Obsidian Entertainment has done it again. After years of clamoring for a Fallout: New Vegas sequel or at least a decent modernized Fallout game, fans have been gifted this RPG loveletter. Now, I understand Obsidian has expressed the desire that The Outer Worlds not be used to tear down other products such as the Fallout franchise. However, applying direct comparison and considering objective quality, is not using one product to bash another, rather using as a base of mechanical and functional expectation. If The Outer Worlds had launched with less features and depth than prior similar products in the genre, it’d have changed the overall reception of the game. The invitation of comparison is inevitable, but let’s focus on what The Outer Worlds does right and takes away from it’s roots, rather than being tied to and defined by them.
Let’s get this out of the way: The Outer Worlds is an absolute testament and gift to Obsidians longstanding dedication to the art of RPG development. It doesn’t innovate the first person-RPG genre, but refines and polishes what makes these games great.
Now, how one derives fun from a product tends to be highly subjective. Therefore ALL forms of review are opinionated, and should be taken with a grain of salt. (This included) So let’s examine the product through the lens of metrics such as; Graphical fidelity, story/characters, content/length, controls and gameplay, then finally, sound design and cinematics.
The Outer Worlds is a vibrant game, jam-packed with bright greens, blues, neon signs and a flexing spectrum of colors. Though it doesn’t look as good as a shooter like DOOM 2016, it does look passable on PS4. Facial animations look good and have style, but don’t always feel properly synced with the audio work. One minor nitpick is the detail put into character creation, which can rarely (if ever) be reflected upon in 1st person. I enjoy the use of 1st person perspective to inject immersion, though it’d be nice to have more opportunity to see our glorious mustaches and potato created faces. (I like making ridiculous characters). Overall, however, it looks good. The first time inside the Groundbreaker, is undeniably pretty cool. Corporate signs and advertisements visually screaming in neon color from every direction, it’s a sight to behold.
Performance wise it runs well, with some minor to medium frame dips during busy combat. Usually this can be mitigated with the Tactical Time Dilation (TTD) Mechanic which slows time. The game performance has never negatively affected the games practical playability.
Some of the load times are pretty long, I must admit. Though many of the areas being loaded are fairly large and dense in their creation, waiting only became frustrating with repeated use of fast travel. Armor and weapons are interesting, the artistic and creative design for The Outer Worlds is phenomenal. I personally think the classic, yet sci-fi setting feels (stylistically) like a cross of Bioshock, and predictably Fallout.
Characters & Story
Depth of character, and the creation of stories and settings are where Obsidian shines. They certainly haven’t lost their touch, as their writing and the intricacies of their plot is as impressive as ever. The interconnectedness of its quests and characters truly feel like they have impact up until the end. Your choices (or sometimes lack their of) feel like they genuinely matter and have tangible results. If you redistribute power in a region, help a faction, or encourage companions a certain way, that detail is remembered. Or you could always just murder everyone.
Speaking of companions; they each have their own stories to explore and struggles to deal with, opening new quest lines with more decisions. They have their own ethical compasses and won’t always agree with what you do. Additionally I love it’s setting, a dystopian future colonist attempt governed and overruled by rampant capitalism and corporate control. And each location visited fits into that overarching plot, planets and settlements have stories to tell with reason for being, rending to feel natural and inhabited. The plot details of The Outer Worlds are legitimately what you make of them. You can explore it as shallowly or as in depth as you choose, though Obsidian clearly wants to encourages players to savour the experience.
Content & Length
If a player rushes primarily story missions, The Outer Worlds can be beaten in 12-15 hours. But I believe that’d be wasting the experience. Exploring the nooks and crannies of Halcyon and completing the side content and it’s quests are the joy of the game. This sort of playthrough can range from 20-35 hours. But the real catch is that: because of the decisions players make, the game is inherently replayable with different choices, playstyles, and different allegiances. Helped the Iconoclasts last time? Damn them this time. Ran the game guns-blazing? Try stealth or persuasion. Maybe rely on your companions, hacking, or sciences and engineering. The variations aren’t endless, but they are plenty.
The main story missions were surprisingly short, but the meaty side content makes it worth the price of admission. And I can guarantee that I haven’t even seen close to all the secrets and details that Obsidian has sprinkled in. There’s a lot of fun to be had in this space sandbox. Though some of the environments may seem a bit small (in comparison to other open worlds), they are dense and packed with things to explore and do.
Controls & Gameplay
Moving on, The Outer Worlds handles well with a PS4 controller. Button layout is as to be expected, with standard shooter controls, L2 aim, R2 fire, with the D-pad controlling companions and Obsidian’s version of V.A.T.S bound to R1 and healing/consumables on L1. No curve-balls here. Shooting feels decent, though not great. However time dilation can mitigate the need for sharp shooting, quick reflexes, and pinpoint control (though these certainly help). Gunplay feels better than it’s Fallout counterpart, but not as polished as the shooting mechanics in, say, Rainbow Six: Siege, or Titanfall 2. It’s not perfect but it works. Through it’s ever-so-minor faults, The Outer Worlds is simply a joy to play. But I have to gripe about the item management system, it can be a bit of a mess organizing and sorting through lots of armor and weapons. Especially when comparing doubles.
From the moment players experience true freedom after being dropped onto Terra-2, until the end credits, players feel their true influence on the worlds around them. There were few times I wanted to make a choice that had been disallowed, but more often than not Obsidian took words right out of my mouth and slapped it into dialogue. Chances were, if I wanted to tell a character to kick rocks and play in traffic, The Outer Worlds let me. Weapon customization is a tad basic, but nice to have at all. The Mk II/ultra versions kept weapon variations relevant, and the decent array of weapons to choose from never left players without something that felt right for them.
Sound Design & Cinematics
Good voice acting has the potential to make or break an RPG experience. To The Outer Worlds benefit, it attributes plentiful success to this aspect of the game. And it’s not just one standout performance either, Felix, Nyoka, Parvatti, Ellie, Phineas Welles, Sanjar, almost everyone in the game did incredible vocal work for the project. Not only that, but guns sound punchy, the lazers and plasma sound sci-fi, and the world sounds lived in, alive and busy. NPCs have conversations without your involvement and the audio for wildlife such as sprats and raptidons sound believable enough for wacky space creatures. It should be noted that during some dialogue audio would cut out until the next screen.
The cinematic experience that The Outer worlds offers is less fleshed out, as the focus is on immersing the player to experience the events as they unfold, not just show the us. Though, the few cinematics included looked pretty good and facial animations look awesome. There just aren’t that many of them, if you’re hoping for a highly cinematic experience this ain’t it chief.
Overall The Outer Worlds is an exemplary entry to the FPS/RPG hybrid genre, one we’ve been waiting a while for. No Fallout 76 shenanigans, Obsidian knows what they’re doing. Some have practically dubbed it Space New Vegas 2, and I wouldn’t argue. The characters are interesting, the lore is fleshed out, the style is intriguing, and it’s a blast to play. I couldn’t ask for much more. Sure, multiplayer isn’t part of the package but The Outer Worlds specializes in what it does – single player immersive role-playing. It’s a complete package that contains zero in-game purchases or microtransactions. Obsidian deserves praise for their work on The Outer Worlds, solid 9.0.
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Obsidian Hits Hard, and Pulls No Punches
- Score: - 9/109/10
+ Fantastic characters and story
+ Plenty of side content
+ Highly replayable
+ Variety of play styles
– Main story missions are a touch short
– Minor audio bug