“The Outer Worlds” unapologetically takes influences from the dystopian society famously portrayed in the “Fallout” series and the heavy sci-fi world of the “Mass Effect” franchise. While the game doesn’t introduce any wild new takes on the role-playing game (RPG) formula, it stands as a solid entry to the genre.
The game starts off when the player’s woken from cryosleep by Dr. Welles — a mad scientist who’s trying to save the Halcyon solar system — and is given the mission to save their fellow sleeping colonists. The player has an array of options to customize their character’s physical traits, as well as their skills and perks as their level progresses.
These unlockable abilities may look familiar to those who’ve played any of the “Fallout” games, but they have a slight Obsidian twist to them. With each level gained, the player obtains 10 skill points available to use on a variety of skill sections, including dialogue, tech, stealth, ranged and more. With every two levels gained, the player unlocks the ability to obtain a perk. The way the player builds their character is supposed to dictate the style in which they play the 25-to 30-hour campaign.
I found myself leaning more into the dialogue and tech trees in hopes of giving my character the ability to talk or hack my way out of any scenario. This plan seemed to be working as I made my way through the first planet without having to use much violence. But as I progressed further, I began to notice how easy and convenient it was to mow down any enemy when a situation got sticky.
I could spend over 30 minutes sneaking my way through a sewage tunnel and hacking terminals to get into a restricted facility, or I could spend five minutes shooting my way through the front entrance and taking complete control of the base. My player wasn’t built by any means for this style of play, and yet, “The Outer Worlds” made the path to violence an easier route in almost every scenario.
The ease of gunning my way through most conflicts took away from the immersive factor that so many players look for in RPGs. The planets the player visits also seem to be lacking a key element that previous games — such as the “Fallout” series — produce so well. While they’re technically open-world maps, the worlds feel much more linear than they really are. Every planet I visited seemed to have the same general design. There’s a singular path that connects most towns or settlements, and along that path are the same marauders or outlaws the player fights on any other planet.
I never once felt the need or want to go explore these strange new worlds. The repetitive nature of the planets and enemies seemed to take away from the joy and curiosity that filled me when I started the game.
One element “The Outer Worlds” excels at is its ability to build relationships with the ruling factions of the Halcyon Solar System. These relations impact the politics of the struggling colonists who are ruled by companies and their capitalistic goals. While most side missions can be a bore to complete, these faction quests are what kept me intrigued throughout my time beating “The Outer Worlds.”
The game also offers the player the ability to acquire up to six different companions. These companions seemed one-dimensional at first, but as the story progressed, companion side quests began to open up. These quests varied from fetching soap — so one of the companions could swoon a love interest — to killing a Mantiqueen in hopes of avenging former hunters who were taken down by the beast. These missions not only showed off the diverse personalities of each straggler I picked up along my journey, but they also created a genuine connection I felt between my player and the characters who stayed upon my vessel.
Outside of quests and companions, “The Outer Worlds” offers a combat system that can feel clunky and a bit generic at times. The guns are overpowered, and the player can only equip a helmet and chest plate for their armor. One plus is that each gun and piece of armor can be modified with a specific mod. The mods can vary from changing the weapon’s damage type to increasing the stability of its aim. These changes aren’t dramatic, but they add a layer of depth to a combat system that struggled to keep my interest.
Overall, “The Outer Worlds” is a solid take on the dying breed of single-player RPGs, but it fails to forge its own identity. The entire time I played — whether the game deserved it or not — I felt like I was playing a knock-off of the “Fallout” franchise.Instead of taking any risks, Obsidian stuck to a formula that was already built by previous games before it. Risks aren’t needed for a game to be successful, but in this case, I wished Obsidian had made a few.
Contact Daniel Carter at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.