The Outer Worlds is exactly what players expected from Fallout: New Vegas developer Obsidian Entertainment, and that's not a bad thing.
The Outer Worlds is a science fiction role-playing game which mixes elements from Fallout, Bioshock, and Mass Effect in order to tell an original, well-written story about a collection of stellar colonies controlled by corporations. Although Obsidian has previously claimed they are not trying to make a political statement with the game's story, the Halcyon system in which The Outer Worlds is set cannot help but to be both a satire and a comment on how corporate entities and politicians view working-class citizens. From the aristocratic towers of Byzantium to the feral scavengers of Monarch, The Outer Worlds is nothing if not a blatant judgement on corporate greed, as the entire plot of the game revolves around a future where corporations, not governments, are in charge.
For a game not developed by Bethesda, The Outer Worlds sure feels a lot like Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls games at times, save for their ridiculous physics glitches and the previously mentioned company's fear of functioning ladders. Obsidian's game still has glitches, mind, but they are mostly relegated to the game's buying and selling trade windows, which can at times see the entire menu screen leaping around and moving offscreen after items are sold.
Graphical issues, such as texture and detail pop-in, can occur after entering a new location or immediately after fast traveling, but for the most part remain fairly unobtrusive. More irritating are the few times in which the game froze altogether, twice experienced when traveling across long distances very quickly and once during outdoor combat with a large number of colorful creatures. Fortunately, as far as glitches go, there aren't nearly as many as in either the early Fallout games or any of Bethesda's recent titles, and The Outer Worlds employs a forgiving auto save system in case something detrimental does happen to occur.
The moment-to-moment gameplay of The Outer Worlds is quite similar to the likes of BioShock and New Vegas, with a hint of Mass Effect and Borderlands thrown in for good measure. Players walk, talk, and shoot their way through situations from a first-person perspective, with enemy bodies and containers throughout the world often being filled with new weapons and armor which both have the ability to be modified with different attack and defense modules, including some which offer elemental damage. Experience is earned through combat encounters, dialog skill checks, area discovery, and quest progression, and each new level sees players assigning both skill and perk points to their created character.
There are a few interesting new elements in regards to player progression when comparing The Outer Worlds to Obsidian's previous titles. In past Fallout games, players could choose up to two extra bonus traits which applied both negative and positive modifiers to their character's statistics. These choices happened at the start of the game and were not removable. In The Outer Worlds, certain repeated actions now trigger these traits, here called flaws, during gameplay. For instance, if a player spends a lot of time jumping from high distances they may be offered a "Fear of Heights" flaw which causes a small attribute loss when traversing high areas but would also give the player a immediate additional perk point without having to level up. These gameplay-specific traits are optional and can be declined if the player does not want to suffer the consequences.
Skill allocation has been refined as well, with certain similarly-focused skills like Lie, Persuade, and Intimidate all falling under the umbrella subject of Dialog. Players wanting to enhance any of these skills simply put one point into Dialog, and then all three subskills will be enhanced by one. All skills are similarly grouped until a player reaches a rank of 50, at which point the subskill must be leveled up individually. In practice, this system gives the player more time to decide just how exactly they want to build their character before forcing them into a particular path, and allows for a more well-rounded but yet still unique playthrough.
Although lacking in as many interactable junk items as Bethesda's titles, The Outer Worlds still contains a wide variety of weapons, armor, medicines, modifications, and other forms of loot to discover. Players traverse the many locations of The Outer Worlds via their spaceship, and as the game progresses the interior of said ship will begin to fill out with decorations and memorabilia from the captain and crew's various adventures. Players can accumulate new crew members by finding them in the world and letting them join as companions, with each new crew member providing different benefits when in the player character's company. Companions each have their own stories, agendas, and side quests, some of which are worth doing simply for the quality of dialog alone.
The main quest, while not quite as long as that of New Vegas, is filled with many of the same moral choices and story beats as its predecessor, including the prerequisite "Oh, THAT'S what the plot of this story is about" twist moment occurring roughly two-thirds into the game and an ending which features an epilogue describing, in detail, what happened to the various Outer Worlds factions and characters after their encounter with the player. Since so much of the game requires players to make irrevocable decisions and many of the NPCs which can be interacted with change depending on these choices, a second playthrough is almost required in order to get the full scope of everything happening in the Halcyon colonies.
Weapons, be they melee or of the projectile variety, feel strong and solid to use, and in lieu of Fallout's V.A.T.S. system The Outer Worlds employs a time dilation mechanic which allows the player to slow down time and, once properly upgraded, easily aim at specific limbs in order to ensure crippling or blindness. There is also a slight snap-to-enemy program at play when aiming, allowing for easier first-person controller shooting.
The Outer Worlds also features a stealth camouflage system. Once a player acquires an ID card for the area they would like to sneak through, an automatic stealth system is activated which completely disguises the player and any of their companions as a member of whatever faction is allowed to be in said restricted area for a limited amount of time. If the time runs out, players can refill their camo by successfully bluffing the first NPC who confronts them, something which can be repeated up to three times with increasingly difficult speech checks before the disguise breaks down completely.
The sound design of The Outer Worlds is fantastic, a perfect mix of ethereal science-fiction tones mixed with retro-futuristic zaps and just enough twinges of outlaw country to give the entire game a slight Rebel Galaxy vibe. Voice acting is equally well-delivered and, thankfully, varied enough that players do not feel like they are talking to the same four characters over and over again like in previous titles of this nature. While some people may still want to turn subtitles on in order to make sure they catch all of the clever random conversations had between nearby NPCs, everything else is mixed well and provides good ambiance without being overbearing, save for the Level Up sound effect which is unnecessarily loud.
As more and more game companies pivot towards an always online live service model for their products, having access to such a complete "AAA" title with no additional microtransactions or purchasable cosmetic content is almost unheard of. The Outer Worlds, while still reminiscent of the games which came before it, is both a testament to Obsidian Entertainment's past quality and their ability to take what works best from other developer's titles and weave them into their own format in a way which feels at once unique and yet still comfortably familiar. For anyone who felt let down by Bethesda's more recent Fallout entries, anyone who misses smashing security bots in BioShock, or anyone who wants to bond with a companion the same way they bonded with Garrus and Mordin in Mass Effect, Obsidian's science-fiction masterpiece The Outer Worlds is waiting.
The Outer Worlds releases on October 25th for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. A Nintendo Switch version has also been announced. Screen Rant was provided with a PS4 code for the purposes of this review.