The plot goes as follows: in the first decades of the XXI Century goverments have left space explorations in the hand of private companies, just in the moment a large asteroid from deep space known as "Vulcan's Hammer" is on a collision course with Earth, coming with enough energy to trigger an extinction event. Fearing other impact events in other Solar System bodies, plans are prepared to leave the Solar System looking for planets orbiting nearby stars and starting a crash program to build in Earth orbit an interstellar ship fitted with an untested fusion drive, that once ready and the target star system selected is sent to Jupiter to be fueled there while VLBI probes are launched to obtain more information of the destination. At the same time, a nuclear weapon is launched against "Vulcan's Hammer" attempting to divert its path. It fails, breaking the asteroid in two pieces that impact Earth obliterating mankind and causing the journey to the unknown to start. However things change to the worse when once on the target planet some colonists hijack some of the resources carried onboard on the basis two colonies, not just one, will have more possibilities of surviving.
While Outpost was very warmly received, it turned out that reviewers had played a beta version of it with the sold one presumably due to a rushed release lacking many features that were also present on a demo, that while patched later on had no influence on gameplay, and being buggy at first.
This game was followed by the much more different Outpost 2 Divided Destiny, that ignores the events of the one described here.
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Outpost provides examples of the following tropes:
- All Planets Are Earthlike: Very heavily averted no star has an Earth-like planet. The most similar ones to ours are those Mars-like.
- Apocalypse How: The two pieces of "Vulcan's Hammer" are described to impact Earth with the force of one billion megatons -ten times the force of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs-. While it's not stated what survived the impact, all odds are that our species, much less the civilization, did not.
- Artistic License – Space You can research "Alien Ecology (Terrestrial, Marine, and Aerial)", even if your planet is either an airless asteroid-sized world or a Venus-like searing hot planet.
- Colony Drop:
- Vulcan's Hammer, of course.
- The ship that brought you and your colonists is mentioned to end crashing into the planet victim of orbital decay -with no adverse effects against your colony- some hundreds of turns after you began playing.
- Convection, Schmonvection: As noted above of the planets that can be colonized is a carbon copy of Venus with crushing atmospheric pressure, hellish temperatures, and lava present both on its surface and underground. Except for the latter, where you cannot often build, it can be colonized as other very different worlds.
- Cool Starship: The mushroom-like fusion-powered ship that carries the last vestiges of human civilization to the stars, with a front shield to protect it from impacts at the speeds she can reach and doughnut-shaped jettisonable fuel tanks You can build a similar one at game's end instead of terra-forming your planet and left out to keep colonizing the galaxy.
- Expy: The planets featured there are based on Real Life Solar System bodies including all the terrestrial planets except Earth, two moonsnote , two minor planetsnote , and three gas giantsnote . In fact, if was not for the mention of an interstellar ship and the fate of Earth the game could perfectly pass for one of Solar System colonization.
- Guide Dang It!: Sort of. At the start of the game, you have four interstellar probes for scanning a decent list of star systems, and only a portion of them have habitable planets at all. If you are hunting for a specific planet archetype, you need trial and error or a guide. But you can easily tell which systems have zero inhabitable planets based on the stars' mass. Anything outside of about 0.7 to 1.3 will be too dissimilar to Earth's star and will not host any human-friendly planets. This data is provided before committing any probes.
- New Work, Recycled Graphics: 3D-rendered cutscenes and tiles of Outpost seem very similar to the intro of the CD version of Alien Legacy — another 1994 hard SF space colonization game from Sierra. Although no people were credited working on both.
- Non-Standard Game Over:
"Your colonists will die slowly in space. This game is over."
- For comparison, the "standard" game over is to run out of food or life support, resulting in mass casualties, a notice from your AI assistant that "everyone is dead", a short animation showing a skeleton in a space suit, and a swift boot back to the main menu.
- The target star system may have no colonizable world (ie, gas giants).
''"Your colony has become a ghost town. No-one is left alive... except for you."
- If your colony's morale is low, your people will start defecting to the rebel colony. If the last colonists leave in this fashion, your colony will be left with just you alone. At this point, you may continue viewing your colony, but you can no longer advance time.
- Numbered Homeworld: The default naming scheme for your colonized planet, but you may change it to anything you want.
- Recycled IN SPACE!: This game has often been defined as "SimCity in space".
- Red Light District: Available as an underground building that increases morale, birth rate, and crime. If there are no police stations nearby to keep the crime in check, other residential units may spontaneously convert into more Red Light Districts. As the game is generally family-friendly, the help file doesn't elaborate on what actually goes on in such buildings, making it something of a Parental Bonus.
- Safely Secluded Science Center: The original game and its sequel had the Hot Labs, specialized labs dedicated to dangerous research into things like nuclear energy and retro-viruses. Because of the nature of the research, the Hot Lab could only be built on the planet's surface and it was very much recommended it be kept away from the main colony as said lab had the potential to spontaneously explode and take out any other nearby buildings or connecting tubes.
- Science Marches On: It's currently known some systems that can be colonized in the game as Tau Ceti and especially HR 8832 are very different to what appears in the game. To be fair, the game was developed when almost no extrasolar planets had been discovered.
- Shout-Out: The name of the asteroid that destroys mankind, Vulcan's Hammer, refers the novel Lucifer's Hammer.
- Shown Their Work: Science-fiction is as hard as it can get for 1994, except for nanotechnology that once developed is presented as a solution for almost everything. Nothing breaks the laws of physics (no FTL travel), and it shows that one of the developers was a former NASA scientist.
- Technology Marches On: In apparent recognition of this, the luxury goods you may produce for your colonists are laughably outdated even by 1994 standards, such as 8-track tapes (obsolete in the early 80's).
- Terraform: At game's end depending on what you decide to research, you can either terraform your planet, which brings a lot of questions if your world is an airless asteroid-sized one, or build another interstellar ship and leave.
- Underground City: Except at the very beginning, people live in residential units built underground, safe from the hazards in the surface. Other underground buildings include recreational facilities, an university, and factories that produce luxury goods for your colonists.