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The Outer Worlds

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Private Division
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Release Date: Oct. 25, 2019

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PS4 Review - 'The Outer Worlds'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Oct. 23, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

The Outer Worlds is a new single-player first-person sci-fi RPG.

Buy The Outer Worlds

The revived Fallout franchise has had its ups and downs, but one of the more dynamic games to come from it was Fallout: New Vegas. Headlined by Obsidian (creator of many RPGs, including Pillars of Eternity, South Park: The Stick of Truth, and Tyranny), it was a straight sequel to Fallout 3, recycling much of the same content and mechanics but polishing the story to a sheen. With the Fallout franchise moving in another direction, it's difficult to say whether Fallout 5 will resemble its predecessor. The Outer Worlds aims to be Fallout in space — and it succeeds magnificently.

The Outer Worlds takes place in the Halcyon system, many light years from Earth. You are one of the colonists on a ship called Hope, which went silent 60 years prior when the entire crew was trapped in a cryogenic prison. A mad scientist broke in and rescued you, and he needs your help. The all-controlling conglomerate of corporations known as The Board has a stranglehold on the Halcyon system, and they refuse to allow the Hope colonists to be revived. It's up to you to find a way to save the people of Hope and perhaps the entire Halcyon system.


The plot is effectively Borderlands by way of Fallout. The Halcyon system is basically a Capitalist Utopia in all of the worst ways, and the game doesn't shy away from dark humor. The title does have seriousness and dark moments, but it tends to be humorous and lighthearted. It's basically what you'd get if the horrifying nuclear war of Fallout were replaced by a trip into space to work for an all-controlling corporation, right down to being the unfrozen survivor of a giant vault.

I really enjoyed the story in The Outer Worlds. It's predictable at times but has some of the same enjoyable moral quandaries that Fallout did, but the game generally has happier outcomes. The cast of character is fun, and the world is filled with unique and interesting folks. It not quite as expansive in tone or concept as New Vegas, but it manages to scratch the itch that Fallout: New Vegas left behind.

Before I go any further, I should clarify that The Outer Worlds is Fallout. It's not "similar to" Fallout; it plays almost identically in every way to Fallout 3. The controls, interface, mechanics and stats — even the ways you become ridiculously overpowered — are pure Fallout. This isn't a criticism or a complaint, but it's the easiest way to know if The Outer Worlds is right for you. Were you looking more for something like Fallout: New Vegas after Fallout 4? Then The Outer Worlds is exactly what you'd expect, barring a few minor changes.

Some of the changes include the character creation. You start off by distributing your character attributes and stat points. A major difference from Fallout is that stat points are divided into groups, such as "Defense" or "Melee." When you put points into those stats early on, they are divided equally among every skill. Leveling up Melee gives you points in both one-handed and two-handed skills, Persuasion grants you lie, persuasion and threaten skills, and so on. Once you hit 50 in a skill, it won't level up any more unless you individually assign the points.


Another change is that skill points are now a flat 10 level. You can reach about level 30 in a single playthrough, so that's about 300 bonus points throughout the game. This is nice because it means you're not obligated to put points into Intelligence to have a well-rounded character. You can build your character however you'd like, and low-cost re-specs are available at your ship. You can also boost your skills with equipment, food, and bonuses from your companions. In short, you can gain a lot of variety.

Perks are also slightly different. There are two kinds of perks, and one involves your skills. Every 20 points in a skill, you unlock a new perk based on that skill. A gunner gets better gunner skills, while a persuasive character will be able to use their skills in combat. However, these perks are only unlocked if you actually invest the skill points. If you're using equipment to boost your skills, you won't receive the respective perk. This isn't an issue if you're trying to pass a hack or lockpick check, but there are some powerful bonuses locked behind those skills.

There's also the traditional "pick a perk" option, where you unlock a perk point every two levels. What makes this interesting is the Flaws system. As you progress, having certain negative things happen to you will potentially unlock a flaw, such as a phobia or a weakness. If you choose to take on the negative trait, you'll receive a free bonus perk point to spend. You can even take multiple negatives, but that can get risky after a while.

The core gunplay in The Outer Worlds is still the blend of RPG and shooter that Fallout was, but it functions better as a pure shooter than New Vegas did. The gameplay is very familiar but somewhat simplified. Gone are the many different types of ammunition in favor of "light," "heavy," and "energy" ammo for different weapons. There's also an elemental system, so shock damage is good against robots, fire damage works against living things, corrosive damage works against armored foes, etc.


The VATS system is replaced by the Tactical Time Dilation (TTD) system, which is … very similar. Rather than completely stopping time and allowing you to automatically target an enemy's body parts, it instead slows down time, and when you're manually targeting an enemy's body parts, you can inflict status effects, assuming your skill level is high enough. It recharges quickly and can be instantly replenished by certain feats.

You can bring two companions with you at any time. Companions fight alongside you and can be customized, and they can even chime in on conversations. Each companion contributes a significant bonus to your skills (upwards of 20 points in a skill just for being in your party). If you invest in your leadership tree, they also can unlock incredibly powerful special moves that can do a ton of damage.

The nice thing about The Outer Worlds in comparison to Fallout 4 is that you have many more dialogue options and variety. Every skill occasionally comes up in conversation and unlocks new dialogue trees. You can search in computer banks for information that you can use to convince characters, or you can use the "Persuade" option. If that's not an option, there's still more variety in what you can say, and being snarky and sarcastic isn't necessarily a negative.

Likewise, there are multiple ways of solving quests, and many of them are non-violent. You can talk your way out of situations or sneak around. One neat feature is the Holographic Shroud, which allows you to walk around in disguise for short periods of time. It's a nice way for talkative characters to get a chance to nonviolently resolve situations without also investing in stealth. With this feature, I was able to finish the entire last dungeon almost without firing a shot!


The default Normal mode is pretty easy. Without investing in combat skills, I burned through most of the game with the default weapons and by spamming the Persuade skill or my companion's special abilities. You'll want to start on the Hard difficulty if you want the game to have any real bite. There's also a Supernova mode, which is similar to the Survival mode from New Vegas, but with more punishing requirements, food/drink needs, and permadeath for companions.

One area where The Outer Worlds falls short compared to Fallout is size. Rather than one giant world, The Outer Worlds is divided into smaller areas that you travel to on your spaceship. The areas are fairly detailed and feel like good chunks of Fallout, but the sense of exploration is limited because you can only go so far. There are plenty of secrets to discover, but it means you're limited in how far you can explore before finding landing passes to certain areas. Overall, it is a smaller game than any of the Fallout titles, but at least some of that saves the time of trekking over a bunch of empty space.

The Outer Worlds has a ton of content, with multiple big towns full of side-quests and ruins to explore, but they're significantly fewer in number than the other games. I didn't have much problem with this when I was playing, and the game felt well-paced. Gameplay will last dozens of hours, rather than hundreds of hours, and it only stands out because the game is so easily and often compared to Fallout.


There's plenty here to make the game worth replaying. There are a lot of quests that have multiple outcomes, and there are multiple outcomes to the main story. If there are any characters immune to being attacked or killed, I didn't encounter them, and it is 100% possible to cut the Gordian Knot in a quest line by killing a major character, as long as you're willing to take the respective faction hit for doing so. The game isn't quite as flexible as New Vegas due to the confines of the ship-traveling system, but it does a good job of feeling flexible enough that I managed to complete quests before I even got them just by exploring.

The Outer Worlds looks good. I think it looks better than Fallout, and it absolutely runs better than Fallout. Part of that is probably not having to deal with the 10 billion tiny objects that usually litter the world in those games, but I had few to no bugs in my entire playthrough. There's a lot of repetition in character models and environments, but it's not enough to be distracting, and the overall art design is strong. The core cast of voice actors does a good job, although there are occasional duds.

The Outer Worlds is an excellent attempt at capturing the Fallout formula in a new setting. It's honest about what it's trying to be, and it never shies away from it. While it may lack the sheer size of Bethesda's behemoth, The Outer Worlds still captures the fun and enjoyment of exploring, completing quests, finding new loot, and being a futuristic adventurer. Anyone who enjoyed the previous-generation Fallouts or is looking for a solid RPG will find a lot to like in The Outer Worlds.

Score: 9.0/10


 


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