I’ve always preached about the benefits of table top RPGs over computer or console RPGs. A computer is never going to be able to prep for or react to the gamut of what a player wants to do, nor is it going to notice the nuance that you are loading into your character’s dialogue.
But by GOD is Outer Worlds giving table top a run for its money.
While the Outer Worlds has been compared to Fallout, that’s an easy reach. It’s from the creators of the original Fallout, and the company that brought us Fallout: New Vegas after all. Personally though, it’s the pretty aesthetics and world building of Firefly, with the fun of the Talkier Borderlands, and some of the ideas of Bioshock: Infinite. Except, well, this time some of the arguments of class actually make sense.
In the Outer Worlds, you play a colonist from a long-lost colony ship. Woken up decades after your intended ‘best by’ date, you arrive at Halcyon. It’s a system where the boot of the Corporation is on the neck of the worker trying to make ends meet, where the net worth of a person is judge by the amount of profit he or she has made, and where the privileged assumed that all the money they have was earned, fair and square.
Yes, it’s an ugly mirror of current reality. But hey, at least it’s funny. And at least you get to change the world, for better or worse.
And oh boy, do you get to change the world! Almost every quest I’ve completed affected the world in one way or another. Some may be small, but quite a few affect how people treat you, and some may even change how you deal with the final mission. You almost always see the fallout (pun intended) of your actions, either immediately, or sometimes much further down the road. And that really sells the idea that Halcyon and the people residing in it are flesh and blood, not cardboard cut-outs or NPCs.
Very early on in the game, I met a group of people in a sick house. I wandered in, against the protestations of the guard posted outside. Inside, I met one of the infirm, who herself asked me to leave, because she was afraid that I’d also be infected and be ‘judged unworthy’. Not really thinking, I left, figuring that I could always come back in the future. A few levels down the road, I completed a quest, and one side effect of that was that the sick house was now on ‘enforced lockdown’. Permanently. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself for that one.
The writing and characterizations are fleshed out just as well in their other characters. I’m a sucker for Firefly, and fell HARD for Parvati. She had other things on her mind though, and to be honest, I really liked that. Like there’s no romance options for your main character in the Outer Worlds, and it actually felt like a breath of fresh air. Not everything needs to have romance options, and not all your companions have to revolve around you.
Gameplay is just as equally deep. While the most obvious solution to most quests is to go in guns blazing, quests in the Outer Worlds generally all allow you to talk, bluff, sneak, or think your way through them, and any combination of the above. Hell, I think I killed like two people in the final mission, none of them were the ‘big bads’, and I only killed them because I was lazy. I’m sure I wouldn’t have needed to kill anyone if I really wanted to.
That being said, the combat is also fun, if you want to go down that route. Outer Worlds is marketed as an action RPG, and the action is pretty darn snappy. I think the combat is where it most closely resembles the recent Fallouts, but even then I think I prefer Outer Worlds gameplay. Tactical Time Dilation is similar to VATS, but all it does is slow down time. You still have to aim, so it’s less of a crutch than VATS. To be honest, I barely used it, which is a testament to how good the basic combat is in Outer Worlds. And god damn does it run smooth. My games crashed twice, and I don’t think I saw any bug. Which is probably more than I can say of the newer Fallout games.
One thing that the Outer Worlds is not is long. It runs quite a bit shorter than most triple-A RPGs usually do, and the massive open worlds usually seen in many RPGs are not seen in the Outer Worlds. Instead, planets consists of one to three maps, with important buildings having their own subsequent maps embedded. That being said, I understand the creators’ reasons and respect their decision to go with narrative depth rather than exploratory depth. A lot of time was spent in ensuring that quests could be completed in multiple ways, and I would much rather have a robust, resilient and DEEP game with good characters, than a massive but shallow game that shows its rails the moment I decide to do something different.
The Outer Worlds is the best, most polished, non-human run RPG I’ve played in a very very long time. Its price point may be hard to swallow considering its length, but if you’re a believer in quality of story than quantity, I think you will find it worth the price. It’s Not Fallout, but it gives me the same tingle I had when playing Fallout 1 and Fallout 2.
Outer Worlds is currently available on Xbox, PS, Switch, and PC (on the Epic and Microsoft Game Store).