The Outer Worlds impressed mightily this year due to a variety of its beautiful worlds, fascinating story, and one of the most endearing characters in recent memory. The action was solid overall, especially with the addition of the Tactical Time Dilation that slows time, but the aspect that truly made this game among my favorite experiences was the writing.
Playing through the early hours of The Outer Worlds reveals that Fallout: New Vegas and Alpha Protocol played an influential role on this space RPG. The classic dialogue choices are present, and many interactions are affected by the unique personalities in play. Some characters don't appreciate smart-aleck comments while others are entertained by a lighter approach to each situation. These variables make every conversation entertaining given that you aren't simply focusing on the standard good or evil responses.
All of the six companions which join your crew are so well-written that it's often difficult to determine which two are the best to bring along on each respective mission. This choice is made even more stressful considering that Parvati must be included at all times due to her being the best character in the entire game. (This is a joke, but only somewhat.) The engineer is one of the most capable figures in The Outer Worlds despite her lacking confidence in her own abilities early on. She also brings surprising optimism to a world that can seem downright depressing at times. I found it impossible to leave her on the ship, even when I knew that SAM, Ellie, Vicar Max, Felix, or Nyoka would provide a bigger advantage in combat.
Parvati also has the best questline, one that tackles the complex nature of attraction and love. The Outer Worlds reveals early on that the shy engineer is struggling to come to terms with who she is in this large universe. As someone that identifies as ace, which is a sexual orientation in which people can experience no or little sexual attraction, Parvati struggles to connect with others until she comes across another engineer. From that point forward, her view on life completely changes.
Without spoiling this quest, it must be mentioned that helping Parvati come to terms with herself is truly heartwarming and satisfying. I actually cared about this member of my crew, as well as her happiness, which is not a normal feeling I experience while playing other RPGs. I was extremely invested in Parvati's happiness and often thought about her story while at work or during my commute. I loved that it affected my life in such a manner.
Parvati was not the only meaningful character in The Outer Worlds, however. Her story just made the biggest impact during my playthrough. The doctor/outlaw in Ellie also has similar depth, but her story is based around parental issues and the dangers of wealth rather than romance. The corrupting nature of greed is on full display, but The Outer Worlds handles this subject matter with success.
Ellie and Parvati were the standout characters for me, but every single companion in The Outer Worlds is treated with the same level of care over the course of the 30-hour playthrough. Obsidian and specifically those developers that created the narrative ensured that every single companion would get their time in the spotlight, and they did so without simply repeating story beats.
When I first began playing The Outer Worlds, I expected to enjoy the action and exploring the world while putting up with some fairly underwhelming characters. I was completely shocked, however, by the way in which the writing captured my attention. This fascination started with the opening loading screen and only increased with each subtle joke and interaction. Once I met Parvati and the other members of my crew, I was completely hooked. I wanted to engage in every single conversation, optional or otherwise, and I actually paid attention. These interactions were no longer an excuse to pick up my phone and scroll through social media.
The Outer Worlds is not a flawless game, as evidenced by some character-killing bugs that some players experienced early on, but I was completely in love with the experience from the opening moment. Pairing the exceptional companions with solid action and a gorgeous universe just completed the experience.