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"Welcome to the edge of the galaxy, the frontier of space... Well, at least it was, until the corporations bought it, branded it, and started selling it at ludicrously inflated prices!"
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The Outer Worlds is a Science Fiction First-Person Role-Playing Game developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Private Division. The game is notable for having Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky as directors, two of the founders of defunct Troika Games and key staff in the creation of Fallout.

The player awakes from hibernation on a ship lost in transit to the colony of Halcyon at the edge of the galaxy. By the time the ship was found, however, decades have passed and the edge of the galaxy had already been settled. Soon enough, you find yourself drawn into a deep conspiracy threatening the colony itself.

The game was released on October 25, 2019 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. A Nintendo Switch release was planned for March 6, 2020 (albeit digitally), but had to be delayed to June 5th after the company assisting the port were forced to suspend operations due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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Two story-driven DLC expansions are planned:

  • In "Peril on Gorgon", released on September 9, 2020, the player is hired to investigate the mysterious Project Gorgon on the asteroid of the same name.
  • "Murder on Eridanos" is set to be released in 2021.

Not to be confused with Outer Wilds.

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The game provides examples of:

     # to D 
  • Abandoned Mine: You can discover one on Scylla, operated by a single auto-mechanical who had long-been deserted
  • Absurdly Low Level Cap: The game's level cap is set at 30. If you're making an effort to do side quests and explore areas thoroughly, it's possible to reach this long before reaching the end of the game. The expansions increase this level cap (up to 33 with "Peril on Gorgon"), similar to the DLC for Fallout: New Vegas.
  • Achilles' Heel: An interesting example in which the player can choose their own: in exchange for taking on a flaw related to in-time events and gameplay, the player is then given a perk-point to spend. For example, if you catch on fire a lot the game will offer to make you even more vulnerable to fire, or if you encounter a certain creature multiple times it offers to weaken you against that creature. Taking a flaw isn't mandatory, however, meaning that the player character doesn't have to have any flaws if they wish.
  • Advertising by Association: The trailer proudly boasts that the game is "From the original creators of Fallout and the developers of Fallout: New Vegas".
  • Advert-Overloaded Future: Pretty much mandatory for a hypercapitalist setting. It's most notably seen on the Groundbreaker, where drones flit around with holographic ads while reading others out, TV delivers ads interrupted by actual media content rather than the other way around, and workers are trained to answer all questions with slogans.
  • The Aesthetics of Technology: Similar to Borderlands, each corporation has its own aesthetic, often visible through their weapons:
    • T&L uses wood, brass, and octagonal shapes with some Art Deco influence, calling back to wild west-like weapons with their Assault Rifle and Sniper Rifle.
    • Joch is Raygun Gothic with some Art Deco influence, using smooth, curved shapes.
    • Hammersmith is probably the closest to "realistic" weaponry, using simple blocky and angular shapes with olive green accents.
    • Spacer's Choice is boxy, with green pistol grips, broken up with yellow bulbous or rounded sections.
  • Airborne Mook: The Pterorays (strange bat-bird creatures) on Emerald Vale and the Mantiswarms (a swarm of insects represented as a single entity) on Monarch.
  • Alien Landmass: Terra-2 and Monarch are somewhat Earth-like in their land formations, but the local vegetation and soil are just alien enough to give the surroundings a blend of colors and scenery that you're unlikely to find anywhere on our own planet.
  • Alien Sky: Terra-2's sky features a planetary ring and three moons, the largest of which has its own planetary ring. Meanwhile, Monarch is a moon: its sky is dominated by Olympus, the jovian gas giant around which it orbits. While not the most realistic, it gives every landscape a look straight out of a 50's pulp magazine cover.
  • Alliance Meter: Your reputation with various factions is recorded on your character page, and goes from 0 to 100% Revered or Repulsed. As is common in Obsidian games, this isn't binary and you can move up both tracks simultaneously. Carry out both good and bad acts for and against a faction, and your reputation with them becomes "Confused".
  • Alternate History: In the game's universe, the survival of William McKinley in 1901 led to the Corporate-dominated society and the discovery of N-Rays led to the foundation to the exotic technology of the setting.
  • An Axe to Grind:
    • You can find a hatchet to use as a low-end melee weapon.
    • The Tremor Cleaver is a higher-level two-handed axe with a vibrating blade, increasing its damage.
  • And Your Reward Is Interior Decorating: Completing certain quests will add related decorations to the captain's cabin on your ship. You can also find decorations for your companions' rooms.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • Base stats are handled on a four-point scale, and skills are upgraded by category until they reach 50. Further, perks only unlock once the game begins, and flaws are emergent. The end result is it's much easier to commit to character creation and cover for any accidental weak spots later, rather than suffering Alt Itis trying to perfect to foundation of a character build. You can also respec your skills and perks at any time from a machine on your ship for a nominal (though increasing after each respec) bits fee.
    • Companions don't have their own inventory. Instead, their ability to carry things for you is abstracted as a flat increase to your overall weight capacity.
    • Given the mixed-reception to hacking and lockpicking minigames in other role-playing games there are none here. You simply need to meet a skill-check and availability check on picking/hackling tools to open a locked door/container or password-protected terminal.
    • Ammunition is weightless and there are only three types to collect.
    • Your companions can't accidentally trap you in doors or hallways, and they'll automatically travel any elevator with you the moment you step foot.
    • Companion characters are essentially invisible while sneaking. A patrolling enemy can walk right by your hidden location... and right past your companion crouching down in the open. You only need to worry about your visibility state.
  • Apocalypse How: A Stellar Societal Collapse that would then turn into a Species Extinction for humans in Halcyon; due to rampant corporate greed and the Board being a bunch of shiftless delegating ninnies, the entire system has hit a point-of-no-return with their food supply, both in terms of dwindling supply and a lack of essential nutrients in grown food resulting in things like the "plague" in Edgewater — a character with a moderate Medical skill can note that said plague has all the markers of a common flu. Preventing the entire colony from collapsing on itself because of this shortage is a key quest after completing the main missions on Monarch.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Par for the course. You will run into plenty of abandoned places on your journey with only the logs left to tell you what happened there.
  • Arbitrary Headcount Limit: Only two out of the six recruitable companions can join you out in the field at a time.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In a UDL Lab on Monarch, the player can find and view a terminal that states that only employees with a certain clearance level are allowed to access it, and that if anyone with a lower clearance level is caught using it, then they will be subject to a very large fine, an extended prison sentence, and a personal letter from the chairman expressing his extreme disappointment. Another terminal in the same building has the same notice on it, except this time, the penalties are either another large fine, an extended (albeit shorter) prison sentence, a trip to a corporate re-education seminar, or a revocation of your company lounge and bathroom privileges.
  • Art Deco: As part of its Raygun Gothic aesthetic, many ships and newer corporate architecture have begun to incorporate the style's futuristic, modernist graphic shapes into their designs. The Board, ironically, has also begun to employ a style similar to Soviet modernism in their pro-capitalist propaganda.
  • Art Nouveau: Many of the illustrated posters used by the corporations are full of braided lines and stylized figures, using intricate printwork to make the most of limited color palettes.
  • Autosave: Every now and then, usually when you spend perk points or reach a certain point during a quest.
  • Badass Crew: You and your army of friends, naturally.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: A possible look for your character or any of your party members, as formal wear suits are a potential clothing option. Special mention goes to a character wearing the Chimaera, a suit that has a defensive rating similar to that of heavy armor (and gives an enormous bonus to dialog skills, as well).
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The Centipeedles and Mantisaurs.
  • Beef Gate: Cascadia; technically, the player can land their ship there at any time after leaving Emerald Vale and bypass a large number of subquests. However, doing so will leave said player underleveled for a city crawling with Level 18 acid-spitting monstrosities. Even so, a truly determined player (or one that has killed the only other option) can fight their way through...or run like hell all the way to another town.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Combined with The Cavalry, the friends you have made during the game can attack Tartarus in order to help you free Phineas Welles. This can be somewhat ironic as it's entirely possible to stealth the level with Phineas' holographic projector. Groundbreaker, Stellar Bay, and the Iconoclasts are all willing to join in the attack, though.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Right when the game starts, your escape pod crashes on top of Alex Hawthorne. If you take a moment to look at his corpse, you can see he's a black guy in a red suit.
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!: T&L brand weapons tend to have gold finish and elaborate engravings. They also typically are superior quality as well; many of the guns have cheap knockoffs in the Spacer's Choice product line, or are superior in one aspect their primary purpose (like the hunting rifle compared to its Hammersmith counterpart) or are less overspecialized in comparison (like T&L'S Plasma Carbine compared to the Plasma Rifle).
  • Blood Sport: Tossball appears to be similar to baseball or cricket with a dash of lacrosse, but much, much more violent - standard equipment is as viable a weapon as a plasma cutter or an axe, and players are regularly ejected for "excessive sportsmanlike conduct."
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: Virtually everyone operates underneath a company, and their sense of morality is tied to what their parent company would like. There are, however, a lot of people whose moral code isn't tied to company policies, but they are forced to work within its confines.
  • Body Horror: Cystypigs are genetically-engineered pigs that are covered with tumors and cysts, but instead of being the result of some experiment gone wrong, this is deliberate. The tumors are bacon-flavored, and slough off the pig's body naturally without harming the cystypig for easy harvesting. This "sustainable meat product" is a staple food in the 24th century; in a terminal log, Phineas Welles even regards his ancestors' butchering pigs for meat as "barbaric".
  • Boom, Headshot!: As per tradition, shots to the head do more damage. A high-tier perk takes this further, causing those you kill with a headshot to explode, damaging other enemies around them.
  • Break Them by Talking: Maxing out Persuade/Intimidate is the most obvious example, but other high skills can also allow the player to do this in specific situations.
  • Breakable Weapons: Weapons degrade and need to be repaired. Ones made by Spacer's Choice are especially bad about it, thanks to being as cheaply made as possible.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: One of the various insurance options offered.
  • Bullet Time: Tactical Time Dilation, which is tied to a meter, slows the game to a crawl and shows enemy statistics, allowing players to quickly shoot them down. It's also a more real-time stand-in for post-Bethesda Fallout's VATS system.
  • Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": "Sprat" may not seem like it, but the name for the little critters you often see scurrying about is actually a portmanteau of "space rat".
  • Capitalism Is Bad: Exaggerated and Played for Laughs. The setting of the game is every single criticism and stereotype about capitalism taken to the Logical Extreme. Just for example: Edgewater, the first town you visit, is run entirely by Spacer's Choice, even the guards. One of these guards, who you meet in a cave outside town, was wounded by his shoddy company-made pistol misfiring into his side, and if aided by the PC, he says he will be reprimanded for accepting medical attention from a non-company source. When you reach the town itself, you see a huge graveyard outside the front gate where the families of the deceased must pay rent to keep their loved ones buried there. If the fees are not paid then the remains are exhumed and unceremoniously dumped into a nearby mass grave. One of the poor souls kept there is an employee of the local Spacer's Choice-run fish cannery who was Driven to Suicidenote  - under company policy, the suicide was written off as "vandalism of company property" and his "closest living relative" is made to pay the rent. Meaning the foreman who discovered his body, as she was the one closest in proximity to him and they are all part of the Spacer's Choice family.
  • Cash Gate: Getting to Monarch requires you to buy an extremely expensive navkey, unless you prefer going through a monster-infested wilderness.
  • Catch-22 Dilemma: Edgewater is periodically stricken by plague. There's never enough medicine to treat all the victims due to the Mega-Corp that owns the place cutting corners, so manager Reed Tobson follows company policy and reserves treatment to only "good workers" — here meaning "workers who aren't sick". For bonus points, it's later revealed that the "plague" is actually nutrient deficiency: the town's diet consists entirely of its own canned saltuna — except it's not saltuna because they don't have any, it's mostly mushrooms, sawdust, and actual dirt — and beer.
  • The Cavalry: When you go to Tartarus to save Phineas you can get reinforcements from the Groundbreaker, the Iconoclasts, and MSI depending on how you dealt with them.
  • Central Theme: The story has two ever-present themes running throughout its narrative that often intersect and are something that this game's setting gets the players to confront when making their choices:
  • Chainsaw Grip BFG: Most heavy weapons have this kind of grip and are sufficiently bulky that they need to be wielded off to one side: examples include the light machine gun, heavy machine gun, shock cannon, flamethrower, and grenade launcher and their unique variants. Crew member Nyoka uses a light machine gun as her Weapon of Choice.
  • Color-Coded Castes: Parodied. This generally doesn't apply, but the Rizzo's corporation markets a brand of colored vodka, Spectrum, where it's actually a criminal offense to drink any bottle that's above your paygrade: red for entry-level workers, green for guards, purple for the elite, and ultraviolet for the ultra-elite.
  • Color-Coded Elements: Shock is blue, corrosive is green, plasma is red, and N-ray is purple.
  • Color Contrast: Vicar Max, a vicar of the OSI, wears their blues. Meanwhile, Graham Bryant, leader of the opposing faction of Iconoclasts who practice Philosophism has orange hair, and wears that color as well.
  • Combat, Diplomacy, Stealth: This applies to a lot of the quests. Either come in guns blazing, rely on disguises or alternate routes, or talk your way in without firing a shot.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When ADA (the Unreliable's A.I.) insists that she can only take orders from Captain Hawthorne, she pretends the player is Hawthorne with a wink and a nudge. The player can then repeatedly express confusion with ADA, insisting earnestly that they're not Hawthorne. A number of the [Dumb] dialogue options available to a PC of below-average intelligence take this tack as well.
  • Companion-Specific Sidequest: Each of the companions (with the exception of SAM; you instead have to find parts to rebuild him) have a personal sidequest associated with them. Completing it not only unlocks a unique Perk from them but also affects their ending.
  • Company Town: All towns in the game except for the neutral Groundbreaker and dissident-run Amber Heights are owned and operated by a company. Taken to extremes with the first town, Edgewater, which revolves entirely around a cannery that processes saltuna (a local fish with a life-cycle similar to salmon), run by the Mega-Corp Spacer's Choice. Even their diet revolves around the cannery, which is part of the problem.
  • Copy-and-Paste Environments: Justified, as most of the corporation products, including the buildings themselves, are prefabricated for very high efficiency.
  • Copy Protection:
    • Subverted for the Epic Games Store version, which has no DRM.
    • Played straight with the Microsoft Store/XBOX version though, which use account-based activation.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Almost every corporate executive and their employee in the game. Played With as it's also the case that many of them are stupid rather than actively malevolent. Their cost-cutting and incompetence is enough to cause deaths far in excess of what would happen if they were actually evil.
  • Crapsaccharine World: A colorful, vibrant retrofuture of corporate oversight and overreaching.
  • Credit Chip: Bits are just that, a 1-bit long serial code that corresponds to a number on the World Bank's supercomputer mainframe. They're stored on a "Bit Cartridge," which acts as both wallet and debit card (very much NOT credit cards, the Mega Corps want their money up-front) and looks like a yellow, paisley-patterned SNES cartridge.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Averted for the player. Many noncombat skills give combat bonuses, such as speech skills giving debuffs to certain enemy types, or tech skills allowing you to hack robotic enemies. So a character who never improves their weapon skills will still be combat-viable from all the passive perks their other skills give.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Scientism is kind of a hybrid of Confucianism and Deism, but its churches are still built like Catholic cathedrals with stained glass and the like (although they have vicars, an Anglican title, instead of priests or bishops).
  • Dangerous Forbidden Technique: Skip-jumping a ship to a destination in the same system. Collision is highly probable since destinations would be near planets. It's also the only way to get the lost colony ship Hope past the Board's security pickets around it.
  • Death World: The "lightly terraformed" world of Monarch has a way of reclaiming human settlements. Even if you're behind walls thick enough to keep the mantisaurs and acid-spewing raptidons out, famine and the omnipresent, maddening stench of sulfur test the wills of any colonists eking a life out on Monarch.
  • Deconstruction: Of Mega-Corp tropes, mainly by taking the One Nation Under Copyright elements to their Logical Extreme; people discriminate against each other based on corporate loyalties and the way people treat companies sometimes reaches Cargo Cult levels. That's not even getting into the raging incompetence that plagues many of them as a result of growing far beyond their capabilities, like The Peter Principle applied to entire companies.
  • Degraded Boss:
    • When you first run into a Marauder Ringleader, you'd probably have trouble fighting against their machine guns or flamethrowers. They become such a regularity later on you'd think they were no different from normal mauraders.
    • If you don't get the Stellar Bay Navkey, you can opt to land in Cascadia, where you will get eviscerated by Mantisaurs. They become a regular happenstance in Monarch.
  • Developers' Foresight:
    • A sidequest in Emerald Vale deals with a robot that you can either destroy or repair. If you have Parvati with you, she can repair it herself while giving it the name Jeremy. If you take this option, you can later encounter the robot, now with the name Jeremy.
    • It's theoretically possible that you could break both the main storyline and the SubLight Salvage faction quest by becoming unable to get the navkey for Stellar Bay from Gladys: you'd have to not bring back enough tech from Roseway to trade for it, and spend too much money to be able to afford the 10,000 bits to simply buy it from her. Fortunately, Obsidian anticipated the possibility: you can still land on Monarch at the abandoned Cascadia pad, though it means a heck of a hike to civilization through territory infested with monsters and Marauders.
    • Every location has more than one quest available at any given time, so it's bound that you will collect/perform something along the way that's pertinent for something unrelated. So by the time you meet that respective quest giver, you can tell them you're already carrying or have done what they need.
    • The entire game is a sterling example of this — backup NPCs will show up for NPCs that die, nearly every sidequest has multiple ways to complete it, no character build is un-viable, and the entire game can be beaten without killing a single person or creature. The game has redundancies upon redundancies to ensure that key storyline quests can be completed. It's entirely possible to miss a good bunch of the game's full cast because you decided to not wantonly kill a bunch of people.
    • If your companions start a conversation while out and about, only for combat to start, they will stop talking and fight. Once combat is over, they will resume where they left off, but will leave a small comment about returning to the topic, such as Felix saying "Where were we?".
    • Vicar Max's companion questline starts with him looking for a rare book, which when he finds it turns out to be in French, which he doesn't speak. Except if you're playing the game in French, in which case the book is in Polish.
  • Diminishing Returns for Balance: Early on, you can make a character who is relatively good at everything, because the earliest parts of the game wants to convey to the player that there are multiple ways around everything. By the time you finish the quests on the Groundbreaker, however, players will start to find skill checks that they cannot pass unless they devote at least 2/3rds of the skill points towards them or keep a companion who can do these things for them and/or carry items/equipment that boost said stat by a small amount. The two biggest examples of this are Lockpick and Hack—skills which will almost always allow a player to bypass searching for keycards and passwords but tend to require extremely high stats in either, as well as enough shunts/picks to do it.
  • Disadvantageous Disintegration: Downplayed. Enemies felled by plasma weapons or certain abilities will leave an ash pile rather than a corpse. While you can still loot the ash pile without issue, actually finding it after a long battle or in a grassy area can be problematic.
  • Disc-One Nuke:
    • It is possible to find several heavy and energy weapons in and around Emerald Vale in the game's early going. Unfortunately, the scarcity/expense of the ammo they require means you won't get much use out of them yet. However, your companions do not consume ammunition. Simply give these weapons to them and let them cut down most enemies with ease for you.
    • Fiver is a unique heavy pistol purchasable from the Deserters in Emerald Vale once you have raised your reputation with them. It's a Hand Cannon which uses heavy ammo and can blow away most early game opponents. However, it is a Spacer's Choice weapon, so it degrades quickly and will become outpaced once you reach other settlements.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Some of the punishments the corporations like to dish out for minor infractions fall squarely under this. For example, in a UDL laboratory on Monarch, one freely accessible terminal comes with the notification that using said terminal without clearance can net you a prison sentence of up to 349 months. That's right, twenty-nine years just for snooping around on someone else's computer.
  • Do Androids Dream?: Most robots in the setting are very clearly non-sentient, but ADA, the AI on your ship, makes you wonder. She claims that she isn't really self-aware, just programmed really well to simulate it, but a lot of her behavior seems way too emotional and spontaneous for any sort of programming to explain. You can debate this trope with her and others at several points, but the game itself never says for certain whether she's attained sapience or not.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • One of the propaganda posters shown during the loading screens is a warning about indentured servants rising up in violent revolt against their masters. Replace ‘indentured servants’ with ‘slaves’ and similar arguments have been made historically for denying them freedom/rights.
    • The first European settlers in America came over with a disproportionate number of business owners, luxury goods craftsmen and unskilled laborers, and an unfortunate lack of scientists, educated farmers, and physicians. Huge numbers of colonists died within the first few years, largely out of sheer incompetence.
  • Door to Before: These usually come in the form of barricaded doors that you can be unsealed after completing your quest.
  • Double Jump: Instead of jumping higher, this is used to redirect you mid-jump.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Anton Crane's fate if you help him see the ruin he wrought in the name of science and ambition.
    • The sole inhabitant of Relay GB-23 shot himself when he realized it was the only way to silence the murderous voices in his head.
    • You can make Phineas do it, too, with the right words.
  • Drop Pod: How you arrive on your first planet after Phineas Welles saves you. Your contact, Alex Hawthorne, is stupid enough to be standing directly where you're landing when this happens. CRUNCH.
  • Drop the Hammer:
    • Among the two-handed melee weapons there's the Prismatic Hammer, a unique Science weapon that's capable of launching energy waves with Power Attacks.
    • The Pulse Hammer is a generic two-handed melee weapon.
  • Drugs Are Bad: The most commonly used kind on the planet, Adrena-Time, is a crippling system-wide addiction. Meant to be a productivity-enhancing stimulant, Side-Effects Include... depression, paranoia, and homicidal rage. It is implied to be responsible for both suicides the rampant Marauder problem. The latter is confirmed in "Peril on Gorgon" — enough Adrena-Time taken over a long enough period of time invariably leads to mental degradation and psychosis, and Spacer's Choice knew that when they canceled the research project and rolled out the current version of the drug.
  • Dump Stat: Block, one of the defense skill stats which provides bonuses to player defense while using a melee weapon, is in practice one of the least useful stats, at least depending on the player's play style. While its sister stat, Dodge, is slightly more useful for dodging away from charging enemies, Block is next to useless if the player has prioritized using any type of gun weapon, as the defense boosts brought by block only apply with melee out. In the time that it takes the player to bring out their melee, if they have one, they could have just dodged away and take a shot or several with their gun.
     E to L 
  • Ear Worm: The Mind Control Ray is a weaponized version of this. It was the result of a marketing jingles team being mistakenly transferred to a top-secret weapon project. If you listen closely, you can hear that the sound of it firing is actually just "It's not the best choice! It's not the best choice!" being repeated faster and faster.
  • The Engineer: A number of characters are explicitly such, like Junlei and Parvati. You, potentially, as well if you dedicate skill increases into the Engineering skill.
  • Evil, Inc.: Aside from MSI, the corporations of Halcyon are all completely amoral on top of being incompetent due to the fact that there are absolutely no checks on their authority.
  • Evil Pays Better: Selling Phineas Welles out to the Board results in a huge monetary payout. Killing Eva Chartrand instead of letting her continue her work or convincing her to assist Phineas also results in a good payout. However, taking either or especially both actions have serious long-term consequences for the colony.
  • Exploding Barrels: Your firefights will occasionally be punctuated with these.
  • Eye Patch Of Power: Grimm is a guard on Monarch and most likely the first person you meet upon stepping foot on Stellar Bay. He has an eyepatch, but he comes across as somewhat goofy and is a fan of tossball. The badass portion of this is downplayed up until the final battle, where he leads MSI soldiers on Tartarus.
  • Faceless Goons: Standard for the subgenre, there's an endless supply of masked, murderous, unreasoning bandits/raiders in Post-Apunkalyptic Armor, here called marauders, squatting in the many ruined and abandoned settlements strewn across the colony worlds. In "Peril on Gorgon", it's revealed that, as hinted and contrary to what the corporations would have you believe, marauders are not merely settlers who couldn't hack colony life and turned to crime and drugs, but are in fact people who have suffered catastrophic mental degradation from taking Adrena-Time, Spacer's Choice's supposed productivity wonder-drug which the Board pushed on all its workers even knowing the side effects. The Golden Ending for the DLC has the Ambroses work together to create a cure which actually sees some of the surviving marauders return home to their loved ones... those the player wasn't forced to gun down, that is.
  • The Famine: The setup for the game. During the opening, Welles tells you that the entire Halcyon System is crashing headfirst into a mass food shortage thanks to the Board's criminal incompetence. It's somewhat more complicated, but the Board is largely incompetent, and even those of them that aren't are committed to a plan that will effectively write off a significant portion of the population and leave them to starve, while putting many others back into suspended animation. On top of the Board's poor management and long-term planning, the shortage is the result of a combination of environmental factors: the terraformed soil and genetically modified plants mean crops are lacking in essential vitamins, so people are technically starving no matter how much they eat, meaning the colony cannot support even its already shrinking population. And there is no guarantee that any of the Hope's scientists will have a solution either once they're revived — it could just lead to a population increase that will make everything worse.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Played for Laughs; in keeping with the One Nation Under Copyright setting, bigotry in the game is based on things like brand loyalties and credit ratings rather than anything like race or gender.
    • Dissidents are treated like the scum of the Earth by the OSI. We only get to hear about this second hand from Vicar Max, though, and through corporate propaganda posters. The Board also promotes this attitude heavily, and you can hear derogatory comments from various citizens in Byzantium. Sophia Akande will take it even further by ordering the execution of the entire town of Edgewater if you've sided with her, but had previously put Adelaide in charge.
  • The Farmer and the Viper:
  • Fascist, but Inefficient: The Board is, in addition to its villainy, often incompetent. A player who wants to work with them will spend an astounding amount of time cleaning up the messes caused by their ill-considered policies, in-fighting, reckless cost-cutting, and not-infrequent just plain corruption and stupidity.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: Superluminal regular-space variant. The engines for it are called "Skip-drives", as they "skip" past light speed. Usage of them in a system is emphatically not recommended.
  • Final Solution:
    • The Board plans to put 90% of its population in storage while the wealthy live in luxury until they can find a solution to The Famine. They also kill all of the Hope colonists by emptying out their stasis pods contents (people) into space to do this.
    • Played more straight with the Halcyon Early Retirement Plan where people win the Lottery and then are given a "place" in Byzantium that amounts to execution.
    • If you side with the Board but previously set up Adelaide as Edgewater's mayor, Akande will order the entire town's execution by mechanicals, which the player themselves must switch on. Her reasoning being that the now independent town's success will encourage more dissidents.
  • First Town: Edgewater, plagued by marauders, deserters, starvation, and a (supposed) plague. It's up to you whether you solve their problems for them or simply abscond with their power source and leave them to their fate.
  • Forbidden Zone:
    • In Emerald Vale, the Geothermal Power Plant was overrun by hostile automechanicals that Kill All Humans on sight. Most residents of the Vale are way out of the depth trying to take them on, so no one has dared to.
    • On the Groundbreaker, the Back Bays have been taken over by a group of drugged-out bandits, and teams sent in to deal with them or get something from the Bays don't come back. Because of this, Chief Tennyson's official stance is to consider it no man's land.
    • Monarch in general has been disavowed by the Board and stated to be crawling with vicious outlaws and ravenous beasts. This is not completely untrue, but there is civilization on Monarch, although it is floundering without support from the rest of the colony.
      • Standing out even from the rest of Monarch is Cascadia, a city which was overrun by Marauders on one side and by tough-as-nails Mantisaurs on the other. It serves as a massive Beef Gate to encourage players to do quests in other areas to reach Monarch safely, as every character will tell you it is suicidal and stupid to go there.
  • For the Evulz: The Halcyon Early Retirement Plan. It doesn't really kill people at a fast enough rate to actually help with the system-wide starvation issue, so it comes off as a bunch of rich people killing poor people with little proper motivation.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Your character goes from being a nobody in an abandoned cryo pod with brain damage and 70 years of debt, to a major player in the corporate wars and one of the most (in)famous people in the Halcyon System.
  • Fungus Humongous: The unusual flora of Monarch consists of giant versions of real but odd-looking mushrooms and plants.
  • Game-Breaking Bug:
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: Flaws are "identified," not selected. What this means in practice is that your character will have the opportunity to acquire Flaws (and the Perk points they come with) by doing something that would make that person develop a lasting behavioral change. For example, taking too much fall damage allows a flaw for a fear of heights, and taking too much damage from Mantisaurs will prompt a phobia of Big Creepy-Crawlies. Compare to the Fallout series, where Traits (a flaw with a specific upside baked in) were selected from a list during character creation.
  • The Gay '90s: Much of the game's culture is based on the Gilded Age, the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, from the Art Nouveau ad illustrations to the growing discontent toward the labor boom and rise of big business — here rather than Railroad Barons and the fallout from the Industrial Revolution, it's the Board and the aftermath of the initial colony rush.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Captain Alex Hawthorne. The original was male, but the androgynous name means you can use it as a false identity even if you aren't.
  • Genius Bonus: Dimethyl sulfoxide is a very important substance in cryogenics, commonly used to protect cells from the effects of long-term freezing and thawing.
  • Genre Throwback: To Planetary Romance stories such as Buck Rogers.
  • Going Through the Motions: While not as bad as some BioWare games, the NPC's all seem to develop this weird smirk at the corner of their lips during dialogue.
  • Golden Path: Something of a theme for the game: most conflicts that seemingly force you to take a side usually have a superior compromise option. It just might not be the most comfortable in the short term.
    • Emerald Vale: You can convince Reed Tobson, the head of Edgewater's cannery, that the corporate-mandated diet is responsible for the plague, merging the town with the Deserters. The optimal solution, however, is to shut down power to the Botanical Labs and force the Deserters to return to the town, which makes their leader Adelaide hate you... even after you convince Reed to step down and let her take over, in spite of her grudge against the town and Reed. But even Reed can agree she's the better leader if you tell him how she's growing real food and curing the plague, and he's willing to accept his own exile (and probable death by marauders) for the good of Edgewater.
    • Roseway: If you manage to convince research director Anton Crane that his ambition is undermining any theoretical greater good he hopes to achieve, spare outlaw-with-revolutionary-leanings Cassandra, convince her to turn Anton's research over to you, and then return it to Anton, the two of them end up meeting up as they leave the planet. You later run into Crane aboard the Groundbreaker, where it turns out he's sold the research and means to turn over a new leaf, making an actual difference rather than helping the Board keep the workers placated.
    • Stellar Bay/Amber Heights: At the climax of the main storyline quest on-planet, a UDL gunship crashes and both Monarch Stellar Industries (which unlike the other Mega Corps actually gives a damn about its workers' welfare) and the anti-corporate Iconoclasts want you to bring them their weapons. You can instead convince Iconoclast leader Graham's more grounded Number Two Zora to turn on him (by proving he was responsible for a tragedy in the Backstory), and then get her and MSI to strike a deal.
    • "Peril on Gorgon" DLC: Convince Minnie and Olivia Ambrose to work together. This requires breaching both Ambrose's defenses, but it results in the two of them developing a cure to restore the marauders to normal.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: If you helped Junlei, the Iconoclasts, and MSI, each will arrive in The Very Definitely Final Dungeon and help assault it.
  • Government Conspiracy: One is at work to conceal the Hope's arrival in Halcyon and keep all its colonists frozen for the time being in order to prevent a potential Overpopulation Crisis. Thwarting it is why Phineas Welles unfroze you, but the game leaves it up to you to decide whether the conspiracy should be thwarted.
  • Groin Attack: As a game that's a spiritual successor to the pre-Bethesda Fallout series, critical hits to the groin return from the original PC games while you're using your TTD ability.
  • Hand Cannon: Fiver, a unique revolver purchasable once your reputation with the Deserters gets high enough. It's been chambered to use Heavy ammo, giving it dramatically more punch than most one-handed firearms. However, it's still early game equipment and a Spacer's Choice revolver, so players looking for a high-damage pistol can move up to the Vermin revolver series, which also use Heavy ammo and each deal several times the damage of the Fiver.
  • Hanlon's Razor: The Board is extremely morally ambiguous, and fully deserve to be overthrown for their intentional actions alone. To their extremely debatable credit however they're not actively trying drive the colonies into the ground or get their people killed, it's merely a side effect of how utterly incompetent they are. Thanks to a total lack of oversight on account of having lost touch with any sort of proper government, elitism, promoting people far beyond their capabilities, and growing far too large and unwieldy for their own good, possibly the biggest blows against their power are largely self-inflicted. Notably, some of the game's best endings come about from cleaning up the Board's messes and restructuring them into a genuinely competent company.
  • Harder Than Hard: Supernova difficulty can only be selected during new game, if you change the difficulty down during the game, you cannot change it back up. It entails the following:
    • Enemies have more health and deal more damage.
    • You must eat, drink and sleep to survive, as measured by hunger, thirst and exhaustion bars unique to this difficulty.
    • Companions will die permanently when downed in battle
    • Crippled body and limb conditions can only be healed by sleeping in beds.
    • You can only sleep inside your ship.
    • You can only fast travel to your ship.
    • You can only manually save inside your ship.
    • There are less autosaves than the other modes.
    • Weapons and armour perform far worse at lower durability.
  • Holographic Disguise: Early on, Phineas gives you a Holographic Shroud that temporarily disguises you and your companions whenever you enter a restricted area provided that you have the right ID. If it runs out, enemies that detect you will inquire about you, forcing you to pass a speech check that restores the Shroud (up to three times).
  • Human Popsicle: The origin of your character; you and hundreds of other colonists were crammed into cryogenic pods on a Sleeper Starship bound for Halcyon, only to somehow get lost and forgotten along the way, until Phineas Welles discovers and unfreezes you (the rest of the colonists aren't so lucky).
  • Humans Are Morons: A recurring theme. Most of the colonists of Halcyon colony are simpletons who worship the ground their corporate overlords walk on, even when said corporate overlords are buffoons themselves.
  • Humans Are White: Downplayed significantly. Many, especially the NPCs, are non-white or at least Ambiguously Brown.
  • Hurricane of Euphemisms: Tossball player "Black Hole Bertie" Holcomb, so called because he sucks up anything that comes his way, is also known as "the Tally Whacker" and "the Slick Stick". Your character is disturbed and/or incredulous.
  • I am a Humanitarian: There are three instances of this. One involves your typical slightly off family on the city's outskirts. Another involves the owner of a pig factory.
  • Idle Rich: The people living on Byzantium don't even have to work for a living. Some are so bored that they wish things like a band of marauders would pop up, just so that something exciting can happen.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The "science" weapons with a maxed out science stat are obscenely powerful and cheap to level up.
  • In Spite of a Nail: Phineas is captured by the Board regardless if you're working with the latter or not. Choosing to send a tracking-signal to pinpoint his location to the Board, or sending a corrupted-signal to obscure his whereabouts makes no difference. The true choice that determines your allegiance and the game's ending is whether you send the Hope to Terra-2 for Phineas or to Tartarus for the Board.
  • Insistent Terminology: The difference between a package and a parcel is very important, but both are given definitions that could very easily apply to one or the other.
  • Interface Screw: When concussed, the edges of your screen will blur. Getting hit by projectile venom will also cover your screen up. When close to death, the edges of your screen turn red.
  • Interface Spoiler:
    • The amount of space on the screen where you select which companions will join you makes it clear how many exist and if you've recruited them all yet.
    • The system map shows each planet from the start, though you cannot land on them until you have the associated Navkey. However, merely reading the description of Tartarus (the home of the Board's high-security prison) leaves little doubt that you will end up there.
  • Karl Marx Hates Your Guts: Buying prices and access to restricted stock are tied to your Alliance Meter with the faction that controls the store (or with a perk in the case of vending machines). Sale prices are globally fixed, with a perk only providing a 20% increase.
  • Kill the Poor: The lottery program in Byzantium is a farce, and the people who win it are actually murdered in order to control the poor population.
  • Lawful Stupid: The Boards, full stop, one notable example being a conversation you overhear in Byzantium about UCL rounding up anyone with a connection to Phineas Welles, resulting in them arresting the man who made Welles's wanted poster. The people who are talking about it agree that it's an obvious connection and therefore he should have been arrested. One of the major issues throughout the game is the sheer amount of red tape the Board forces everyone to comply with in order to perform even the most basic tasks.
  • Lightspeed Leapfrog: The colony ship that was ferrying the main character fell out of FTL and lay abandoned for seven decades, during which time the edge of the galaxy had already been settled.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • ADA is programmed to only take orders from Captain Alex Hawthorne. After you report Hawthorne's death to her, she suggests (in a roundabout, technical way) taking his identity so she will take orders from you.
    • MSI's Mr. Sanjar intends to use this to force the Board to put Monarch Stellar Industries back in their original place of prestige.
    • A sprat legally owns the bar on Gorgon. The workers are alright with this arrangement because, if they somehow get into legal trouble, the sprat will be the one punished.
  • Lost Colony: The Halcyon System itself, judging by the fact that they've lost contact with Earth and the rest of space.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Enemies that are killed by physical damage tend to have their arms, legs, and heads explode off thier body. It doesn't really matter where they're hit or what they're hit by, killing them with a critical hit will result in the extremities going flying while the now limbless torso falls in place.
     M to R 
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's not really clear if the ceremony you take part in for Max's personal quest actually does involve seeing the ghosts of his family or if it's all the result of drugs and a shared hallucination.
  • Meaningful Name: The Hope is the actual last hope of the Halcyon colony according to Phineas, as it holds the brightest minds of a generation who could help solve the major problems on the horizon. ...And he's largely proven right by the endings.
  • Meaningful Echo: You can tell Felix you'd never, in his own words, "Slaughter a town full of innocent people" after he finds out the truth about Graham Should you set up Adelaide as leader of Edgewater and have Sophia ask you to kill the whole town, Felix is quick to lash out saying that they'd "Never slaughter a town full of innocents...right?" looking at his boss. You. You can then proceed to do it anyway.
  • Mega-Corp: Spacer's Choice, Auntie Cleo's, Rizzo's, Universal Defense Logistics, formerly Monarch Stellar Industries, and the rest of the original ten corporations that jointly own the Halcyon colony in the form of the Halcyon Holdings Corporation. Through the Board, they control everything in the system, with the exceptions of the ''Groundbreaker'' and the abandoned colony of Monarch.
  • Melting-Pot Nomenclature: The future's mix of cultures gives us names that are often a combination of a somewhat preppy, old-timey Anglo surname and a first name from Asia or Africa, like Parvati Holcomb (Indian/British), Junlei Tennyson (Korean/British), Nyoka Ramnarim-Wentworth III (Swahili/British), and Udom Bedford (Thai/British). Adjutant Sophia Akande reverses the order (Greek first name, Yoruba surname).
  • Min-Maxing: Implemented as a gameplay mechanic. As part of the game's perk system, the game keeps track of things you are not very good at, and gives you the option of taking on a flaw in exchange for an immediate perk point.
  • Morality Kitchen Sink: As per Obsidian's most famous works, everyone has a reason for what they do with some sides being closer to Black-and-Gray Morality while others being Evil vs. Evil.
    • The central conflict between Phineas Welles and the Board is Black-and-Gray Morality. The former comes off as the Lesser of Two Evils, planning to restore a bunch of frozen colonists, versus the people who wrote them off in the first place. However, the Board is the major force keeping the region going (for certain values of "going"), and Phineas admits that if none of the top scientists or engineers he intends to revive can think of a solution then "we're spaced". The Board is much worse. They're also aware Earth is gone and there's no help coming, but their solution is essentially to Kill the Poor and hope that they can repair the situation once their own resource issues are fixed. Phineas is also a man who conducted horrible human experiments that got Hope colonists killed.
    • The conflict between Edgewater and the Deserters has the Company Town against some hippie-ish Commune types is also Grey-and-Gray Morality. The people of Edgewater live in appalling conditions and their Undying Loyalty is going to get them all killed because they're eating nothing but poor quality canned meat. The Deserters are healthy, happy, and thriving, ...by using corpses stolen from the Edgewater graveyard to make fertilizer. However, the Edgewater cannery can't meet its production quotas without the deserters, and the deserters aren't able to grow enough vegetables to sustain the entire town. And both leaders are entirely willing to screw each other over by turning off each other's power.
    • The Groundbreaker is White-and-Grey Morality. Groundbreaker is led by Captain Junlei Tennyson, who wants to keep the station independent at all costs. Board liaison Udom Bedford is somewhat buffoonish but at most a Punch-Clock Villain who was even friends with Captain Alex Hawthorne; the worst thing he actually does is cast some doubt over how good Phineas himself really is. The local mob, Sublight Salvage, doesn't cause any trouble on the station itself, and their leader, Lilya Hagen, is on friendly terms with Tennyson and believes she's stumbled upon an alien conspiracy and is trying to save the colony. And even the flamethrower-wielding MacRedd and his gang squatting in the Back Bays are actually just a captain and crew who've had their ship impounded and sold off, resorting to growing hallucinogenic mushrooms just to scrape by. All of them can be reasoned with, and much of the bad blood between them is the result of various misunderstandings.
    • Roseway is Evil vs. Evil, with Auntie Cleo's being a secret lab engaged in illegal Animal Testing that has gotten many people killed, all in the name of diet toothpaste. Most of the outlaws with pretensions of being anti-corporate revolutionaries, on the other hand, are Only in It for the Money. You can convince the two leaders of the factions that violence isn't solving anything, though whether they're worth the effort or just a pair of Karma Houdinis depends on the player. Auntie Cleo's team leader Anton Crane can be broken down and put through a complete Heel Realization, which, depending on how harsh you were, can either result in him giving up his career and leaving everything behind to try and redeem himself elsewhere, or simply killing himself on the spot.
    • Monarch is a complicated example of White-and-Grey Morality. MSI head Sanjar Nandi wants to get back in the Board's good graces, but he genuinely cares about the welfare of his workers (albeit some of it is Enlightened Self-Interest). Iconoclast leader Graham Bryant is an idealistic zealot who cares more about getting his message (of rebellion against the Board) out than practical matters such as feeding his followers, but his Number Two Zora Blackwood covers for that fault. Graham turns out to have been responsible for a massacre in the Backstory that caused the Board to pull out of Monarch—inadvertently opening the way for Sanjar to seize the planet for MSI. The Golden Path ending of the Monarch storyline has the PC talk Zora into overthrowing Graham and making peace with Sanjar.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Defied. You can suggest this to Phineas Welles when he tells you about the holographic disguise, but he points out a stolen uniform would never fool biometric scanners.
  • Multiple Endings: Like most Obsidian Entertainment games, the story can end in several ways. There are two main ending paths: siding with Phineas and awakening the Hope colonists, or siding with the Board and freezing all but the wealthiest and most essential colonists until the Board's scientists can solve the food shortage. In addition, as is tradition for Obisidan, each area you go to and major character you meet has a variety of possible endings that change depending on your actions. The Phineas ending also changes based on decisions made through it, in particular how much of the chemicals the player gave Phineas.
  • My Beloved Smother: Agnes Needham in relation to her son Tucker, who throughout his whole life was babied and coddled by her, not allowing him any freedom in his life out of irrational fear that some mishap might happen to her little 'Tuck-Tuck', who is now forty-two years old, and completely sick and tired of his mother's overbearing attitude, to the point that he decided to run away from Stellar Bay to Amber Heights to join the Iconoclasts, just to get away from her. Agnes, fraught with worry, calls upon the player to retrieve her son and bring him back to her. The player can either force Tucker to return by force, which he resents immensely, or they can convince Tucker to stand up for himself against his mother.
  • Mythology Gag:
  • Nice Hat: There is a unique hat called A Nice Hat in the game. It's a top hat that can be found while exploring Monarch and gives significant bonuses to Persuasion and Leadership skills. More top hats can be purchased from a shop in Byzantium, though they don't have the skill buffs.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: As revealed by the Apocalyptic Log entries on the ship, some of the Hope crewmembers eventually began resorting to thawing out and eating colonists to survive. This led to a battle between the surviving crew before the captain performed a Heroic Sacrifice to kill the remaining cannibals in order to protect the colonists.
  • Non Standard Game Over: There are a few different ways of making a skip-jump into the Halcyon system's sun, which unlocks an achievement.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat:
    • There is a lot of paperwork that needs to be done in order for most people to do anything. Some people can take up to thirty-five years for their concerns to be addressed. This is never really an issue for you, since you can persuade/browbeat people into expediting the process.
    • If you start off with the "Bureaucrat" aptitude, you gain a bonus to the block skill.
  • Oh My Gods!: At first one might think people are swearing by the Lord, but they instead swear by the Law - the Scientism belief that the Architect set the universe in motion, governed by laws, and then left it to work.
  • One Nation Under Copyright:
    • The Board, the various MegaCorps that hold sway over Halcyon colony. Instead of racism and sexism, people in the colony define prejudice by corporate loyalties, peppering company slogans into dialogue and insulting rival corporations. It's revealed at the end that this situation came about because the Halcyon system lost all contact with Earth and the wider interstellar community some years ago, meaning the corporations pretty much had to act as the closest thing to a government.
    • Entire human civilization itself is implied to be this with the Earth Directorate being formed as an intermediary to solve corporate disputes and selling deeds of star systems to any bidding owners. Furthermore, the game's lore on Aptitude—many of its flavor text being occupations—implied that safety inspections by Corporations are usually done to find ways to install safety measures in bare minimum standards rather than ensuring workplace safety.
  • One Stat to Rule Them All:
    • The Science stat is remarkably useful to just about any kind of play style. Science weapons are among the highest DPS weapons in the game, and often come with different types of status damage to boot. But what makes Science extremely important is that it dictates the player's ability to tinker and improve their equipment for increased amounts of money, with a maxed out Science stat lowering it by 90%, which makes it useful even to non-combat focused characters wanting to improve their armor.
    • The Dialogue stats (Persuade, Lie, Intimidate) are near game-breakers at higher levels. Their abuse allows you to skip tedious sequences and avoid combat in numerous quests, making the game exceedingly easy.
  • Our Slogan Is Terrible: "It's not the best choice, it's Spacer's Choice!"
  • Our Weapons Will Be Boxy In The Future: Hammersmith's weapon product line tends to have very angular, boxy lines.
  • Outdated Name: Being based on the Gilded Age, various names which have fallen out of fashion today are standard, like Hortense, Hiram, Aloysius, or the ever-popular Phineas.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Averted. The conflict between science and religeon has been solved, with Intelligent Design considered a scientific fact, and the idea that life, the universe, and everything "just happened one day" and the universe itself can bring order from chaos is considered heresy (it even has a name: Philosophism). People even swear by the Laws of Physics. The local religion, Scientism, is very firmly in the "Opiate of the Masses" camp, however, teaching corporate spew such as "Work fortifies the spirit" and that people will have the exact same job they did in life in heaven.
  • Overpopulation Crisis: Preventing this is the reason why Chairman Rockwell and Sophia Akande are opposing you and trying to keep the Hope colonists frozen; unlike the rest of the Board, they have enough common sense to know that the Halcyon System is in serious trouble, and believe that a major population boom is the last thing the colonies need at the moment. Depending on your previous choices, they can be completely correct — but their solution is to space the sleeping colonists of the Hope so they can stick 90% of the current population into hibernation in their place, and the Board has already begun instituting such draconian measures as the Logan's Run-esque "Early Retirement" program, in which colonists from other settlements are chosen by lot, promised a life of luxury in Byzantium, and then summarily killed en masse by automechanicals.
  • Path of Inspiration: Scientism has some elements of this, like causing people to try to be The Stoic to an extreme and mindlessly accept their lot in life. Downplayed because most people aren't particularly inclined to do this and it has somehow managed to inspire some sincere believers to do the opposite of its doctrine and improve lives.
  • The Peter Principle: The corporations promote huge numbers of executives into positions of power based on what will generate the most revenue, missing that such a concern is secondary to making sure the colonies (that they run) are livable. The companies themselves have grown far beyond their limited means in the Halcyon System, to the point of becoming downright labyrinthine with bureaucracy. It has gotten to the point where a massive food shortage is beginning that could lead to the whole system imploding.
  • Pinball Projectile: "Ultimatum", a contraband Earth Directorate military plasma pistol, shoots these. After completing the quest "Vulcan's Hammer" for either Auntie Cleo's or Gladys, you will start seeing branded ones being sold across the system as either the "Ulti-Nature" or the Joch "Ultimate Bolter."
  • The Plague: Edgewater has been suffering from a deadly plague when the player first arrives. Sort of. The plague is in fact a common cold or flu, made exponentially worse due to nutrient deficiency, since the town lives on a one-food diet with virtually no nutritional value.
  • Planetville: Justified due to the planets in the system having been poorly terraformed, so humans are stuck in the small areas on each world that are marginally habitable.
  • Plasma Cannon: Energy ammo-consuming weapons typically are this. However, though they are not insta-hit like slug-throwing weapons, they are still practical up to mid-range. The plasma carbine is a solid general-purpose semi-auto long-arm gun, for instance.
  • Playing Both Sides: It's entirely possible to work with both Phineas and the Board for most of the game, until you have to pick a side.
  • Plot Armor: A notable example in a game that otherwise lets you kill any character. When you reunite with Phineas he will only speak in person behind a wall of bullet-proof glass. This is to prevent you from killing him and derailing the main-plot as he is your primary quest-giver. In the endgame if you side with Phineas then the final mission will be to rescue him from the Board. If you side with the Board instead then you must rescue Sophia Akande with Phineas acting as the Final Boss. If you talk Phineas out of a fight then he will kill himself regardless.
  • Precision F-Strike: The previously prim and proper Vicar Max saying he "can't fucking read French!" (or Polish if the game language is set to French) when you hand him the banned Philosophist text he's been searching for. If you recruit him, he goes on to be one of your most foul-mouthed party members.
  • Preppy Name: Anyone and everyone in the Shining City of Byzantium, like fashion maven Celeste Jolicoeur, Ellie's parents Lionel and Theodora Fenhill, arms merchant Winston Forsythe, and Rich Bitch bystander Hortense Ingalsbee (who asks you to get to the bottom of the lottery to allow settlers from outside the city to move to Byzantium — because she wants to stop it).
  • Raygun Gothic: Complete with Art Deco designs and garish neon colors everywhere. The game's aesthetic could best be described as this trope getting mixed with Used Future and Cassette Futurism elements, and also Planetary Romance-style space armor and Art Nouveau posterwork straight out of The Gay '90s.
  • Reality Ensues: The idea of One Nation Under Copy Right was shown to be a mess where a corporate-ruled society was shown to be run down with the Board being made up of greedy-yet-incompetent Executives whose focus on profits tend to do more bad than good in the long run. This also applies to The Reveal of communications blackout with rest of the galaxy meant that companies in Halcyon System are left without an actual government with the focus on economic stability and infrastructure management to lay a foundation for them to thrive.
  • Real-Time with Pause: Tactical Time Dilation is a downplayed example. It's not a true pause, just slows down time immensely, but as long you you don't try to move or shoot, the gauge decreases very slowly, giving you plenty of time to assess enemies and plan your moves.
  • Reconstruction: Conversely to those genres/themes under Deconstruction above, the game heavily reconstructs Planetary Romance, Raygun Gothic, and Captain Space, Defender of Earth! stories in the vein of Flash Gordon or Dan Dare. Even in a more cynical, corporate-controlled future, one person can always make a difference (for better or for worse), and ultimately you and your crew are still going on highflying adventures through a solar system filled with wonder.
  • Released to Elsewhere: "Early Retirement" is a Deadly Euphemism referring to a practice where randomly chosen "lucky" settlers are promised luxurious new homes in a brand-new district of Byzantium, flown into the city, then sent on a one-way trip deep into the maintenance tunnels where they are slaughtered by robots.
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns: Spacer's Choice produces Reliably Unreliable Everything, not just arms. Yes, even food. They're usually the low-tier weapons; not great performance, breaks down quickly. However, their saving grace is that repairs are low-cost.
  • Romance Sidequest: An unusual example: rather than allow the Player Character to romance NPCs, part of Parvati's companion questline involves helping her get together with Junlei Tennyson.
     S to Z 
  • Sadistic Choice: Towards the end of the game you have to take a vital gas, which would end up killing around a dozen human test subjects. If you siphon just enough to let them live, you'd be making future efforts to save the colony much harder.
  • Sanity Slippage:
    • It's heavily implied that this is the reason Maruaders will attack you on sight.
    • The maintenance crew aboard the Hope after they ran out of food and started eating the frozen colonists.
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: The Spacer's Choice shotgun is explicitly named as such.
  • Scenery Porn: The entire setting is outright gorgeous. Everything from the giant moons in the sky, to the exotic flora, even the bustling cities.
  • Schmuck Bait: The Power Regulator in the cannery, the first MacGuffin, is sitting around unguarded. It's also sparking and surrounded by sprat corpses, next to a computer that warns that touching it causes horrible electrocution. Guess what happens if you grab it without turning off the power.
  • Science Is Good: Science is something that is desperately needed in the Halcyon system as despite being a space colony, there is a serious lack of qualified experts in a variety of fields. The corporations' Propaganda Machine has led to vital problems in society being dismissed and going unaddressed.
  • Sequel Hook: The ending reveals that all communications from Earth suddenly ceased three years ago. Whatever happened there is a mystery to be solved in a potential sequel.
  • Sequence Breaking: It's possible to use the option to turn Phineas in to the Board to skip the entire middle of the game and go straight to Byzantium, where you can get the supplies Phineas needs many missions early.
  • Shell-Shock Silence: Whenever you get concussed, such as stepping on a land mine, the audio will momentarily be muffled.
  • Shining City: Byzantium is this. Before you reach it, you've been mucking around towns on the brink of collapse like Edgewater and Stellar Bay. Byzantium, however, is pristine and full of idle rich people ignorant or fully accepting of the system in place because they directly benefit from it.
  • Shoot the Dog:
    • Chairman Rockwell and Adjutant Akande's plan. Keeping all the Hope colonists frozen for now sucks, but things are bad enough in Halcyon without a massive population boom exacerbating things before The Famine can be resolved. Notably, the player is allowed to agree and join forces with them.
    • Phineas' plan requires the same from the player. In order to wake up all the colonists, you have to remove all the chemicals that the Board has in their laboratory. Unfortunately, those chemicals are keeping dozens of people alive. You have to witness them suffocate to death if you make the call For The Greater Good... unless you have the Science/Engineering skill to learn/calculate the exact amount of the chemical you can remove without killing them. And subverted regarding the potential overpopulation problem with reviving the passengers of the Hope — Phineas will point out that it's not all or nothing, and he only ever planned to revive a few specialists at a time, enough to hopefully save the colony first and thus make room for the rest without sacrificing the rest of Halcyon.
  • Shout-Out to Shakespeare: One of the in-universe films is titled Titus Androidicus.
  • Sinister Scythe: One of the melee weapons is a collapsible scythe with a hellish glowing edge made of plasma. Apparently it's still used to cut grass, despite plasma being the equivalent of fire damage in this game.
  • Skewed Priorities: The very first person you meet on Emerald Vale is Guard Pelham who, despite being injured, will try advertising Spacer's Choice. When you meet the rest of his patrol, they're more concerned about a parking violation rather than the marauders attacking them. This is just a glimpse of the way corporations affect people's lives in this galaxy.
  • Skippable Boss: By talking down the final antagonist (either Sophia Akande/Chairman Rockwell or Phineas Welles), you can skip the Final Boss and walk straight to the ending.
  • Slaying Mantis: Mantisaurs, a cross between praying mantises and dinosaurs that also swarm like locusts, go through a caterpillar stage, and are organized into ant-like colonies with queens and drones. They're some of the toughest creature-type enemies in the game, and mantiqueens are The Dreaded in-universe. Like real-life praying mantises, they are also known for post-coital cannibalism. Unlike in real life, it actually serves a purpose: they incubate their young in the corpse.
  • Sleeper Starship: You and the other lost colonists Human Popsicled your way across the galaxy aboard one of these, the Hope. Her sister ship Groundbreaker did arrive successfully, and was converted to be an independent port-of-entry space station for the colony upon arrival and debarkation.
  • The Social Darwinist: Board propaganda has produced a society where many people sincerely believe that it's only right, in times of trial, that those who can serve their parent corporations well should live, while those who fall behind are abandoned to die of plague and starvation.
    Julius Moreau: Survival of the fittest! It ain't just a law of nature — it's company policy!
  • Space Isolation Horror: A downplayed example, but the game takes a sudden turn for this after it's revealed that they'd been cut off from Earth entirely. With Halcyon crumbling, it means no help is coming.
  • Space Western: You start the game in a company town on a backwater planet with plenty of arid wasteland and gun-toting raiders. Towns like Edgewater are built using distinctly Steampunk-looking retro-future technology and made to resemble western slapboard storefronts with 19th Century stripes and stained glass, while Spacer's Choice and Auntie Cleo's favor old-timey cartoons and Art Nouveau illustrations for their branding. There's nothing stopping you from embracing this and wearing cowboy hats and using western-style hunting rifles, revolvers, and sawn-off shotguns.
  • Spanner in the Works: Your character in a nutshell. You're the one variable no Mega-Corp was able to plan for, hence your title of the Unplanned Variable.
  • Spiritual Successor:
    • To Fallout, specifically the style of the first two games and Fallout: New Vegas, having been led by Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky, the original creators of the Fallout series, and developed by Obsidian, founded by many of the devs from the same studio, Interplay. The game essentially embraces concepts that Bethesda's Fallout moved away from, such as more character-driven writing, story-driven world-building (as opposed to Bethesda's preference toward keeping the setting as open as possible), and an emphasis on quests with branching paths.
    • To Arcanum, also created by Cain and Boyarsky. While Arcanum is a Victorian Steampunk Standard Fantasy Setting, The Outer Worlds are the Gilded Age IN SPACE! as a Raygun Gothic Planetary Romance, revisiting many of the same concerns regarding growing industrialization.
  • Standard Human Spaceship: Ships in the setting are generally slab-like and utilitarian. The same goes for the prefab construction used for houses throughout the colony.
  • Stupid Evil: The corporations, as a rule, will choose what is profitable in the short term or favorable to their free operation over anything resembling common sense. Played with, in that it's clear the stupid part comes before the evil.
  • Sudden Downer Ending: The game lives and breathes Black Comedy, which makes the ending moderately jarring with how straight and serious it's presented. Halcyon has been cut off from Earth and, with no support, the whole colony is at the risk of starving to death. Though, given the epilogue, it's more of a delayed happy ending.
  • Suicide Is Shameful: On Edgewater, it's known as "irreversible damage to company property" and is legally vandalism.
  • Sweet Tooth: Rizzo's has this as their hat, with a whole line of products infused with their proprietary "purpleberry" artificial fruit flavor, from candy and cereal to liqueurs and frozen dinners. They even have an elite special forces unit called the SugarOps team. Companion Felix is a Rizzo's man, a big fan of their Rangers tossball team, and his room is filled with their merch, food included, which fits his Manchild personality.
  • Take That!:
    • The first trailer mocks other games that give you a big, momentous choice that ultimately locks you into two equally arbitrary decisions, with the player choosing between two factions, as represented by a Gas Mask Mook and a corporate suit.
      Ellie: Taking on the corporations has left us with two options: bad, and worse. But you have to choose. And you have to choose now!
      (BANG)
      (gas mask mook is shot dead, corporate suit is horrified)
      Ellie: ...You know you didn't have to shoot either one, right? But it's fine... I guess. You just keep being you!
    • After obtaining the hologram projector, the PC asks why you can't just take a uniform. Phineas laughs at such an idea, which is likely a dig at games and movies that employ such a tactic, like Hitman and... Fallout New Vegas.
    • The whole story is a blistering satire of corporate culture in general.
  • Take Your Time: Averted for the most part, since quests are written such that you're never in-universe pressured to immediately complete them. Played straight with Phineas' abduction, where you can spend all your time preparing.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • This is actually a plot point. The Halcyon Colonists are almost, universally, a bunch of idiots, having been so thoroughly indoctrinated by their corporations they instinctively chose to support the party line over common sense. Many of them have no idea how even basic survival techniques work and are completely subservient to their corporation to the point of Undying Loyalty (even when the corporations are run by people even more stupid than them). The graveyards are full of people whose brand loyalty extended to death by malnutrition from eating nothing but corporate-approved, nutritionally-void food.
    • The dashing and brilliant Alex Hawthorne (the OG one) who was so brilliant that he disregarded Phineas' advice to put down the homing beacon for your escape capsule and move away and instead held on to the thing. Death from Above was the result.
    • The Board is a bunch of Corrupt Corporate Executive types who have no idea how to actually run a sustainable colony that makes use of science, commerce, as well as its personal resources. All of its corner cutting is resulting in an Apocalypse How with the majority of communities suffering massive numbers of deaths. Their plan is to freeze everyone until they can fix the problem.
  • Traumatic Superpower Awakening: Your Time Dilation powers (the game's equivalent of VATS) are a side effect of all the questionable chemicals Phineas Welles had to pump into you to keep you alive, coupled with over 70 years of cryo sleep-induced brain damage.
  • Truce Zone: The Groundbreaker is another Sleeper Starship that got off luckier than yours, becoming an independent city-state in orbit around Terra-2. They strictly enforce their neutrality from any corporations, which unfortunately means they're also home to a very seedy criminal underbelly.
  • Truth in Television: The "plague" in Edgewater is caused by nutrient deficiency from a diet consisting entirely of beer and canned fish. There are many such diseases in real life, including pellagra, which was practically an epidemic in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Dr. Joseph Goldberger proved it was caused by niacin (Vitamin B3) deficiency in a series of experiments beginning in 1915, but his results were ignored by the scientific community (who insisted it must be caused by a pathogen, much like the inhabitants of Edgewater) until 1937.
  • Unbroken First-Person Perspective: The game has a relatively robust character creator, but the only times you'll ever see them is when you look at your inventory menu. Granted, you'd be looking at the menu quite often.
  • Undying Loyalty: The colonists are loyal to their parent corporation in the same way a very patriotic citizen would be loyal to their country.
  • Unreadable Disclaimer: The announcement trailer ends on a wall of Unreadably Fast Text which an announcer rattles off merely the first sentence of. Some animals were harmed in the making of this advertisement (specifically five canids, two raptidons, and a genetically unidentifiable space organism).
    Disclaimer: This advertisement was tested on animals and found 89.5% safe for human viewing.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: This is a path that you can take if you so choose.
  • Used Future: A lot of the technology in the game is boxy, retro-looking, and badly worn out.
  • Useless Useful Spell: Certain perks are noticeably less useful than others. One such example is "Traveler" which allows the player to fast travel when over-encumbered. Even ignoring the multitude of ways to raise the carry weight limit available to the player through other perks, there's the fact that locations are not as spread out as they are in most other open world games, making fast travel less of a necessity. Further, with only a 20 in the Hack skill, the player gains the option to sell items to vending machines, which are commonplace through out the game worlds, meaning that the player is never too far from being able to offload some of their junk even if they are over the limit.
  • Vendor Trash: Anything that isn't a weapon, armor, mod, quest item or consumable is labeled as this. You can also mark items you don't need as this and sell them all with a single button press.
  • Very False Advertising: The "Welcome To Halcyon" trailer has the narrator cheerfully talking about how Terra-2 and Halcyon are awesome places to live and work in, safe and full of solidarity, with the Crapsack World showing a very marked contrast. For example, when the narrator mentions that Halcyon's corporations are like family:
    Corporate Goon: Apologies in advance, but I'm about to ruin your day.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: In grand Obsidian Entertainment tradition, you can do some pretty terrible things if that's how you choose to role-play. One example given: instead of helping Phineas after he frees you from cryostasis, you can turn him into the Board for the bounty on his head instead. There are also plenty of opportunities to verbally kick people when they're down.
    • You can kick out any crew member for any reason. For Parvati and Felix, it's the equivalent of crushing their dreams of a life where they aren't trapped by the confines of companies.
    • You can cause a recently-hired guard to succumb to alcohol poisoning to swipe his key.
    • A woman in Byzantium hates the idea of a lottery that allows poor people to live a life of luxury, so she asks you to investigate. Turns out, everyone who's sent there will be attacked by robots in order to control the population. Naturally, you can convince her to visit.
    • You reach a Morton's Fork situation where you have to siphon some gas off to activate the rest of the Hope's colonists. The problem is that the gas is currently being used by Board scientists on human test subjects. You can take just enough so that the test subjects live — or take all of it and watch them die agonizing deaths.
    • You can murder Junlei in front of Parvati and or Ellie's parents in front of her, in an act of depraved, outright visceral cruelty.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: As typical of Obsidian games, the endings comprehensively tell you the fates of the various locales you visit and the friends you've made along the way.
  • Whole Plot Reference:
    • To Firefly: You play as the captain of a rustbucket freighter crewed by a ragtag bunch of misfits including a cute mechanic girl, a preacher with a mysterious past and a snarky, attractive doctor/criminal, travelling between rugged frontier towns from job to job in a planetary system run by unscrupulous corporate authorities.
    • The people of the future are a pack of gormless buffoons who endlessly parrot corporate slogans and are causing a famine through their own gross incompetence and mismanagement, and it's up to you, a cryogenically frozen everyman, to save them from themselves. The Outer Worlds is basically the video game of Idiocracy crossed with The Jungle.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: A number of the flaws you can choose to give your character are phobias, giving in-universe context as to why the character would have a weakness against that particular thing.
  • Wide Open Sandbox: A downplayed example since the game-world is broken into several maps, but there is plenty of exploration and questing on the side. You'll venture through three zones on Terra-2, the wilderness of Monarch, the orbital-station Groundbreaker, the asteroid Scylla, and a handful of Endgame areas. Depending on the playthrough it's possible to skip the Groundbreaker, Scylla, and Roseway on Terra-2 entirely.
  • Wretched Hive: Monarch to the fullest extent. First of all, the entire landscape is full of sulfur pits that shroud the entire planet in gas which can't be very good for the inhabitants' health, which is to say the remaining inhabitants since hardly anyone wants to live on Monarch. Second of all, it is completely infested with Raptidons and Mantisaurs alike, with Marauders being another added burden.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Many characters in the game, possibly including the Unplanned Variable, have hair of an unnatural hue, brightly colored, metallic, or seemingly prematurely grey or white. Whether it's natural, like, presumably, the various unusual eye colors, or just a future fashion is never discussed, though several characters, like party member Nyoka, do have visible roots.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Parvati's date questline is this. Every time you complete something off her checklist, she will ask you for another thing in the area where the next main plot point lies. It's finally completed once you reach the beginning of the third act.
  • Zeerust: The game's colorful look combines Diesel Punk ships and buildings with the garish pockmarked craters and canyons of vintage B-movie sci-fi, alongside the more austere designs of modern productions.

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