The Outer Worlds Is Bringing Fun Back to Science Fiction


Share.

The future is corporate and you might have brain damage, but the good news is there’s nowhere to go but up.

Obsidian is no stranger to good roleplaying games. For more than a decade the developer behind Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2, Fallout: New Vegas, the Pillars of Eternity series, and more has delivered the kind of strange and fantastical worlds where players can get lost saving the world, or dooming it. Now, the studio is back at it again with a new sci-fi slice of fresh hell to get lost in: The Outer Worlds.

The Outer Worlds is something new for Obsidian. It’s not concerned with dragons and elves, or post-apocalyptic desert bugs and raiders. There are no Jedi (that I know of.)

Instead, Obsidian’s new adventure takes place in a pulp science fiction world rampant with overtones of the dangers of commercialization. It’s a place where several corporations have won – buying up chunks of the galaxy in a bid to spread their profit-seeking, power-hungry grasp. Imagine being hired, and your job is to help colonize Planet Chevron in the McDonalds System. When you wake up, you’re on a terraformed world a lifetime away from everything you knew – that’s the first day of the rest of your life. That’s essentially where The Outer Worlds kicks off.

Setting the Sci-Fi Scene

As you awake from your cryogenic pod that you’ve been in about 70 years – which is objectively, dangerously, cellular-destroying-ly too long – you’re asked pointblank if you feel anything resembling explosive cell death. And things just kind of spiral outward from there.

You’re asked pointblank if you feel anything resembling explosive cell death. Things just kind of spiral outward from there.

The idea is this small corner of the galaxy and its two planet-like celestial bodies were discovered, purchased, and terraformed for colonization. But something went wrong. Tera 1, now known as Monarch, didn’t take to the terraforming, and it’s now become a moon full of monsters. The other planet, Tera 2, known as Halcyon, fared much better. It’s Earth-like, with plants and trees and animals, but it’s not really Earth. Those trees are Mostly-Oaks and Kinda-Pines, trademarked, most likely. That animal crawl-slithering in the grass-like field is a Leather Boa, a snake-like-thing that’s broader and fatter than Earth snakes, because it’s been genetically modified and bred to produce more leather. Profitable, most likely.

And though there’s talk of a vast conspiracy going on behind the scenes that we’ll get to the bottom of eventually, I’m still dwelling on the immense, weird details that Obsidian has put into The Outer Worlds. It’s impressively clear that the development team has spent a lot of time pondering what society would be like under the yoke of a soulless corporate overlord. After all, morals only get in the way of the bottom line.

To that degree, who you work for and what you do for your employer in this fringe colony is the beginning and end of your social standing. Society has weirdly evolved here. There’s a shorthand full of slang and colloquialisms that are more reminiscent of an Old West mining town than that of a far-future space colony. The good news is things like racism and prejudice aren’t things anymore. But there is tribalism. Now, if you work for Spacer’s Choice, you don’t trust and likely even hate those who work for Auntie Cleo’s. And you know who belongs to what because everyone’s armor is plastered with the propaganda of where you work.

Each corporation has its own personality and quirks that are more than just world-building flavor. Auntie Cleo’s mostly makes food and drugs. Lots of drugs. And they’re the good stuff. On the other hand, Spacer’s brand makes everything but it makes the cheapest version of it. Everything it makes unfailing breaks, but it’s really easy to repair, so your mileage may vary.

The Nuts and Bolts

On its mechanical surface, The Outer Worlds is the straightforward action-infused RPG we’ve come to know and love. It’s full of choices, people to interact with, quests to undertake and plots to foil, character customization, companions and companion customization, and loads and loads of weapons.

At first glance The Outer Worlds is reminiscent of the first-person-brand Fallout games, which is fitting, considering it’s being developed by the same studio that made Fallout: New Vegas. In it you gain experience, level up, assign ability points and perks to slowly carve out a playstyle. Maybe you’re really into swinging sci-fi sledgehammers. Good stuff! You can build into melee. Or if you want to be a silver-tongued problem solver, you can focus on social skills like persuasion, intimidation, and lying to bluff your way through dialog and avoid a fight altogether.

Or, you can build into tech skills: Science, Medical, and Engineering. If you want to make a character who’s very tech-oriented you can. For example, there’s a whole subcategory of sci-fi prototype weapons that increase in power with your science skill, rather than your gunmanship, with unpredictable, funny side effects. Things like a Shrink Ray that appropriately shrinks down anything you organic you shoot, causing it to have less hit points and do less damage. And if it’s a person it gets a high, squeaky voice.

Things like a Shrink Ray that appropriately shrinks down anything you organic you shoot, causing people to get high, squeaky voices.

The point is there are any number of ways to build your character, and while every skill controls something in the game, the more you build into a particular skill, the more exotic quirks it unlocks. With every 20 points sunk into a particular skill you get a new perk. For example, building into stealth makes you hard to see, but drop 20 points into the Stealth skill and now you’re doing more damage when sneaking. These bonuses happen every 20 points all the way up to 100, so there’s some incentive for committing to a path.

But unlike the lone survivor wandering the wasteland, you’re not a one-man show in The Outer Worlds. Throughout your adventure, you’ll meet and recruit companions, which you can befriend, buff up, and specialize. Though you can only ever have two companions at a time, you can mix and match them. Each companion comes with three skills that they’re really good at. When you level up, so do your companions, and you get to pick what perks they get from their own perk trees. And each companion brings their own preferences and special attacks, for example, Felix has a dropkick takedown. And, naturally, if you piss them off through your repeated actions, they’ll just bail on you.

And Obsidian likes companions so much it has included them in a fourth pillar of the gameplay: Leader. Now, instead of going the combat route, the dialog path, or the stealthy option, you can be a leader and build into buffing up your companions. The leader skill splits between inspiration and determination – inspiration increases your companions’ damage and determination allows them to take less damage.

But as the protagonist in the game you’re obviously special too. For example, for some inexplicable reason – maybe it’s the drugs, maybe it’s the brain damage from being in the cryopod too long – you can go into Tactical Time Dilation and slow down time in short bursts to pick apart enemies in combat. Which you can, as you might have guessed, build into through skills, allowing you to stay in this mode longer, or use it more often.

This Ole Clunker

Getting from one planet to another, or to the space stations that orbit them, means you’ll need transportation. To that end you’ll be able to eventually procure your own ship and use it to fast travel to other docks and points of interest throughout the colony. This is your own personal spaceship you work towards getting in the first act of the game. You don’t start with one. But it’ll allow you travel throughout the colony. And you can keep extra inventory and stuff there so you don’t have to carry it around.

But unlike other lovable captains of science fiction like Malcolm Reynolds or Han Solo, you’re no star pilot. You don’t have the faintest idea how to fly a ship. And you can’t go anywhere at any time, which is why you need passkeys to access landing pads in other areas before you can head there.

Fortunately, your ship’s onboard AI named ADA handles the flying. Like all of the computers in The Outer Worlds, ADA isn’t sentient, but she does make comments that make you wonder what’s going on in her circuitry. Maybe there’s more to explore there? Makes you wonder.

Not Trying Too Hard

After seeing a lengthy hands-off demo and speaking with the developers, my favorite aspects of The Outer Worlds are how it subverts a lot of the traditional savior-or-scourge baggage that comes with playing an RPG.

The Outer Worlds offers up another option: the dumb option. What if you occasionally say something stupid?

That’s not to say this isn’t a tale of high stakes. While you’re certainly the unaccounted for variable in the whole corporate colony space, you’re anything but a chosen one. Obsidian has put a lot of effort into creating something that’s totally self-aware and regularly self-deprecating.

For example, the traditional forests of branching dialog options are present and accounted for in The Outer Worlds, with their corresponding answer archetypes. When confronted with an tragic obstacle, you can play the hero: “I’ll rescue the employees trapped in the lab from the ravenous beasts and kill only what I must to ensure their safety, because it is right, and just, and good. Because I am the hero they need and deserve.”

You can play the rampaging, murderous psychopath: “I’ll blast my way into that lab and kill anything with a face. Because I answer only to myself and everything else is just in my way.”

But The Outer Worlds offers up another option: the dumb option. What if, like me, you occasionally say something stupid: “Well, wait, how do we know the employees want to be rescued? Are we sure they’re in danger? Yeah, they’re screaming and panicked, but, maybe it’s just a coincidence? We should probably just leave well enough alone, right?”

I heard companions and quest givers basically talk to you like you were hit in the head with a brick and aren’t capable of following simple instructions.

And the world reacts to your stupidity and/or ignorance. Your companions will remember that boneheaded comment you made, or the decision to do the dumb thing, and call you out on it. Throughout the demo, on multiple occasions, I heard companions and quest givers basically talk to you like you were hit in the head with a brick and aren’t capable of following simple instructions. They’re irreverent and subtly funny without committing the cardinal sin of trying too hard to be funny, and most of all, it’s refreshing.

This extends out to the setting as well. Nothing takes itself too seriously because in the far future where your corporate colonizers dictate daily life you don’t have to worry about little things like morality or self respect. You’ll be having a completely normal conversation with a random NPC who works for Auntie Cleo’s, and as you wrap it up to go your separate ways, he reminds you to visit Auntie Cleo’s for all your needs. He plugs his employer in normal conversation. And why wouldn’t he? Everything in The Outer Worlds is bought and paid for. Buildings are slathered in billboards and advertisements. Folks wear clothes branded with logos and slogans. Even the food you eat is trademarked: like Bred. It’s like bread, but it’s not, it’s Bred. It’s like living in an IKEA.

The Outer Worlds seems, at least on first inspection, like the genuine article. We’re still a ways away from its 2019 launch window on Xbox One, PS4, and PC, but it’s lodged itself firmly in my head as something I’m looking forward to learning more about.

Its dark, deadpan humor is right up my alley and its self-aware mixture of absurdity and detail clearly hide more serious undercurrents. But I’m so interested in what’s going on both above and below the surface, that I just want to walk around and poke things, just to see what happens.

Brandin Tyrrel is IGN’s Xbox Editor. You can find him on Unlocked, or chat over on Twitter at @BrandinTyrrel.





Content originally posted Here this is not owned by The Video Games

What do you think?

0 points
Upvote Downvote

Written by The Video Games

This Video Games, Picks news from around the web and posts this for you, The content you have just read was posted from a great place be sure to support them and visit the source link.

Comments

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Loading…

Loading…

0

Comments

comments

Next Week on Xbox: New Games for December 11 to 14

Behind the Doors of Hello Neighbor: Hide and Seek, Available Now on Xbox One