There’s an entire solar system out there on the fringe edge of the galaxy. A collection of worlds in a Goldilocks zone, starving and calling out for a hero. In The Outer Worlds, that hero is you. A nameless face from another era, salvation in a spacesuit and filling your hand with iron as you set out to save the day and countless lives from a universe that is buckling under the weight of something far more vicious and merciless than roving gangs of Marauders and hostile alien life forms: Unlimited bureaucracy. It’s up to you to be the hero of The Outer Worlds.
Or you could choose to be an absolute bastard.
Yes sir, Obsidian Entertainment is back with a game that may not be original in any department, but it just so happens to be slick and polished enough to stand out in the areas that truly do matter. In a solar system that is equal parts Fallout with a 1930s art deco vibe and a whole lot of talking. On the surface, The Outer Worlds looks like an action role-playing game on a budget, one which looks like it would fit in perfectly with a late 2000s release slate. A weakness for any other game, but a surprising quality for Obsidian’s trek towards the stars.
Make no mistake, The Outer Worlds is an old game at heart. There’s nary a quick-time event to ruin an animation sequence, its gunplay feels familiar and every character in the game looks like a second-year art class sculpture that has been cursed with life. At the same time, it’s refreshing to hop into an adventure that doesn’t throw an advert to purchase a season pass straight into your gaping maw. It’s delightful to jaunt around various planets, encounter a grisly death and not be reminded that you’d do marginally better if you bought an experience points booster.
Hell, the only battle royale you’ll find here is between you and an entire planet’s worth of hostile Mantis creatures that want to wear your face as a scarf once they’re done sucking the marrow from your bones. That archaic sense of adventure isn’t without some caveats though. The worlds in the outer rim of the galaxy may be varied, but there’s only so much terrain to cover with some zones being small arenas within which to grab a few side missions and hop along on your merry way.
Likewise, prepare for loading screens for days in The Outer Worlds. Whether you’re hopping between planets, your spaceship or subterranean lairs, there’s a loading screen between each section that’ll sell you on the idea of throwing down cash for an SSD next-gen console in a heartbeat. On the gameplay side, you’re looking at an experience which is about as solid as Bauhaus architecture but won’t add anything new outside of a neat little time dilation ability which can give you an edge in combat as the ebb and flow of reality slows to a crawl.
All of that on its own, would make for an acceptable game, a passable if hardly noteworthy experience. Until you dig into the character development of The Outer Worlds.
After spending around 30 hours inside the game, I’ve begun to realise that I may not be the nicest person around. I’ve tricked a haughty heiress into certain death by telling her that a retirement village full of murder-bots was perfectly safe. I’ve sold out my allies, doomed entire villages to a gruesome demise and even threatened a pensioner with grievous bodily harm unless she coughed up some coin for my hard work investigating the demise of her son.
Who’s totes fine by the way, I just helped fake his death so that I could get some currency. And then I went back to him, murdered him and stole all his belongings for a double payday. If there’s one thing that The Outer Worlds truly excels at, it’s that freedom to paint between the lines of morality and carve your own story throughout its lengthy tale of a colony that is desperately trying to survive.
You can be the scalpel that performs surgery between various opposing factions, cutting away cancers with expert precision as you wheel and deal between sides to come out on top. You can be the blunt force hammer if you wish, terrorising towns and dealing with the consequences later because everyone is a target in The Outer Worlds. Whether they’re a prime mark for goodwill or your undeserved wrath, is up to you.
Thrown into the mix of all this, is a layer of personality that is woven throughout the inhabitants of The Outer Worlds. NPCs are more than just quest-givers, they’re characters who you can converse with as you dig deeper into the mystery of the colonies. They’re pragmatic pencil-pushers who know that certain necessary evils need to be executed for the greater good, they’re idealistic dreamers who want a better tomorrow and they’re renegades looking to expose the truth.
Between you and the populace, are your companions as well. Battle-hardened hunters and stargazing dreamers who aren’t afraid to call you out on your nonsense, characters who are more than just mere pack mules for the long journey ahead. While you’re able to invest experience points earned into stat boosts, additional skill boosts and flaws (Usually a monkey’s paw feature that sees you take higher damage from various sources in exchange for more perks), they’re also an essential part of your journey and add to your survival odds in the grand scheme of things.
That’s what The Outer Worlds is. Nothing new or revolutionary, but a return to form for a genre that has lost its way. It’s a game about choice and consequences, a tale that feels deeply unique to anyone who plays it and wants you to come back and try other avenues so that you can see all of the multiple endings hidden deep inside of it. The Outer Worlds doesn’t need to rewrite the book on what it wants to be, because it’s already comfortable in its own skin. It’s your favourite pair of shoes, well worn and showing some sign of age but still more than capable of taking you where you want to go.
Last Updated: October 22, 2019