The Outer Worlds thy name is the best Fallout game in nearly a decade. I’ll try to stay away from such comparisons from here on out though for two reasons. Many clamored that Obsidian’s new baby was a spiritual Fallout game when it was announced, and I’d like this title to stand on its own. Second, I just know that every review will bang you over the head dear reader with that fact. Regardless, as it stands now The Outer Worlds is a brilliant RPG that gives you many ways to play, both in gameplay and dialogue trees, and has such creative environments that are only matched by No Man’s Sky. Even if it stumbles at the finish line.
The story follows the player character in the Halcyon Solar System. Humans have become spacefaring as actually traveling through space and terraforming planets is possible in this age. Our species has journeyed from Earth to this area of space in colony ships while undergoing stasis. However, in equal parts unknown and equal parts suspicious, the Hope colony ship diverted off course and crashed at the edges of Halcyon’s reach. Decades later the protagonist is randomly retrieved and revived by Phineas Welles, an eccentric scientist who is wanted by law enforcement of the solar system. Once you get a grip on your bearings after many overdue years of stasis, you’re told Phineas wants to safely revive the many remaining colonists to take down The Board, a greedy set of corporations and the most powerful entity in Halcyon.
The Outer Worlds does a pretty bang-up job of presenting itself as impartial to the player character which is important in a choice-based RPG. Besides The Board, which you can see the firsthand consequences of their actions on citizens throughout the galaxy, you’re not specifically told who is bad and who is good. That truly is up to the player to decide. You will decide who is worth supporting and who is worth opposing based on how the actual characters act and behave. In fact, you can affect the main story and side missions in big ways from the very beginning. All outcomes depend on your choices and you’re given plenty of freedom. Dialogue trees are vast and expansive in almost every interaction. You can ask to get to know people better, you can cut to the chase, you can be a jerk, you can be compassionate, you can be a goof and much more that would take a paragraph on its own to describe.
Worldbuilding and character interactions are also wonderfully done regardless of what planet you’re on. Towns and wilderness feel alive with people or creatures and how they all mesh. Every area had a brain to pick or computer to crack. You, of course, have street-level banter you’ll overhear about the current going on depending on what problems are facing the planets, exchanges between companions, amusing dialogue and script between different factions, and honestly believable and true motivations and thought process for most of the in-game characters. I couldn’t believe how entertained I was when I returned to my ship only to be told by the craft’s A.I. that two of my compatriots were sharing a drink. When I went to check on them they were quite drunk. Rest assured that The Outer Worlds will make you feel like you’re apart of a sprawling universe just by getting all the little things right.
As you can imagine, a title of this caliber has more than a few aspects pertaining to gameplay. First up are the weapons and combat which is surprisingly simple when it comes to gear. There are handguns, assault rifles, machine guns, bolt rifles, shotguns, and you probably get the idea. What’s a little different is all of them use either light ammo, heavy ammo, or energy/elemental ammo. I found myself prioritizing and utilizing the strongest weapon of each to conserve ammunition efficiently. I may have also hoarded shock and pyro guns too. Armor is even more basic as you can only equip a body and head item. Although they make up for it by sometimes having passive attributes granted to whatever character wears them. All forms of what I’ve mentioned can be upgraded with mods collected and repaired with weapon/armor parts at workbenches throughout the world. In combat, they function nicely, but I see aiming down the sights being challenging for players at first. At least until they warm up to The Outer World’s strafing and shooting. Keep in mind though if you decide to create a melee build or use a melee weapon, it will be proportionally stronger than projectiles.
Our hero has a similar ability to a certain other famous one as well. When available and not recharging the player character can slow time for a brief period. Depending on choices and stats, this slow-motion will come in handy for all sorts of situations. Especially when fully upgraded as its length is quite short since the more you move and shoot, the quicker the time returns to normal. Additionally, you’ll have a handy ability to dash away with a simple double press of the X button. This too has a cooldown just at a much faster rate. It’ll mostly be useful when running a melee strategy or one of the enemies likes to get up close and personal. Speaking of which, planets will have unique creatures or soldiers to go up against. A lot of them though are shared throughout the galaxy. To the point, that enemy variety for the size of this game does not equate to expectations. Plus, the A.l. for most of them is facepalm levels of intelligent. Soldiers and machines, in particular, will walk slowly to take cover behind you. Some creatures, on the other hand, will move around in a way that exposes weak points.
What’s more important, however, is how you approach these equippables and enemies and The Outer Worlds gives you a lot of freedom and choice on how to do so. When you first create your character, among the many customizable and detailed options, you can decide what the protagonist is naturally proficient in. This will raise base stats in certain areas accordingly. Then upon leveling up, you’ll get ten skill points to spend on a wealth of possibilities grouped up in related aspects. Each option in each group can be leveled up to fifty with one skill point before all will need one apiece. Therefore, catering to a certain playstyle from the get-go is important. The sooner you reach level one hundred with say Persuasion or Hacking, the sooner you’ll have complete free reign in how to progress. Not to say you can’t go with a jack-of-all-trades playstyle either. You just won’t be able to take advantage of all the varieties The Outer World has to complete missions.
The way in which mechanics were created or orchestrated to play a part in mission progression is to be applauded. I went with a Speech and Ranged build on my first playthrough, but even doing that I saw the other potential options I could have taken in almost every objective. There were paths for stealth, hacking, persuading, stealing, or having a high enough science stat to move forward are but a few examples. At times you’ll even be able to use multiple abilities assuming your stats are high enough. Same can be said with the actual ways a mission can be completed. There are always multiple options in how you achieve your goals and I never felt stuck. This ties back into player choice and how much you want to shake things up. Obsidian deserves praise for how open this title is.
You won’t have to technically make decisions alone as there are five companions to come across and potentially recruit. Assuming your choices don’t lead them away or to their deaths. They’ll have companion quests that are rewardingly fleshed out and the whole nine yards. You can equip them with all the same weapons and armor you can use and level them up thanks to perks. These increase their attributes and abilities in ways you can probably guess as well as your own character. Companions will also have certain passive attributes that can increase your own depending on who’s in your party. For the most part, they do well in combat and aren’t just a meat fodder or shield. There are simple orders you can give them, but I rarely used them or the settings that affect their behavior. They’re also very well written and you’ll start thinking of them as family. Assuming you aren’t playing some evil SOB playthrough or something.
I generally enjoyed discovering everything this title had to offer with or without companions. The script and the humor, both full of zany, crass, and meta tendencies, were a delight to behold in this tale. Exploring and investigating nooks and crannies throughout the system were equally entertaining. One small gripe though was the number of places to wander off to. A lot of the worlds had only a handful of locations and all led the player character there through story or side missions. Once at these buildings though there were plenty of avenues to entertain the explorer in us. A most minor of issues I know, but something I felt like expressing. While we’re on tiny problems I would also like to say I would have loved to see The Outer Worlds in true 4K on the PS4 instead of upscaling. The creativity, colors, and design practically beg for it.
With no doubt, you can assume The Outer Worlds has some technical issues. Luckily, for a big RPG like this, it is more polished than you would expect. Point being this wasn’t a release and fix later type of deal. You’ll be dealing with the atypical issues of NPCs getting caught in walls or objects and enemies falling through the map. Draw distance isn’t entirely perfect either as pop-ins occur here and there. I haven’t suffered any crashes back to the dashboard yet which even Remnant: From the Ashes nor Borderlands 3 can claim. Other positive technical traits are character models and facial expressions. When you’re conversing with near anyone, you’ll appreciate the graphics even more. Shout out to the amazing voice work too.
Unfortunately, all this leads to an abrupt end that feels unfinished which incidentally feels like the complete story ended at the halfway point. Most playthroughs will last fifteen to twenty hours and yes that includes doing all or most missions available and exploring everything on offer. Although you can beat the game in a couple of hours if you so choose. I just couldn’t believe a title like this wrapped everything up so quickly when the presentation indicated there was so much more game to play. Hell, depending on your playthrough there’s even a nugget of information revealed that could have easily provided another twenty-ish hours of gameplay. It left a bad taste in my mouth and prevented this review’s must-buy status. Still, as I mentioned The Outer Worlds has plenty of replayability in all the drastic ways your choices actually do affect the story. Plus, there is Supernova mode as well which acts like your prototypical survival mode: you need to drink, eat, and sleep, can only save on your ship, harder difficulty, etc.
The Outer Worlds PS4 Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8/10
The Outer Worlds will scratch the itch of anyone who’s looking for a first-person, western, RPG. There’s a lot of variety in gameplay possibilities and actual weight behind even minor choices. You truly can dictate what kind of galaxy you want to leave in your wake. It’s just that the end of the narrative is incredibly anticlimactic and feels unfinished. Thankfully, replayability is here in spades and prevents The Outer Worlds from feeling like it was only half complete.
- Many different gameplay possibilities that allow many paths to progression
- Superb atmosphere and level design
- In-depth and believable characters, acting, and script
- Your choices actually matter
- Small technical hiccups from time to time
- Narrative’s end-game feels rushed and incomplete
- A.I. can be quite dense
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.