The Outer Worlds has great combat and story. But with 6 companions, it's somehow lonely.
gameplay 95 / story 80 / graphics 99 / sound 90
A galaxy where importance is put on profits over people. Worlds filled with personality and teeming with wildlife. That is, until you come along. Welcome to The Outer Worlds.
The Outer Worlds is a first-person action RPG shooter, and it’s made by Obsidian Studios, a now Microsoft owned company that made my personal favorite Fallout game, Fallout: New Vegas. As you can imagine, I was sold as I saw that the makers of my favorite Fallout were behind this Sci-Fi adventure. “What could go wrong”? I would think. “I’m going to enjoy all of this”, I was sure of. Oh, how I was right and somewhat wrong. The Outer Worlds has every feature that makes me have a giant nostalgia trip down memory lane back to New Vegas. Yet, this game feels like a step down from that ancient game in almost every way except for the writing, and even that has some issues.
B+ Gameplay, C+ game
Outer Worlds is a good game, there is no regret within me for buying it, I have been sinking hours into it and I find myself in love with the world Obsidian has built but there is this very bitter taste in my mouth whenever I play. And perhaps that is entirely my fault. I keep comparing this game to New Vegas. Without New Vegas in mind, The Outer Worlds is a perfectly good game, as I said, but the bitter taste comes from this whole notion that creeps into my mind. “It could be so much better”. The combat is okay, the environments are okay, the quests are okay, everything about this game feels good enough. But it could be better, it could have drawn inspiration from other games that are much older than this one and do better jobs in each aspect.
Take the fun combat from New Vegas, the sociability of Mass Effect, and this game could be much better in my eyes. Let me explain. The combat of Outer Worlds allows for sneak attacks, bullet time or slow motion, direct attacks using either melee weapons, or ranged weapons and/or the use of companion abilities that help during the battle. It is indeed fun but when compared to the studio’s past work with Fallout, it’s a step down and a half step up. Fallout has always allowed for the same thing that Outer Worlds offers, except for companion abilities, but it has also offered more ways to deal with combat to make things interesting. Sneaking a grenade into someone’s pocket, shooting a teddy bear out of a junk jet, throw a baseball grenade, planting mines, cinematic special kills, and perks that change combat dramatically.
While The Outer Worlds has perks, grenade launchers, cinematics, and unique weapons just like Fallout, it isn’t as game-changing as Fallout’s, Unique weapons are sometimes just disappointing weapons that use a gimmick that isn’t carried out well. And even if the weapons aren’t unique, the game does an unfortunately great job at making you feel like there are few weapons to choose from. At one point, it begins to all blend together. Every weapon looks the same sometimes with the only difference being that the better weapon is named “Insert Weapon Name here” Ultra. The Outer Worlds doesn’t have throwable weapons like grenades or molotovs but it allows for grenade launchers, it doesn’t allow you to place mines down yourself but there are mines spread throughout the game. And cinematics, don’t have your character in slow motion doing some badass maneuver, but you just see the enemy get killed in slow motion. Perks can range from increasing stats or satisfying a certain condition to boost a stat but that’s all it is. Boosting stats, it’s never swinging someone’s head clean off because you leveled melee, it’s never shooting through multiple people and killing three people at once as their companions run away out of fear, it’s never getting drunk and suddenly you can aim like a military sniper. It’s never anything like that. It’s the boring but useful perks. It’s getting a speech boost when alone, it’s getting more money from vendors, it’s making your companions stronger. And when it’s not a stat boost, it’s something that is cool but you can’t even reach it until you get to the end of the perk board. Unlike Fallout which required some stats to be a certain value, Outer Worlds just lets you have the perk as long as you have a perk point to spend. So that’s cool but it bugs me. What if I was a bumbling idiot who had no speech skills whatsoever? It doesn’t matter to the game, I can still buy the perk that calls me a silver-tongued merchant. It’s a tiny nitpick but I feel like I should say it.
Another nitpick is that it feels like everyone besides major characters begin to feel like they all look the same. The graphics of Outer Worlds can feel downright beautiful and awe-inspiring but sometimes when you’ve been doing side quests for an hour, everyone you talk to looks like the same man and woman, just with different wigs and scars. I could be overreacting.
A Party of Three, so why do I feel so lonely?
And then there is what could make or break any game in this genre. The companions. Companions in Fallout would follow you based on a lot of stuff. What your morality is, what you do in the world and what you do to or for them. Outer Worlds is no different in that regard except in seemingly the ways that count. Except you are limited to a total of 6 unlockable companions. Each with their own unique personalities, and unique abilities. Some will be handed to you on a silver platter begging you to take them with you. Others will require some work, even if it is the most minimal of work. I feel like the companions are full of life and they all make me smile, I can’t really choose a favorite as I love them all. I like the idea of us all being a dysfunctional but loving family. That being said, sometimes the game absolutely ruins that feeling every time I get on the ship. You see, I mentioned that this game could take notes from Mass Effect and here’s what I mean. In Mass Effect, a quarter of each game was bonding with your companions, building a history with them, feeling like these were characters you care about. Outer Worlds tries to do this too but it fails in a tiny way that affects me in a big way. While in Mass Effect, Commander Shepard could interact with his crew members on the ship and engage in neat activities or conversations when prompted, Outer Worlds does this but forces you behind a giant window. While Commander Shepard and Garrus could have a little competition over shooting cans, in Outer Worlds, you can’t help Parvati learn how to shoot, you can only watch Nyoka try to teach her. You can’t join in the conversation between Parvati and Felix when they’re gushing over comics or TV Shows they like, you can only watch them talk. You can’t stop Ellie from pestering Vicar Max, you can only watch them argue. I have my crew living with me on The Unreliable, it’s not MY ship, it’s OUR home amongst the stars. So why do I feel so isolated from the crew? Why can’t I teach my engineer to shoot? Why can’t I tell Nyoka to stop drinking my Zero Gee brew? Why can’t I interact with these characters I want to care about besides doing their companion sidequests? They can disapprove of what you do or approve but at the end of the day, they won’t leave you until YOU kick them out. What’s stopping me from doing horrendous acts of villainy when all my engineer says is, “I think you did the wrong thing”? It’s perhaps another small nitpick but it’s one that bugs the absolute fuck out of me.
Welcome to this Sprat Fucked Colony
That being said, I can finally talk about something I mentioned during my rant about companions and in the intro. Outer Worlds has some of the best character dialogue, world-building, and story writing I have experienced in any game I’ve played. This game is the first entry in it’s franchise but somehow it’s very easy to understand the events of what’s going on in Halcyon, the galaxy you explore. The wildlife is always on display during loading screens, and adverts from the in-game corporations are also on the loading screen. From the first few minutes I started playing the game, I had already found myself laughing at the dialogue from minor characters in the first area you start in, Emerald Vale on Terra 2. And the story is a very simple but good one. You are a colonist that has been hibernating for 70 years on a giant ship named The Hope. Broken out of Hibernation by a man named Phineas Welles, it is now up to you and Phineas to either free every other colonist on the forgotten Hope or to turn in Phineas into The Board which is like the government made up of several very rich corporations who own the Halcyon Star System. There are multiple factions in said star system but at the end of the day, it’s feeling like a freelancer for one or more companies.
Every companion has their own reasons for joining you, and their own stories for you to participate in. Each companion has their own unique views and personality, and I can’t tell which one I like the most. Felix, the orphaned man who loves comics and drop kicks? Or Ellie, the jaded surgeon who gives no care as to morality but rather on the aspect of money? I can’t pick one. But there is an issue that relates to the previous segment.
I mentioned that you really can’t interact with your companions on the ship. That is still true. But you can, like in true RPG fashion, do companion quests. Each companion has a quest, and they all tell you something about the character. They can range from finding the meaning of life through philosophy and religion or to hooking up your engineer with a date. However, after you’re done with these quests, we’re back to square one. Feeling like you’re behind a giant glass wall where you’re only watching your companions, not being their captain.
The Outer Worlds proves itself to be a great game with some issues that really come down to personal preferences and some tiny lack of good writings in some situations. As I finished the game, I actually went for another playthrough on the game’s hardest difficulty. It’s called Supernova and it feels like it fixes almost every single issue I had with the combat. It is this game’s saving grace. Supernova doesn’t allow you to manually save, you can only autosave. Companions can die and never come back. And enemies are more aggressive and do more damage. Instead of just powering through each situation, I have to think more than usual about what I put into my perk board. About what I did in combat. About which stats I improve. Because if I’m not careful, I may have all my companions dead. And then I won’t be lonely out of the game’s lack of interaction. I’ll be lonely because they’re dead. It’s very immersive. I would definitely recommend this game if you can find it on a sale. Maybe at 40$, will you feel like you got your moneys worth.
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