Developer: Obsidian Entertainment Publisher: Private Division
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch (2020)
Review Platform: PlayStation 4
The Outer Worlds introduces you to the Halcyon colony; with an intriguing sequence of events that captures your attention straight away. Your character has been floating in suspended animation on a derelict colony ship known as the Hope for 70 years, and the corporation in charge has decided to leave you there. Every single member of the Hope’s crew (full of the best and brightest the Earth sent into space), have been left to drift for eternity. Fortunately, your playable character is awakened from their slumber and is tasked with helping revive the rest of the crew.
At first glance the Halcyon colony looks like a cheerful and prospering system, but it doesn’t take long to see the underlining fear and oppression, the general populous are experiencing. The Outer Worlds brilliantly balances light-hearted themes, while an ominous “Orwellian” dynamic lingers over almost every aspect. Citizens will refuse to speak their mind as ‘the walls have ears’, those who print Wanted posters will be abducted for questioning in regards to the individuals on the posters they created, and those under corporate employment will finish sentences with company slogans in fear of punishment. This corporation run colony is menacing, and its influence limitless.
These totalitarian aspects make exploring The Outer Worlds incredibly tense, extremely interesting, and utterly horrifying. While I explored the initial town of Edgewater, talking to every character I could find, I came across a miserable story in the background of this community. An individual ended their life, and while any other corporation would support those affected by this, the corporation in charge instead expected the town to pay them for this tragedy. Every individual who works for the company is company property, and if you are maimed or injured, you will pay the price; quite literally.
The Outer Worlds succeeds at delivering these strong messages of corporate greed and lack of humanity incredibly well, due to offering some of the best writing I have experienced in recent memory. Each NPC with expanded dialog offers interesting information on the colony, the town, the man living down the road, or the planet itself. Every instance of dialog is interwoven perfectly, and hours would simply vanish as I found myself completely enthralled within this deep narrative. Better yet, this is no linear story, as your choices and actions have major consequences on situations. Ignoring optional objectives or simply being mean to others could potentially see groups go to war, individuals slaughtered, or societies collapse. Obsidian has created an outlandish, but grounded story that tackles important issues, and I absolutely loved it.
The brilliantly written dialog also appears throughout the plethora of side missions on offer, from the deadly serious, to the genuinely hilarious. The Outer Worlds offers a great range of emotions, with most of the comedic moments producing actual laugh out loud instances. The Outer Worlds doesn’t rely on cheap humour either, instead simply embracing the outlandish nature of the space lifestyle. I recall a small instance where I found my way into the back of a dining establishment, only to find a rotting dead body. When I confronted the robotic staff member about the corpse, the robot simply acknowledged that this was due to his user error; as the individual engaged the robot’s slicer, grinder, and tenderiser features all at once. These blink and you’ll miss it moments are scattered throughout every location in The Outer Worlds.
Each side quest feels incredibly personal, due the fact you can interact and alter the outcome of almost every instance. If a character is giving you a hard time, you can treat them just as bad or simply refuse to help them. The Outer Worlds never ties you down into these side missions, and allows you to decide which you complete, and which you ignore. I also loved the fact that most side missions are offered as rewards for talking with the population. Random interactions with small characters could potentially lead to new side missions, which would be completely missed if you hadn’t taken the time to interact with them. The Outer Worlds rewards those that decide to explore, and if you take the time to appreciate the world Obsidian has created, the world will appreciate you.
The Outer Worlds puts you at the helm of a spaceship called the Unreliable, where you will be able to recruit a handful of crew members. This crew almost rivals the squad of characters in Mass Effect 2, as each companion has their own goals, backstory and companion quest to discover. Gaming can often struggle to provide squad mates you actually care about, but not The Outer Worlds. I genuinely cared about every single member of my team, and whenever they expressed their opinions regarding the situation at hand, I stopped and listened. Your crew will not only express their opinions on your upcoming choices, but they will interact with other NPCs if they’ve dealt with them in the past. This makes the entire Halcyon colony feel like it has existed long before you arrived, and will continue too, long after you’re gone.
Each companion felt like a unique individual, and these distinct personalities are on full display during each companion quest. I absolutely loved these optional missions, as I was able to connect with each companion and understand them better upon completion. The companion quests and side missions on offer throughout The Outer Worlds are genuinely fantastic, and contain some of the best written characters of 2019.
As for your own character, you’re able to embody this individual from the very start. Players will have access to many facial options on offer, including a large range of hairstyles and colours to choose from. I created a character which was the spitting image of Bucky Barnes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he had a background in both medicine and engineering, but also specialised in using his charm to escape any situation. Due to my background choices, unique interactions would appear with certain characters, as Bucky would be able to dive deeper into medical and engineering conversations. The Outer Worlds appreciated my choices and allowed me to seamlessly roleplay as the character on screen, offering realistic conversation options due the choices I made.
These choices also carry over to combat scenarios, as my character had the gift of the gab; I was able to avoid firefights using my charm and intimidation. The Other Worlds also allows you to decide whether you tackle firefights with stealth, or guns blazing. As you grow your character to the level cap of 30, you can choose to specialise in any of these viable options. What I loved most about these gameplay options was the fact I could simply pick and choose my style as I played. While levelling up skills will certainly make certain playstyles easier to accomplish, they don’t restrict your options if you decide play differently. Your character can also have their stats rearranged if you want to specialise in an alternate playstyle using the Vocational Competence Respecification Machine, located on the Unreliable.
The Outer Worlds also delivers a solid moment to moment gameplay experience, when you are forced to battle enemies. The combat is faster than the Fallout series, but lacks the fluidity of motion when compared to the likes of Call of Duty. I played The Outer Worlds on standard difficulty and my one issue was the lack of challenge. While there are increased difficulty options, the enemies I faced throughout this difficulty were not the brightest bunch. Enemies would mostly stand in place shooting in my direction, or beeline towards me. I still enjoyed combat encounters due to the variety of weapons on offer and companion abilities, but don’t expect to face much challenge if playing on normal difficulty.
Weapons can also be customised with mods to offer different damage outputs, and upgrades. One of my favourite weapons was an axe with a chainsaw blade, which I had upgraded to produce plasma damage. It was extremely satisfying to sneak up on an enemy and swing my chainsaw axe, not only because the weapon would roar to life with the sound of a chainsaw, but because it had the ability to turn my enemies to a pile of ash after a successful execution. Every weapon can be altered to deliver different damage outputs, if you acquire the corresponding mod. If you really love a particular weapon, you can continue to upgrade and utilise mods to increase its power as you progress.
Your playable character also has the ability to slow down time, which is known as Tactical Time Dilation. Whilst similar to the well-known V.A.T.S. system found in the Fallout series, players have full control of where they aim and shoot; there are no percentages for error. I didn’t rely on this feature too often, but it was enjoyable to wipe out a band of 3 or 4 enemies within the space of a few seconds utilising TTD.
The Outer Worlds is visually stunning, with each and every planet you visit offering a unique visual identity. During your adventure you will visit planets with expansive mountain ranges, unnatural cliff formations, and even dense civilised establishments. Each planet utilises colour brilliantly, creating vibrant worlds that demand exploration. Walking through a lush valley, only to be greeted with a stunning night sky vista of striking colours never gets old, and almost every planet delivers this visual diversity. Even the creatures found on these planets are distinct from one another, featuring colours and designs that feel completely unnatural. It helps truly emphasise the fact you are exploring unknown worlds, lightyears away from the planet Earth.
The corporations within The Outer Worlds ensure every town is plastered with propaganda, and each and every piece has been created with care and consideration. Some pieces of propaganda are showcased during loading screens, but can also be found throughout these oppressed locations. These pieces are striking and powerful, not only because of the design, but because of the message they convey. Each corporation has their own unique style used to strike fear into the masses, alongside catchy slogans and uplifting theme songs. These help create a sense of fear when exploring towns, as the watchful eye of the corporations are always there. This is fantastic environmental storytelling, and helps explain why the individuals you interact with are so mindful of the words and actions they use daily.
After playing The Outer Worlds for over 40 hours, I am utterly impressed by the sheer size of the worlds on offer. Each location is densely filled with NPCs to interact with, houses to steal from, and enemies to encounter. Most impressively I experienced almost zero technical issues throughout my entire playthrough. While loading times do take longer than I’d like, it’s something I’m happy to deal with if it means the end product is so smooth. The Outer Worlds sets a high expectation to other open world RPGs launching in the future.
I absolutely adore The Outer Worlds, and as it stands, it is my current front-runner for Game of the Year 2019.
I found myself completely invested in the trepidation of the characters, the oppressive corporations, and the incredibly well written dialog. I couldn’t help but speak to every character, complete every side mission, and explore every inch of every world. I did this because I wanted to experience every ounce of enjoyment The Outer Worlds had to offer, and become as well-versed in this universe as I could.
The Outer Worlds is an incredible experience, and is easily one of the best games of 2019. Do yourself a favour and play The Outer Worlds; because it’s not the best choice, it’s the Spacer’s Choice.
The Score: 9.5
PlayStation 4 review code was provided by publisher.