July 5, 2020

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The Outer Worlds Review – better than Fallout

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One of the most looked after games of the year is The Outer Worlds, and action RPG developer by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Private Division. Obsidian is of course famous as the go to developer of making sequels to established game franchises. Their first foray was Knight of the Old Republic 2 – to somewhat mixed results. But they have also developer Fallout: New Vegas, Neverwinter Nights 2 and Pillars of eternity. So the pedigree is there.

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What drew people’s attention to The Outer Worlds is the obvious influence of the Fallout reboot series by Bethesda Games. In fact, everybody is wondering why they are not being sued. Of course most element of Fallout and The Elder Scrolls can be traced through to earlier games. But the resemblance is striking, to the point of it becoming humorous.

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The Outer Worlds gameplay

So what is The Outer Worlds all about? As the title might suggest, this game is set in a space, or at least in a solar system far from our own. The player can use their spacecraft to fly from planet and space station using their onboard map. You as the player have to uncover a conspiracy as to why the last colony ship never made it to its objective. Along the way you have to deal with a society in which corporatism and factionalism dominate society. The player is confronted with a straight-forward experience and skill system – if you have played The Elder Scrolls and Fallout you should feel right at home. Though the developers have also introduced some twists similar to Remedy’s Control.

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Playing as Katee Sackhoff

I played The Outer Worlds as a female character named Katee. Yes, that is an obvious reference to Katee Sackhoff. If you are playing a female Han Solo you are imitating the actress who plays Starbuck on BSG. The player has a lot of options to change the look, though I did notice that some of hairstyling only worked of your character is male. Gameplay wise The Outer Worlds is standard fare, you can use melee weapons or ranged. You can use stealth, hack, pick locks or go in guns blazing. I did notice it was hard to spot enemies at long range. In return they won’t see you until you are really close.

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Hopping between planets feels like a new experience, though it has been done before with games such as Knight of the Old Republic and recently Borderlands 3. Everything about The Outer Worlds feels polished, there were no serious ‘Bethesda bugs’ though I did notice there was less to do in the game. The Outer Worlds is focused on story progression and removes some of the extraneous activities that have seeped into so many games. And I like this.

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The strange experience of The Outer Worlds

The Outer Worlds is a strange experience. Almost everything reminds me of the Bethesda games its developers hail from. Its creators are Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky who previously worked on the ‘original’ Fallout games. Yet while playing The Outer Worlds I was constantly reminded of The Elder Scrolls Oblivion. The matter of fact dialogue and progression stands in contrast with Fallout 4 and Skyrim.

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Questing is pretty straight-forward. You have your main quests, and your side-quests with the objectives always clearly marked in the map. Quests can and will have detours and optional objectives, but for the most part it is easy to make progress in the game. It is however possible to ruin side quests by killing the wrong person or taking the wrong sides. This appears to be intentional.

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Graphically speaking

Graphically I think this game a leap over Fallout and The Elder Scrolls. The worlds you visit don’t have the congested feel of Bethesda games. The developers at Obsidian Entertainment went for a very colorful look reminiscent of Borderlands without going all in for the shell-shaded look. The graphical effects are remarkable, even if like its Bethesda stablemates it is not triple A. For that some of the object resolution is a little too low and it has noticeable color saturation.

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Conclusion

Speaking of Borderlands, I think The Outer Worlds cannot help but be compared to that latest iteration favorable. This game also has you collect lots of loot, without it becoming a laborious distraction. In fact, The Outer Worlds allows you to make a lot more progress in the first few hours than Borderlands 3. This helps with not feeling too overwhelming.

The Outer Worlds is available for PC, PS4 and Xbox One. There will also be a Nintendo Switch version available – with reduced graphical fidelity no doubt. The game is currently only available in the Epic Game store for 60 euros. I know some may object to that kind of exclusivity, but if you paid for Metro Exodus and Control than the jump is a lot smaller.