The Outer Worlds (PC) Review

By Athanasios 14.11.2020

Review for The Outer Worlds on PC

One hour into The Outer Worlds, and you are bound to think "Fallout in Space." In many ways, this is a valid description. After all, Obsidian was the one that offered the best modern Fallout entry with New Vegas. Also, due to certain key figures within the team being the actual creators of the first game, this developer truly understands what the genre needs, which is an emphasis on stellar writing and player choice. Add to all that its recent track record, with titles like Pillars of Eternity, or its wonderful sequel, and it's no wonder that people got excited at the thought of a brand new IP; one that shared part of Fallout's DNA, but at the same time was a thing of its own. Did it turn out alright? Oh, just take a look at Cubed3's reviews for the PS4 and Xbox One versions. Now, right before delving into its new DLC, Peril on Gorgon, here's one more take on the base game, this time for the PC.

What's on offer here is basically the middle ground between Bethesda's tried and tested, open-world, faux-RPG formula, and Black Isles'/Interplay's less sandbox-y, yet more pure take on the genre - although, it mostly leans towards the first, less "risky" route. The Outer Worlds generally plays its cards a bit too safe, and as a result, doesn't excel at anything, and doesn't innovate - like at all. From exploration and gunplay, to mission structure and character skills and abilities, everything that one can experience here has been borrowed from other, similar titles. Fortunately, while it's a bit of a shame that there's nothing new to point at, it's far better on the RPG front compared to many of its siblings.

The role you will be playing is that of a recently thawed hero, who has been left in cryogenic sleep for far longer than he or she was supposed to. Freed from the mad scientist trope of this tale, the protagonist is then dropped on Terra 2, which is one of the rocks orbiting the Halcyon planetary system, where earthlings moved to a few of decades back in order to terraform and exploit it. The mission? Defrost the rest of the folk who were traveling on the vessel known as Hope, and learn why they were left to eternally float in their high-tech freezer while at it - or don't! In true role-playing fashion, what you'll do next, and most importantly, how you'll do that, is completely up to you.

Screenshot for The Outer Worlds on PC

It's very important to clear things up a bit. Don't expect one more gargantuan open-world as the ones found in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Fallout 4, The Witcher 3, and the like. Taking its cue from Mass Effect, this is mostly a collection of hubs, with some tiny sandboxes around them (or in them), where one can do some exploring and killing. That's a good thing. Avoiding the current trend of 100+ hour-long adventures that are mostly filled with… well, filler, this relatively short quest is far more compact, and instead of having you spent most of your time on samey and shallow dungeons, pulling off the millionth fetch-quest, it focuses on character interaction, and freedom of choice regarding how one can approach a situation.

Upon landing on Terra 2, players can persuade or threaten a citizen in order to take his weapon, convince a soldier to help them out with some enemies or murder her to grab her gear, and then head to the nearby town or explore around a bit beforehand. Once inside things get really interesting, as your means of transport is in need of a power regulator, which will inevitably lead to the first major choice: help the cold-hearted master of Edgewater by stealing power from a camp of deserters, or help them instead, leaving a whole town of paid-slaves without the means to survive. Feeling extra evil? Just murder everyone, and then carry your violent inclinations to the next lucky planet. This is meant to be played again, and again, with a different mind-set each time one does so.

Screenshot for The Outer Worlds on PC

This isn't really as non-linear as it could be, but it's generally one of those RPGs were there will be plenty of opportunities to charm, intimidate, steal, hack, infiltrate, or shoot your way towards a goal. The biggest disappointment is probably how this doesn't have the kind of moral crossroads of, say, Deus Ex: Human Revolution. This definitely isn't a case of choosing between black or white, but if looking for lots of grey morality, you won't really find it here, as it's usually somewhat clear who needs your help, and who is a blabbering, egoistical moron that only cares about his pocket, whereas in Obsidian's very own Tyranny everyone sort of "had a point" (or none did), forcing you to really think your options.

This slight one-sidedness is evident in what is the main shtick of this tale, which is the satire of capitalism - or, in this case, turbo-capitalism. In a universe where everything belongs to corporations, citizens are being indoctrinated to only use the products of the company that owns them, recite its slogans as if in a commercial, and generally act as people who have been brainwashed from childbirth to believe that their miserable existence is "just fine." All this is delivered with a particularly enjoyable, tongue-in-cheek kind of dark humour, but it sort of lacks subtlety, as many dialogue sequences feel as if someone is hitting you in the head with a sign that reads "Capitalism. BAD!"

Screenshot for The Outer Worlds on PC

Although definitely a part of what makes this stand out, this overemphasis in comedy can get a bit tiring after a while, and mar the believability of the world. The fact that people who grew up in such a crazy system are impervious to the madness of it all is certainly the point here, but not every single character has to be a walking parody, as that makes them feel more like actors, rather than actual, relatable people; people that can, oh, question what's going on maybe? The same can be said about Obsidian's usual neo-feministic(?) tendencies, where almost every capable or decent person is a woman, while men are mostly the oafs. Again, that seriously hurts immersion, as no gender (or class, or race, or sexual orientation) should have the grand monopoly on stupidity.

This critic can now feel the warmth of the torches approaching, but please hear this white straight male out, because it's really important. When it comes to RPGs, there's no need for strong women, but for well-written ones. "Perfect" role-models are fine for a Disney flick (they aren't, but that's another matter), yet characters in more mature narratives need to have strengths, as well as flaws to feel… well, like characters! Generally, while the writing is very good, The Outer Worlds occasionally struggles with immersion due to the aforementioned issues. By comparison, the "silly" comic book exterior of gems like Vampires: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, hide beneath them a game world that understands far better what makes characters feel real, and as a result, more memorable.

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Now, although the last paragraphs were highly critical of the writing, it's important to note that this remains by far the best, and most important aspect of this title - which is basically why this article went all (over)analytical with that part. Long story short, the main dish here is character interaction, while everything else is… there, honestly. As mentioned in the beginning, this plays it safe. The outcome is something that is fun, but not really as much as it could be. The battle mechanics, for instance, are a bit barebones, and due to the enemy roster being very small, repetition will soon kick in, especially because the difficulty is almost non-existent, even when playing on Hard, instead of Normal.

Most will find themselves drowning in resources, and if they make the mistake of doing any side-quests (the bulk of the experience), then nothing will stand in their way - not even their moronic companions; the NPCs that can join you, provide extra quest lines, and interesting bits of dialogue. On the other side of the spectrum lies the 'Supernova' setting, which adds the need to eat, drink, and sleep, while also disabling quick saves, and only letting you rest in your ship. The difficulty curve could be less steep, and more options would be more than welcome, but this is the best way to enjoy The Outer Worlds, and get completely immersed in it… if you can stomach the extra pain your companions will give you.

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If there is a major flaw gameplay-wise, that would be how uninspired the stats, skills, and perks available are, especially when compared to Obsidian's other creations, or even the pre-Obsidian ones. There's a neat Flaw system that, depending on your gameplay style lets you accept a penalty, like for example a decrease in stats when carrying too much stuff, but the trade-off is just one more point to spend on perks, whereas the Trait system of the original Fallout would punish you, while also providing a unique perk that specialised your character even more. That doesn't mean that your choices don't matter here, of course - it's just that they don't matter as much as they should.

As a final note, it would be a disservice to The Outer Worlds to not mention how beautiful it is, with a unique aesthetic where Flash Gordon's pulp sci-fi meets Star Wars (with lots of Hans Solo), meets '50s westerns. The extra vibrant colours paint an alien landscape full of bizarre fauna and flora, and impressive skies with stunning planetary rings, moons, and asteroids. Character creation is light on options, thus the Halcyon system is full of cousins, not to mention that your own avatar is basically only visible in the inventory screen - but these are generally small flaws of an RPG that, despite having the potential to be something much better, as a whole, it's very, very enjoyable - warts and all.

Screenshot for The Outer Worlds on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

The problem with this isn't that it is a bad game (far from it), but the fact that it failed to reach its true potential… or maybe the expectations were simply too high, because there's nothing here that anyone can point to and say that it is terrible. Sadly, there's almost nothing that's great either, apart from the role-playing element and the quality of writing. The gunplay? Ok. The exploration? Decent. The plot? Fine. The dominant feeling here is of a game that is good enough so that you won't hate it, but also not as good for it to be the flawless classic that it could definitely be - but again, that's probably those darn high expectations speaking, because flaws or no flaws, The Outer Worlds shouldn't be missing from any RPG collection.

Developer

Obsidian Entertainment

Publisher

Private Division

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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