The Outer Worlds Review: A Galaxy Full of Choices
There are a few gamers out there concerned with the state of adventure games. Not action/shooters, mind you, but games that have an emphasis on the word “adventure.” Fallout 76 can’t even come close to measuring up to previous games in the franchise, especially with its just-added (and unnecessary) monthly subscription; Mass Effect: Andromeda failed to measure up to previous games of the series, despite it being a solid game in its own right; and when’s the last time we had a game as genuine as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic? (Aside from the sequel, which was pretty good.)
Fortunately, Obsidian Entertainment is here to save the day with The Outer Worlds. This one has been anticipated for some time, particularly by the Fallout community, who just wanted that “old feeling” back after the disappointment of its online-enabled sequel. I’m happy to report that Worlds more than makes up for it in spades - and provided that you can put up with a few minor quirks -- like the laborious inventory system -- you’re in for a good time in this galaxy.
The game puts you in charge of Hope, a ship chock full of compatriots ready to help you complete missions. But you’re also taking care of some colonists that are on board, and after an unexpected deep freeze, you find yourself playing catch-up with decisions in the hopes of making things right. Well, sometimes for you, sometimes for the galaxy. It depends on how you play.
The Outer Worlds gives you so much freedom of choice; it’s staggering. You begin by building your character from scratch and assigning skill points as needed. Want to play it smart? You can. Want to be like Han Solo, but with some minor attributes that stand apart from his? That’s your call, too. (Not that Han Solo isn’t smart, mind you -- maybe just smart-ass.)
After that, you can set out to help your crew as well. Each one will have a chat with you in regards to things they need, or maybe even disagree with you on some choices if it doesn’t stand with their morals. For instance, one character is a bit heavy on the religious side, so if you’re sinning in some regard, you’ll hear about it.
And then there’s the planet exploration. The Outer Worlds has a frickin’ galaxy to explore, filled with all sorts of good people and ne’er-do-wells. In fact, the game is so wide open that you may not explore them all the first time around. This warrants multiple playthroughs to see how everything goes the next time around, and it’s an amazing option that may even have you on your third or fourth before you realize just how wondrous and attractive the game really is. Obsidian really went for all kinds of depth here, and it shows.
Even the little things can make a difference. A small theft here, a sly conversation there, and the next thing you know, you have allies that are willing to do anything for you, and others that swear they will kill you on sight the next time they see you. It’s mesmerizing how much effect your choices have here. You can even lose your loyal crew members if you’re not giving a damn about them, so make sure you balance things out.
One neat thing about The Outer Worlds is the information you can get from people, which you can use to your advantage one way or another. This is through your Tactical Time Dilation ability, which tells you some of their attributes without becoming like a total gawker. You can extend this as well, just in case you want more time to become a people person. If that’s your thing, mind you.
The rest of the gameplay is fun as well. The gun and melee battles are surprisingly fun, and the AI is more adept than you might expect when it comes to seeing what you’re up to. This is also where your allies come in, as they’ll come and lend a hand in some scenarios. This is why you’ll both take care of them and make sure they’re well equipped, so you’re not left hanging when you find yourself overwhelmed. Obsidian thought this out and made each encounter satisfying. (That is if you want to take part in them -- sometimes you can talk your way out of confrontation, which is pretty cool in its own right.)
Of course, there’s loot — a lot of it. So much in fact that the inventory system can be a bit overwhelming. It took me a little bit of time to get used to it all, but eventually, I settled in and learned the right way to upgrade and modify things, including armor and weapons. It’s really neat seeing how they take effect after you’ve done so, too. You can feel the difference when you fire your gun the next time around. Again, the depth is unbelievable here.
Mods also make a difference, complete with skill bonuses. And, if you prefer, you can take on a Flaw as well. This makes you more susceptible to a certain level of damage from enemies or weapons, but in return, it gives you a perk that you can use to your advantage. Sure, you may have a stemming fear of robots. But you can carry more! It pays off.
Also, Obsidian have really done a number with the game’s presentation. While The Outer Worlds doesn’t always have a smooth visual over face, the design of each world is simply staggering. Even when you go off the beaten path a little bit, you’ll discover visuals that are well worth taking in. Every corner I turned, I saw something new and pleasant here. Even the characters are fun to watch, save for the ones that are trying to kill you. Maybe shoot them and...then look?
Likewise, the voice acting is excellent, with an array of actors giving their characters just the right amount of life. It’s a joy listening to them interact with you, even if they aren’t exactly thrilled with your behavior. The music is good as well, with the right themes to keep you moving on with exploring the galaxy.
I’m happy to see the adventure game is back with The Outer Worlds. Obsidian could’ve easily done half the effort here and still made a suitable game that wipes the floor with Fallout 76. But instead, they dig in and give us a game with hours’ worth of exploration. We’re talking a lot of hours. Just when you think you’ve discovered everything, something new opens up, like an attitude change, a new weapon (those melee ones are radical) or a new system worth checking out. There’s literally all sorts of replay value here, and it’s stunning.
It’s going to be hard for Obsidian to top this one. The Outer Worlds stands as one of the company’s greatest accomplishments. How deep you dive into its world depends on your choices -- and we can think of quite a few we still have yet to make. If that doesn’t capture a sense of adventure, I’m not sure what does.
(The publisher provided a review code.)