The best in class examples of role playing games are ones that sink you into their world, sure; but more importantly than that, they make you agonise over decisions. It’s not a simple good vs evil argument because the world isn’t black and white. Doing the right thing has consequences, and it doesn’t always make you feel good.
When I first tried The Outer Worlds I was interested, but I didn’t fully understand the depth of what they were trying to portray. This is a game all about the choices you make in a world where those choices often suck. It’s a world run by companies where people are just resources to be exploited for profit. Often-times I was appalled by what I saw but still, in the end, sided with the company for some of the big decisions. I hated myself for doing it every single time but the alternative outcome isn’t necessarily inherently “good.” Sure, you might shut down the factory that’s encouraging people ravaged by sickness to work, because if they’re not good workers they don’t deserve medicine; but the outcome is that this might stop the company from providing resources like food, and it also means everyone loses their jobs. It’s not a simple decision to make.
Let’s back up a bit. Similar in style to Fallout but set planet hopping across space, The Outer Worlds sets the scene as a colony ship’s engine goes bad, and it’s not worth the cost to save the thousands of lives on board in cryosleep, so they hide it away and forget about it. Looking for a new piece of the puzzle to mess up the plans of the corporations, a quirky scientist and fugitive sets you free under the promise of finding a way to help everyone else on board.
Along the way, you’ll have companions who join up with you. At first I wasn’t enamoured with my counterparts. Vicar Max was an outwardly corrupt preacher and Parvarti was a milksop of a person, constantly second guessing herself. Over time though, and especially with the completion of their companion quests, you warm up to them and when I returned to the ship and the AI assistant told me that two of my companions were having a heated debate in the kitchen, I’d hustle up the stairs and listen in for a while.
One of my favourite mechanics is the ability to slow down time. Akin to the V.A.T.S. from Fallout, it gives you time to size the enemy up, see what points of their body you want to damage. It doesn’t unleash a bevy of bullets like the aforementioned game, but as there are generally a lot more enemies at once, this time to check your surroundings and see what’s what becomes incredibly important. Healing works fairly strangely in the game too, so is helps hammer in the point of going slow. To heal yourself, you use a respirator of sorts. In your inventory system you set different foods and drinks to be…vaporised (I guess?), and they provide specific effects to you. Very little of these are a straight “heal”. When i reached endgame the aspirated heal only gave me 2 seconds of healing, but it also encouraged my native healing by 200% for 2 minutes. This meant that I would heal up via regen, but getting a nice burst was really tough.
Speaking of the food system; the inventory management is rough. You’ll often find items that are better or worse versions of other items you had on hand, but there was no way to group them together to get rid of the worst versions so I end up carrying a bunch of food around (which isn’t light) before I decided enough was enough and to spend thirty minutes going through it all.
Finally, there’s the skill and levelling system. Upon levelling you get ten skill points to spend and every few levels you obtain a perk point. The skill points can be spent on overarching categories like “dialogue” or “ranged”. These categories consist of three specialisations and level equally up until fifty, then you’ll need to start spending points in the specialisations directly to actually get any benefit. This system works really well, because it’s easy to get decent at a lot of stuff but if you want to be an expert, you’re going to need to put in the hard work. Other factors such as food buffs, companions, gear and perks also affect this, which gives even more flexibility. Personally I played as a sweet-talking vagabond, who could hack, lockpick or talk her way out of most situations, but was a sharpshooter with a rifle if it came down to it. When I play the game again though, I want to be a big ol’ dummy who gets up close and personal and solves their problems with a giant hammer. There’s plenty of room to experiment and find what works for you.
The Outer Worlds honestly blew me away. I went into it thinking it’d be another Fallout-esque game, but whilst it has similarities it’s definitely its own game. The world the game builds is truly excellent, the decisions you have to make are really hard and the people you make them with are a blast to be around. The flexibility to play in many different styles, with huge versatility in builds make this a game I’ll be recommending to all my friends.
The Outer Worlds was provided as code for review purposes by the publisher. The entire game was played prior to review.