Fallout and Mass Effect. Those two franchises hold a legendary reputation (generally) throughout the industry and are revered by fans the world over. However, in the last several years, their reputation has been tarnished with less than stellar entries while their developers, Bioware and Bethesda, have faced backlash as well. Enter Obsidian Games, developers of classic Western RPGs for decades including Fallout 1 and 2. Ever since Outer Worlds was first shown, fans were hoping it would fill the choice-driven RPG void in the industry. Fortunately, it has done just that.
The Outer Worlds begins with you, the main protagonist, being awoken out of cryo-sleep by a mysterious stranger. You are then presented with a deep character creation suite that is typical of Western RPGs (for which I love them). Right away you are given the sense that you can approach the game many different ways. Thankfully, while your initial choices are meaningful, they don’t fully define your path as you will unlock a wealth of skill points in your travels and can adjust your character’s focus over time.
Those travels will take you to a few planets within the Halcyon system. Far from Earth, the Halcyon system is representative of capitalism run amok. Corporations own and run everything, workers are paid too little and are worked too hard, and The Board oversees it all with complete authority. Your task? You’re to take down the board and crack through the ruthless capitalism for the average joe. That is, if you so choose.
Player choice is often spoken about by developers promoting their games and yet, we all know that far too often your choices are generally meaningless in the outcome of the story or mission arc. One of the aspects I enjoyed most in The Outer Worlds is that the options presented to the player are not only vast, but absolutely meaningful. You have the capability of changing the world around you and there are very few scenarios which you can’t approach from several different angles. And many times through the game I was presented with a decision that I honestly had trouble making. The weight of your decisions has that level of impact on the NPCs you meet.
Accompanying you are several companions that you can either embrace fully or disregard entirely. If you want to play the game completely solo, have at it. My suggestion however, at least for your first playthrough, is to embrace your companions. Their personalities are fully fleshed out and their quests are some of the best in the game. I truly enjoyed spending time with Pavarti, Max, and Ellie in particular. Not since Mass Effect have I felt this level of attachment to companions. More than anything else, they made me reminisce about some of Bioware’s classics.
From the main characters, to your companions, and everyone you meet along the way, the writing in The Outer Worlds is simply superb. The team at Obsidian deserves to take a bow as they were able to take the game’s subject matter and manage to make it serious, charming, and comical all at the same time. When combined with the player’s ability to manage dialog and play the role of hero, asshole, or everything in between, it’s truly a feat to behold. When you factor in player choice, the writing that goes along with the choices, and the results of those choices, I would argue that The Outer Worlds is close to the pinnacle we’ve seen in the genre.
For a new IP, The Outer Worlds does a ton right, but it’s not without fault. Technically, there are a few hiccups here and there. The framerate can struggle at times and while some of the vistas are gorgeous, it’s not a graphical powerhouse. The ability to improve weapons and armor is welcome, but outside of some hilarious special weapons, variety could be improved. And most importantly, the need to use different weaponry is almost non-existent. The game is generally quite easy and even when played on difficult, you can get through with a handful of weapons. The same holds true for the items in the game. You’ll spend a lot of time picking up food and items and even after full completion with nearly every single side quest, I had rarely used any. The game simply isn’t designed in a way that you’ll need to (unless possibly playing on Supernova difficulty which the vast majority won’t).
In the end, The Outer Worlds is one of my favorite new IPs of this generation. It brought back to the forefront the choice-driven RPG and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The possibilities for future iterations are endless and with the talented Obsidian now having the backing of Xbox Game Studios, I’m already dreaming of what we could see next generation. Bioware and Bethesda…please take note.