It’s 2355, the mega-corporations have taken over, and you’ve been woken from cryosleep, 60 years too late, onboard the Hope, a colonist ship that got lost on its way to the Halcyon system. Turns out, you’re now the last, ahem, hope for a colony struggling under the questionable control of the Board. An unplanned variable, and, even worse, an unplanned liability. Will you choose corporate compliance or personal freedom? Whatever you do, you’ll be creating a lot of paperwork. Welcome [INSERT EMPLOYEE NAME], to The Outer Worlds.
This review has not been sanctioned by the Halcyon Holdings Corporate Board, please remain at your terminal and await re-education. Your estate will be charged for any damage caused to your terminal during re-education. Thank you for choosing Spacer’s Choice, try the Fish Stix!
Essentially a satirical take on the consequences of excess capitalism and vapid consumerism, The Outer Worlds will repeatedly ask you to side with or against the Board, the faction in charge of policy and law throughout the Halcyon colony, by having you make decisions. Sometimes, the impact of these is obvious, other times less so. Generally, they won’t affect you much at all. Don’t worry, there’s an epilogue that lists how you affected Halcyon and its citizens, so you’ll know exactly whose lives you ruined with all your good deeds. Or other, less good deeds, which seemed like good deeds at the time so it’s not even your fault.
I recommend completing as many side quests as possible, including the companion quests, if you want to feel even remotely positive about what you achieved. Besides, the game isn’t very long, or interesting, and if you only focus on the main story, you can get it done in well under 20 hours.
From its announcement, The Outer Worlds was excitedly compared to Fallout and Mass Effect. That’s not completely wrong, because it’s pretty much Fallout: New Vegas… in Space!, with a nod to the original Black Isle Fallouts, and a waft of Mass Effect’s companion system. I’m a fan of both the Fallout and Mass Effect franchises and The Outer Worlds certainly looks and feels very familiar, it just doesn’t have the same depth and scope. This could be good or bad, depending what you’re into.
There’s a lot of stuff to do in The Outer Worlds, but you’ll be doing it on the same couple of maps, fighting the same people and creatures. This can either be seen as efficient or limiting. The same goes for the story – it’s concise and not overly complicated. If you enjoy a sprawling epic, The Outer Worlds may leave you unsatisfied.
Whatever you’re into, The Outer Worlds really shines with its dialogue and sense of humour. The majority of your conversations will have a variety of dialogue lines. They’re generally all entertaining and the responses aren’t always predictable. Your companions will also occasionally chip in with their thoughts, whether to assist you in ethical conundrums or simply to derail the conversation.
Speaking of the companions, they’re all absurdly keen to help and validate you, even when you’re breaking into people’s homes and helping yourself to their Tarmac & Cheese, but I can’t say I cared about any of them beyond what skill boosts they provided by being in the party. No, not even Parvati [GASP! – Ed.]. There’s no companion bonding and no companion boning. Once you complete their side quests, they’re kind of just there.
You can choose between multiple character builds – a fast-talking hacker who uses, uh, unconventional methods to solve problems, for example, or an inarticulate thug who instantly resorts to violence because “subtlety” has three syllables and that’s too hard – and re-spec at any time (for a cost, obviously, because bureaucracy isn’t free), which invests the game with some level of diversity. In the end, though, you’re probably going to mess everything up one way or the other, and it frequently feels like you’re stuck making moral compromises because there’s no possible outcome that’s going to make everybody happy.
The hype and comparisons didn’t do it any favours, perhaps, but The Outer Worlds is a solid action RPG with tight dialogue and a good sense of humour. It doesn’t quite reach as deep or as far as I hoped it would.