The Outer Worlds feels like a throwback to old school Fallout, but with some topical issues and a couple of new tricks up its sleeve. It feels like a virtual theme park full of new adventures around every corner, and I’m totally hooked.
While I was expecting another expansive first-person roleplaying game with dialog trees, I was surprised how much I care about the characters and my interpersonal relationships with my crew. Every decision, whether it’s in the heat of combat or just during a conversation, feels like it has lasting impact on their lives.
Watch the video above to hear my thoughts and see how the game plays, or read the transcript below:
The Outer Worlds is Fallout in space, and it couldn’t be hitting my playlist at a better time. Just when I was craving a deep role-playing experience that places as much importance on combat as it does on character interactions, here comes Obsidian’s latest first-person action role-playing game to serve that all up on a silver platter.
From the original creators of the Fallout series, The Outer Worlds wears that pedigree proudly while taking care to craft a refreshing character-driven adventure throughout the galaxy.
The Outer Worlds starts with your custom character frozen in hyper sleep for 70 years, floating on a derelict colonial spaceship in the far reaches of space. The opening single shot elegantly pans over a collection of promotional materials for Halcyon, a corporate-owned system of colonies that promises “a perfect society designed to maximize your productivity with guaranteed full employment.”
After being rescued by Phineas Vernon Welles, a wanted fugitive known for rebelling against Halcyon, you are tasked with helping him find enough resources to help save the rest of your crewmates, who all remain left behind frozen in hyper sleep.
It’s up to you to decide if you’ll be moved more to assist the status quo and focus on your own selfish needs or revolt against Big Brother and help the colonies break free from generations of servitude.
The opening moments give you the option to fully customize your character down to their individual skills and “Aptitudes.” Their skills are broken down into categories like melee, ranged combat, defense, dialog, stealth, tech, and leadership.
Pouring points into dialogue skills like Persuade and Lie could help a dialogue interaction with a hostile character end more diplomatically. If you encounter a dialogue option that you meet the minimal level for in your “Persuade” or “Intimidate” skills, you can avoid a nasty exchange of gunfire by reasoning with them.
I love how transparent the systems are. You can plan accordingly each time you level up to start molding the kind of character you want to roleplay. The sense of agency is empowering. With every interaction, I feel confident I’ll have either the wits to finesse a compromise over dialogue or resort to that sweet high-powered pistol I picked up on my last quest.
And even when you resort to violence, the game’s characters take note, and will either make you feel horrible for it or pat you on the back for a job well done. It’s a really great way of holding up a mirror to you as the player inhabiting this world and leaving your mark on it. Sometimes I felt like a badass. Other times I felt kind of gross.
Outer Worlds wastes no time in sending you on your way to explore planets and large space stations throughout the solar system. In each new location, you’ll complete main quests by interacting with characters to chase down leads that involve exploring hostile areas where you’ll shoot enemies, hack computers, bypass locked doors, and interact with even more characters along the way.
The fluidity of dialogue trees also extends to the mission structures. While one mission might offer a hacking solution that will get rid of human enemies after turning turrets against them, slick talkers can lie to the entire building using the PA system by telling everyone to just go home.
But just because you’ve been tasked with one objective to complete doesn’t mean things can’t change as you progress through a quest. Missions themselves will present options that range from comical to dire.
Maybe your hacking skills will help reveal a message on a computer about a character who lied to you. Will you reroute an entire town’s power to a group of deserters, or cut off their power in the hopes that they’ll return to their miserable factory jobs in the town they originally escaped from?
The missions can change as you go, keeping you on your toes and, in my case, jotting down notes like a detective. One minute I’m sure of my decision, but then a companion will ask to speak to me and ask me to reconsider. It’s a virtual theme park full of scripted animatronic characters that I genuinely care about.
Combat is stiff in ways that can feel a little wonky at times, where a missed headshot will lead to me fumbling for my melee weapon and swinging a hammer around until I somehow win. A slow-motion mode lets you see the chance of doing additional effects, like blinding an enemy with a headshot or making them unable to move with a shot to the leg. It can help you plan an ambush, or just catch your breath.
The weapons I’ve found along the way have all felt really solid so far. You’re given four slots to use to keep things fresh.
The companions that you can recruit on your journey can be added to your party two at a time. Sometimes they’ll help make introductions easier if they happen to know a new character, or they can offer some extra bit of insight into the context of a particular squabble. They can speak to you to influence your decision on a mission, or even ask for your help with personal quests.
These can be anything from action-packed shootouts to helping the really sweet engineer, Pivarti, build up the guts to ask her crush out by talking things out over a beer. That quest in particular is so adorable and offers up a nice (optional) balance to the action.
Whichever path you take, there are plenty of experience points to be collected, gear to be equipped, skills to be upgraded, and perks to be unlocked.
There’s so much to do in The Outer Worlds and so far, I’m thoroughly enjoying it all. It really does feel like a lived-in world for me to explore and tinker with just to see what happens. Its characters give me different and interesting perspectives to consider before I push the first domino. Not to mention the fact that its lush scenery full of colorful plantlife, freaky alien monsters, and cool-looking characters invite me to just wander and interact with each world thoroughly. And its underlying commentary on things like identity, love, capitalism, colonialism, and violence all feel pretty damn topical.
I’m genuinely curious to see my journey all the way through, and even then, curious to see how it also unfolds with anybody else playing the game to compare.
Be sure to check out Gita’s review on the site and our continuing coverage of the game this week. The Outer Worlds releases on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on October 25. Obsidian also says it’s coming to Nintendo Switch at a later date.