The Outer Worlds review (PS4)

One of the first games released on Take-Two’s new Private Division label, The Outer Worlds is a return to the world of first person action RPGs for developer Obsidian. Out now for PS4, Xbox One and PC (through the Epic store), we couldn’t wait to dive into this sci-fi adventure using a Playstation 4 Pro.

Of course, when we think Obsidian, we think of their more recent games like Pillars of Eternity titles and Tyranny, both heavily inspired by the classic isometric PC RPGs. Go back about a decade, however, and you’re looking at titles like Dungeon Siege III, Alpha Protocol and of course Fallout: New Vegas. It’s that last title that made people eagerly anticipate The Outer Worlds, and from what we’ve seen they’re not going to be disappointed.

Designed as a single player experience, The Outer Worlds is a game which in a way feels like an amalgamation of everything that Obsidian’s done so far – much more so than a spiritual successor to Fallout: New Vegas, which I’ve seen other people call it. I see the overall vibe and the sci-fi backdrop makes the comparison fair, but The Outer Worlds is – in many ways – a title that builds on more than just Fallout.

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Traveling on board an interplanetary colony ship, the Hope, you find yourself stranded and rescued by scientist Phineas Welles – only to be sucked into a tale of corporate greed, resistance, politics and conspiracies before you know it. As you get back on your feet and start traveling between the different settlements of the Halcyon colony, you slowly but surely make your own mark on the story.

The Outer Worlds gives you plenty of ways to customize your character, but it’s not done in a classic action RPG kind of way where you pick up loot and boost your outfit’s defensive or offensive capabilities. Instead, the experience is far more character and narrative-driven this time, and it’s your abilities that you foster and nurture to help shape who you’re going to be in this epic story. If you feel like you’re more comfortable at the arts of persuasion than you are at combat, then you can play that way. Are you more keen on combat than stealth? Then by all means, go in with all the guns you can find.

A playthrough of The Outer Worlds can take up to forty hours, and my first go-around lasted about thirty, but with all the choices available to you I can imagine that this is a game where it’s easy to just dive back in and play it very differently a second time around. Even if you do your best to completely derail the script you think you’re in, the game will just adapt and keep going. A very practical example is that you can go about killing everyone you see and leave deserted settlements in your wake – but even this doesn’t faze the game design behind Obsidian’s latest.

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These choices don’t just relate to how you play, but also to the conversations you’ll have. Depending on how you’ve developed your character you’ll have different choices, and they’ll all directly or indirectly influence the plot and/or your relationships with characters. These can be non-player characters that you encounter in the world, or members of the party you’re traveling with. And if you don’t want to travel with anyone, you can do that too. There’s some great narrative work on display if you take a few people along with you though, because they’ll organically contribute to conversations you have with people rather than just stand there while you’re their spokesperson of sorts.

Your crew members, if you choose to have them, all have their own stories going on as well – so you can opt to help them sort out their troubles as well, straying from your own objectives a bit but reinforcing your bond. They also might have completely different skill sets from what you have, which can be a huge help in how you approach a situation. If you’ve been playing violently the entire time but find the odds overwhelming, one of your companions might be able to sneak you in by lockpicking a rear entrance – and then allowing you to take the enemy by surprise.

Combat can be as big or as small of a part of your experience as you want, but if you decide to go that route then it’s well implemented with a good selection of weapons and approaches to missions for you to choose from. During the second half of my playthrough I mostly played the game as though it was a first person shooter, and even though it wasn’t designed for this like Borderlands 3 was I had a great time doing so.

Despite the great experience, I expect that The Outer Worlds will be receiving a few patches (or one bigger one) fairly soon after release to deal with some (relatively minor) technical issues that we noticed while playing. The framerate would sometimes lag a little after loading a new game area, and it feels like this is more of a code optimization issue than anything – seeing as how the experience is very smooth other than that. Visually this isn’t up to the level of some first party PS4 titles or Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2, but it’s a colorful and nicely polished action RPG that I’m sure will run just fine in a few weeks’ time. Now, the big question is if I’m willing to wait that long for a second playthrough. Probably not….

Score: 9.0/10

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