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Not Obsidian's best work, but a solid role-playing game that is hopefully the beginning of a larger story. Played on Steam.
~ You might have to tweak the ini, to avoid that signature Unreal Engine pop-in.
~ The game has 20 hours of content, about half the size of New Vegas. Rest assured it doesn't outstay its welcome nor does it end in an inconclusive cliff-hanger. It keeps itself modest and doesn't end with half the last act missing (KOTOR II), leading to a sequel that will never come (Tyranny), or have a major faction with meagre side-content (New Vegas' Legion)
~ The difficulty can be a bit too easy overall. I recommend Hard for a first-time player since you can even the odds of battle with two allies wearing top-of-the-line gear.
- The last zone Byzantium is the one place that suffers from cut-content. Outside of some story-beats there are only a handful of rather lame fetch-quests.
- Some good looking vistas feel underutilized. Roseway is the prettiest zone but you can wrap up your business there in an hour with little incentive to smell the flowers.
- Some quests are a little predictable if you've played other role-playing games. There's the "Broken Pedestal" trope, the "Secret Clan of Cannibals", and the "Sinister Retirement Euphemism".
I would recommend The Outer Worlds when in the 30-40 euro price range. It's a solid role-playing game that hones a lot of Obsidian's conventions and aims to create a new setting out of whole cloth. As someone who grew disgusted with the direction of Fallout after New Vegas I welcome anything else that lets me skip a fight with a [60 Lie] skill-check. It is above all a modest game that doesn't hit the same highs of previous Obsidian games, but never sinks to the same lows like being bugged up the arse (Alpha Protocol) or having the 3.5 edition of D&D (Neverwinter Nights 2)
The Outer Worlds is a game I feel I could write forever about, and so I have to remind myself of the character count. So to summarise as best as possible: yes it's Falloutesque, yes that's mostly a good thing, yes it's a step down from Fallout: New Vegas, despite looking about 10 times prettier, yes I recommend you buy it for being a fun, colourful and novel game.
The big surprise about The Outer Worlds is when you discover you've just finished it. "Oh, is that it?" I asked myself, as a final cinematic started playing and the central conflict was being wrapped up in voice over. The game isn't short, but it definitely felt like I was missing a good few hours of main quest line, in which the tension should be ramping up, and your relationship with the villains further develop.
Adding to the confusion is that despite seemingly offering you half a dozen different planets to unlock, you actually only get to visit two planets by the end of the game. These are large, vibrant, and detailed worlds you can spend hours exploring, but you still feel somehow robbed of content. I'm assuming the other planets are future DLC locations, but I'd have liked my expectations to be a bit better managed from the outset. Perhaps then it might not have felt so abrupt when I reached the finale and stormed the Bastille.
Otherwise, the game mostly benefits a lot from the smaller, more concentrated story-line. Instead of Skyrim or Fallout's countless generic dungeons, Outer Worlds goes for cosy and detailed locales, without all the repetitive fluff. Every quest is unique, every mission is personalised, and most can be solved in a variety of ways. I'm pleased with all of that. It's ironic that in a game world where people live out of cookie cutter prefab houses and eat nothing but the same tinned fish, the game still feels more varied than RP Gs that are ten times bigger.
One area that's a bit of a step down to Obsidian's Fallout New Vegas is the companions. Some, particularly Parvati (endearingly awkward) and Ellen (an asshole), are fun to have around. But Felix (Zach Braff lookalike), Max (bad priest), and Nyoka (bad hair), feel a tad uninspired. I'm surprised that the space sci-fi setting didn't grant us weirder and more wonderful creations, rather than giving us all the most boring human companions from Mass Effect.
With tailored expectations, The Outer Worlds is a much better game. I've already started my second playthrough, with a plan to bow down to each and every on of my evil Corporate overlords. The companions will be staying stuck on my spaceship.
The game isn't groundbreaking (pun intended), and I don't revere it myself. Hell, the reason I think most people like it is because we've been having a drought of these types of games.
I like thinking in my games. Not thinking like "should I use my potion now or save it for later?" or "how do I position myself for optimal cover?"
Things more along the lines of "can I bypass this thing that other builds can't?" or "how could I avoid working for this person without pissing them off?" or "Wait, these jerks have a point?"
Questions like these are common in isometric RPGs. In addition, the world makes sense. If all of those things are commonplace in isometric/top-down/turn-based/rtwp RPGs, why should you want Outer Worlds when the writing is, admittedly, just alright?
Most topdown RPGs feel a tad impersonal. Sure you have the splash art and topnotch voice acting, but I don't find it as effective as watching something make faces at you and gesticulate (in spite of the uncanniness). It's less looming over action figures and more having a conversation.
And combat is much more visceral in FPS games, which scratches an itch.
The problem is that those types are much more suited towards linearity. The story could be good and there is just enough branching, but the spirit of it is different. It doesn't feel like it's yours.
At its very worst, you get RPGs like Fallout 4. Meaningless choices that funnel into one resolution, homogeneous playthroughs only differentiated by your preferred weapon, and a world that falls apart upon any scrutiny. At least combat is good, right?
This brings me to the Outer Worlds. The setting is over the top and exaggerated, but the world is derived from it instead of using it as a background for your chicanery. Most every quest is related to the obnoxiousness of the system and people being forced to live in it or circumvent it.
Quests acknowledge what your character is and isn't capable of doing and provides avenues regardless, which is not something that can be said of most modern shooters. From a set of options, you can choose what you think is right for you. I like customizing my character, assigning a personality and just branding them as mine.
At the same time, the world is gorgeous, conversations feel personal and cinematic. You feel like you're a part of the world instead of just looming over it.
It combines the stellar world building, encouragement of alternative play styles, customizable characters, and self-reflection of your topdown RPGs but also the cinematography, combat, and immersion of action RPGs. It's a blend I've been aching for since OG Bioware and New Vegas. Even if I don't think it's the most amazing thing ever, I recommend it even just to incentivize making more games like this.
There's something about the Outer Worlds that makes me ask myself "haven't I been here before?"
It might be the dated aesthetic. I am rarely impressed with the way anything looks and often find myself thinking of other games' landscapes: Fallout, Borderlands, No Man's Sky, XCOM 2. The game is steeped in references and homages to Firefly, Futurama, and Foss. Once the novelty of the intro wore off, I felt like I encountered little new.
It might be the gameplay, so clearly inspired by Fallout 4 and it's streamlined shoot'n'loot experience, Tactical Time Dilation only barely improving upon VATS. The combat is fun, sure, but it does little new. You get a directional dodge, fragile companions with one special ability apiece, and a forgiving locational damage system. Damage types consist of Normal, Plasma, Shock, Acid, and Radiation. Weapon modifications are paltry at best.
It might be that Obsidian's quest design is getting a bit old hat by now. After New Vegas, both Pillars, and Tyranny, I feel like I've seen it all: there are always two conflicting, ideologically opposed factions to choose from, with a clever compromise for the enterprising player to stumble across and plenty of skill checks along the way.
It might be that the game is riddled with reused assets, from a small pool of possible enemies, multiple tiers of functionally/aesthetically identical weapons and armors, repetitive map parcels, and too-similar NP Cs.
Obsidian makes an effort to justify some of these pecularities, with prefabricated buildings and mass produced corporate crud explaining the repetitive spaces and mediocre equipment variety.
But the more time I spend playing the game, the more I notice the cracks in the facade. It starts to feel rote after a while — you can only shoot the same collection of enemies with the same weapons in the same interiors so many times before fatigue sets in.
If you haven't spent too much time with Obsidian's older properties, The Outer Worlds is as good an entry point as any. But if you've seen the best they have to offer, it's worth waiting for a sale. You can still pick it up on Microsoft's Game Pass for a dollar, but I don't know how long that deal will last.
EDIT: This is something of an afterthought, but the game's plot is literally just Hanlon's Razor applied to a solar system. Because it is ultimately the forces of impotent greed and incompetence versus the forces of ideological purity and shortsightedness, it becomes harder and harder to take the conflicts seriously. There are very few characters with a vision *and* the will to pursue it, much less as actual antagonists. There is no Caesar here — only a dozen Crockers and Swanks.
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