The Outer Worlds Review
The Outer Worlds is exactly what you would get if Borderlands, Fallout, Lost Planet, Rage, The Elder Scrolls and Warframe came together and had a child. The Outer Worlds takes so many elements from all of these games and mutates them to the point that the game seems to have created a feeling of nostalgic dismay, yet you cannot peel yourself away from the screen long enough without wanting to see what happens next. Has Outer Worlds done the impossible, or is it just the same candy we all know, in a different wrapper?
When the news about The Outer Worlds first became public knowledge in December 2017, I will admit that I was rather skeptical about the title, however, at the same time I was impressed by the concept art and leaked imagery until we got to see some in-game footage. Exactly a year later, when it was announced at the 2018 Game Awards, the title went from a “Maybe I would like to try it”, to a “I need to try it”. Very much like the ongoing fan funded game, Star Citizen, watching it unfold to what it is today, was and is something truly unique. This review does focus more heavily on the core game mechanics, but does ultimately round off by discussing the basics near the end, so bare with me, I promise you it will be worth it.
You Look Like Rick, But I’m No Morty
As off the wall as the section title is, it does however lean toward the nature and tone of the game. Set in a very “derailed” future, you are woken up from Cryosleep by a seemingly “loopy” scientist, who quite aptly resembles Rick without the Blue Hair (from the controversial TV Show, Rick and Morty), named Phineas Welles.
You then learn that the ship you were asleep on, is also filled to the brim with other colonists still stuck in cryosleep and is adrift in space with no hope of reaching it’s recolonizing destination, unless you do something about it.
This is why you were chosen. This is why you were awoken. This is why you were smuggled onto a planet to meet up with Welles’ informant and contact in the Halcyon “Republic”, who will ultimately lead you to saving the entire universe (or so it seemed before you actually breached surface of Terra 2, The Emerald Vale). Upon arrival of your Escape Pod on Terra 2, you learn that you fatally crash landed ontop of Welles’ go-to-guy, and you now need to fend for yourself, with no weapons at your disposal, no armor equipped and no clue as to where in the universe you are.
While blindly exploring the luscious wilds, you stumble upon an injured soldier hiding in a cave, after explaining that he found himself hauled up in that cave post-retreat due to an attempt at taking down a camp of Marauders without backup, you use “The Force” to persuade him into handing over his Blaster Pistol. Freshly armed with a blaster, you realize that it’s not just your “wits” that accompany you, but you seem to have developed a Superpower.
You have the ability to slow down time (Max Payne anyone?) and either get your aim on point, use your health inhaler or use the slowed time to decide on your next plan of action if you are surrounded. This superpower has been dubbed as Tactical Time Dilation, and after a short discussion between yourself and Welles, it is revealed that this phenomenon is a Hibernation Complication brought upon by being woken up from your cryosleep, because he had to use some “special” additives in your “Morning Coffee”. Meaning, to wake you up, he had to inject you with a special concoction to prevent you from being brain dead.
Honesty Is The Best Policy (Even In Space)
After testing out your new ability and shooting your way through roughly 20 marauders in a blaster fight that would make any Storm Trooper blush, you meet up with the local authorities from the Town of Edgewater.
These “space police” are guarding a massive space cruiser and are patrolling the Emerald Vale looking for it’s owner, because there are very strict rules about where you are allowed to park your spaceship or enter their airspace (crashed escape pods included). After using the force again, you are not questioned for having a fresh face in Edgewater and get invited to visit the town and enjoy their local delicacy, Saltuna, right before these local badge jockeys have a short run-in with the long ends of marauder rifles.
Taking advantage of the distraction caused by the firefight between the police and marauders, you board the “illegally parked” space cruiser and then find out that it belonged to the guy that you crushed during your arrival on the planet. After quite a witty conversation with the ship AI (Artificial Intelligence), you are given command of the ship named the “Unreliable”. You are not able to breach sub-light, so leaving the planet would be impossible, unless you locate and acquire a crucial power source from the locals, which then sets your main interactions in motion and presents you with your first encounter with the game’s choice-outcome-based system.
Once you enter Edgewater, you pick up a few missions, bounties and start getting used to the fact that you need to loot whatever you can, whenever you can, because ammunition, hacking tools and armor are hard to come by, unless you sell all the weapons you loot from your fallen enemies. Very early into the game, you are introduced to the companion system as well, which again, is based on your decision to accept your first outcome-based choice, should you turn down the offer, you will play alone, but soon you will be given the opportunity again to accept the company of a combat or medical companion. Let me just set it straight from the get-go, your companions are other humans that you can choose to form bonds with or keep at arm’s length, and are not aliens or animal companions as seen in many other futuristic first person shooters.
Rule With An Iron Fist Or Become The Hero
I know I kept making reference to “the force”, however, in reality, I am making reference to the game’s Influence System, where you can either use interaction skills like Persuade or Lie while in dialogue. Every action taken during interaction with the game NPC’s (Non Player Characters) or your companions will stick, and will lend toward the outcome of further interactions.
As an example, when I entered the Edgewater Bar, my companion asked me whether I like to drink, and in jest, I decided to respond with something like, “I am permanently drunk”, and she has not let me live it down ever since. Wherever we go, as soon as alcohol is mentioned or someone recommends the local bar, she has a sarcastic comment to add into the interactions, which really makes me regret trying to be playful, because it has gotten me into trouble at the most cringe-worthy of times (local priests have offered to deliver me from my lust for partaking). Best you keep this in mind when choosing your dialogue.
Also siding with certain people or factions, has an impact on whether or not you will be permitted to enter progression game areas at a later stage due to your “Reputation”. Choices are challenging, and you can either play the game in a fantasy approach, where you respond and react in a completely different way to your real life morals, or you can play it as if you were really in the situation and react totally within your own character to see how it would play out if you were to be woken up in space on a colony ship by a mad scientist and get tasked with saving humanity.
This being said though, I do not believe that it presents you with different end game content or endings, but ultimately your individual play style will either make things easy or difficult for you to attain the same result as everyone else playing the game. You have the opportunity to pick up six vastly different companions or crew members, but only two can accompany you at any given time when you are not onboard the Unreliable. While out and about, your companions will interact with you and ask you personal favors, which then aids toward their Bonus Perks that they offer you when they are in your Party. The Vicor grants you additional Hacking Ability Points (go figure), and the Mechanic grants you extra Charisma Points, but keep them at arms length, and you will not level these perks up as quickly as you would should you decide to indulge them.
So It Is Ultimately All About Choice
This is how I have come to appreciate the game. From the moment you launch into it, you are presented with very intricate choices, like your Class, your Passive Abilities and your Aptitude Affinity.
This is then further expanded by letting you choose Perks and Counter Perks. Perks are obviously self explanatory, but the counter perks are when you need to Sacrifice something like Health Points or accept a Weakness to certain things to gain a Perk Point. Confused? Let me break it down.
If you use a Plasma Rifle too much, you will develop a weakness to being shot with plasma based weapons due to being exposed to Plasma Burns from firing your rifle so much, and this comes from the same Hibernation Complication associated with your TTD Ability (Tactical Time Dilation). This leaves you with the choice, to either ignore your weakness and stick to your weapon of choice, or you can start switching up your weapons in different encounters. As an example, use Melee weapons in close quarters, use Pistols in short range and use Rifles in long range encounters. I know it sounds complicated, but it really does add to the uniqueness of what The Outer Worlds presents you with.
The Story and Character development may seem very hap-hazard at first, but given time, you will see the true benefits of playing the game at your own pace and by being more helpful in situations than selfish. Even though you travel all over the universe and visit many large “open world” planets, you will run into characters more than once, and as mentioned due to the branching nature of your interactions, if you treated them poorly, getting your objectives met will take you a lot longer and be a lot more challenging, but you will be able to get them done one way or another.
The graphics are absolutely phenomenal. Taking into account the benchmarks mentioned in my opening statement, you will very easily be able to see which sections of The Outer Worlds has been inspired by which other title, especially when it comes to the Graphically Intense Environments. When it comes to the character models, they do leave space for improvement, but are not the worst we have seen in other games with face-to-face character interactions and the textures are not progressive in appearance, meaning they do not load into the game only once required, much like the texture load style in The Elder Scrolls.
The dialogue is very situational and can be ridiculously witty, sarcastic, serious or emotional, and has been done tastefully. I was faced with a choice that I knew to be morally right (personally) but the ripple effects that my decision would have caused would have doomed the lives of an entire colony, and the dialogue is what steered my moral compass the most, and not primarily my consideration of my actions. The sound and music is triggered exceptionally well, and similarly to the dialogue, is very situational, aiding to heroics, detracting from seriousness or generally creating atmospherics while exploring.
I had a lot of fun while playing The Outer Worlds, not only because it is a beautiful game, but because it exposes so many truths and vulnerabilities in our current society. The game may be set in a very alternative universe, but because it brings you face to face with current day sensitivities, it places you in a very delicate spot and just like today, you can either avoid drama or face things head-on and be “Solutionably Proactive” to bring about change. I also had a lot of laughs, especially when chatting to my spaceship, which was a very welcome comedy relief to break the tension created by dealing with obnoxious characters, being belittled for not accepting or offering bribes or having to count your words carefully with the powers that be who believe that their decisions are the be all and end all of the universe (government).
The Outer Worlds is an Open World First Person Shooter game Developed by Obsidian Entertainment and was Published by Private Division. The Outer Worlds was Directed by Leonard Boyarsky and Tim Cain, who are the creators of the Fallout Series, which explains the Multi-Title Similarities expressed in the opening statement of this review. The Outer Worlds was launched for Windows Windows PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on 25 October 2019 and is set for release on the Nintendo Switch sometime during 2020. At the time of this review, you could purchase a console copy of the game from BT Games for R825.00 or alternatively you could get it digitally for Microsoft Windows PC by taking advantage of the sale via the Epic Games Store and securing it for only R660.00, (sale ends 2 December 2019). I would strongly recommend grabbing a PC copy while the 25% discount sale is active, but would also happily spend the regular recommended retail price for a copy of the game if it was not on special.