Around this time last year, I began my 100% journey through Red Dead Redemption 2, one of the rare titles I felt deserved what little free time and attention I had for such a feat. Now, I’ll be attempting to do the same for The Outer Worlds. It’s a welcome sci-fi RPG that features a single-player campaign rather than a MMO or free-to-play battle royale, and for those of us burned by games like Fallout 76 and Anthem, it’s a title that actually lives up to its promises.
The new, original IP from Obsidian Entertainment and Private Division takes players into a futuristic world … or worlds, actually, since the story reflects its title. They range from Dr. Seussian wilds, to backwater burgs, elite gated communities of the rich and famous, and even a militarized colony bristling with heavily armed security forces. You’ll play a highly customizable and capable colonist thawed out by a mad scientist in the hopes that you’ll help him save not only your few hundred thousand fellow colonists still frozen in hibernation, but also the failing colony itself. You see, the multi-headed hydra known as The Board–comprised of a half-dozen mega-corporations that own and operate just about everything in the colony of Halcyon–maintains their vice-like grip over the colonists even as things fall apart around them. It’s up to rogue researcher Phineas Welles to put things right again, and it’s your duty to help him.
Or not! One of the best things about The Outer Worlds is the narrative (and moral) flexibility it allows. Players can choose to help the good-natured Welles or side with The Board; that’s just the first major choice that will affect the outcome of your playthrough, and there are plenty more where that came from. If you’re like me, you’ll want to play through The Outer Worlds at least a few times to see all there is to see, do all there is to do, and, if you’re dedicated enough, go for that platinum trophy. The story is engaging; the characters are well-written, wonderfully acted, and artfully animated (without the all-too-common jank that comes with modern games); and the dialogue is absolutely hilarious, especially if you, like me, choose the “Dumb” options. And on a technical note, there were no serious bugs or crashes to speak of (on the PS4 Pro, at least), aside from the occasional bit of overlapping on-screen text bubbles or wonky quest progression should I wander off the intended path.
My only knocks against The Outer Worlds are that there are too few “Wow!” moments or big boss battles that really make for a memorable playthrough and that there are relatively few twists and turns in the narrative. For transparency, I focused the main quest line and actively avoided all of the side quests, companion quests, faction quests, and additional content for the sake of time; I almost certainly missed out on some gems (like two companions I never recruited) and was undoubtedly under-leveled by the final mission, necessitating a down-shift in the difficulty setting. The game is quasi-linear, meaning that you’ll have to do a little bit of A to B to C before the colony itself opens up a bit more, mostly through companion quests. But there’s room for DLC should Obsidian and Private Division choose to do so, as well as a ton of franchise potential, which I sincerely hope they take advantage of.
The Outer Worlds may not have the gut-punches of Metro Exodus, the kinetic insanity of Borderlands 3, or the mass appeal of Apex Legends, but this original IP is a hilarious, adventurous, and wildly imaginative outer space escapade that should absolutely be in the conversation for Game of the Year.
The Outer Worlds will be released for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC (via the Microsoft Windows Store and Epic Games Store) on October 25, 2019. The Outer Worlds is also coming to Nintendo Switch; no release date has been announced at this time.
For those of you who want some more details, tips, tricks, and commentary, I’ve broken down my playing experience a bit more in the following categories: