6 Thoughts on The Outer Worlds
I don’t often review video games because I usually take my time with them. It took me two months to play through my favorite game of last year, Red Dead Redemption 2, and I’m still playing the online multiplayer mode to this day. But I’ve already bought and beat my most anticipated game of this year: The Outer Worlds!
Video Game Rating: 8/10 – Very Good.
I love the story behind The Outer Worlds. Game studio Obsidian created the snarky Fallout games back in the day, then fellow studio Bethesda came along and took over. They revamped the play style and made it bigger and better, delivering Fallout 3 and Fallout 4 to great acclaim. I loved both games! They even let Obsidian play in their toybox, having Obsidian create spin-off Fallout: New Vegas using the same game engine but telling a new story.
Then something went wrong and Bethesda kicked Obsidian to the curb. So Obsidian decided to make their own Fallout, with black jack and hookers! And here comes The Outer Worlds, a game that plays almost exactly like a Fallout game, but with a new idea set in a corporation-controlled outer space. What a great twist!
Join me after the jump for my thoughts and full review of The Outer Worlds!
First, a primer.
The Outer Worlds is set in a far off outer space colony — named Halcyon — composed of a couple different planets. You play an Earth resident who is among thousands frozen in cryo-sleep on a large generation ship, launched into space to join Halcyon, but something has gone wrong. Your ship arrived at the colony but everyone has remained frozen. Rogue scientist Phineas Welles manages to wake you up and asks for your help in getting the chemicals necessary to wake up everybody else. So you set out into Halcyon to meet contacts, track down the chemicals and figure out why the local governments didn’t welcome and wake up your crewmates themselves.
The catch to The Outer Worlds is that it’s a big corporate satire. Halcyon is controlled by The Board and is run by the various leading corporations. Everyone you meet seems, in part, to be indoctrinated into blindly following the corporations that control their lives.
That should be enough! Expect some game SPOILERS in my review.
6. I really liked it
The Outer Worlds is a very enjoyable game, with good action, great world-building and some phenomenal dialogue-based gameplay. I love talking my way through games. If I played more D&D, I’d definitely be a bard. Whatever RPG I play, I always put points into charisma and persuasion to master conversations, and The Outer Worlds is a game that rewards that, so I’m in role-playing heaven. Heck, I was talking my way through trouble so much I started hunting out action just to balance out the game!
The story is good, overall. You’ve got clear goals and a purpose, and the game moves you through that nicely. The humor is a real standout, obviously. This is some solid satire for a video game, with a lot of smaller bits and pieces of humor all over the place. The whole experience is one of the best-written video games I’ve ever played, at least in terms of wit and verve.
The Outer Worlds is a quality gaming experience, a nice little jaunt into a fun world with a nice balance between action, adventure and dialogue-based role-playing. It’s a good opening act.
5. It’s too shallow
As much fun as The Outer Worlds may be, it’s also a seriously shallow game — especially when compared to its forebears, the Bethesda Fallout games. This is why I’m probably only going to play through The Outer Worlds once. I just didn’t find anything so compelling as to require a second, different play through. The main character, the supporting characters, the villains, the story, the different paths, the character interactions, the bestiary; pretty much every aspect of The Outer Worlds is quick and shallow. There was nothing to really sink my teeth into.
The playable character isn’t voiced and there’s no third-person viewing options, so you only ever really see yourself when you access the inventory screen. This was a bummer. Your gender never comes into play and your personality doesn’t effect too much, I felt. Granted, I played a nice guy, so maybe if I’d been more of a sarcastic jerk the conversations would have gone in different directions. But I didn’t really feel like I was inhabiting a character.
It didn’t help that there seemed to be only two paths to follow: be a good guy and help Phineas Welles or be a bad guy and help The Board. I don’t like playing as a bad guy or a jerk, so I don’t really want to replay as a gullible sucker villain who supports the corrupt Board. They’re clearly corrupt and evil from the get-go, so you have to purposefully want to be evil to support them.
Consider Fallout 4: there were multiple different factions and story paths to follow. You could join the Minutemen, the Brotherhood of Steel, the Railroad, the Institute and probably more I’m forgetting. Each one took you along the single main storyline, but did so in unique and interesting ways. Not so in The Outer Worlds. You are a member of your singular spaceship crew and that’s about it. There isn’t even a singular villain to take on. The Board doesn’t actually have a Board of Directors sitting around a big conference room planning their evil schemes, like I expected. Heck, I didn’t even know the final boss was a character or even existed until the last major mission. Where had this character, Sophia Akande, even come from?
And it wasn’t just the story that was pretty shallow. There’s only a handful of different bad guys to fight. There’s perhaps half a dozen beasts, two or three different types of robots and then humans in similar armors. Likewise, that armor was really boring. Each corporation seemed to have their own color branding, but the armor (light, medium, heavy) looked identical between the different colorings. There were very few unique armor pieces or sets I could track down to dress my characters all their own.
All of the small things seemed shallow as well. Weapon and armor mods were an important part of the game, but the mods didn’t have many options, so I always went with the same types for each weapon. And the character perks were very lacking. The Fallout games always had fun and weird perks, but the perks in The Outer Worlds were really just stat increases or slight improvements on fight or dialogue mechanics. That was a real letdown.
I could go on and on. I’ve already nitpicked a ton of things. But The Outer Worlds just isn’t a very deep game. It’s a quick play through with a lot of fun parts, but nothing I could really sink my teeth into to warrant a second play through or character customization or planet exploration.
4. Companions were good enough
I liked most of the companions that join the crew of the Unreliable, with Parvati a stand out of awesome adorableness. But just like the rest of the game, they’re all pretty shallow characters. The writing is good, the voice acting is great, and their personal missions give the player more to do…but there aren’t many family bonding moments. And some of them join the crew with a shrug. Felix, especially, just sort of stops you at the gang plank and asks if he can join. They have fun banter when you bring two of them out on missions with you, but they only banter with each other, rarely with the player. I really don’t think they grow or change all that much over the course of the game, unless it’s that one specific change scripted into their individual story mission.
I also feel like it was a missed opportunity to not figure out some way to use all of them in the final mission. Prior to heading out into the prison planet, you get the first and only big group meeting on the ship, where everyone weighs in on your choices. There should have been more of these. But after everyone agrees to support you…most of them stay on the ship and do nothing while you and your chosen two go on this near-suicide mission. The game probably couldn’t handle supporting all six companions at once…but the other four could support you in scripted moments throughout the mission, perhaps.
I’m also disappointed that we couldn’t romance any of the companions. And while this loss made way for Parvati’s amazing personal quest, I’m disappointed that the main character couldn’t find love. In Fallout 4, I created brand new characters to play the entire game again just to try out some of the other companion romances. That was sadly missing in The Outer Worlds.
3. I never really mastered the weapons
I never figured out how the weapons system worked. I understood the point and shoot part of it, and I did manage to kill everything I came up against, but there was just something unintuitive about the whole operation that bugged me. I never figured out how villain armor effected weapons and how that worked. I never figured out proper weapon inventory, and always seemed to be holding more weapons than I needed at any given time. I knew that different villains needed different types of weapon — plasma vs. animals, for example — but that just led to me keeping a plasma flamethrower or an electrical gun on hand for animals and robots. It took me way too long to figure out I had to level up my guns alongside me, otherwise they wouldn’t matter anymore. And even though mods were supposed to be important, I only ever used the same ones over and over, giving myself more ammo per clip and stronger critical damage.
So I struggled in the first part of the game against even boring, ordinary villains, but I couldn’t figure out why. Then later on, I was so damn good at the game and the bad guys were so easy that I’m not sure weapon choice even mattered anymore. I felt like I could put whatever type of gun into the hands of my companions and bad guys would still end up dead. And to that extent, I wasn’t sure what the point was in having so much variety. Why have a light machine gun and a regular automatic rifle? It’s not like ammo every truly ran out.
The whole system just seemed overly complicated for its own good and I still am not sure if I was using it all correctly.
2. Parvati was best companion
I’m not made of stone. I love a good romance, and The Outer Worlds delivered something truly magical with companion Parvati Holcomb. While we couldn’t romance her ourselves, helping out with her own love life and the perfect date was a great companion mission. It was also beyond great that Parvati herself is an asexual lesbian, not to mention a woman of color. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about pop culture in all of my years, it’s that representation matters. Diversity is a great thing, and I’ve even taken to making my playable characters diverse. My character in this game was an Asian man, and he wore the bright pink and blue armor of one of the candy companies.
But Parvati is the real star and I fully support just how awesome it is to have this level of representation in a major video game release. She was also voiced by Ashly Burch, who is one of my favorite voice actors! So wonderful character all around!
1. The sequel will be better
More than anything else, I think The Outer Worlds works as the prototype for The Outer Worlds 2. I don’t know if we’re guaranteed an Outer Worlds 2 or what it will even entail. But I think The Outer Worlds was Obsidian doing their best to scrape together an original IP in this gameplay style, and I think they did a good enough job that they can keep going. Now that they’ve got all of the basics done, now that they can get feedback from fans to figure out what to change and/or fix, now that they’ve done it once, I feel like they’ll do better next time. We live in a world of franchises, and I think The Outer Worlds will be a really good franchise going forward.
So bring on The Outer Worlds 2: Outest Worlds!