The Outer Worlds is a first-person view action-RPG developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Private Division. You awaken from your cryostasis in the Halcyon colony. But it doesn’t quite match the brochure. Corporate greed has run amok and now it is up to you to take back the Halcyon colony and free the people from unending toil at the hands of their corporate overlords.
The Outer Worlds takes very strong inspiration from some classic gaming series. By blending the combat and character creator of Fallout with the narrative and game structure of the Mass Effect trilogy. The Outer Worlds crafts something that can appeal to a wide range of players. But even though there is a strong resemblance to these series, the game is not a cheap knock off. It takes what works and adds its own flavors to create something wholly its own.
When the player awakens from the cryostasis they are introduced to the world of Halcyon. The board of directors of the Halcyon Holding Corporation, referred to as “The Board,” has a stranglehold on the colony. It’s a world where being unemployed is one of the greatest crimes someone can commit. Workers work seven days a week rarely have access to company medical aid. It is the worst excesses of the late 1800’s industrial boom, but with a shiny coat of space paint. But, despite all that, it’s still a blast to be there. This is due to the fantastic cast of characters the player gets to interact with.
The Outer Worlds oozes personality. From the moment Phineas Welles explains why he’s awoken you from cryo to the moment the credits roll. This game personifies cool. Even the A.I. interface on your ship, ADA, has some memorable moments. As your party grows it becomes more varied and exciting. From Victor Max, who seeks to unravel the secrets of the grand interstellar Equation, to naive mechanic Pavarti, they are all unique, memorable characters. The game even goes out of its way to make many of the stuffier characters likable when the situation permits it. This approach to the characters allows the overall situation in The Outer Worlds to be grim and dark, without it becoming depressing.
And just as varied as the personalities that inhabit The Outer Worlds is the number of ways you can approach experiencing it. The game designers have unleashed a master class of player choices into the world. Whether you want to talk, fight, or sneak your way through Halcyon, the game will let you do it. My personal favorite skill option was the leadership skill. By investing points into leadership, you improve your allies to the point where they will fight battles for you. This skill area also serves as an excellent way to help new players into the genre as it alleviates the need to have great aim to fight your way through the encounters. Though there are perks a player can take that aid them if they go it alone. In case they want a harder challenge.
The final aspect of combat that needs highlighting is the time dilation system. Due to your character’s prolonged cryostasis they have gained the ability to slow the passage of time. This allows the player brief windows when they can take a bit of extra time lining up their shots. This ability doesn’t last extremely long and does take a little bit to recharge. However, there are upgrades you can unlock for it. These decrease the recharge time and increse the players movement speed while using the ability to increase it’s lethality.
Along with combat, there is also an extremely heavy social element to The Outer Worlds. The player’s choices outside of combat are arguably more important than what they do once the bullets start flying. Player choice can have long-reaching effects on the Halcyon colony. To be able to make the best choices, players will need to invest skill points in social abilities. These abilities will open up dialogue options for the player. Whether you persuade, intimidate, or flat out lie, enough fast talk can get a person really far when dealing with the minions of The Board.
One area that doesn’t have as much choice as players might expect lies in the weapon variety. While there are five different categories of weapons, the vast majority of them feel fairly bland. With most copies of a gun having identical stats to every other copy of the gun you pick up, players expecting another weapon loot fest in the vein of Borderlands 3, or virtually every other modern shooter on the market, will be disappointed.
However, I loved this design choice. Not feeling compelled to look at every gun available to compare stats was liberating. And even though you might not find a ton of weapon variety, the game still gives you plenty to do with all those guns you will pick up. From breaking them down for repair parts to modifying the weapons you do use with mods picked up across the game, you still feel engaged with your gear. You just aren’t expected to constantly sift through them.
The visual design in The Outer Worlds is another reason the game remains fun and unique. The visuals really feel like you are in the far flung reaches of space. Bizarre alien creatures and strange landscapes abound across the several habited worlds of Halcyon. The only thing that feels at all familiar is the areas where humanity has built itself up. And even that often feels a little different. As structure and design have changed to adapt to the alien environments.
With all the goodness poured into The Outer Worlds there are only a small number of missteps that mire the experience. One of the most egregious failures concerns its handling of text as the various fonts used range from passable to straight out frustrating. I often found the text to be too small or because of the lack of background, I was unable to distinguish it from what was behind it. Similar problems exist with the small fluorescent green arrow that points out your next goal. I frequently had to purposely pan the camera away from where I was headed so I could pick it up at the edge of the screen n follow it to where it was pointing.
The biggest all-around omission to me though was the lack of a mini-map in The Outer Worlds. Having to bounce in and out of my menu repeatedly to navigated multi-storied buildings became downright tedious at times. And given how clearly the location you are headed for is marked on the main map, they weren’t concerned with you having to figure your own way there.
The last place I feel this game falls a little short with is how much they use their amazing cast. After major story beats, I found myself wanting to talk to my crew to find out how they felt about the development. Sadly, they often had nothing to say. Whether this was due to the vast number of ways players could play through the game, or just not an area the developers chose to pursue I can’t say. But it feels like a miss. And while it’s a credit to them that they designed characters I wanted to talk with this much, I can’t help but feel like they failed where this genre staple is concerned.
There is also an area of The Outer Worlds some might feel is a flaw that comes in the choice to not make the game open world. I personally feel that keeping the game as a series of large enclosed areas was the right way to go. This allows the developers to incorporate numerous different types of terrain into the game. This further expands upon the character of people you meet. As people from different worlds and environments have very distinct looks and feels. All this would be a much harder sell if the entire game took place on a huge open-world map. And personally, I don’t miss all the slogging from place to place open worlds always entail anyway.
Overall The Outer Worlds is an experience I cannot recommend enough. With its breadth of player choice and equally diverse cast there is sure to be something here for the majority of gamers. With a roughly 30 hour playtime, and loads of replayability there is plenty of bang for the buck. A few small stumbles shouldn’t stop many gamers from experiencing all the Halcyon colony has to offer.
The Outer Worlds is available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox, and Xbox Game Pass now. It’s also scheduled to come to Nintendo Switch in 2020.
The Outer Worlds
- Rating - 9.5/109.5/10
Overall The Outer Worlds is an experience I cannot recommend enough. With its breadth of player choice, and equally diverse cast there is sure to be something here for the majority of gamers.