When it comes to creating RPG video games, Obsidian Entertainment has to be regarded as one of the titans in the industry. Founded in June 2003 by former Black Isle Studios employees, the company behind the original “Fallout” games, Obsidian Entertainment has since developed some of the most well-written, inventive and acclaimed games such “Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords”, “Fallout: New Vegas”, “South Park the Stick of Truth”, “Pillars of Eternity” 1 and 2, and now “The Outer Worlds.” Let’s see if this recent entry can hold up to the legacy of the developer or it’ll be another overhyped RPG like Bethesda’s “Fallout 4.”
This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
“The Outer Worlds” is a first-person Action-RPG released on Oct. 25th. The game is in an alternative future where U.S. President William McKinley wasn’t assassinated in 1901 and as a result; Theodore Roosevelt never became president, never established the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 and thus major business trusts were allowed to develop into mega-corporations that in the far future are colonizing entire solar systems without any serious regulation.
You play as a passenger in cryostasis onboard the Hope, a colony ship full of Earth’s best and brightest minds (as well as a bunch of people needed to help with menial labor) intending to reach the colony system of Halcyon within 10 years. Unfortunately for everyone, it turns out you’ve been in cryo for about 70 years and it’s almost impossible to revive someone frozen that long without them suffering horrible side affects, that is until radical scientist and Rick Sanchez-esque crazy guy Phineas Vernon Welles manages to revive you and smuggles you onto the planet of Earth-2 for an adventure that will make or break the fate of the whole colony (maybe even both).
Hey, hey Morty! I need your help defeating Amazon in Space!
If you played “Fallout: New Vegas” before, then you should know the general combat mechanics; You can pick up weapons from shops, the environment or defeated enemies. The six main weapon types here being one-handed and two-handed melee weapons, short guns which are pistols and revolvers and long guns which include rifles and shotguns. The final two weapon types are heavy weapons that include grenade launchers and flamethrowers and finally science weapons which are unique weapons that use energy cells and have special properties such as a one-handed shrink ray or a “goop gun” which fires blue goo that conducts electricity and makes anything it hits to flail around in zero gravity.
The combat itself is very entertaining, you have a slow-motion ability similar to V.A.T.s from Fallout which slows down the world around you and allows you to see the stats of enemies and allies in your crosshairs. Damaging enemies in specific areas such as the eyes or legs enough can cause debuffs for them such as blindness or causing them to limp and melee combat has your standard light and heavy attacks as well as block and partly parry whenever you block just has an enemy would have landed a hit on you. It’s all simple and familiar but polished and effective.
She blinded me with science!
The game has three main speech skills in terms of persuading, intimidate, and lying; which all have an effect in combat such as the likelihood of having an enemy cower in fear from you for a small time period after damaging them. Beyond combat and speech skills, you’ll need to rely on upgradable hacking and lockpicking skills in order to bypass locked rooms, computer terminals and use your wits to resolve verbal arguments.
The more enemies you defeat and general actions you do, such as opening locked doors and persuading someone to turn a blind eye to you stealing a can of salmontuna (that’s meat from a hybrid salmon & tuna Monstrosity), nets you experience points (XP) which allows you to level up. In addition, you also gain skill points and perk points; skill points allow you to level up much of the aforementioned skills and gain benefits once you build them past thresholds of 20, 40, 60, 80 and 100, while perk points let you fine tune your playstyle.
Why yes that is me on that ID, I just changed my hair…
It should be heavily noted that this is not an open world game the same way “Fallout” and “Borderlands” are. There are multiple worlds in the game, but they’re very small in scale to other games like this. Each area has factions that you can interact with who have missions that affect your relationship with them. You might want to be good with one clan to get high discounts when buying goods from them, but beware as it might cause another faction to shoot you down on sight.
Each area also has a generous amount of possible side quests that you don’t have to complete in order to beat the game but do offer more XP, gear, insight into the world, and are generally fun. Rarely was there a fetch quest and even when there was one, they were self-aware and led to decent rewards and funny lines that made it worthwhile.
Two of the more unique mechanics of the game are phobias and the holographic shroud. Phobias are self-imposed weaknesses that you can choose to take on that bring specific penalties with them (i.e. if you fall from high heights, you might receive more damage), that offer specific perks if you overcome them (you take on extra risk for specific rewards).
The holographic shroud is a device that disguises you and your companions in order to sneak into restricted areas if you managed to get an ID card associated with that faction. You have a shroud gauge that you need to keep track of while disguised, and there’s a limit of three times you can refill it to avoid players from abusing it. It’s a cool way of introducing an alternative stealth method that isn’t just crouching and remaining out of sight, and it rewards you with speech builds. My only gripe with them is that there isn’t enough of them and they’re so spaced out that I almost forgot they existed until the near end of the game.
Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility be damned…
Without spoiling too much of the plot and side quests, many of the quests are either your standard “go here, talk to X and/or kill Y” or it is “kill X amount of enemies in order to loot stuff.” What makes “The Outer Worlds” excel is that the way the quests and world are presented through wit and satire. One of the potential first side quests you can find is a gravedigger who needs to collect the dues from the local townspeople for their future grave rent, and in case you missed that; you are collecting money from living people and their next of kin who are essentially paying a company for the eventuality that they will be dead one day.
Yikes, I’d hate to see what college loans look like in this universe…
As you can tell, the game presents a cynical (somewhat comedic) view of overblown unregulated capitalism, and it gives off serious “BioShock” vibes. Many of the factions are business and corporations seeking to maximize profits and/or wipe out the competition at the expense of their consumers, employees and/or environment. The brilliance also comes in where the game to an extent allows you to choose how to approach the story: you can be anti-capitalist communist-style revolutionary, a new deal era reformist, or even side with the board (the elites and main villains of the game). The choices that the game presents you may not be much, but the ways they’re presented and the impacts they have give weight to them.
This can be considered the third major strength of “The Outer Worlds,” with so many gameplay and story decisions, you can replay the game in multiple different play styles to experience it through a new perception. In my first playthrough, I played as a smooth-talking gunslinger that always tried to find the moral solution. In my second playthrough, I went as a greedy lowlife mercenary that only cared about getting paid and mainly used massive warhammers and futuristic baseball bats to beat enemies to death.
This is the type of game western RPG companies like Bethesda and Bioware wish they had developed. “The Outer Worlds” takes gameplay elements and themes from games in Obsidian Entertainment’s past library such as “Fallout: New Vegas” and clearly repurposed them into a new IP that feels fresh yet familiar. The combat is very simple yet satisfactory, while the writing, characters and quests are what drive the game into being more memorable than most of the big AAA RPGs released this year. If you need any more consideration to play this game, Microsoft has the Xbox game pass which you can get a $1 trial for a month and play this game on the PC. I can reassure you that it will be one of the finest $1 purchases you’ll ever make.
Move over Vault Boy, Moon-Man is here…