The Outer Worlds is the latest in a long line of releases by Obsidian Entertainment, the behemoth behind games like Fallout: New Vegas and more commonly known for their newer games like South Park: The Stick of Truth or Pillars of Eternity. With their fame steadily rising, Obsidian takes to the grand stage with a hybrid of their work on Fallout alongside some notes from the Borderlands series. Combining old-timey humour with somewhat cartoonish behaviour at times, The Outer Worlds seeks to fill the hole that many gamers are feeling from a lack of Fallouty goodness.
The game starts very similar to that of Fallout 4, with our character awakening from a long cryostasis, with an unfamiliar face disturbing our rest. It seems our ship has malfunctioned, meaning all our compatriots are still frozen 70 years too late, with this face belonging to a wanted criminal who has the only way to revive the colonists aboard the ship. A quick defrosting and escape pod jump later and we find ourselves on a new planet, crushed corpse beneath our pod and gun in hand we set out to do as we wish, as long as it is somewhat tied to the scientist who freed us.
Helping out settlements, space stations and orbital probes, your character will travel amongst several locations within the solar system. While it may sound big, each location is a small enclosed space, either trapped by flanking mountains or walls of steel with space on the other side. Coming into the game with a thought of open-world paints a different picture when you see the size of some of the maps. You’re given ample reason to travel around, aside from the loot of course, with plenty of choices laid at your feet, like killing every single person… as long as they aren’t behind bulletproof, laser impregnable glass.
You can get through your first playthrough in around 30 hours, give or take depending on the difficulty setting. A lot of your time may be spent in the countless side-quests, with dozens following along with the main story as you visit each location. Repeated playthroughs are encouraged, as each major event has a choice to make, with secondary choices afterwards. With an ending very Fallout style, you do get a recap of your choices, so if you want to see all of those you will need several runs, or catch a compilation online later.
Loading up TOW for the first time you may feel a bit unaccustomed with the controls and sluggishness, especially on a controller. Changing up the sensitivity and playing for a few hours will let you overcome this, though the first few hours are kind of a hassle, especially if you’re used to aim-assist with controller shooters. You can aim down the sights with L2 and fire with R2, crouch with circle, interact with the world with X as well as other similar controls. There is also a slow-mode on R1 which allows you a few shots that give you time to aim for the head. Picking up items can be a chore at times, due to the small collision boxes, though a skill later alleviates this.
As you gun your way across space you will gain EXP, from both defeating enemies and completing quests, which in turn give you levels. When you level up you will gain more health and skill points to spend on your character, very similar to Fallout: New Vegas, 10 each level to spend amongst dozens of skills from guns to persuasion. Since you’re not constrained at all in the levelling process you could have a persuasion of 100 by level 7.
TOW allows you to kill everyone, and I mean everyone, as long as they aren’t behind glass or walls and you can aim at them, they can be killed. To test this I cleared out the entirety of a space station, to see the mountains of bodies and failed or altered quests in my journal. While you may think this is a dumb way to play, or that it breaks the game, the developers have found several ways to continue the main story and side quests, giving you other options for completing them, either talking to others or finding items hidden in the corpse’s inventories.
Along with earning levels, you will also be gaining money and gear, the money being used to either buy more gear or to tinker with your weapons to add more damage to them. You will be picking up several weapons, most of the time duplicates of one another, though some can have a pristine condition with more value and durability. Due to the tinkering mechanic, which allows you to boost damage to insane numbers, sticking with a single weapon and going down the tinkering route of skills will allow you a much easier time.
Taking the mechanic from F: NV, TOW includes a durability/condition mechanic to all the gear, decaying with use and reducing the damage output. While it would make sense in a post-apocalypse setting it seems unwarranted here, explained in lore that the guns tend to misfire. You will find yourself returning to workbenches or shops to repair your equipment after every sojourn into the harsh environments of the planets. You can scrap weapons and armour to get parts of each to repair your own, so if you pick up all you find this won’t be much of an issue, though you will be weighed down and slowed due to the weight.
Making your way through the game you will find yourself amassing a small squad of characters, each with different personalities, quests and bonuses to the main character. With little to no romance in the mix, you will instead be helping them out with their romances, either settling old feuds or sparking new love between engineers. You get a majority of these teammates within the first 2 locations, giving you ample help in what would be the hardest segments of the game.
The music within TOW is sometimes too forgettable in places, with some of the combat tunes a simple set of drums or a space station having 3 keys of a piano to fill the background of tinkering wrenches and hammers. While a lot of the music sound sublime and fits the atmosphere, there are too many instances where it takes too long to loop, start a song or have enough energy to set itself apart from the events currently on-going.
The difficulty isn’t a major point in TOW, due to the skill system and tinkering making the mid-section far easier than the dangerous beginning where you have only a few skills and weapons to your name. Companions make this easier, as they are immortal beings who go unconscious when their hp hits 0, so you can set them up as tanks for you. Harder difficulties definitely make the game more challenging, with the hardest adding in survival mechanics like food, water, rest and only being able to save at the ship. I would have loved if the survival mechanics were an optional addition to the difficulties and not locked behind the hardest, so hopefully, we will get that option later down the line via updates.
Amongst all the controversy and infamy surrounding TOW, especially around their statement on being on steam to then going Epic store exclusive, removal of romance and possibly sexual orientation dilemmas, TOW has managed to pull out a great game that has about as many flaws as any other. With the move away from open-world it has kicked down the number of bugs and glitches found within games like Fallout, Skyrim, Borderlands and the like.
Overall, The Outer Worlds gets an 8/10, the story is great with plenty of memorable characters and events though falls slightly with some clichés and very easy to see twists. The gameplay is solid if a bit sluggish at first but is very reminiscent of F: NV, with plenty of customising at hand with skills and gear. The story is very open to player choice, from some sneaking opportunities, skill outcomes or run and gun, to the point you can just kill any NPC you see. If you’re a fan of F: NV or fallout, in general, you should love TOW, though it doesn’t break expectations when it comes to graphics if you’re wanting a hyper-realistic style.
- Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
- Publisher: Private Division
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
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