick all come to mind immediately), there are others that seemingly have zero payoff (Dodge, Inspiration, Determination, etc.), and investing points into them is a waste. It’s important to note, even if you decide some skills are worth more points than others, you can ‘respec’ your character at any time on the fly.
Inventory management is another simplified process, as your character can only wear two pieces of equipment (a head piece and chest/body piece). In addition, there just isn’t very much variety in the pieces that can be found in general, re: colours and general look. As such, it might come off as light on customization elements for hardcore RPG fans – but it still offers enough in virtually every other area to make up for it.
Despite the vast amount of entertainment I had while playing, the one major flaw is that it’s far too short. I managed to complete every story mission, every side quest, every companion storyline, and maxed out my character level in a little over 20 hours. There’s definitely some replayability present in terms of making different choices, but I definitely expected a longer overall playthrough (perhaps it’s for the best it’s available through Xbox Game Pass, which is how I played it).
As a huge RPG nut, it’s been a while since a game has captivated my attention in this way. The dialogue, action, and storylines are fantastic, and despite the brevity, The Outer Worlds is a refreshing sci-fi RPG in a time where recent entries into other heavyweight franchises have disappointed. If this is what we can expect from Obsidian going forward, then I can’t wait to see what comes next.
The Outer Worlds is currently available for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.
You can catch Sho on Twitter at @SNSAlli if you have any questions about The Outer Worlds (he’s halfway through a second playthrough) or RPGs (his favourite genre) in general.