Title: The Outer Worlds
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Release Date: October 25, 2019
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Private Division
When it comes to narrative adventure RPGs, it’s easy to accept the average titles we’ve been receiving in the genre. While games like Fallout 3 exist and were celebrated at the time, we haven’t had any significant breakthroughs for quite some time, although there have been plenty of flops. However, then comes Obsidian Entertainment, with their newest entry in the genre, The Outer Worlds, which teaches us not to flatline our expectations for this genre. Across space and onto mysterious new planets, I truly felt a sense of discovery in this game that I have been craving for so long.
The Outer Worlds opens not on Earth, but at a human colonized system of planets. Sadly, times are hard for the citizens of the colony, and that’s clearly shown in the opening mission of the game. After being set free from a frozen sleep, the player sets off on a journey that they must shape on their own. Across planets, massive spaceships, and asteroids, players will need to conclude what is best for the colony.
The opening mission has players learn about facing substantial narrative choices as it prepares them with a rather heavy mission. Choosing sides or trying to bring peace isn’t easy, and none of the options ever are. Throughout the game, it’s noticeable where the crossroads happen, but then the game throws curveballs at you. You see, for those who enjoy exploring and getting all the information available, choices might be a little tougher to make if you truly know who you’re working with during missions.
I don’t want to ruin anything about the story for players because its just so damn good. The writing here is some of the best RPG storytelling I have ever experienced. Each action has a consequence, whether it’s heavy or not, but it’s up to the player to shape what that is. The developer has created some interesting storylines for these characters that allow you to understand their position and why they are doing what they are doing, whether it be wrong or right in your eyes.
Exploration is everything in The Outer Worlds. Nothing goes unrewarded when the player takes the time to talk to NPCs and look around. From hidden caves to new questlines, everything is here for the player to have the adventure that they want. Patience is also required to receive these quests. NPCs don’t give players quests who aren’t willing to speak with them and learn more about their situation. It creates a relationship between the character and this world that makes any journey memorable. It’s even better when you receive a formidable quest knowing that you could have left the conversation three dialogue trees ago but decided to ask a few more questions.
However, the player isn’t alone in this adventure. Overtime, companions, will join the group. These companions aren’t just there to help in a fight; they are complex and have their own goals to be discovered. It’s possible to get closer to them through their side-quest, but what’s more interesting is how the other crew members become closer to each other. This dynamic makes this entire adventure feel like a new season of Firefly as there’s a severe mission ahead of the crew, but they still stop to enjoy the little things. The companions are diverse and come from all walks of life. They also have a unique skill set and offer input on the missions where their skills will be of assistance.
Players can visit new planets and colonies by way of their spaceship, The Unreliable. This ship also has a personality through an AI computer known as ADA. ADA is an excellent addition to the game, and those who spend more time talking with her will probably benefit because of it. She’s sarcastic and kind of weird but isn’t afraid to add in her input to some of your more daring missions. There’s plenty of other mysteries to be found in the ship that makes it a great set piece for the game.
Each planet has its own set of missions, but NCPs will often send you on quests that require you to travel to other areas. Quests in the game aren’t of your typical fetch variety, although there are those quests available. There are multiple ways to do everything, and it’s up to the player to figure out. For example, retrieving a poster for someone sounds like a trivial task. However, the person was kind to you and pathetic in a way, which makes you want to help them. When picking the poster up, you find you could steal it, pay for it, or convince them to give it to you. While other factors are at play, to a much larger extent, this is in every quest encountered, which made my adventure feel like something only I will experience. Other quests can even have the players sneaking into a restricted area using a hologram camouflage, which adds a good layer of variety to how you take some missions on.
Enemy types in the game are pretty lacking, but this could be because you are limited to only a few planets in the game. There are creatures, robots, and of course, other humans that players will fight. Encounters can get complicated at times, but the game isn’t stingy at all when it comes to supplying the player with ammo and equipment needed to get through anything thrown at them. To a fault, there is almost too much ammo in the game. I rarely ran out, and when I did, I had other powerful weapons equipped with often 2k+ ammo at my disposal. This is from my experience on the normal difficulty setting, but there are survival difficulties available to players who wish for a more tactical experience of getting through this world.
Leveling up provides some exciting features. Players are given skill points that can level up certain areas of the character. Once this reaches level 50, skill points can be given to specific areas within that group. It allows for some fine-tuning of the character’s playstyle and forces you to put time into where you add these points. There are also perks available every other level that makes surviving and dealing damage a lot more manageable. Companions also gain levels and have specif abilities exclusive to them that can be added as perks.
Weapons and equipment in the game are unique and don’t get too complicated at any point until you get to use the Science Weapons. Armor is pretty straight forward, but I found that my most fashionable equipment was also the weakest, which didn’t bother me because once I acquired the eye patch, it never came off. Weapons, on the other hand, can be broken down, upgraded, and tinkered with to get the most out of them. Strangely, I found that I enjoyed using the melee weapons in the game more than the guns. This might have been because they were not only durable but also cool as hell. Like ammo in the game, guns are readily available, and each gun can be upgraded to pack a punch. However, the level of customization isn’t too deep, which makes it accessible, yet, barebones. It’s nice to say that the shooting here felt responsive and accurate. Shooting gets better with a slowdown ability that lets you line up a perfect headshot to start a battle.
There aren’t too many faults in this game, but with all of the missions available, I wish organizing missions was a little easier. Some quests have multiple things the player needs to do, but this is only shown when you highlight the mission, which meant I wasn’t always sure how close I was to complete a task that had five steps, even if I had already completed four of them. Also, some missions are tied to your level, including the final mission, which might cause some frustration to players who haven’t leveled up a specific skill. At the time, I didn’t figure out a way around this and just had to level up my character. However, there were some other choices available to me, but that involved working with someone I didn’t want to. Also, there was a mission I couldn’t complete since the contact I was supposed to talk to wouldn’t react to me talking to him, so I killed him.
Presentation in The Outer Worlds is straight out of a sci-fi fantasy movie. The game borrows many elements from Battlestar Galactic, Firefly, and Star Wars, and mixes it all into a unique world. There’s plenty of new ideas introduced here by the developers, but they do keep it close to the likes of a space opera. However, given the level of detail and world-building that they’ve put into it, everything about this adventure feels brand new. Even NPC designs are unique and have a high level of detail that makes them appear to exist in this world. The music is just as fitting as extensive atmospheric notes play out while exploring.
The Outer Worlds offers so much to the player, and I feel that this is simply the product of a developer who enjoys creating these stories. Obsidian understands this genre and knows how to create scenarios in a world that’s easy to care about. Each moment felt unique to me, which is what I look for in narrative RPGs. Although some elements of the game are almost too straight forward on normal difficulties, The Outer Worlds offers a lot to any player looking for a compelling adventure no matter how big of a fan you are of the genre.
Everything the player does lead up to an epic conclusion, but the little battles along the way leave a lasting impact as well. This game is more than just a beautiful space opera; it’s a real RPG adventure that has finally brought the genre to a new height. While I begin my second treck through this new world, I’ll never forget the memories and events of my first adventure. It’s that feeling of discovery and excitement that The Outer Worlds provides and one that I have been looking for for a long time.
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