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Review: The Outer Worlds is a rich and memorable RPG

Almost a decade after the much-beloved Fallout: New Vegas, Obsidian Entertainment returns to that strand of their DNA with The Outer Worlds.
After awakening from hibernation, you meet a mad scientist telling you all about his plan to liberate the colony you all inhabit. He (involuntarily) recruits you and sends you on a journey across a capitalist-ruled dystopian galaxy filled with marauders, vile creatures, and people in desperate need.
If you’ve played Fallout or even an Elder Scrolls game, you’re going to feel right at home with The Outer Worlds. You’re the voiceless hero that everyone turns to for whatever they need. Maybe it’s prying tools and weapons off of a crashed ship. Maybe it’s collecting someone’s weird lizard creatures before they get exterminated by robots. Maybe it’s starring in a feature film! You’re the guy/gal for the job.
There’s a strong sense of wit both from the game’s general dry humor tone and the sharply written dialogue. It echos all of the strongest points of a series like Fallout, a game which I will stop comparing The Outer Worlds to because it doesn’t deserve to live in someone else’s shadow. No, it’s a game with its own identity, its own style, and its own reasons to warrant being played over another replay of Fallout: New Vegas.

Stylistically, it feels like a western mixed with the grungiest parts of the Star Wars universe like the ones being explored in the upcoming TV show, The Mandalorian. You’re the mysterious wanderer who strolls into towns and makes everyone’s problems your own. You can be a smooth-talking, silver tongue charmer or a quick at the draw gunslinger who will place a plasma bolt straight through your chest at the first sign of disrespect or conflict.
The world is freeing, allowing you to really be whoever you want. You want to be a master manipulator and play high-tension factions against each other for your own game? Go for it, you psychopath. You want to be someone who promotes peace and prosperity? Do it. Maybe you don’t care about others. Maybe you’re just in it for the money. It’s all up to you and the game will twist and turn at the whim of your biggest and littlest actions.
It’s a world you want to explore and is constantly gushing with lore and interesting discoveries. Had I not been on a time crunch to review the game, I’d still be exploring every crevice of the game to continue to learn more about the world Obsidian has created. The political structure of the world, the ways towns are barely being held together, the rich history of a world that’s so dense with story.
On top of that, you’re forming your own version of this world. Obsidian lays an already incredibly strong and bold foundation at your feet and allows you to mold it into something entirely different based on your choices.

The amount of branching paths and where you can end up once the credits roll is nothing short of impressive. When comparing playthroughs with another reviewer, we found that we had polar opposite experiences and that our worlds were in vastly different states by the end. There’s truly nothing linear about The Outer Worlds.
Even when you’re mainlining it down a certain path, a curveball might get thrown your way offering you an opportunity to completely change everything. Someone who you otherwise oppose might try to offer you a sweet deal or threaten you in order to join them and at that point, it’s up to you to decide where your loyalties and morals lie.
While incredibly lighthearted and filled with moments that caused genuine laugh out loud moments, The Outer Worlds has a very serious story. One of classicism, determining what’s best for society even if the morals behind it aren’t great, and much more. It’s both incredibly relevant to the world we live in today but done in such a classy way that those that “don’t want politics in their games” won’t feel like they’re getting a message kicked down their throat.
It’s tasteful, clever, and still offers plenty of escapism for those seeking it. Obsidian’s incredibly talented writing team delivers an exceptional tale that’s layered in all the best ways.

Where The Outer Worlds begins to feel less stellar is within its gameplay. The RPG elements are all incredibly refined and well-done but combat can sometimes be a bit cookie-cutter. While no means bad, Obsidian feels like they’re stuck in 2010 with stiff gunplay and floppy, flimsy melee combat that doesn’t pack the right punch.
It’s bearable and still engaging but when you’re also releasing on the same day as the biggest shooter of the year (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare), you’re going to need to do a bit more than the bare minimum. AI will frequently run up on you and get in your personal bubble but your character can’t respond with the dexterity or match the energy of the enemies around you. The stiffness of gunplay is a strong and not-so-flattering contrast that makes it feel janky and not as fluid as other shooters out there.
While it’s on a bigger budget, a game like Cyberpunk 2077 looks to have incredibly visceral and satisfying action but The Outer Worlds struggles to feel modern enough in that department.

When it comes to other elements like customization, it can feel a bit confusing. At the start of the game, there’s a very detailed character creator where you can customize your whole look as you’d expect. Then you never see your character ever again because third-person is not an option in the game and the only other time you can see them is in the menu if you’re not wearing a helmet. It almost felt pointless to have spent so long making a character you don’t get to see in-game.

That said, other than that, the way you build your character is quite wonderful. You can freely invest your skill points however you please and even respec if you change your mind later. Perhaps even more interesting is the flaws system.

Say you take a lot of damage from alien creatures, your character can develop a phobia of them. This will permanently weaken your character in some way either mentally or physically but you will gain a free perk point if you take on this flaw. This is totally optional but if you want an odd challenge, stack up those flaws and become one of the most incompetent heroes in the galaxy!

The Verdict
The Outer Worlds cements itself as an incredibly memorable RPG. Obsidian has built a vibrant and freeing world that is fresh, exciting, and ripe with galactic potential that will hopefully continue being explored in sequels. Even with its shortcomings, its easy to see Obsidian’s newest RPG bordering on instant classic status.

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