Version played: Xbox One X (Game Pass), Playtime: 30 hours
It’s most rare these days for a video game to be released which just works. Thankfully, The Outer Worlds is such a video game, so you can dive right in and enjoy yourself for once!
Built on Unreal Engine 4, Obsidian Entertainment are well known for the buggy release of Fallout: New Vegas, but The Outer Worlds suffers no such fate. I’m happy to say, there were no technical issues at all for me, no frame drops, no falling through the world, I was just living out my space fantasy one evening after another. Everything feels finished, ready! My goodness!
The fact I’m even mentioning this is a shame and says a lot about the industry in 2019, but lets not detract from the task at hand here. We’re talking about The Outer Worlds.
There’s strong vibes of Futurama, Firefly, Fallout and just about every other RPG you’ve probably ever played. You could argue this game is influenced so heavily by these things it outright rips them off. The shy female mechanic, the vicar with a mysterious and potentially violent past, the barmy old man, the power armour (which I don’t think you have a hope of wearing, unless I missed something). It’s hard not to notice the similarities.
This is typical fetch quest too, kill this person (or facilitate peace) affair, sprinkled with a dusting of interesting characters you might actually want to talk to. The maps themselves aren’t big enough for this to become too much of an issue however.
There’s quite a lot of talking
Once you’re told the premise of everything, corporations own everything and everyone it seems, you can get stuck in making friends and influencing people. I spent the first 10 hours of the game doing little more than talking to NPCs, with the occasional shooty bits. In the end this started to bother me a little, because the action was good, although very brief each time.
If you don’t want to do all that talking, you obviously don’t have to, just shoot and smash your way around. The game will be much shorter if you do so, but you’ll probably still have fun along the way.
All the characters I spoke to were well acted, interesting enough to keep talking to, thoroughly amusing or just downright hilarious. The world seems chock-full of people with things to say.
Particular favourites of mine were Parvati the mechanic, voiced brilliantly by Ashly Burch, who you meet very early on and can sign up to your crew, as well as Sanjar a little later on, head of an outcast corporation (Monarch Stellar Industries) and his assistant. Finally for me, was SAM, who I won’t spoil for you at all. I wish I’d spent more time with SAM. Lets just say, he’s very useful against other robots.
Ludicrously easy on normal difficulty
I didn’t struggle at all with this game, which is unusual for me, as I often suck at video games. Once you’re up to two companions, any of them really, set them to offensive mode and the three of you will just carve through most enemies, even the ones you may encounter and think “Oh !@# this is gonna be…. over, OK.”
Tactical Time Dilation, the games version of V.A.T.S. from Fallout, where the action is slowed down, makes it even easier, although the effect is well handled and does make for some satisfying shots on target.
There’s rudimentary modding of gear, weapons, you can do the same for your companions too, all of which I experimented with and felt was absolutely necessary to keep up. Prior to kitting out my companions with grenade launchers, miniguns etc, they were all a bit squishy. Oh, perhaps arming them to the teeth is what made the game easier? It was fun ripping through everything and everyone with them regardless!
There’s consumables too, but I didn’t use a single one of them, just sold them for the games currency, called bits. I suspect they’re more useful than I give them credit for.
There are more difficulty levels which incorporate survival mechanics, where the consumables probably make a real difference. This also offers permanent death for companions, something which would probably break my heart in Parvati’s case. She’s far too sweet to ever send off to her doom.
Ultimately survival is not my own preferred playstyle, I loath hunger meters and all that sort of thing, the pressure is too much and it makes the experience hard work, I just want to enjoy the story and combat.
Short and sweet
The whole experience was over before I was ready for that to be the case, the polar opposite to the way I felt playing Borderlands 3 before this. The game teases you from the start with places on the star map you believe you’ll visit. Some of them appear to be just for show in the end. The final act crept up on me very suddenly.
I delayed a few missions because they might be time consuming, difficult, both, or to maximise my time with the experience. Don’t bother doing the same; if you hoover up all the missions you can find, steering clear of the main campaign, you’re still going to finish this game in 30 or so hours, unless you explore every single square inch of every map. The time will just fly by.
The ending felt rushed as a result, but perhaps that was just my high expectations by that point. Obsidian made it clear months ago this was not some sprawling, fully open-world, 100 hour game; it is concise in every way, including in its limited run time.
Does the game warrant multiple play-throughs then? I think so, even just out of curiosity to see what changes; the one who plays nice, the strong idiot, the lone wolf, the absolute psychopath, the one who sides with the enemy. Perhaps your imagination is better than mine, but I’m not sure the game will cater to dozens of different styles. There are two main endings, but many different things that can change dramatically in between.
Hey good lookin’
This is a beautiful game, no question. It is extremely colourful, as a game about space and terra-formed planets should be. The skyboxes, oh my goodness. Echos of time misspent in No Man’s Sky haunt me. But this isn’t procedural, it’s all hand crafted in the Unreal Engine I believe.
Hungry for more
It seems I’m not alone in wanting more, but is there anything else in the works? People are expecting to buy DLC imminently, but nothing is confirmed yet, to my knowledge. The game has performed very well and a recent visit to the studio by Eurogamer somewhat confirms there’s still a team at Obsidian working on the game, in some capacity. Is that more content, a sequel? Time will tell.
The studio is now Microsoft owned, they move forward without the fears being an independent studio can bring, they can focus on what matters, which is making video games.
I hope very much this is the start of something bigger, not too much bigger, but the worlds Obsidian have created here are ripe for further development, but hopefully, not exploitation.
Single player, and that’s absolutely fine by me
Personally I think the video game market is going through another shift back toward shorter single player experiences. There’s got to be a market for that, haven’t we rinsed the multiplayer annual releases of CoD experience to death now?
As we’ve all aged, got married, had kids, become busy at work or even all of those things together, we have less time for video games, but still want to play.
I need to play this on the go
For the same reasons as above, I think there’s definitely a market for cloud streaming. Google Stadia launched today, in a very limited capacity.
There is a desire on my part to buy a Switch and play something like The Outer Worlds on my commute, I simply need to get my fix when and how I can these days. A version for Switch has been announced by the way, I think the game will suit this console very much and sell maaaany units, maybe even a few consoles.
The not so good
At launch, one glaring and hugely irritating problem which is being fixed the week I post this review: THE BLOOMIN’ TEXT SIZE! Once again, as with Borderlands 3, completely unreadable text from a normal distance on console, using a massive TV. I had to sit very close to the TV to read anything, but once again, I was not alone.
Developers everywhere; stop making your games with tiny text, especially on console!
In summary, spacers
Beautiful visuals, music, serviceable weapons, gear, mods, good level design, great voice acting, interesting lore, tremendous voice acting and overall, a good time that I will remember fondly when I start a new save.
Go out and get your own fix, this is a great, short, beautiful video game!