Obsidian Entertainment has a long history of developing role-playing games. The studio has worked on well-received titles such as Knights of the Old Republic and Fallout: New Vegas. So, when they announced they were working on a brand new RPG set in space called The Outer Worlds, fans were understandably excited. Anticipation continued to build when they revealed that Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky were working on the project. The pair had originally created the Fallout series and so have a strong pedigree when it comes to this genre.
You can sense the strong connection that Obsidian has with the Fallout franchise throughout. A lot of The Outer Worlds feels inspired by the classic RPG series. Considering the link the studio has with that property, this is not a huge surprise. The Outer Worlds is essentially Fallout in space. However, this title is a far more focused experience. With a much tighter budget and smaller team, the developer couldn’t create something on the same scale as Bethesda might.
The Outer Worlds takes place way into the future. Humanity has advanced to a stage where they are able to colonize planets and expand into the galaxy. Yet, it is also set in an alternate version of history. Large corporations dominate everything thanks to the fact that Theodore Roosevelt never became president following the assassination of William McKinley.
The player takes on the role of an inhabitant of the ship Hope. Its faster-than-light engines have malfunctioned, leaving all the crew trapped in suspended animation. With no one interested in recovering the spaceship, the thousands onboard are seemingly abandoned. That is, until a mad scientist named called Phineas Welles wakes you up. You are then given the task of trekking across a variety of planets to find a way of rescuing your colleagues.
As a basic premise, it works well to introduce you to the world and provide some early motivation. The real meat of the story comes from encountering new characters. It is very easy to get completely engrossed in the game because of the individuals you meet. While the main story may not get you emotionally invested, the side quests do. Some are heartwarming missions, some are genuinely funny, and others are downright morbid. The vast majority of them demand your attention, though, and will keep you captivated as you progress.
Many of the basic gameplay mechanics are very similar to those from Fallout. Yet, they feel refined and improved. For example, The Outer Worlds’ version of VATS is Tactical Time Dilation. Despite the fact that TTD works mostly the same, it is generally a far better experience. It requires skill, and the player is more involved in the process rather than simply choosing a target. Those types of changes are welcome additions, as you get a bigger sense of achievement in combat.
On the other hand, shooting and fighting are still not great. The improvements make it better but not exceptional. Where The Outer Worlds does excel is in other areas. You have access to your own base of operations in the form of your personal ship. In it, you can talk to your companions and learn more about them. It is like Mass Effect and helps to get you engaged with those around you. The companions themselves also have uses outside of just being a pack mule. They interact with your own skills and perks, giving you new options depending on whom you take on quests.
Player choice is probably the best I have experienced in a video game. The developers have anticipated practically every decision a player might make. This is one of the reasons that The Outer Worlds is shorter than many other RPGs. But it more than makes up for it by being a far tighter and focused game. The team has put quality above quantity so that your choices genuinely have an impact on the world. Although the final outcome of a quest may not change all that drastically every time, approaching them in different ways remains fun.
Although it is true that The Outer Worlds is not a big-budget title, it still has an excellent presentation. The title has its own distinctive art style that helps it to stand out. Stylized visuals also help make up for the fact that the graphics themselves are not the highest quality. More impressive is the great voice acting for characters. This is an area that Obsidian could have held back on to save money. The decision to go all out pays off and elevates the already exceptional dialogue. The musical score also deserves a mention as another strong positive.
On the other hand, there are some problems with the performance. Players can expect to have to sit through long loads times regularly. Small things like opening the map can have a delay that isn’t acceptable to audiences today. The frame rate also suffers at times, leading to a slowdown in the action. A good deal of glitches and bugs also exist. They range from items dropping through the world to A.I. getting stuck. Nothing too major, although it can be frustrating at times.
For those disappointed with the lack of proper classic RPGs in recent times, The Outer Worlds will be a welcome relief. It takes the standard formula from the likes of Fallout and streamlines it. What is left is a focused and well-rounded game that oozes charm.
The 20-hour campaign may put off some players. However, this is a title that begs you to replay it. In fact, going back through the story and switching up how you play and approach each section is thrilling.