The open-world, narrative-driven, RPG genre has become a rather over-saturated market these past two console generations. Bethesda’s Fallout and The Elder Scrolls series, along with Bioware’s Dragon Age and Mass Effect series are obvious stand outs, but my favourite, and most memorable entry from the series above was Fallout: New Vegas. While it looked like a typical Fallout game, it was in-fact developed by Obsidian Entertainment, and has since gone on to become a fan favourite, so when Obsidian announced The Outer Worlds, which looked like Fallout set in space, my excitement was immeasurable. Sadly though, after spending nearly 30 hours with The Outer Worlds, it would seem my initial excitement was a little misplaced.
Set in Halcyon, humanity’s farthest colony, you’re awoken from your travel hibernation early to discover that everything isn’t what it seems. As US President William McKinley was never assassinated, corporations now dominate societies, and mega-corporations have begun colonising the galaxy. Halcyon is controlled by a range of powerful corporations, all hell bent on becoming the most powerful and successful by all means possible. Your role is to explore the colony’s range of diverse settlements to galvanise factions and discover the secret of the conspiracy that’s gripping Halcyon.
The Outer Worlds has been developed by the creators of Fallout, Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky, so unsurprisingly, the story is heavily influenced by how you play. During your journey you’re able to become friendly or aggressive with factions, which has an influence on what happens during the narrative. Having said that, the core elements of the story here were rather dull; missions are usually nothing more than fetch quests, while the majority of NPCs you’ll encounter are devoid of any real substance or personality - a shame given how well Obsidian do character development and humour. Essentially, the story boils down to you, a lone ranger, uncovering a conspiracy, and taking down evil adversaries for the good of all - something done to death in games and movies for decades now. What’s more, if you just focus on the story, it’ll take you roughly 15 hours to complete, which felt a little short.
Thankfully, if you’re a completionist, you’ll have a blast completing the wealth of side-missions and faction quests on offer. However, even these tend to become less imaginative fetch quests later in the game, and if you’re looking to discover all The Outer Worlds has to offer, complete everything before undertaking the final mission, because you can’t return post-game and clean up anything you missed unless you make a save before the cut off point. What’s more, during your journey, you’re able to recruit companions, all of which have excellently-crafted backstories and quests to undertake, and more importantly, prove to be an essential ingredient to combat, provided you put the effort in to equip them with the best weapons and armour. If you’re playing on the normal difficulties, companions can’t die, but slide the difficulty up to the highest level and you’ll have to keep a much closer eye on them as death is permanent!
If you’ve ever played a Fallout game, you’ll feel right at home here in combat, with a diverse range of weapons to use, including standard melee weapons, assault rifles, pistols and shotguns, to more futuristic plasma rifles and cannons. Gun combat feels solid and responsive, while the game also introduces a Tactical Time Dilation (TTD) system that allows you to slow down time, discover enemy weak points and target them. It’s similar to the VATS in Fallout, but doesn’t last as long, nor does it feel as powerful. The game also includes a tweaking and modification system that allows you to repair and upgrade weapons and armour, making them more powerful, whilst giving you the ability to add elemental damage and other modifications to suit your combat style. However, the system isn’t as deep as the ones found in the Fallout 4 and 76 titles, and I was disappointed not to be able to change the aesthetic styles of my weapons and armour. In its current state, the modification system feels a little half-baked and hopefully something the developers can build upon post game.
Despite solid combat, what was disappointing was the lack of variety in enemies and how to take them down. By the end of my journey, I was sick and tired of killing wave after wave of the same marauders and commanders, whilst the native animal species felt like a rinse and repeat job by the time the credits role. Most boss fights require very little skill, culminating in one of the most average final boss fights I've encountered in a long while.
As with nearly every RPG title, The Outer Worlds includes an experience and perk system that allows you to upgrade aspects such as your health, weapon damage, and TTD time each time you level up. Also included is a skill system them gives you the ability to increase skills such as lie, persuasion, intimidate, locksmith, science etc, all of which allow you to interact with NPC and the game world in varying ways. A high persuasion, intimidate or lie skill allows you to manipulate NPCs into giving you access to hidden areas, or even avoid combat scenarios completely. Locksmith, science and medicine for example allow you to pickpocket easily, and make better use of plasma weapons. Other skills also give you the ability to play the game your way. Want to become a stealthy assassin? You can. Want to become a one-man army? That’s possible too. There’s nothing here that hasn’t already been done in RPGs before, so veterans of the genre should feel right at home.
Having said that, adding a little twist into the core RPG element, The Outer Worlds introduces a flaw system that gives you the chance to obtain extra perks points, at a cost. For example, I was constantly suffering corrosive damage, so was offered the chance to take higher corrosive damage in order to obtain an extra perk point. It’s then up to you to decide whether the flaw is worth the extra perk point. In some cases, it certainly was, while in others, the increased damage taken wasn’t offset by the extra perk.
The Fallout series was often criticised for its somewhat lacklustre environments, but this is where The Outer Worlds shines. Being set across multiple planets, each with their own thriving ecosystem means landscapes are nothing short of beautiful - it's a shame that they're not all completely open-world, but with the exception of No Man's Sky and the Mass Effect series, The Outer Worlds offers one of the best space exploration experiences in gaming. From thriving metropolises, to dark, alien-infested caverns, it never feels like any environment is repeated. That being said, graphically, character models aren’t great and the textures are poor - the game is enhanced on the Xbox One, but the PS4 version looks rather dated against its biggest influencers - even the HD remaster of Skyrim looks better.
The Outer Worlds isn’t a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, it boasts excellent combat, intriguing side missions, and a spectacularly diverse setting. It’s unfair to call the game Fallout in space, but sadly many will make this connection as The Outer Worlds borrows too heavily from its influences and doesn’t add anything particularly groundbreaking to the gameplay. After nearly 30 hours with The Outer Worlds, I was left disappointed, and not because of its flaws, but by its lack of originality.
- PlayStation 4
- Xbox One