If you were left wanting following the narrative unsatisfaction of Fallout 4, or if you were one of the many let down by the online-centric focus of Fallout 76, Obsidian Entertainment’s latest single-player open-world RPG, The Outer Worlds, may just be the looter-shooter you need right now. Billed as a quasi-spiritual successor to Fallout: New Vegas, and built from the ground up utilizing a new engine and a brand new IP, the Californian studio’s follow-up to last year’s Pillars Of Eternity II is easily one of 2019’s standout games, as well as one of the finest RPGs of the generation.
The Outer Worlds takes place across an interstellar colony known as Halcyon and is set in an alternate universe where President William McKinley wasn’t assassinated. As a result, Theodore Roosevelt never became president, which led to a divergent reality run and regulated by a handful of powerful mega-corporations. Think The Butterfly Effect, but with more intergalactic space travel, cryo-chambers, nefarious business organizations, and a ton of monstrous aliens that want to gnaw your head clean off from your shoulders. Oh, and you get your very own spaceship that is affectionally dubbed The Unreliable. Seriously, that’s what it’s called.
You take on the role of The Stranger, who has been awoken early from cryo-sleep by a mysterious scientist known as Phineas Welles. Whether you work with him in unfreezing the thousands of other unconscious occupants, or turn him into a secretive all-seeing, all-knowing organization, referred to as The Board, is totally your call.
In essence, you’re given the freedom to make huge, galaxy-changing choices as you journey your way across the universe. How things shake out for you — and the myriad of distinct factions you meet along your way — is totally up to you. Thankfully, I’m happy to report that the morally grey decision-making that helped make New Vegas’ storytelling such a hit is primed and firing on all cylinders in Obsidian’s latest sci-fi offering.
Not only is the choice-and-consequence role-playing uniformly meaningful and well-realized — there are legitimately a surprising amount of ways to complete the multitude of quests on offer — but the writing is excellent across the board. Interesting characters, top-notch dialogue, and high caliber voice-acting come together to help breathe life into your planet-hopping, interstellar adventures, with some welcome humor and levity thrown in for good measure, too.
Moving onto the gameplay, then, and The Outer Worlds continues to hit it out of the park here. Exploration is incredibly fun and rewarding, with hidden containers brimming with purposeful loot in almost every nook and cranny. The weapons you discover on your travels are leveled, a la Destiny, and can be modified, repaired, or upgraded once you’ve dropped enough skill points into your character’s jaw-droppingly deep attributes system.
Furthermore, for every 20 points you invest in a specific skill, you’ll unlock new passive bonuses or even a brand new upgrade. These range from increasing your reach with melee weapons, beefing up your chance to land a critical hit, or even unlocking the aptitude to repair weapons and armor out in the wild without the aid of a workbench. Additionally, there’s a plethora of super handy perks to choose from every time you progress each couple of levels. Long story short, the leveling, looting, and customization options are incredibly moreish and addictive — it’s a lot of fun building your very own character however you see fit.
From an action perspective, the moment-to-moment gunplay is noticeably tighter and more refined than its Fallout forebears. Granted, that specific series’ shooting was never one of its strongest assets, but it’s important to note that The Outer Worlds’ core gunplay is ahead of the curve compared to other RPGs of its ilk. Surprisingly, it even has its own time dilation mode (a lot like VATs from Fallout), which slows down time and enables you to target the weak spots of your adversaries. Combine this with some smart AI that often flanks you and forces you from cover, and the overall action gameplay is super fun and satisfying.
Another major area The Outer Worlds has made a lot of headway in is in its companion system. You can take up to two NPC allies with you on your travels. Not only do they fight your corner with their own useful and unique special abilities, but they also come toting a large inventory space for you to hoard your spare knickknacks, too. Further still, your comrades will strike up conversations with the various other factions that you meet, and will occasionally help or hinder you in particular quests as well. These mechanics have been fleshed out greatly, especially when compared to 2015’s Fallout 4.
Finally, from a presentation and performance standpoint, The Outer Worlds (mostly) runs like clockwork. Aside from a few dropped frames here and there, this is a very polished RPG experience with very few noticeable bugs or hiccups. In addition, the game also boasts a wonderfully imaginative No Man’s Sky-esque art-style, with a vibrant, rich color palette that really pops. My only super minor gripe is audio-related: I really do miss the radio from Fallout. That being said, the ambient soundscapes and occasional flourish of orchestral music is always welcome and often gifts the overall experience with a premium finish and tone.
In all, The Outer Worlds is an unmitigated success. Naturally, recapturing the magic that made New Vegas such a beloved classic was never going to be an easy task, but the Californian studio has surprisingly pulled it off with aplomb once again. War never changes? I politely have to disagree. When Obsidian is at the helm, changes happen for the better, and that couldn’t make me happier.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game. A copy was provided to us by Private Division.
Dizzyingly deep, painstakingly polished, remarkably replayable, and marvelously moreish, The Outer Worlds is one of the most refined and well-written RPGs of the generation.