Obsidian Entertainment is known for coming up with great games based on existing intellectual properties. Fallout: New Vegas is considered one of the better titles in the franchise, and the same level of praise was given to South Park: The Stick of Truth for its faithfulness to the source material. Obsidian also dipped their hands in creating original games like Pillars of Eternity and while it didn’t receive the same amount of success as their other titles, they’ve proven to be a group that has great stories to tell.
Obsidian diving into another original IP was quite the news that turned some heads. Announced to be developed by the original creators of Fallout, this is a game that definitely caught the attention of the gaming community, seeing if they can pull off making a new intellectual property different from the famous post-nuclear RPG series that put them on the gaming map. And did they deliver? Let’s jump right in.
Fallout: Outer Space?
The Outer Worlds takes place in the Halcyon Colony, a collection of worlds light years away from Earth. Controlled by the Board, a group of Corporations that pooled their resources together to buy this colony which gives them control over everything and everyone in it, Halcyon leads a dreary lifestyle, contrary to all the commercials littered across the world. That’s Capitalism for you!
You play the role of an unknown colonist, thawed out of hibernation from “The Hope”, a colony ship that was left for dead after missing its skip space (basically lightspeed travel) and deemed unprofitable to save. Your savior is one Phineas Welles, eccentric scientist and wanted by the Board. His reasons are fairly simple: he needs your help to wake up your fellow colonists on the Hope as this collection of Earth’s most brilliant minds are the key to making life better for everyone on the Halcyon Colony, else the Board’s merciless and greedy iron grip brings it to ruin.
Eventually you take control of your own ship and assemble a crew from different parts of the colony, all while earning a few bucks on the side. It’s the start of your story, but how you play it out is completely up in the air. Sure you were freed from hibernation to save a Colony, but you’re not exactly obligated to follow that narrative to the letter. There is a main quest to follow, as well as different side quests that you get from NPC’s or your own crew members but how to complete them and who you side with is going to be your choice. Want to follow the program and become the heroic saviour of the Halycon Colony alongside Welles? Go ahead hero. Feeling a bit more evil and want to side instead with the Board? Yes you can, you corporate sellout. Not really feeling like the heroic type and just go with whichever sides pays better? You can even be your very own Han Solo.
Obsidian is known for their well developed story telling, and they deliver again with that here in The Outer Worlds. While the fate of the colony is in your hands, you may be tempted to breeze through the main storyline, but feel free to take a lot of detours since every side quest you tackle are fulfilling stories of their own and help flesh out the world and its characters. As such, you can expect lots of witty and funny dialogue mixed in with some rather disturbing stories, an Obsidian special.
You’ll be especially motivated to tackle your crew’s individual side quests as this lets you get to know them better, and your crew is definitely quite the colorful bunch. From the pious but violent Vicar Max who is out for answers to his existence, to your naive but kind hearted ship engineer Parvati who may need your help to woo that special someone. The freedom to craft your own narrative is astounding and the world fully complements each tale as you lie, persuade, or threaten your way to decide the fate of the Halyon Colony.
The character creation is the standard fare but Obsidian gave it more flavor by letting Phineas Welles make witty comments as he considers who to choose from the thousands of hibernating colonists, giving you a taste of the very well written dialogue that you’re going to get for the rest of the game. As you assign points to your charisma or strength, Phineas will comment on how smart or dumb you are. You can take away some intelligence points, thereby making you an idiot, but you could also be a charismatic idiot on the other hand. It’s only one possibility among many ways to shape your character’s personality.
After thawing you out and dropping you on your way, it’s now up to you to arm yourself as talking isn’t exactly going to protect you all the time from the different wildlife and hostile elements of the world. Expect to pick up a lot of weapons along the way from your standard handguns to sniper rifles and even sabres. Similar to Borderlands, weapons have certain manufacturers but the similarities end there as there really isn’t any other distinguishing factor. Spacer’s Choice, for example, is known as a brand for the budget conscious as their products are cheap but not really dependable quality wise, but they work and shoot the same. If anything, it really shows how up effort Obsidian put to flesh out the world but its actual effect in game have very minimal bearing.
Ammo won’t be an issue as you can pick them up almost everywhere around the colony. Just be careful when picking up items where you obviously can’t, like a general store, or prepare to try and talk, or shoot, your way out of trouble. This is where your choices will come in, as where you place your hard earned skill points when you level up will dictate the kind of character you are. Putting points in your charisma and technique will make you a proficient talker that will give you persuade or intimidate choices when talking to someone. Levelling up your technical skills can make you proficient in hacking to be able to get access to unaccessible doors or computers for that added information or hidden weapons, and there are lots of these in the game.
Interestingly enough, The Outer Worlds has a setting called Supernova difficulty, which may very well drive you to the edge. It’s definitely for the bravest of space farers out there because aside from tougher enemies, your crew can die permanently in fights, and fast travel and saving will only be available when you’re on your ship. And like any real person, you will need to eat, drink, and sleep to survive. Not to mention sleeping is only possible on your ship, meaning beds you find out in the Halcyon are not available to you. This merits a whole new style of gameplay and not just a simple increase in enemy damage and HP that most difficulty settings provide, it is very well executed and is something noteworthy.
Average everything else
While the dialogue and writing in The Outer Worlds can be phenomenal, the same can’t be said of the actual gameplay. It isn’t bad per se, just not something to write home about, especially considering how high the narrative set the bar. At its core, The Outer Worlds is a first person shooter RPG and it does its job in that department fairly well. Numerous mods are available to customize various aspects of your firearm like damage but falls short since the game doesn’t make you feel like you really need it. Outer Worlds also has a borrowed feature from Fallout called Tactical Time Dilation, a gameplay mechanic explained in the narrative as a side effect of being thawed out where you’re able to slow down time giving you better aiming. It’s basically the VATS system if it sounds strangely familiar.
Gunplay is also average, as it doesn’t feel as crisp as it could have but there are some interesting additions to your arsenal that more than makes up for it. Hidden weapons called “Science weapons” are not your standard weapons and have unique features like the Shrink Ray which obviously shrinks your enemies making them more susceptible to damage, or the gloop gun which makes your enemies bounce in the air making them easy targets. They’re interesting additions that make gunplay varied enough to actually get into.
If you’re not new to first person shooters too then you’ll feel right at home as all the standard strafes, crouches, and jumps are there. There’s even a feature which allows you to jump and dodge left, right, or back for added mobility. You’ll need all the help you can get to brave all the hostiles the world is going to throw at you. Aside from the usual corporate guards and crazy marauders, Halycon Colony is also made up of natural wildlife so also expect alien creatures like Sprats, Mantisaurs, and Primates and even to the more robotic Mechanicals. The variety of baddies in the game not quite as diverse as you would expect, with some being just reskins across different planets.
Your playstyle will determine how you progress through the game, but you don’t have to do it alone. Your crew isn’t just for show as you can bring up to two with you when travel across the colony and you can trust them with your life as your AI controlled companions are just as competent in a fight. You can even command them to execute their own unique special moves, with your resident tough guy Felix’s special move as one that must be seen to be believed. It’s even an added bonus how the two companions you bring can sometimes have their own unique dialogue with each other, again another testament to how well Obsidian can build the world and its inhabitants through fantastic writing.
If you’re tired of all the action, you can just sit back too and soak in the sights and sounds as The Outer Worlds offers a variety of space locales to experience, from the rundown Edgewater town to the wide open Scylla. There’s loads of different areas to explore in the Outer Worlds, although don’t expect something too big. While the Halcyon Colony may not be that vast, it’s definitely big enough to pique your interest.
The Outer Worlds is good, but it’s by all means not perfect. There are certain things that the game could have been better, some very simple quality of life things in fact. For example, while there’s a fast travel feature that can cut your travel time, the lack of a custom waypoint is really noticeable. Load times are an issue as well -- while transitioning to a new area, inside of a town, a new planet, and pretty much any place else -- load times are plentiful and really break the momentum of the game. It’s understandable that some optimization could be done post-launch, but issues like these really stick out like a sore thumb.
There’s also a considerable lack of variety in armor designs, as well as the fact that you can only change helmets and armors. Forget about having your own unique look, you just can’t. If and when you’re finally able to find a set you fancy, the inventory screen is the only place where you’ll be able to marvel at your character as there’s no 3rd person camera option at all. It’s not exactly a game breaking feature, but surely it’s a welcome addition.
What we liked:
- Superb writing and character development
- Competent AI teammates
What we didn’t like:
- Armor designs could use more variety
- Gameplay is average compared to the writing
Verdict: Wait for it…
Overall, The Outer Worlds was an interesting ride. Despite some of the noticeable flaws, wanting to know how your journey ends and the fantastic writing both play a huge part in the positive experience that will push you to keep going. For a new IP, Obsidian did an admirable job with introducing The Outer Worlds and only time will tell how much better it could be but for this installment, there’s still so much polish to be had and improvements here and there to make the game a more viable purchase.
At it’s current state and price point, and this may be quite controversial, we think that it would be better to wait for it. While the writing and storytelling is great, everything else is pretty average, decent enough to make you play all the way through. It doesn’t really have that WOW factor that will make you fall in love with it off the bat. If anything, The Outer Worlds is very much worth a purchase on sale so if you managed to take advantage of the recently concluded Black Friday sale, then you’ve got a good game just waiting to be played.