If you happen to take a journey among the stars you might find yourself on the frontier of humanity’s farthest colony, Halcyon, where prosperity awaits you, but only if you work for it. Based in the Halcyon cluster (aptly named after its brightest star), The Outer Worlds is a single-player RPG that needs no introduction, as right from the very announcement of the project, players and Fallout fans alike were immediately drawn to premise of another “Fallout-esque” game brought to you by none other than the team who created Fallout: New Vegas, to say some people were excited would be an understatement, myself included.
You wake aboard a giant vessel, known as the Hope where humanity’s future colonists were put into hibernation/stasis to avoid ageing as it was planned to take 10 years to reach Halcyon, this, as you can expect, didn’t go to plan, leaving the ship stranded floating adrift in space. The whole ordeal being swept under the rug by the Board, for bureaucratic reasons. Phineas Welles, a mad scientist, hell-bent on saving the colonists of the Hope is caught almost immediately upon entering the ship so seemingly picks a colonist at random, which so happens to be YOU.
Once you have been chosen by Welles you will enter the character customisation screen, a staple of any quality RPG, where you allocate your attributes, your skills and your aptitude. When first coming to this screen I was pleasantly surprised by the explanations for what assigning a point to each attribute would boost in my skills. The skill tree nicely groups similar skills together so in lower levels you upgrade 3 skills at once, but in later levels, once you pass 50 points in a certain skill group, you can pick and choose which skills would benefit your build more.
Aptitude is also a nice nod back to the G.O.A.T. test from Fallout and picking a certain aptitude would boost a stat further and give you special dialogue options, depending on what you pick. Character appearance, while certainly a step up in graphical fidelity, is somewhat lacking in my eyes as I always seem to run into the problem of “same face syndrome” and I can never really create a character who looks drastically different to my last, however, this is a minimal problem as the only time you see your character is in your inventory, which I feel is a missed opportunity as I, and many others like to switch between third and first person in games such as these.
When I was dropped into the game world I felt as if I had been dropped into a familiar world, almost as if I’d been here before, the game was quick to offer tutorials on controls and the setting was warm, despite the reality of it being somewhat hostile.
From the get-go, The Outer Worlds hits the ground running with stellar writing and comedy to boot, and proves that Obsidian Entertainment knows what they’re doing when it comes to RPGs. After my first encounter with the Marauders, learning the ropes of the new slow-motion mechanic, a smooth new replacement to V.A.T.S. I had gained a set of Marauder armour which I adorned without a second thought, however, when I reached the town of Edgewater I quickly learned that I was in for a treat. Townsfolk were commenting on my choice in attire, this was one of the many points where I fell in love with The Outer Worlds, as that little attention to detail goes a long way into really immersing you in the world.
Furthermore, the dialogue options offer a plethora of quick-witted responses that you can often use as a better weapon than your laser rifle, I was able to save myself a conflict countless times due to my persuasion and I often found myself talking to the enemy more than fighting them in an effort to become “the almighty saviour of the Halcyon system” and gain good stead with all of the factions. Gone are the days of the 4 option dialogue wheel with simplistic choices such as good, bad, question and sarcastic option, we’re given a long list of dialogue options to choose from where you can really project yourself through your character. Or alternatively, you can be the biggest SOB this side of the frontier, either works. An example of dialogue that I like the most is this option later on in the game, you can really feel that the character is starting to lose it with the people they’re talking to, plus it’s hilarious.
Although the game may be single-player, you’re not alone in this journey, companions can join you on your excursions around Halcyon and even have their own developed backstories and storylines that you can choose to follow to further bond with your chosen companion. My personal favourites are Ellie and Vicar Max, due to one being a badass space pirate and the other a priest teaching the word of the “Law”, but often at times dipping back into his past where he served time in jail and learned a few things. With companions, you have a unique feature that I haven’t seen in many games, if any, to choose how close you want them to follow you, so for a shotgun rush you’d want them close to back you up, and for a sniper, you’d preferably have them at a safe distance for maximum efficiency.
You can also choose whether or not they’re aggressive once you shoot an enemy, so you can have them charge in as soon you see an enemy or have them stay back where you have the option to point out which enemy you want attacking at that time. They also have their own abilities that can be activated, like an ultimate move, where they deal out a load of damage, Ellie’s, for example, is to fan her laser pistol, whereas, Max gets up close and personal with his shotgun, with a nice quip included. However, I feel as if the bond between player and companion is severed at a point, as after their side quests are completed they don’t offer more story-wise and I feel as if I’m still asking for more connection with them. But, what we do get in terms of story is perfectly executed.
Factions/corporations inhabit and run the different planets you’ll travel to whilst playing, all with their own uniqueness to them that differentiates themselves from one another, such as Spacer’s Choice who offer a wide range of items of a cheap quality, while quick to break are easily replaced due to how inexpensive the items are. Aunty Cleo’s who offer up pharmaceuticals of questionable ethical backgrounds, and many more factions for you to discover. The Big boss calling the shots, however, is The Board, the bureaucrats of space who own all of the corporations in Halcyon with a tight grip, the main goal of the whole game is to subvert the board in order to be able to run Halcyon in a less authoritarian manner and release your fellow Hope colonists from stasis. Or if being the good guy is not your thing you could always side with the corporations for an alternate ending, as there are multiple endings within the game even one for being stupid with high charisma, if you wish to check that out for yourself.
Graphically the game is a delight, from the various flora and fauna of the Emerald Vale to the harsh, but very pretty Monarch with its high arching trees, hell, even the cold, metal interior of the Groundbreaker is a marvel to see with its many neon lights blasting you in the eyes with advertisements and shop signs. The game clearly takes a lot of inspiration from old 50s – 60s era retro-futurism and a bit of steampunk too, which was an instant hit with me. Now, is it the prettiest game I’ve ever laid eyes on? No, but what it does it excels in and definitely feels like an upgrade from what the Creation engine is possible of putting out, not to discredit the hard work artists put in over at Bethesda.
The Outer Worlds feels like a breath of fresh air in a very stale release market, and it really couldn’t have come at a better time with the increase of P2W and loot boxes galore that the AAA industry is so fond of. It shows that indie companies are possible of putting out the best work I’ve seen in recent history without the need for excess transactions upon a full game, and it shows, as I spent 15 hours straight on the game when it came out (not to recommend doing that) but it gave me that escapism and feeling that I haven’t felt since I played Fallout 3, it truly is a must-play for any RPG fan. The game was even nominated for a “Game Of The Year” award at the Game Awards alongside some big games like Death Stranding, Resident Evil 2 and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, however, it didn’t win any awards but the fact that it was nominated speaks to its quality. It really is one to play if you haven’t yet, as it’s fully deserving of all the praise it’s receiving.
If you’re interested in The Outer Worlds, and haven’t picked it up yet, I would wholeheartedly recommend it or even give it a go with Xbox Game Pass if you’re not fully sold yet!
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