Journey Once Again Through Space!
In 2010, a game development company known as Obsidian Entertainment helped Bethesda Games launch a Fallout game that would be forever remembered as one of the most character driven RPGs of its time. While Obsidian is well known for having produced games like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and South Park: Stick of Truth, many credit Fallout: New Vegas as the new standard of role playing. Nine years later, after several more successful game releases and a buy out from Microsoft, Obsidian Entertainment releases its newest foray in the RPG genre with The Outer Worlds. After several hours of game play over the weekend, I am still engrossed in a very rich, character driven world, having only taken a break long enough to write this review.
Creating Your Character
The Outer Worlds opens with a grand cinematic before taking you into the create-a-character screen. For seasoned gamers, this means picking out your overall look and should only take you a few minutes unless you enjoy tweaking your character’s facial features. The secret to the RPG marketed as “building a world around your character” rests within the stats and perks system. You can feel the Fallout love right out the gate because your stats and perks operate almost identically to those found in Fallout and other well developed RPGs.
Your stats are coupled into threes which are split between seven groups. Once you reach 50 points per group, you’re able to allocate individual points to individual stats, until then, each group is leveled together. What’s great about this is that one point is granted to three stats, meaning instead of using three points for hacking, lock picking and speech respectively, one point is used, granting a point a piece to hacking, lock picking and speech. It’s a refreshing change from other games, helping to take the anxiety out of individual stat building… until you reach 50 points.
The perks offer a wide range of boosts and abilities every even level. These boosts include armor/weapons upgrades, capacity/inventory options and other well known perks found in other well known games. Unlike Fallout though, these perks make you think about your options. Usually, I spend my perk points on things that increase my strength and carrying capacity, but with my initial stat boosts spread out between dialog and stealth groups, I’ve spent more on merchant and sneaking options, something I never do.
Another benefit to perks is the assignment of in-the-moment opportunities. While exploring the ruins of a bio lab, I wrecked a decent amount of robots with a shock producing melee weapon (cause if it’s one thing robots hate, it’s getting zapped with electricity). I was suddenly prompt with the chance to take on a new trait called “Robophobia”. Meaning, when faced with robot enemies I would lose a point to temperament, perception and something else, but the trade up for this trait is a perk point, meaning at level 5 I could get a perk point and immediately get another one once I reached level 6. I decided to say no to the opportunity, thinking that this world is probably full of auto-mechanicals looking to exterminate me, it would be best to keep my wits in check during those unfortunate run-ins. Since that first encounter, I’ve come across two more in-the-moment perks, both of which did not sound like a fair enough trade for a perk point.
The Story So Far and How It’s Definitely not Fallout
The main plot of The Outer Worlds involves being unfrozen from a long lost star ship by a scientist who’s wanted by authorities. There’s an uneasy alliance despite the scientist sounding like he has the best of intentions as you make your way across the galaxy aiding him to stop your corporate overlord oppressors. Somewhere between six and eight hours of game play I was given the option to turn on the scientist, all before I even made it to the third stop in this intergalactic story. It’s hard not making the immediate story comparisons with Fallout.
Still, there is something different to this tale as old as time. Within the first hour of game play you meet a douche of a character who will start the first major world building mission. He’s corporate style evil, clearly, and even though I elected to complete the morally right path of this mission, there was a moment where I thought that I had made the wrong choice. I felt that twice over once I realized that based on my choice, I lost out on several opportunities. While I’ve only scratched the surface of the universe at large, several of the first characters you meet made me care in a way that makes you think twice about the obvious options you pick in a game about good vs evil. Sure, Parvati is obviously indoctrinated but she cares for the people of her community with everything she has, and you will feel that heart before the end of the first major story mission. Something I don’t usually feel when playing Fallout.
There’s one other game you can draw comparisons to when you finally expand from Edgewater and the planet Terra-2, and that’s Mass Effect. I can’t remember why you need to build a crew moving forward, but through random happenstance you will meet a random assortment of NPCs that you can invite to join your group. So far, I have three crew members: Parvati, Dr. Ellie and Felix. Each carrying qualities that can be compared to Tali, Liara and Joker from Mass Effect. Hell, all that’s missing from Felix is voice work by Seth Green and we could make the leap that Felix and Joker are cousins in a galaxy far far away.
Around this time I usually have a grievance or two to report based on my own likes and dislikes when it comes to gaming. However, I am happy to report that my only grip thus far has been with the sneaking/stealing system. While crouching in tall grass or behind characters’ backs or in a shadowy area, the screen gently shades itself on the left and right hand sides, this is to denote you are hidden and no one can see you. Outside of the tall grass and shadows, there’s no real way to tell if someone sees you unless they are directly in the room staring at you. I’ve made due with my pilfering, having only gotten caught twice, but overall, I wish the hidden-in-plain-sight indicator was easier to read.
Obsidian Entertainment has made a reputation on developing character driven stories that follow the mainstream while staying true to its own unique vision, helping it stand out in a world full of RPG options. Only days after it’s release, The Outer Worlds is proof positive of that fact.
Side Notes and Minor Tips
- Check every vendor’s complete list of goods, some of them have random quest items for sale that will start you on a brand new side quest after purchase.
- Definitely spend time talking to Callahan, the Spacer’s Choice mascot forever condemned to selling goods aboard the Groundbreaker.
- Before doing any quest that involves fighting through groups of marauders or mutant animals… SAVE! YOUR! GAME! (We call this the Skyrim Rule)
- Tinkering at the workbench means you never have to give up your favorite weapons/armor, just make sure you have the credits and the perk that lowers tinkering costs.
- Focus skill points on hacking and lock picking, eventually lower level locks and computer terminals become free based on the level of your skills.
- Unless she openly fires on you, do not kill the Captain of Edgewater’s law enforcement unless you want to throw away bounty hunting options early on.
- If you buy your companions Moon Man heads from the Spacer’s Choice vendor on The Groundbreaker and proceed to keep those helmets active the entire time you play, you’ll never get a full night’s sleep again.