The Outer Worlds, developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Private Division, makes one thing abundantly clear right from the start. This is the type of RPG we expect from Obsidian and it isn’t just a Fallout clone. Instead, The Outer World takes a “Skip Drive” to the future and throws the player into the furthest edge of the galaxy, and keeps you there and our The Outer Worlds review will explain why.
Check out the game’s launch trailer before I continue with our The Outer Worlds review.
Lightyears from Earth, you are unfrozen and woken up on a colonist ship, decades after you were supposed to arrive in the Halcyon colony, controlled by corporations. The first character you meet is Phineas Welles, the quirky and somewhat crazy scientist that wants you to save the colony and the colonists (filled with brilliant minds from Earth) on The Hope. Thrown into an exotic planet called Terra 2, your journey begins and at the start, it might seem a bit confusing.
Things are not what you expected to find in the Halcyon colony and everything is under the control of the Halcyon Holdings Corporate Board. People are suffering and the working class are treated like animals, while many of them still seem very much thankful to the corporations for their situation.
I won’t spoil any major plot points for you about the story introduction, as it is a well-paced sci-fi romp with so much personality that it is absolutely unforgettable. It is your journey and you can decide what to do with your second chance and your time in the Halcyon colony.
Obsidian Entertainment threw some extremely tough choices my way after just a few hours into the game. Should I help workers, who even had to pay for upkeep on their own graves, or should I side with a corporation for more Bits (the game’s currency), break the trust of my companions or help them in their own personal quests? Everything is up to the player and very few choices felt easy, which is just brilliant writing in my opinion.
The characters you meet along the way, from six possible companions to your ship (named The Unreliable) and the AI called Ada within all have some humorous anecdotes to throw your way and you can speak to all of them to build a relationship.
These relationships, as well as the ones you have with the corporations, etch out your path in Halcyon but that’s not all.
At the end of the game, the effects of all your big decisions become known and due to some of my rash decisions in the first playthrough, I couldn’t help but play the game again.
The Outer Worlds also adapts to the choices you make and without spoiling anything, I want to give you an example. I was tasked with sneaking into a certain building and speaking to an important NPC. However, I accidentally shot the guard in the face, which turned the faction against me. Instead of speaking to the NPC, I went in guns blazing, so the game changed and adapted with my choices.
My quest was to loot his body instead of trying to convince him to do something. This also cut out part of the main quest where he would have asked me for a favour in return for what I wanted. In short: player choices in The Outer Worlds actually mean something and they carry weight, not only for yourself but for the entire colony.
I’ve talked a lot about player choice and how well the game delivers this in our The Outer Worlds review so far. However, it is the world(s) and the lore that really got me hooked. The lore is so well thought out that it almost felt real in a way, thanks to all the small details. For example, every corporation has a jingle and I couldn’t help but hum “It’s not the best choice, it’s the Spacer’s Choice” while in the shower. The aforementioned jingle is for a corporation focusing on budget products for the colony.
Then, we have a plethora of snacks from various corporations, posters about fictional films (some of which I wished were real) like Titus Androiticus from the director of Agent Khan and Island of Murder, as well as wines, cigarettes and everyone else you can possibly think of, not to mention Halcyon’s sport, Tossball. It even has its own, science-based religion and Law help you if you cross a Viccar with a troubled past.
Obsidian Entertainment has built a world worth living in with what almost feels like an overkill of lore to keep the player interested in the roughly 32-hour experience. This brings me to the areas of The Outer Worlds. There are only two big planets to explore in their open worlds, alongside a handful of other areas from a massive space station to an asteroid. If you only follow the main quest, you might not even see all the areas.
There are a few small issues for me in the design of the open world planets, as there aren’t as much to find and explore as I would have liked. Further, there are only a handful of species on each planet, which was a bit of a letdown.
However, the gameplay is simply great and again, this is all thanks to player choice. You can stealth your way through areas or go in guns blazing. You can hack terminals to disable security or open doors, or you can lie to or persuade NPCs to let you in (or out) of an area. There are disguises thanks to a nifty device that you can use via an NPCs ID card, multiple paths to take and more. I went with a combat-focused build coupled with dialogue options, which brings me to the general gunplay.
The game’s combat feels great and all the guns are unique. These guns can be modded to suit your personal playstyle, from silencer mods to scopes and a lot more. With four weapon slots to fill, you can always have a variety of weapons at your disposal from plasma rifles to flamethrowers, revolvers (to channel your inner Malcolm Reynolds and become a space cowboy) to your standard assault rifles just for good measure.
There’s also some awesome science weapons to be found, for example, a gun that shrinks the enemy down or causes them to float in the air while taking electrical damage.
Thanks to you being frozen for such a long period of time, you can also now slow down time with the Time Dilation mode allowing you to target weak spots on enemies, or close the distance if you prefer going with one of the many melee weapon types. It is all very solid and there are a lot of systems at play, from blocking with melee weapons to ranged weapon recoil, bullet spread and more.
The inventory management system isn’t perfect either and I found it difficult to sort through everything. Improving a weapon or armour on the workbench or adding mods were also a bit of a chore since I couldn’t see which of the armour I had equipped or my companions had equipped while modifying or “tinkering” with them. It feels a bit clunky and inventory navigation took a while to get used to, especially since you have to provide your companions with better gear every few levels as well to keep them effective in combat.
How well you fare in combat depends on the skills you choose to invest in. Every level you gain 10 skill points which you can spend on a variety of specializations, from dialogue options to ranged combat, melee combat, medical knowledge, engineering, sneaking and a few others. However, every skill is still useful in combat as well, for example, increasing your dialogue skills also has other effects, such as enemies cowering when you starting firing your weapon.
This makes every single build in the game viable and combined with perks from Time Dilation effectiveness to more carry weight or health, the character progression is truly a melting pot for creative builds. Lastly, there’s also Flaws, which you pick up after performing certain actions, for example using your Inhaler a tonne of times. You can choose to accept a flaw for an additional perk point, such as the one you can see below.
So far, I’ve mostly praised the game but The Outer Worlds isn’t without some minor issues. Although the game is nearly bug-free (I ran into one bug in 37 hours) and looks and plays extremely well, there are quite a lot of loading screens. For example, if you want to head into a small town in an open world-like planet, you have to sit through one, drop off a quest, then sit through another one. Even entering some relatively small buildings will invoke the time-consuming wrath of a loading screen.
Then, there are the companions. While their personal quests are great, they also have a special ability you can tell them to use. When a special ability is used, for example, Nyoka firing her machinegun, you just sit there and look at her scream. These little scenes get tiresome after a while and offer no variety; and when used, the camera also bugs out at times as you can see below.
The game is also way, way too easy on Normal difficulty, so much so that I would suggest anyone who has ever played a shooter or an RPG before to turn the difficulty up to “Hard” right from the start. In normal difficulty, which I generally review games in, I didn’t die a single time, even when accidentally shooting someone and a whole town turned against me.
While this might not be a popular opinion or maybe sound a bit elitist, the only real challenge is in the game’s Supernova difficulty and I truly think this is the way the game should be played. Supernova difficulty adds survival elements (eating, drinking, sleeping) as well as limited saves, a lot more damage and health on enemies and even that companions can permanently die. After playing the first five hours of the game in my second playthrough with Supernova difficulty, the game’s combat mechanics and various systems from blocking to double-tap dodging all started to shine.
Lastly, and this isn’t really a negative, is that it is clear in the story and the characters that Obsidian Entertainment are sharing their sociopolitical opinions through some social commentary via the game’s characters and setting. From the plight of the workers to relationships and the word of warning about corporations becoming too powerful, as well as social classes, it is clear there is a deeper message in The Outer Worlds.
However, the game doesn’t force this down your throat and the story and lore are so well done with these topics that I really didn’t care at all if there was a message behind all this. Best of all, the game doesn’t punish you for making the “wrong” decision, which is admirable.
The Outer Worlds might not be the best game Obsidian Entertainment has ever created (this is up for debate), but it is the Spacer’s Choice and that’s all there is to it. The game shines in so many aspects, giving the player freedom to do what they want, kill anyone they please (bar one) and most of all, it will keep you hooked from start to finish with excellent storytelling, interesting environments and character building, not to mention a tonne of loot to experiment with.
The Outer Worlds is one of the few games that I instantly started playing again after the end credits and I plan to finish it at least one more time. The game isn’t just Fallout New Vegas in space, even though that would be a massive compliment. It stands on its own two feet and even with some flaws mentioned in this review, it is an RPG that you definitely shouldn’t miss out on.
This The Outer Worlds review was based on a review code sent to us by Private Division.
Available On: PC, PS4 & Xbox One | Reviewed On: PS4 Pro | Release date: 25 October 2019 | Price: R865
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