If we did classic scores rather than Verdict’s, The Outer Worlds would have been given that classic 7/10 score. A rating which indicates a game is well rounded and generally pretty good, without being outstanding. You know, something you might pick up when it’s on offer. Funnily enough, The Outer Worlds has just landed on Steam and GOG after a year of Epic exclusivity with a two week 50% off deal, and for £24.99, I’d suggest it’s something worth your while picking up.
I have been dipping in and out of The Outer Worlds since lockdown back in March, and completed it on the eve of the Welsh lockdown this week. I’ve certainly enjoyed my time with this spacefaring adventure from Obsidian Entertainment, and all the while I’ve felt that it’s a lightweight Fallout game with a sci-fi rather than post-apocalyptic twist. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it certainly lacks the touch of magic, and storytelling subtlety of the defining RPG of the generation, The Witcher 3.
The Outer Worlds takes place in the planetary system of Halcyon in a universe where humanity has spread its wings from Earth and colonised other systems. A colony ship, The Hope, mysteriously got lost on its transit from Earth and is found by a mad scientist after 70 odd years floating in the dark with a hold full of cryogenically frozen colonists. It’s here where the aforementioned mad scientist wakes you from your slumber…cue character creation!
You can play around somewhat during the character creation, but as this is a story of humanity, your options are fairly bland. There is an interesting quirk where you choose your characters employment background which helps tweak some of your starting skills and other attributes. It’s a shame that your background (I was a the spacefaring equivalent of a civil servant) doesn’t in itself seem to play into how others perceive you. If you want to have a wider variety of options during conversations, you would be sensible investing your ability points into your dialogue and technical (science, engineering, medical) skills.
After character creation, your mad scientist saviour sends you to meet a contact on Terra 2…but unfortunately your landing pod lands on your contact, leaving you to fend for yourself to fulfil your ultimate quest of helping save the remaining colonists from The Hope. Fortunately, your contact was a Captain who had a spaceship, The Unreliable, stuck without fuel on Terra 2, but happily waiting for you to fill up and take to the skies.
As you start to explore the starting town of Edgewater on Terra 2, you soon realise that among the usual RPG side quests there is a fundamental good or evil choice to be made around how you acquire the fuel for The Unreliable. There are some shades of grey between the two factions at play, but it boils down to siding with the Board supporting faction who care little for their workers, or the ragtag band of rebels. Violence is one way forward, but using your personal skills can lead you to a peaceful resolution. It’s a fine story, and one that is told well, but the behaviour of those who follow the Board who control the Halcyon colony is so on the nose that even if you wanted to roleplay someone a bit evil, you’d likely be put off supporting them.
On the bright side, Edgewater is where you meet your first two companions in Parvati and Vicar Max. You can play the game solo if you wish, but companions do prove useful in combat and offer for some welcome chatter during your travels. You will though have varying affinity with the companions. I immediately warmed to Parvati and was happy to help her fulfil her companion specific love story to the blissful end. While I did fill my roster of companions, it was only Parvati and Max that I ever took on missions or engaged with in any meaningful way. In short, your mileage with the companions and their specific quest lines will vary greatly.
The factions are one of the other key sources of quests in The Outer Worlds, with your behaviour during quests (and when roaming the various locales) altering their attitudes to you. One such faction, Sublight Salvage and Shipping are a band of spacefaring pirates without any love for the Board, but their own loose morals. While undertaking some quests for them on Terra 1, a planet abandoned by the Board, I fancied a nose at the computer of their leader on the ground. Having been entwined in a drug running ring by one of their faction members, I wanted to nose at their leader’s computer and see what dastardly tricks they were getting up to.
I wasn’t too subtle when hacking into the computer and ended up in a gun fight, rapidly clearing out the faction members from their base and gaining a very poor reputation. I didn’t fancy doing any save scumming, so hunted down the drug dealer and dealt him some swift justice by way of a shotgun blast to the face. I’d become fully hostile to Sublight by this point and was deemed a shoot on sight enemy. Certainly, an entertaining turn of events.
It was on Terra 1 that I enjoyed the best moral compass quest tree. One corporate faction who were trying to do better than the all-powerful Board, and a band of rebels that were led by an idealistic leader. Digging into the conflict between these groups was a welcome diversion from the main quest and showed that The Outer Worlds could, at times, handle a quest with depth and complexity.
I found it a shame then that the main story quest was comparatively so lacking. While your mad scientist patron has some questionable morals, when compared with the Board he is a patron saint. My endgame was a disappointing affair simply resulting in some massive firefights and an uninspiring boss battle. Fortunately, after completing the action I was treated to a nice sequence surmising how the Halcyon colony fared after my shenanigans.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that The Outer Worlds on normal difficulty mode is very easy, and while you can make use of stealth, you don’t need to as combat is lightweight with most of the guns you pick up along the way easily handling most foes with some light modding to suit your preferred approach. If you want a true challenge, I’d recommend Supernova mode. It falls short of an Ironman mode, but does put the onus on you to eat and sleep to keep alive, while your companions can die permanently.
I realise now that what started off as a news post about The Outer Worlds landing on Steam and GOG has turned into my very own Verdict. There’s certainly not enough going on here to go anywhere near a Red Mist, but the fundamentals are sound, and the quests and companions which do shine are very enjoyable. It’s a shame that The Outer Worlds doesn’t hit those heights consistently, otherwise it might have been a notch higher.
The Verdict – Headshot
Platforms Available – PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch
Platform Reviewed – PlayStation 4
For more on our scoring policy, read this post. Review based on retail purchased copy.