Also available on Xbox One, Switch, and Windows
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 10/14/2020 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
In my household, Obsidian is a name you treat with reverence. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, Fallout: New Vegas, South Park: The Stick of Truth – Obsidian was the studio behind these games, and I give that studio the respect it deserves. When I saw that they were working on a sci-fi RPG that was clearly a spiritual successor to their work on the Fallout series, I was immediately sold. Yes, please, sign me up. Then my bank statement said, “Son, put your pants back on; you’re too broke for this.” So I had to wait until I could get a copy off of someone used for relatively cheap. Being a grown-up sucks.
Having secured my used copy of the game, I couldn’t wait to jump into the world of the Halcyon colony and stand up to the corrupt and wicked corporate overlords ruling the system. By that point, though, it was 2020, and we all know how this year has been going…so life and mental health got in the way, and it sat on my shelf for about six months. Finally, however, October rolled around, and the impenetrable miasma of depression dissipated into a much more manageable Silent Hill-esque fog with a whole four inches of visibility! Yes, now I can finally dive into Halcyon to be the savior that no one asked for and few wanted.
Now that I’ve turned this review into an internet recipe with an unnecessary story about my life, let’s talk about the game. You play as a colonist who’s been cryogenically frozen aboard the colony ship Hope in Halcyon for 70 years until a mad scientist wakes you up in a move of bold defiance against the plutocratic corporate government of the system (eat your heart out, Mussolini). You’re then put into an escape pod and launched towards the nearby planet of Terra 2 to meet up with a freelance ship captain who is supposed to get you to the aforementioned mad scientist’s secret lair. Unfortunately, the freelance ship captain was an idiot and stood directly on the pod’s landing beacon causing you to crush him to death accidentally. Oops. Guidance system error in your favor. Collect one starship. You’re the freelance captain now!
There are a few ways you can play this game as is par for the course with these Western RPGs. You could be the selfless savior who acts for the good of the colony in all things. You could be thuggishly chaotic neutral who does whatever is best for himself without regard for effects on others. If you’re a filthy capitalist pig, you could even play the role of the corporate stooge who works for the Board and turns in the bounty on the mad scientist who saved you although that’s rather rude and cuts the game short by a significant margin. I, being a good comrade, chose to side the workers in all things and oppose the Board in almost everything. I’ll admit that it took an hour or two for the game to hook me, but once I was hooked, I was hooked just as hard as I’d been with New Vegas.
The game’s sound design is absolutely superb. The voice acting is (for the most part) top-notch. The only exceptions to that are some of the random unnamed NPCs in the towns and some of the screams in battle. Some of those screams are REALLY over the top. One of my characters took an admittedly pretty hard hit from a wild creature and screamed for literally like fifteen straight seconds. Just one long agonized unholy scream of terror and agony. After ten seconds of it, it went from being annoying to just unsettling. Those are my only audio complaints, though. The soundtrack is phenomenal with calmer scenes and loading screens having some terrific orchestral background music.
The game’s visual presentation is spot on, too. I played on PS4 Pro, and the game just looks beautiful. Some of the textures can take a second to pop in after you load into the world, and that’s jarring, and there are some issues with characters just popping in and out of existence in the world (though this seemed mostly isolated to the Peril on Gorgon DLC from my experience), but I’d give it a solid 8 out of 10 on the graphics front. I did encounter a good number of bugs, but the vast majority were extremely minor bugs that affected gameplay in no meaningful way. I only had to reload a save due to a bug once or twice. I mean, compared to Bethesda’s RPGs, this game was downright polished. The phrase “It just works” would actually be truthful if applied to The Outer Worlds. Sorry, Todd, but it looks like Obsidian does better work without you than with you. It might because they were using the glorious Unreal Engine 4 for this game as opposed to that wretched Gamebryo engine.
Obvious comparisons with Fallout aside, The Outer Worlds is a truly outstanding game that takes all of the good parts of its Fallout heritage while still standing on its own two feet as a unique and enjoyable experience. I do hate Obsidian’s choice to use the “point of no return” mechanic meaning I’ll have to reload an older save to play the unreleased DLC, but that’s a relatively minor complaint all things considered. The Outer Worlds isn’t perfect – it’s still somewhat buggy, there aren’t as many side areas and planets to explore as I might have hoped, and the unique weapons rarely feel especially unique – but it’s clear from the get-go that a lot of care and effort went into the development of this game. If you’re a fan of Western RPGs like Mass Effect, Fallout, Knights of the Old Republic, so on and so forth, you absolutely must give The Outer Worlds a spin. I hate that I slept on this one as long as I did, but there’s still some DLC that’s been announced but hasn’t been released yet, so it’s never too late to jump in and stick it to the Board.