Great roleplaying games don’t come along very often, but the reception for The Outer Worlds suggests the title is a genre gem. The game releases on October 25 and reviews have come in from a number of publications. The overall verdict is that this is a wonderful game, though the takes on it vary from publication to publication.
We’ve rounded up Kotaku, PCGamer, and Polygon, for our review coverage. All of them note that TOW has strong roots in the Fallout series, with a D&D-like system for assigning points and improvements (no SPECIAL here, sadly) and a wealth of customization options, with 10 points of stats to distribute every time you level. Combat clearly recalls the Fallout system and there’s even a VATS-like equivalent.
The Outer Worlds is not like Fallout: New Vegas in one critical way — it’s not an open-world, endlessly explorable title. Instead, you move from planet to planet in a game intended for a shorter overall experience. Think something closer to 40 hours, not 70+. None of the reviews remark on this as a weakness, though they all note it as a difference that fans of Obsidian should be aware of.
Polygon describes the world of The Outer Worlds as a “space capitalist nightmare.” You awaken from cryosleep after 70 years onboard a colony vessel named The Hope. You and your fellows represent the best and brightest of humanity — or you did, until your ship went off-course. The scientist who revives you, Phineas Welles (one wonders if this is a Flash callback), informing you he needs your help to revive the other sleepers who were still aboard your ship and to hopefully save the mining planet/colony of Halcyon, where things have gone badly off the rails and corporations now wield near-total control over their citizens.
All reviews report that TOW takes an unflinching look at the damage inflicted on society when corporations are able to exercise total economic and social control. What makes the game sound so interesting, however, is what you’re allowed to do about it. Kotaku states:
Several questions drive the game: How do you create the ideal society? And who is at fault for bringing this one to its knees? What adequate punishment exists for those responsible, if there is one at all? The Outer Worlds acts as a mirror this way; you answer these questions via the myriad choices you can make in the game, your moral standing met with visible consequences. You can also avoid all these questions in favor of just shooting everyone you see and taking everything in sight, though as time goes on, you will see how your selfishness affects the people around you.
Kotaku’s review dives deep into the way your choices shape the world around you. According to them, The Outer Worlds shines because it gives the player tremendous freedom to resolve situations in ways that reflect their own political beliefs. You can choose to side with the corporations that have created the society of Halcyon or overthrow them. Who you choose to help and how you choose to help them apparently has a significant impact on the ending of the game. The game apparently focuses on the battle between workers and the corporations oppressing them, but how you resolve its scenarios is left up to the player.
Polygon notes that the game asks the player to decide “Am I a mercenary, a freedom fighter, a burnout, or a sociopath?” and then gives you the freedom to be any of these things. After Welles wakes you, you’ve got the option to turn him over to the authorities. You can side against him in his quest to reform society. There are, as that publication notes, “Very few rails on this ride.”
PCGamer’s review focuses a bit more on the mechanics of the game rather than the experience of playing it, and came away thinking it was a “Saturday morning cartoon game,” with unique environments, interesting player companions, and a varied set of locations with good quests and decent character development. Polygon states that the game is “Frequently hilarious, if you don’t mind some incredibly dark humor.” Kotaku declares that the game gives you the freedom to explore whatever your personal vision for the future of Halcyon might be.
Speaking strictly for myself (and apart from the reviewers who have spent time with the game), I’m very interested in TOW. The game seems to offer much more opportunity to explore a complex political landscape than most titles, with better RPG elements and more meaningful character interactions. I’m curious to see how the game plays and evolves. Bugs are reportedly kept to a minimum, which makes this Obsidian title a gem in its own right.
Feature image by Obsidian