The Outer Worlds Review
Developed by Obsidian Entertainment, The Outer Worlds is a first-person experience like no other. While it’s easy to see a number of features inspired by similar titles like Skyrim, Borderlands, and of course Fallout, the end result is a highly addictive and unique adventure. As a survivor from the colony ship, Hope, which had its skip drive malfunction en route to the Halcyon system, the game begins with your rescue at the hands of eccentric scientist Phineas Welles. Phineas has enlisted your help to awaken the rest of the settlers from the Hope as a means of overthrowing the Board; the coalition of corporations who own and operate every facet of life on the frontier.
Most open-world games love to tout their customization features, but while The Outer Worlds takes a more streamlined approach to your physical gear – giving you only a full suit and headgear to choose from – it is more than made up for it in its incredibly versatile and easy to use stat system. We have seen games feature lockpicking or diplomacy stats before, but this is the first time it has ever felt important to your character’s development. Dialogue and mission-critical options will require specific stats, which in turn reflect your character. Want to hack someone’s terminal for critical info? You better have a high hacking skill or find another way to get it. Don’t think you can go into that fort guns blazing? If your lockpicking is high enough you can sneak in the back. Every stat provides new options and every mission has multiple ways it can play out, not to mention the true wildcard of the game: you.
There Goes The Neighborhood
With The Outer Worlds, Obsidian has handed you the keys to the Halcyon system and given you the freedom to do what you wish. Do you want to be a stealthy assassin? A diplomat? How about a moronic, raging psychopath? In one save I’ve been playing as a scoundrel with a heart of gold who happens to be morally flexible. His crew is loyal and it’s mostly honest work. Mostly. In another, however, I went for a purely melee build of a completely enraged individual that wanted to destroy everything. I chose the most brutal and mean-spirited dialogue options, and when someone said something I didn’t like, I immediately killed them with my blade. Every NPC in the game is killable and will not come back. I did find that new characters popped up for mission-critical dialogue, but anyone killed is going to remain dead. As we speak, Edgewater is now a ghost town and I feel pretty guilty about that…
Speaking of dialogue, this has been the most well written and deeply satisfying game I have played in ages. Every character feels like a real person, and your responses in conversation aren’t relegated to basic “good or bad” choices. Instead, each response can be sarcastic, earnest, heart-felt, rude, aggressive, and so much more. I greatly encourage you to choose not what you feel is the “best” answer, but what your character would say in the situation. That is how The Outer Worlds truly amazing storytelling comes into play, by the interactions you choose for what you want out of the game.
Tension and Suspense
There are three mechanics to gameplay in The Outer Worlds that have really made it stand out for me. The first is the Medical Inhaler. While Adreno will be your standard go-to health supply, the medical inhaler can unlock up to four slots in which you can stack any healing inhalant. This makes it so when you use the inhaler, it will use one of each item simultaneously. I currently have mine equipped with Adreno and Ollie-Ollie-Toxifree which cures all status ailments, but there are plenty of options that can buff your reload or movement speed, damage output, and more. Phineas has also created a Holographic Imager for you. If you can find a biometric keycard, the holographic imager will disguise you and your allies when in a restricted area, however, it is only good for a limited amount of movement. These are tense moments where you have to be careful and choose your steps wisely, although if you are caught you can lie your way out of a situation up to three times. And finally – and most simply – you’ll have unlimited stamina! Sprint to your heart’s content.
I am not one to play RPGs with companions, but The Outer Worlds is on another level entirely. The crew you can build each have their own colorful backstory, depth, and individual missions to complete. You’ll be able to take any two crew members with you on missions and their unique skills will add to your own. I needed to repair a broken security bot but my engineering skill was far too low. Luckily my absolute favorite companion, Parvati, was with me and her significant skills with a wrench meant she could fix it for me. When talking to key characters your companions will chime in and add to the conversation, often acting as a moral compass or offering advice on the situation. While a small addition, it adds so much to building your crew into a family. Companions will even have conversations with one another while wandering around based on the events of the game. The Outer Worlds has options to play it without a crew but I can’t imagine losing these amazing characters. Did I also mention their AI in combat can be adjusted to suit your needs? Or that you can walk right through them so you’ll never get stuck in a door somewhere? These companions alone make The Outer Worlds a stellar experience.
You’ve Got Options, Lots of Them
Surviving the frontier means knowing how to fight, and The Outer Worlds has combat that simply feels great. All ranged weapons will use light, heavy, or energy ammo which you can find in abundance. You’ll have four slots to equip weapons that range from handgun, to shotgun, to assault rifle, and more. Guns of a similar ammo type will share from that ammo pool, so the smart move is to carry a variety of weapons for each situation. Melee weapons also feature a large selection of options – you can even beat your enemies to death with a shovel if you like. All weapons can be modded and upgraded with elemental attacks and your typical RPG fare. There are hundreds of combinations to choose from to suit your style of gameplay, and freedom of choice really is the name of the game. I love having a plasma pistol and sniper rifle, but maybe you want a minigun and three swords. Like the trailer says: You just keep being you.
From a technical aspect, The Outer Worlds is clearly gorgeous. Every planet has its own unique biome and plant life filled with rich, vibrant colors. Sometimes it’s easy to just get lost wandering the world and see what there is to uncover. There are some texture or frame rate drops from time to time after a loading screen but it fixes itself quickly. The polish itself feels better than Fallout 4 yet still a little dated at times. That’s not saying it’s bad, but gameplay doesn’t always line up with what we have seen in the trailers thus far. The Outer Worlds also uses a new hindrance system in which you can develop phobias and other impediments based on the events that take place in exchange for free perk points. These include a fear of robots, being squishy from taking too much damage, and even a fear of heights after surviving a high fall. It’s up to you if the reward is worth losing a few stats.
The Outer Worlds is a first-person shooter like no other. Offering an open world sandbox in which the entire game is your play-thing, I was easily sucked in and didn’t want to leave. Obsidian has stated it can be completed between 15-40 hours and I can’t imagine completing it so quickly with so many things to do. With full character development, a wonderful companion system, and a spirit all its own, The Outer Worlds is everything I had hoped it would be and more. From the excellent writing to the beautiful environments, each new world is vast enough to feel expansive without being desolate and wasted space. The gameplay and combat is fantastic and handles great, with the only downside being its occasional dip in frame rate or issues loading textures. The Outer Worlds fulfills the promise every other RPG makes of putting you in control and I can’t wait to try the game over and over again with different styles and tactics.
**PS4 code provided by the publisher**
- Great Controls
- Fantastic Dialogue
- Rich Characters And Companions
- Do And Be Anything
- Fun Combat
- Frame Rate And Texture Dips
- Limited Armor Customization