The Outer Worlds is what many Fallout fans have always desired, but how does it fare in the hands of someone who's never enjoyed that franchise? Find out in our review.
When The Outer Worlds was first revealed by Obisidian, fans of the Fallout series were ecstatic. For me, it didn’t stand out as much. My friends famously question my dislike of anything Fallout and, as such, I went into The Outer Worlds without prior expectations. Fortunately, Obsidian’s latest gave me all the enjoyment everyone’s always told me Fallout provided them. The Outer Worlds puts you into a sci-fi space-cowboy opera and charms with excellent character design, meaningful decision-making, and a cheerful tint on an otherwise bleak world.
Welcome to Halcyon
You begin the story of The Outer Worlds after being awoken from cryogenic stasis aboard a ship meant to ferry former inhabitants of Earth to the outer rims of the known universe. You’re not, however, awoken as intended. You are roused by a mad scientist type that’s got special plans on how you can help him save the mess that is the Halcyon system.
The first few hours in The Outer Worlds will bring a smile to the face any fan of the Firefly television series. You spend time getting to know the planet and work your way towards fixing up a broken space ship that you will soon call your home. You’ll meet the first of your companions that become an essential part of gameplay and will largely be by your side. As you pursue the main story line of trying to figure out how to best understand this world where corporations rule instead of governments, your companions will often provide the most interesting tidbits and side quests.
The Outer Worlds manages to instill a real feeling of power in you as you make meaningful decisions throughout. Many choices you make will not show their true impact until later on, providing great opportunity to replay the game. Unlike similar titles, once you reach the end of The Outer Worlds, you will not be able to go back and complete other side quests or change your mind on earlier choices. You own your choices in this game, and Obsidian provides a lovely recap of all the consequences of your actions. Much appreciated is the prominent warning, which even includes a save prompt before you step past the point of no return.
Along the way, you will meet a wide variety of characters that populate the various planets and stations in Halcyon. Every type of character, from shady drug dealers to pompous politicians and well-meaning doctors with few scruples, will round out your experiences. The conversation mechanics in The Outer Worlds give you many options for handling these encounters, depending on your character’s skills and perks. Following fairly traditional role playing standards, your character may be highly proficient in hacking or persuasion, which can allow you to avoid entire battle encounters. Near the end of my run, I faced off against an extremely tough-looking enemy, and I was able to bypass the whole situation because I had maxed out my technical skills.
Similarly, you will be able to leave permanent impressions based on your actions. The various factions of Halcyon will remember whether you chose to support them or decided to cross them. You’re able to affect these relations by more than just conversation, as physical violence is almost always an option. In The Outer Worlds, if you choose to never speak to anyone and just murder folks left and right, you’re able to do that. That experience and eventual resolution of the campaign will be very different from those where you choose to be more diplomatic. Even your companions are at your mercy, though they do provide some of the best moments in The Outer Worlds.
Have You Met My Crew?
Once aboard your ship, amazingly named The Unreliable, you’ll often spend time just conversing with your companions and getting to learn more about their backgrounds. While I certainly enjoyed the overall campaign, I most enjoyed going off on tangents to help one of my crew members find love, or re-discover their family, or solve a variety of mysteries. The writing here is superb, and the voice acting behind each of The Outer World’s main characters is exceptionally well done. It’s easy to get attached to these characters, and while you can only choose two to accompany at any given time, they will always provide different paths that you can take.
Each companion will bring a different set of skills to your encounters, whether they be combat-related or conversations. Bringing a tech-savvy companion with you will boost your hacking skills, for example. In that sense, the act of choosing companions is similar to choosing which types of gear to equip. While I found the number of quests and side-quests to be quite manageable, and handy sorting and filtering options allowed me to focus on what I wanted to do next, I did find the world to be littered with stuff no one ever needs.
There’s a large variety of weapons and armor that I found mostly useless throughout. Once I picked my preferred style of weapon, I usually just spent money to upgrade it or enhance it with mods. Rarely was there a reason for me to pick up other items off the ground, except to feed my desire to keep things clean. Consumable items are spread all over the place in even higher quantities. There are food and drink items to be found everywhere, but unless you’re playing on one of the highest difficulties, there’s no need for them. Fortunately, most of the time, my inability to leave items behind did not cause any problems. Perks can easily be spent on allowing your character to carry more things, so aside from the embarrassment of letting anyone see the amount of trash I was taking with me, it wasn’t a big deal.
The Outer Worlds is filled with lore items, which are definitely worth picking up and reading along the way. Whether you’re hacking terminals and reading personal emails, or just looking at various notes out in the environment, each item adds in filling out the world you find yourself in. There are also some truly hilarious gems to be found, another sign of the excellent writing staff employed by Obsidian.
Watch Your Step
One of my main gripes with the Fallout series was its bland appearance. I never wanted to spend any time in that world aesthetically speaking. The Outer Worlds, on the other hand, is beautiful and varied. Some planets are dotted with bright and colorful strange vegetation, while others present all manner of fancy and clean upper-class establishments. These differences paint a complete picture of how the corporations have affected the inhabitants of Halcyon, for better or worse.
Combat is equally entertaining whether you prefer to beat the crap out of your opponents using melee weapons or would rather stay back and make full use of your companion’s special attacks. Each unique ability triggers a short animation and will often come in very handy during the occasionally frantic encounters.
The Outer Worlds launched with hardly any hiccups, a rare occurrence these days. Aside from some awkward Microsoft Store issues, the title performed exceptionally well on my PC. I did encounter a regrettable bug half-way through the game where one of my companions was momentarily killed, but they reappeared and continued throughout the rest of the campaign with me. During the final credits, however, I was told that said companion didn’t survive our adventure. This made me rather sad because I had invested a significant amount of time and interest in her. Yes, it was Parvati, of course. I suppose it’s just one more reason to start up another play through of The Outer Worlds and the fact that I’m even considering it is high praise coming from me.
A Better Fallout
The Outer Worlds has managed to enthrall me in its world, despite all the early comparisons to Fallout. Fans of that series will no doubt enjoy this game, but even someone like me who did not care for the comparable enjoyed The Outer Worlds far more than I would have predicted. The fact that it is available as part of Microsoft’s Game Pass program makes it a no-brainer that you absolutely must play.