The Outer Worlds proves less is more. Obsidian knocks it out of the park with great writing, fun combat, and deep RPG mechanics.
Developer – Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher – Private Division
Release Date – October 25th, 2019
Platforms – PC – Reviewed, PS4, Xbox One
Obsidian Entertainment has been creating fantastic RPG’s for almost two decades. It wasn’t until their kickstarter hit “Pillars of Eternity” that they truly had a title of their own. Through much of their 16 year history Obsidian was usually tasked with creating sequels to already established franchises. Franchises such as Dungeon Siege, KOTOR, and Fallout.
Fallout: New Vegas was considered by many, myself included, as the best of the modern Fallout games. The Outer Worlds feels like a spiritual successor in some aspects. However this isn’t just Fallout in space. The Outer Worlds is a completely unique and compelling game with a story, style and gameplay all it’s own.
The Outer Worlds starts off in an abandoned ship where Dr. Phineas Welles thaws you out. He claims he used some special sauce to keep you from liquefying and tasks you with landing on a nearby planet to secure more resources. What follows is a great, satirical look at what happens when Capitalism and sci-fi meet head on. Corporate synergy in every sense of the phrase.
Everything in this alternate, dystoptian version of our time-line is on company time and is paid on the employee’s dime. While hacking a computer, one of many skills that harken to the classic RPG roots in Outer Worlds, one email in particular stood out.
A marketing manager was tasked with coming up with new ways to sell Saltuna, a local delicacy. His idea was to create a Lite Saltuna variant. His boss loved the idea, but decided to twist it just a bit. Instead of a creating a split brand, they would instead make heavier cans, which would allow them to sell less Saltuna per can, therefore increasing company profits. For this marketing genius’s brilliance, he was “rewarded” with a new job working the assembly line. Don’t worry though, he was also docked pay for his new uniform.
This email represents the exact style of Capitalist’s greed that ooze’s all over the place. From guards arresting you while practicing the perfect sales pitch, and workers shunning their peers for getting too sick to come in. This commentary on corporate power is a welcome change to the traditional save the universe style of story the typical RPG’s create.
Outer Worlds isn’t only about witty writing and consumerism. It’s a hardcore RPG through and through. A deep set of skills, attributes and perks let you truly customize your character in any way possible. Hacking, science, melee and ranged weapons sit right next to charm, leadership and science. In the normal Obsidian fashion, they always have an angle. One of the best things about the games trait system is how much of it works both ways. For example, if you make a character with low intelligence, you will gain the dumb trait. Now on the surface this seems like a negative,however the great writing and new options that open up for you make it just as valid as being a genius.
That’s the best part of the Outer Worlds, regardless of character build it’s always a great experience. The campaign that I completed the game on was a stealth, ranged weapon solo build. It brought back memories of my Brotherhood of Shadow days in Skyrim. The second campaign I’m on is focused on pure dialogue skills and leadership. I use my companions to do the heavy lifting in combat for me. Both experiences are completely different, yet equally fulfilling. A big reason this works is due to the combat.
Now Fallout titles typically don’t feature good gun play. In fact if VATS isn’t used, the quality of any fight was middling to poor. It’s part of the reason I just couldn’t get into Fallout 76. The optimization in the games performance and the switch to the Unreal engine has helped create a much smoother experience than the Fallout games are known for.
With the smooth frame-rate and optimal performance, lining up targets and managing ranged weapons is easy to pull off. Instead of VATs, Outer Worlds has a time dilation system. Don’t be fooled by any fancy phrases, it’s straight forward bullet time and it adds a lot of style and tactics to every battle.
Layered on top of the great story and fun combat system are just tons of quality of life options. One such feature is a perk that lets you fast travel while encumbered. Companions have reduced skill tree’s that all add to the players skills in a beneficial way. Items are easily disposed of, categorized and crafted with a smooth intuitive UI. Even better the whole game works great on controller, or keyboard and mouse.
The Outer Worlds also features a fantastic score, with some solid music and the right amount of ambience for each new location you traverse too.
If I had to nitpick, the one drawback is the difficulty. Even on the harder settings, The Outer Worlds is never challenging. As late game weapons and gear got involved, tactics slowly vanished as anything I used was more than enough for the enemies I was facing off against. I don’t want to harp on this too much, as the games shorter length and ease of difficulty was just the thing I needed for this time of the year.
The Outer Worlds is a fantastic experience. By deftly avoiding small issues that plague the genre, crafting a great story and embracing player choice. The Outer Worlds proves that less can certainly be much much more.