The Outer Worlds: The Partial Review
(Don’t worry. I won’t get into spoilers into this review.)
I know that there are people who were born to love this game. I also know that there were people who were born to hate this game. So, as such, as I praise how awesome this game is, please keep in mind that I know that I am mostly preaching to people who are a lot like me. As such, consider the following sentence: “Fallout 3 was pretty good… but New Vegas was great!”. If this sentence makes intuitive sense to you then YOU NEED TO GET THE OUTER WORLDS RIGHT NOW.
It’s a First-Person RPG made by Obsidian. Remember last year when Microsoft purchased Obsidian? I was worried because I thought that Microsoft would do something dumb like turn Obsidian into a “Gaming as a Service” company like they did Lionhead. I was hopeful because I thought that Microsoft might do something smart like let Obsidian just be Obsidian and turn them into the reason to buy an Xbox instead of a PS4.
If The Outer Worlds is any indication, they did the latter. People are already talking about The Outer Worlds 2 and how it’s going to be an exclusive on Xbox/PC. The Outer Worlds was sold as a loss leader that was the reason to get you to shell out $10/month for Microsoft’s “Game Pass” (which is Microsoft’s Gaming as a Service system but, instead of selling subscriptions to an open-ended game, it sells subscriptions to a library of games a la Netflix and The Outer Worlds is Microsoft’s very own Star Trek: Deep Space 9). Which means, in the future, if you want to play an Obsidian game, you need to subscribe to Microsoft. (Which, let’s face it, is the best possible outcome for the purchase. They make the stuff that makes you want to subscribe. The worst case scenario would have been making games that required you to subscribe a la Fallout 76.)
But enough about that. What about the game? The Outer Worlds is GOOD. Like, really good.
You begin by creating your character and choosing basic stats… are you a charismatic leader who can inspire followers to do a better job? Are you a brute who hits hard and can carry many heavy things? Are you a smooth talker who can talk your way through a quest instead of shooting your way through it? Are you a computer hacker? Are you a sharpshooter? You pick what you look like (the first time you see your face in the character creation screen is pretty much also the last time you see your face), you pick your stats and areas of emphasis, and you get granted your first quest.
Remember how New Vegas did its quests? It’s like that. One of the first quests you have is To Get The Macguffin. You speak to someone who has a Macguffin and say “I need your Macguffin”. He will tell you “You cannot have my Macguffin… but I know of a second Macguffin. If you do this favor for me, I will let you have that one.” Pursuing the favor, you find out that the Macguffin is in the hands of another person who tells you “I need my Macguffin… but if you do a favor for me, I will tell you how to get the first guy’s Macguffin.”
And now you have a choice. You cannot get the Macguffin without taking it from one of two people who are attached to it. Which person do you take the Macguffin from?
Later on, you find yourself on a space station. You meet a fixer who tells you “I need a Macguffin. I will pay good credits for it.” You get planetside and a guy there tells you “I need you to get my Macguffin from over yonder. It is behind much danger! Please return my Macguffin to me!” And you shoot your way to the Macguffin and it is in the hands of yet a third person who tells you “This Macguffin will do me and mine much good and it will do less good for others.”
Well, now you have to pick. Now you GET to pick. And there are a TON of quests like this! Sure, there are also a ton of sidequests that are straightforward “go yonder, get Macguffin, return Macguffin to person” but those quests are also populated with a bunch of little things that do a good job of worldbuilding. Along the way to get whatever it is, you will read logs and see sights and look up at the sky and be amazed at the beauty of the sky.
The combat is pretty fluid. You have a bunch of guns and a bunch of melee weapons that you will find and a bunch of ammo for the guns (three variants: light ammo, heavy ammo, and energy ammo). There isn’t a mechanic like VATS but there is a mechanic that allows you to slow down time enough for you to aim (and even target body parts… headshots are likely to blind a creature, leg shots likely to make it fall over, and so on). It’s not necessary to win a fight, though. You can, instead, tell your companions to attack in your stead and, so long as you have given them good weapons and armor, they’ll do a bang-up job themselves.
Speaking of companions, you have companions! In previous FPS RPGs where you have companions, there were Romance Options (which companion would you most like to date? Well, give them presents!) in this one, however, you don’t get to date anybody. I thought I would miss this functionality but they figured out a way to make it work without me being able to date someone: One of your companions falls in love with a different NPC and it is your job to have these two lovebirds go out on a successful date. So there IS romance in the game, it just isn’t yours. But you know what? I don’t mind. I kinda like seeing someone else stress out about what to eat on the date, what to wear, and what this particular phrasing in this particular mash note meant. And, darn it, if I’m not going to make sure that this is going to be the BEST DATE EVER.
There are a million little things in the universe to notice (or ignore, if you’re more into ignoring things). Logs to read, item descriptions to snicker at, advertisements on the walls (or shouted out by shop workers). Oh, this is like Bioshock (without the subtlety), you’ll say. Holy cow, this is like Knights of the Old Republic!, you’ll say. You’ll walk through your ship into the dining area and you’ll swear that they lifted the room straight from Firefly. (If I have a complaint, it’s that I spend as much time being reminded of other things as I do just exploring the world they’ve created for me.)
All in all, the game works and works well and, if this game is an indication of Microsoft’s ownership, we have nothing to fear. Except, of course, the whole “shelling out $10/month to play the sequel” thing. But you know what? To play the sequel to this, I’d shell that out and consider it a bargain. This game is exactly what I had been waiting for.
So… what are you playing?