The new space-faring role-playing game from much loved veteran developers Obsidian has just landed for both console and PC gamers.
The Obsidian studio has become known for producing outstanding sequels to other people’s games including Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic II, Neverwinter Nights 2 and Fallout: New Vegas; they also gave us the brilliant but technically flawed espionage RPG Alpha Protocol.
The Outer Worlds sees the player dropped into the shoes of a space colonist who, as part of a shipment of humanity’s best and brightest bound for the outer colonies, is rescued from cryogenic hibernation by a mad scientist type.
See, all has not gone well for your colony ship the Hope as while en-route the vessel was knocked out of warp drive and forced to make its intergalactic journey at sub-light speeds, turning a trip of a few years into a decades-long drift, by which time the galaxy has greatly changed.
This is a classic RPG set up and the first mission is aptly titled “Stranger in a strange land”, wherein you are tasked with acquiring a new starship of your own through exploration and interaction with the denizens of an outpost on one of the backwater worlds.
This, however, is not an open-world game such as the Fallout series, it is a series of decently-sized but densely-packed levels which reward exploration and experimentation when it comes to solving the problems presented by the many quests.
In many respects the level design of The Outer Worlds reminds me of the Deus Ex games, small but full of surprises, alternative pathways and different means of achieving one’s goals; in fact the game’s systems beg to be tinkered with just to see what will happen when you take a particular course of action.
Obsidian RPGs are known for their consequential choices and branching quests and while there is no morality system as such in The Outer Worlds there are several NPC factions and the companions who you pick up along your journey who are affected by your decisions, very much like the Mass Effect or Baldur’s Gate titles.
Mechanically, the game works well, the combat and movement controls feel great, guns and melee weapons have a nice punch and traversing the world is hassle-free; there are robust gear upgrade and modification options and it is all tied into a proper role-playing character customisation-system with skills and perks to level up as you progress.
Graphically, the game looks good, but not outstanding, the landscapes and urban areas are all rendered in a highly stylised fashion, something along the lines of No Man’s Sky, that is to say, a riot of colour, oddball creature designs and slick looking architecture.
Due to the nature of the game and its maze of interconnected systems, it is possible to finish the main story in a few hours or, according to the developers, the completionist route could take anything up to 35 hours to see and do everything on offer.
I’m having a blast with The Outer Worlds. It is refreshing to play an RPG which does as it says on the label and is not falling into the traps of the current triple-A games by trying too hard and creating vast worlds packed with trivial filler-content and work-like repeatable quests.
This is a tightly woven, heavily curated experience, with high replay value in which consideration has to be given to player choices and experimentation with its systems is an immensely satisfying activity in itself.