Sometimes I sit and wonder about what our existence will be like in 200, or 300 years’ time. When you consider the rate of technological advancement over the past century alone, it’s easy to let your imagination run wild, picturing colonies in solar systems far away, Millennium Falcon-esque ships transporting us at break-neck speed across the galaxy. After that, you see the colourful Google logo plastered onto the side, with Mark Zuckerberg’s unmoving face projected on huge displays around every corner, watching as you return home from your 16-hour shift. Not enough money for food today, that will have to wait until tomorrow. Maybe even the day after. Big Brother is watching.
That’s the kind of future we see depicted in The Outer Worlds. Colonies of humans have spread across the solar system known as Halcyon, but find themselves trapped under the mind-numbing control of various corporations. The story begins as Phineas Fogg Wells awakens you from a 70-year cryogenic slumber, assigning you the grand task of aiding the revival of all the others who sleep in the same state. He’s a proper mad scientist, but you can’t blame him for wanting to rid their lives of the corporations that have assumed the role of God.
After you’ve given your character some plastic surgery in true RPG style, you’re dropped into Edgewater to begin your journey. Here, you witness first-hand the neglected life Spacer’s Choice, amongst others, have created for the human race. There are Outlaws sprinkled around the place, alongside groups of deserters who have had enough of the oppression and try to make a life for themselves outside of the city walls. In Edgewater in particular, you’re asked to make a morality choice pretty early on; do you force one of these deserter groups back into the city, removing the power they are receiving from one of the power stations to work every hour they can muster for the good of the company? Or, do you leave them be, leaving Edgewater understaffed, really needing that extra power for themselves?
Of course, this is but one example. The main quest is easy to follow, but if you agree to help everyone you talk to, you’ll have a good smattering of side quests to keep you busy. Your ship acts as your home base as you jet around Halcyon, with most of the choices you have to make either working as corporate HR (a lot more violent than any HR I’ve ever dealt with), or freedom fighter. Although, the side you pick is frequently not as easy as it sounds as I write it here.
The main comparison that The Outer Worlds has been drawn up against is Bethesda’s Fallout series, particularly New Vegas. And it’s no surprise, either, seeing as Obsidian developed that particular entry, and the two directors were both creators of the franchise originally. Outer Worlds isn’t as open and vast as what you would expect from a Bethesda game, though.
That’s certainly no bad thing in this case, and each world you visit has its own splendour to take in. The enemies you must take care of are pretty much the same across them all, however, and combat is pretty so-so. There’s the aforementioned Outlaws, as well as various types of monsters milling about the place, along with mechanical sentries and other evil robots. You can use stealth to avoid combat should you so wish, or if you’ve run out of ammo, resigned to searching for a very loud and obnoxious vending machine to purchase from before continuing on with your quests. And killing baddies.
The vending machines also provide other useful wares, so it’s always worth checking in with them when you encounter one. So is looting and foraging; I wanted to complete my Marauder armour set so off I went to murder every Marauder I could find to strip their corpses of valuables.
As you’d expect, doing all of this lets you rank up, and up, and up, giving you points to unlock more perks and increase some of your abilities. I have been focusing on persuasion and science more than anything, so my weapon abilities have been taking a back seat. But doing this has made it easier to lie and convince other NPCs to divulge information to me, oftentimes making completing quests much simpler.
Weapons get the same treatment too, with upgrades available to make your wayward aim a little easier to take. Eventually, you’ll construct a little posse who will hang around with you on your ship. When you have enough, you can choose who to bring along with you and who stays behind when you alight on a particular planet. Each member also gets their own skill tree, with weapons you can give and take away from them. There’s some AI jankiness with them; when you’re stealthing around, very often they can walk directly in front of the enemy, only to not be noticed because they can’t actively see you. Hardly a deal breaker.
They can sometimes interject in conversations you have, occasionally helping to extract more information or provide some extra insight into Halcyon.
What The Outer Worlds isn’t is a 200-hour multi-galaxy sprawling RPG with hundreds upon hundreds of quests, unlocks, and environments to explore. But that’s not the game I was expecting anyway, and I have come away very impressed. Some may clamour for a little more variety, or more quests on certain planets, and I get that. On the whole, Obsidian have delivered a charming, cartoonish world with plenty of humour and activities to keep you busy over 35 hours or so.
The Outer Worlds (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
Obsidian could have easily fallen into the trap of creating a straight up Fallout clone, but the various planets in the Halcyon solar system and the types of quest available provides a good amount of variety, with excellent splashings of humour and moral dilemmas. It’s not breaking new ground, but it struts its stuff very well.