The Outer Worlds is the latest RPG offering from Obsidian, a company with a legacy of great RPGs with great stories. The gameplay may be the best aspect of this game, however, as they’ve created an all around fun and satisfying experience.
The setting of the Outer Worlds is a colonized system far from Earth which is under the control of a number of corporations that make up the Board. The Board is an authoritarian ruling group that has made life in the colony miserable for most of its employees. The game was branded as a corporate dystopia, and that aspect is played up pretty heavily (and at times farcically) early on, though as the game progresses a more interesting and nuanced setting is revealed. The Board is in power, but they don’t control everything. The setting, as well as some specifics of the game such as your ship, is somewhat reminiscent of Firefly.
The gameplay is pretty typical of a modern shooter RPG, taking cues from everything from Mass Effect to Borderlands. The shooting is relatively simple, as you’re limited to your various weapons and up to two abilities used by your party members, rather than a tree of special powers or anything like that. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to use your words rather than your guns, or even use your words while using your guns. Pumping points into the various skill trees not only unlocks numerous options to complete your tasks, but gives significant bonuses. The perk system allows for bonuses of a similar nature, and is made all the more interesting because the game will occasionally let you take a flaw to earn an extra perk. For instance, if you take a lot of damage from one element in a short time, you can choose to become more vulnerable to that element in exchange for a nice bonus. It’s a fun system.
In lieu of a complicated ability system, the Outer Worlds allows a lot of customization in terms of your gear. You have a quick heal device that can be tied to consumables with various effects, and you’re given two methods of modifying your weapons and armor. First there are mods, which slot into different gear and can do things like change a weapon’s element, add a scope, or give various useful powers to armor. These are one use each, but the game doesn’t have so many tiers of gear that you’ll have to be too concerned with a modded weapon immediately becoming obsolete. This is especially true because of the tinkering system, which allows you to spend money to increase the level of your gear. This gets more expensive the further from the gear’s initial level you get, giving a nice tension that still encourages gear upgrades but doesn’t demand them at the first opportunity.
You can recruit six companions to join you, and bring two along at any given time. They’ll otherwise hang out on your ship, and interact with each other and you both there and in the field. It’s similar to the dynamic of the Mass Effect games, and the characters have some interesting personalities and fun dialogue. They’ll even resume a side conversation that gets interrupted by a firefight, which is a nice touch. In combat, you have some control of their strategy, and can order them to force fire a target or use abilities unique to each of them. They also get their own perks and can give you significant bonuses to skills, including non-combat skills. Choosing the right companions for a given mission can make things a lot easier.
My only real complaint about the Outer Worlds is that the setting and plot did not particularly grab me. To be clear, dystopias are not my thing, and by no means do I think the story was bad. The fact that I enjoyed the game so much despite these feelings is a testament to how well-constructed it is. I only played on Normal, but there’s the trademark Obsidian ridiculous survival mode available for those who want a real challenge (or enjoy a bit more tedium than the average gamer). If you like Obsidian’s games, I highly recommend the Outer Worlds, and if you’re looking for a fun and relatively brief shooter RPG, you could do much worse.