The Outer Worlds is basically everything I want out of a modern role-playing game. The writing is clever, the world is interesting, and the mechanics reinforce the fantastical plot of being a long-lost colonist that’s been recently awoken in order to help every other colonist from that doomed mission rediscover their own future. In many ways, however, it can sometimes feel like a blast from the past in much the same way as the protagonist.
Calling The Outer Worlds “Space Fallout” is reductive, certainly, but it’s not far from wrong, and it's something I found myself doing throughout my time with the game. Those folks that picked through the rubble of Fallout 3, Fallout 4, and especially Fallout: New Vegas will see the fingerprints of those games throughout, especially when it comes to the looting and shooting. Obsidian Entertainment made Fallout: New Vegas, after all, and this spacefaring apple didn’t fall far from the extraterrestial tree.
While it lacks the same totally open nature of the modern Fallout franchise’s maps, each partitioned area in The Outer Worlds feels impossibly large all the same thanks to seeming overall more dense in terms of potential activities. At no point did I ever feel at a loss for things to do; there was always somewhere to go, someone to help, or something to kill. Oftentimes, it was a combination of these three, and sometimes all at once.
But for a game set in space, there’s remarkably little… space. Travelling between destinations is done via menu, by and large, and while the various worlds -- monster-filled Monarch is a favorite -- are fun to explore, they’re really only ever so many variations on a theme: capitalism sucks, and it’s ruined an entirely new set of planets in dark, hilarious ways.
I’ll note here that I’ve not actually finished The Outer Worlds yet. It’s a lengthy game, and given that the fine folks at Obsidian Entertainment previously said that folks will meet all of the possible companions in the first third of the game, I estimate I’m about 60% done. While there’s a possibility that the last portion of the game could turn me off entirely, I’ve had such fun wandering the game’s world, moons, satellites, and space stations that it would have to suddenly turn into utter drivel to really nudge me from the current warm glow I get whenever I boot it up.
That’s not to say all is totally and completely right with The Outer Worlds. For a game from a developer once notorious for buggy initial releases, I’ve encountered zero glitches. That said, the controls can be a little clunky, and if the kind of “look around every nook and cranny for things to loot” gameplay isn’t something you’re familiar with or like, the game’s likely to get tedious and repetitious fast. There’s only so many cabinets and lockers one can open before it all begins to look the same.
And the text size might not be a problem for everyone, but it’s something which I am acutely aware of. My preference for these kinds of games is to play about 6 or 8 feet away, subtitles on. But at that distance, I found it basically impossible to read anything at all. There’s currently no way to change the text size, however, so my entire time with The Outer Worlds so far has basically seen me glued to the front of my television.
Even with those caveats, I intend to keep obsessively playing The Outer Worlds. The Fallout franchise has been one of the few that I’ve completed nearly religiously since its current incarnation, in part due to the peculiarities of my career (one of my first jobs as a writer was at a Fallout-specific website) and in part due to the fact that I simply find its brand of post-apocalyptic setting and humor combined with the mechanics of picking up everything that isn’t nailed down to be especially appealing.
To be clear: The Outer Worlds is in no way, shape, or form a Fallout game. It has nothing to do with it. But it takes lessons learned from those games and implements them in a way only Obsidian Entertainment could. If there’s to be a successor to that sort of game, an even more modern version, The Outer Worlds is a mighty fine candidate.
Rating: 5 out of 5
The Outer Worlds is set to release for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on October 25th. The game is scheduled to release on Nintendo Switch at some point in the future; no date has yet been announced. A PS4 code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.