Let’s call this game for what it is: the 3D Fallout sequel that you’ve wanted, ever since Fallout: New Vegas. That is quite possibly enough to sell you on the game, and for many that’s all the review content that they’ll need. The Outer Worlds continues the strong tradition of Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, giving us more of that role playing, quirky-humour, multi-faceted narrative, first-person shooter gameplay.
It’s a fantastic effort from Obsidian, now owned by Microsoft. It, alongside Gears 5, is a killer app for Xbox Game Pass (for PC), more than justifying the entry price alone, though you can buy the game outright from the Epic Game Store as well. But for those who want a little more, or want to see how The Outer Worlds isn’t just a clone of a game from the last generation, there’s plenty to discuss and discover.
The Outer Worlds starts with you being woken up from cryo-sleep on your abandoned spaceship. From there, you are sent to a nearby colony world owned and run by corporations and their subsidiaries on a mission. Whether or not you follow that mission though, is up to you. Like other Fallout games, you get to truly shape who you want to be. Want to be a rebel, leader of an alliance against the corporate overlords who run the colony? Go right ahead. Want to be a company scab, climbing your way up the corporate ladder by any means necessary? Give into that temptation, The Outer Worlds lets you no problem. That’s not to say that choices are simple one way or the other. In-game decisions are often pleasingly complex, with significant, nuanced outcomes depending which path you go down.
Choosing which decision to live with is often influenced by how you’ve set your character up, whether you favour a smooth talker, a sneak or a melee-focused brain smasher. Having a certain affinity with a particular skill opens up new dialogue options, which are extremely well-written and often funny. There’s a pleasing sarcasm and dry wit throughout the game, and it was fun to be legitimately rude to NPCs when it was deserved (and even when it wasn’t!) instead of the usual do-good hero type.
When you’re not chatting up or talking down to NPCs, you’ll mostly be shooting other ones with a number of quirky guns that are constantly upgraded. Almost every fight will have you discovering new weapons, which you can use to repair or enhance what you have, or replace them entirely. The shooting feels good, and is a massive improvement since Fallout: New Vegas. Enemies can be a bit bullet spongey, but there are a number of skills and gun types that can help you overcome that. Included too is a slow-motion mode that helps you pull off headshots or get the jump on an enemy. You’ll need to make use of your environment to protect yourself, and it’s easy to become overwhelmed by numbers, especially in the early game.
A complaint about the most recent Fallout games is that compared to other titles released at the same time, the graphical presentation left something to be desired. Certainly, by the time Fallout 76 was released Bethesda’s game engine was showing its age in a noticeable way. Built on Unreal Engine 4, The Outer Worlds is a clear step up from those games, and while it doesn’t feature a true open world, opting instead for a “wide linear” approach, the bright tones, weird fauna and dirty industrial look is a fantastic evolution. And on my PC it ran absolutely fine, though you may want to research how to increase the text size given there’s strangely no option to fix the tiny fonts in the game’s menus.
And it’s worth mentioning that in this age of live service games, drip-fed DLC and microtransactions that The Outer Worlds is blessedly free from all of that. It’s a game you buy, play, and put away after you are done. There’s no weird currencies, stores, loot boxes or the like. It’s also not too long, at a manageable 30 hours or so, though this number will vary wildly depending on the path you take.
The Outer Worlds is a testament to how Microsoft was smart to buy The Outer Worlds developer Obsidian. Between the solid Pillars of Eternity II and this release, Obsidian have proven once again their worth. I’m excited to see how they progress with access to the financial security being a Microsoft-owned company brings, and the technical expertise of a company filled with software engineers. Obsidian should be congratulated for creating a compelling world, filled with well-written characters in gorgeous environments where I can be whichever sassy person I want to be.
The Outer Worlds takes the best part of the Fallout games, grinds away the jank, issues and cruft of those games, and creates a compelling package that can be replayed many times over. I can’t wait to see what else is to come.