When The Outer Worlds was first announced, I was excited at what looked to be a retro sci-fi Fallout-style game from the studio that created arguably one of the best Fallout games: New Vegas. Don’t shuffle Obsidian off into a Fallout-only corner though! The studio has plenty of experience with a wide range of other RPG titles, including Alpha Protocol, Dungeon Siege III, and South Park: The Stick of Truth, and it’s pouring all of its experience into this latest title. Although Obsidian is now a part of the Microsoft family, we’ll at least be getting The Outer Worlds on PlayStation as a last hurrah, so I had to go check out what they were showing at E3 2019.
Right off the bat, I fell in love with the environment in The Outer Worlds. It’s a sci-fi Wild West, evoking the same kinds of feelings I got from Firefly or Borderlands. The perfect blend of retro futuristic tech along with a lawless frontier on a forgotten and abandoned planet leaves the player feeling both empowered and altogether helpless. The Outer Worlds is a proper Obsidian RPG though, so it’s not always up to your guns to do the talking. Sometimes you have to charm, lie, persuade, or intimidate. Sometimes you have to pick locks. Sometimes you have to use a holographic disguise. The options available to you depend entirely on your particular character build, and not just tangentially either.
For me, one of the biggest things that Fallout 4 lacked was a depth in the dialogue options, having your character and your build actually mean something throughout the game. I want the choice of where I invest skill and attribute points to have a broad and noticeable impact across the experience. When our character first talked to someone in order to start the sidequest that was part of this demo, I was pleased to see each line specifically written out, rather than presented as a general idea. For example, it might say “Absolutely, money’s right. Guess I’ll take the job. Tell me what to do next,” instead of just [Agree]. Even the options that rely on perks let you know exactly what lines you’ll be using to charm, lie, or intimidate, so there’s no guessing games on what it means to select the “lie” option.
The Outer Worlds is an Active Tactical RPG
Though we didn’t get to see them in detail, companions were present. If Obsidian is up to its old tricks, we can expect a pretty solid depth when it comes to including companion characters, including companion specific missions and dialogue that will make the game unique for everyone (as if the depth of options otherwise isn’t enough). Missions come with multiple ways to complete them, both throughout and in conclusion. We were shown the possibility of lock picking a secret sewer door to enter a compound (something we heard about through another conversation elsewhere), but our lockpicking skill wasn’t high enough for it. We were told we could go in guns blazing, but they took that opportunity to show off holographic camouflage, something that holds up to visual scrutiny, but begs for interrogations as guards get suspicious.
Here again, the dialogue options were on full display, showing that we could lie about not having our new keycard to enter, try to charm them, or even act the tough guy. Eventually we made it through to the end, and were given options of killing our contract, teaming up with him, or brokering a deal between the two parties. Obsidian told us that all of these outcomes will have rippling effects on the world and the story.
For those who do like a little bit of RPG combat, The Outer Worlds has you covered there too. You can enter a tactical time dilation mode, with slows time and allows you to set up some shots and actions. Targeting specific parts of enemies will result in different status effects, like staggering with a leg shot, or weakening on the gut. Combat is quite active, but the tactical time dilation really gives it an old-school RPG flair.
Finally, one of the biggest things that was hinted at were flaws. These are things that come up like being afflicted with Robophobia if you’ve taken damage from too many robots. Accepting the flaws will have various negative status effects, like a reduction in agility while fighting robots if you take Robophobia, but you’ll be granted skill points to apply towards your build, so there’s a real risk/reward tradeoff.
The Outer Worlds is embracing the classic first-person RPG style, really providing an incredible depth to exactly how your skills and character loadouts directly impacts your gameplay. It adds a tactical element, not just to the combat, but in having to weigh the consequences of almost every action you take. We won’t have to wait too much longer for what is quite probably Obsidian’s last PlayStation title. The Outer Worlds releases on October 25, 2019.