REVIEW: The Outer Worlds - A FPS RPG at a Different Time and Place

November 22, 2019
REVIEW: The Outer Worlds - A FPS RPG at a Different Time and Place

Obsidian Entertainment is the team that brought us some legendary titles: Fallout New Vegas, Knights of the Old Republic 2, Neverwinter Nights 2, Pillars of Eternity... On the other hand, there were some games that have disappointed the community: Alpha Protocol, Dungeon Siege 3, Pathfinder Adventures... This team obviously loves to take risks and sometimes that ends with a fail, so we never know what their next game will turn out to be.

When I first heard about The Outer Worlds, I got goosebumps, not in a bad way like another fail was coming, but positive, full of high expectations and hope. At times when everyone fails to make a good first-person Sci-Fi RPG, Obsidian Entertainment is trying to make exactly that, and these are the developers that brought us some big disappointments after amazing announcements.

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With the first announcement, I was at a crossroad, I didn’t know whether to expect a lot or to calm down and see how everything plays out. One thing that made me believe that we might be expecting a great game was the acquisition of Obsidian Entertainment by Xbox Game Studios. That meant that the Microsoft saw a great potential in The Outer Worlds and other yet unannounced games, and decided to play "all in" for this team.

Now, to get on with the impressions I had while I played this game. You assume the role of a member of the Colonial Ship Station, which was supposed to be the first to reach the "edge" of then-known galaxies in search of new habitable planets. Yet, in that decade-long journey, the ship at some point veers off course and gets lost in space. Decades later, at a time when the crew should have been long awake, you are waking up to a different time, place and situation.

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For many years the conspirators were threatening to destroy Halcyon, the Solar System in which The Outer Worlds takes place. You have arrived at a moment when this crazy plan is coming to fruition and it’s up to you to save the Halcyon and stop the destruction of its colony. A twist might have been expected, the story has a good foundation to develop into something great, but still, it all depends on your gameplay.

The Outer Worlds is one of those types of games that relies primarily on story, dialogues, characters, their development and the world they’re in. From the very beginning you’ll see that communication with other colonists is in the style of old RPG games, it resembles Fallout New Vegas the most. But let's be honest, the whole game, most of the mechanics, character development, it all resembles Fallout New Vegas a lot, just located on the planet in a sci-fi environment instead of the post-apocalyptic US.

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The good thing about interacting with other NPCs is that it’s your decision how you’ll resolve the conflict you are currently in since you have so many choices in conversations. You will always have a chance to solve a problem, disagreement, mission, in a more peaceful, non-violent way if you so desire. The best thing about the dialogues is that they are written in a comical, fun way, to the point where that "intellectual" scuffle, if of course your character is capable of it, becomes totally unplanned. I should also mention that you can kill absolutely every character in this game and finish the story successfully.

Every decision has certain consequences in the world, so if you go berserk with all the characters that don't have the same opinion as you, or even bother you, you are simply going to wander through deserted cities without a living intellectual soul, because they rarely agree with you. Best of all, as far as the story goes, everything is absolutely up to you, depending on how humane you may or may not be. The game doesn’t have any "moral scale" to show you how many bad or good things you did. It is completely up to you to make your own decisions, whether you are a psychopath or not, it seems that it is just your problem.

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On the other hand, you can always look for morale in the companions you may meet on the way. As it goes with these types of games, or rather, the Obsidian type, you will be able to recruit people to work for you, follow you and help you solve tasks, make decisions, and of course, kill more opponents. Still, each character you meet will be different from the previous one, both in the way of thinking and functioning. By talking to them, you can discover what they really think about you and your actions.

You’ll be able to solve any issues before conflict sets in motion if your character is capable of doing so. It's this variety of gameplay that this game provides, and it really depends on how you develop your character in the game. If you like, you can make a character that’s just strong and without any intelligence, or he may be totally smart but without any communication skills. Keep in mind that each skill or attribute is related to what you can or cannot do.

Later in the game you will have the opportunity to upgrade or refine your weapons, or have an affinity for the particular class that you want to use. Any decision you make brings up certain issues, which means that you may not be as effective with other weapons or face-to-face combat. However, investing in as many skills and attributes as possible and making an all-around person at least in the first playthrough is advisable, because if you invest a little time in "science" then you will also be able to play with weapon upgrades and experiment with various attachments and modules on live opponents.

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As for the shooting mechanics, this is not AAA FPS game where the focus is on shooting opponents. Shooting is okay, it has weight and meaning, the weapons you find differ from one another, they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Still, it feels kind of stiff because the focus is not constantly on shooting and maneuvering bullets, but on developing the story and solving problems on the way. There is also Tactical Time Dilation system, as it is called in the game, that’s basically a copy of V.A.T.S system from Fallout 4. This system is drastically slowing down time so you can plan where you want to shoot the enemy and it might help you survive, especially later in the game when things become more challenging.

The whole point is to be as successful as you can at defeating your opponents, because if you are not, you might develop a phobia, it’s a thing in the game, if you get hurt by the same thing too many times, you get a phobia of that thing. A great idea that works even better in realization, and this phobia is not there only for the sake of it, but when you fight against opponents you have a phobia of, you get stats penalty, or rather, you will no longer be as effective in fighting them. This segment alone lets you know that you can't go head-to-head in every fight, but you have to choose wisely what you can and can't do.

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The world of Halcyon Colony is beautifully done, both graphically and functionally. Although the size of this game can’t stand side by side with The Witcher 3, or some of the newer Ubisoft games, everything has been carefully and meaningfully done. The city is alive, as well as the people in it, whether those who conspire daily or those who have no idea what is going to happen to them. That dynamic and character development is absolutely spot on. The whole graphic presentation adds even more to the real enjoyment of this game. This is more due to illustrators and graphic designers themselves than the engine the game uses. Best of all, the world is filled with lore, stories that you can find to get to know this colony where you have probably arrived too late, or better woken up at the worst possible moment.

We’ve already mentioned that your choices have consequences on the world around you, so the two endings will differ depending on the choices you made throughout the game. Regardless, the way you come to an ending can leave many consequences in this wonderful world. It is up to you whether you want to repeat the adventure and do something different or not. Still, this is a game you can enjoy playing a couple of times, because the choices in conversations that lead to different storylines can vary so much that it's simply impossible to see everything in the first playthrough.

Final impressions

The Outer Worlds seems like the beginning of something new, like an evolution of everything Obsidian Entertainment has done so far. With the amount of everything they've thrown into this "small" world, the development team has paved the way for the future where the story can unfold and sequels can emerge from these Outer Worlds. The idea and its realization as a start of the new franchise is almost perfectly crafted, interesting enough to keep everyone wanting to play more, especially those who are simply dying to play a classic first-person RPG with a dose of quality. I played this game on PlayStation 4 and it totally deserves 9/10.