If you’re interested in playing The Outer Worlds you’ve undoubtedly noticed similarities with Bethesda’s Fallout franchise. Those similarities are not that surprising when considering Obsidian, the developer of The Outer Worlds, also worked on the critically acclaimed Fallout: New Vegas. Add games like Pillars of Eternity and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II to that track record and you’re quick to understand why people got their hopes up for The Outer Worlds. Whether or not those hopes are being fulfilled now the game is out remains to be seen. During this review, we’ll provide you with our two cents. Keep on reading to find out more about our adventurous travels within the Halcyon Colony!
That undeniable, Fallout DNA.
I’ve long struggled whether or not it’s a fair thing to do to compare The Outer Worlds with the Fallout games. Clearly, the game is its own unique experience and you wouldn’t compare, say, Mass Effect with Fallout either. However, the similarities are so striking that you simply can’t deny there’s some of that Fallout DNA buried deep within. The marketing around The Outer Worlds doesn’t really try to hide any of that either as it states key-personnel of the original Fallout games (before Bethesda obtained the rights) worked on this game. I think games like Fallout and Skyrim have set the bar when it comes to western RPGs in general. Something that many consider a ‘standard’. The question here remains whether or not The Outer Worlds manages to raise that bar. My answer to that question would be: slightly.
The Outer Worlds is published by Take-Two’s Private Division, a label introduced specifically to fund indie games and other projects developed by small or mid-sized studios. It’s commonly assumed these projects are too ambitious to be crowdfunded but too confined for large budgets. As a result, some concessions have to be made. For The Outer Worlds, that means large open-world maps are being traded for more confined, dense and varied locales the player can explore. A much welcoming change as often players are tasked way too much with traveling from point A to B in these types of games. However, the maps vary in size and the further you proceed in the story the more they are starting to become connected. During my playthrough, this worked much better than I originally anticipated. After finishing up all the quests in one area I often had plenty of reasons to go back to an area I already visited. What’s great about this is that eventually, you’ll start to feel acquainted.
But that’s about as deep as the immersion goes. Because the game fails to deliver its narrative in an engaging way, the player is simply thrown in the deep. It expects you to get familiar with the factions and influential people yourself and until late in the game the main narrative seems to take a back seat.
The premise of the game’s simple, yet effective. The player wakes up aboard a large spaceship filled with clever individuals. All these individuals have been cryogenically frozen in order to arrive at the Halcyon Colony. These individuals are meant to aid the colony in order to prosper, as it’s being ruled by large companies. An assumed terrorist (or idealistic scientist, your choice) by the name of Phineas sends you on your way to aid him waking up these individuals from their cryo sleep. Whether or not you help him, is up to you, the player.
As soon as the story does start to uncover, you’re by far more invested in your companions. In total, you’ll be able to recruit six companions and just like Mass Effect 2, each of them has a quest more interesting than the main narrative. While their backstory and quest might be highlights in the game, the motivation of these characters to join your crew is not. In many cases, it just feels rushed. Parvati, your engineer, joins simply because she is being told to by her boss. Felix, a rogue, is simply waiting for you at your ship. Sam, a cleaning machine with a killing habit, is missing a spare part that’s hard to overlook.
These characters are all a worthy addition to the team, with each and every single one of them also contributing to various of your skills if you take them with you. However, for a game that allows you to freely steer your adventure the way you see fit, these characters are thrown almost literally aboard.
When reading the above comments you’d be quick to summarize my experience with The Outer Worlds as a bad one. That, luckily, certainly isn’t the case. What the game lacks in depth it makes up with great music, atmosphere, voice acting, quest design, and humor. Yes, The Outer Worlds is filled to the brim with dark and witty humor and, at times, will manage to make you giggle. And hey, you get to shoot some epic guns too!
and the depth.
The gameplay in The Outer Worlds is solid as a rock. Apart from great shooting and traversing mechanics, the dialogue featured in The Outer Worlds is of a quality that’s out of this world (get it?). Really, often the dialogue options perfectly managed to encapsulate what I personally would have expressed. The game is also incredibly accessible. While all its perks and customization options might come across as daunting, those can easily be tossed aside if you’re not much into that. I quickly learned that upgrading my persuasive skills would allow me to be successful in most quests. And with gradually investing in – what I saw as most important- skills, I allowed myself to progress through the game like a breeze. Some might say perhaps a bit too easy for an RPG of this magnitude, but for me, it was a relaxing experience.
The Outer Worlds is a game that’s bold enough to challenge the status quo. While it doesn’t bring anything revolutionary to the table, it shows that Obisidian is more than capable of taking on Bethesda when it comes to building solid RPGs. While it might not transcend Fallout just yet, it certainly is not a lesser experience. The game’s narrative and pacing might leave us yawing for improvement, much of the rest the game has to offer is contributing to a solid base for a rather enjoyable experience.