The Outer Worlds Is a Charming Dive into Extraterrestrial Corporatism

The Outer Worlds is chock full of brands, personality, and deadly spaces to explore.

The Outer Worlds is one of my more anticipated games for this year, if not the most anticipated. I’m an absolutely huge fan of Fallout: New Vegas, and for the most part, everything I’ve seen up until this point looks like spiritual successor material.

I’m glad to say that I’m even more confident in this thinking after getting some hands-on time with the game. The Outer Worlds seems replete with charm and unsettling but familiar dark humor. The world and its inhabitants have an eccentricity to them. The gunplay is actually more akin to Fallout 4–competent but not revolutionary. I felt drawn to wander, a feeling that was sadly remiss from Fallout 4.

I played The Outer Worlds recently for about an hour. I was dropped off in Monarch right outside of Fallbrook–a small, corrupt town where the E3 2019 demo took place. I was then free to pursue that mission or to head the other direction to do whatever I wanted. I took a brief look inside Fallbrook then chose the latter.

Just before leaving the town, I spoke with a man at the gate. He told me of all the amenities Fallbrook had to offer. He didn’t speak like a man who actually wanted to welcome me. He spoke more like he was trained to.

The Outer Worlds revolves around corporations controlling everything. Nearly every NPC I spoke to had a PR-tinge to them–like they’d been forced to rehearse their exact words over and over. They also all unnaturally name-dropped the companies that they worked for. On one hand, this seems to be the primary source of The Outer Worlds‘ humor. A few deliveries of awkward corporate catchphrases made me chuckle to myself. Each character seemed to embrace their overlords in a unique way, and I spoke with some truly interesting characters for it. On the other hand, this future sucks. If that’s what we have to look forward to, count me out.

Yes, The Outer Worlds is funny and is clearly trying to make the prospect of this future lighthearted. But that doesn’t make it any less scary to me. The humor doesn’t detract from this being a garbage world–and a totally feasible future.

I was struck by the scenery almost immediately after leaving Fallbrook. If anything makes The Outer Worlds stand out as a lone intellectual property, it’s the setting. Clearly, I wasn’t in a wasteland that’s been ravaged like those we’ve seen in Fallout. My surroundings looked more like an overgrown mushroom forest. It’s a refreshing sight, to say the least.

I took some time to get to know one of my companions, Nyoka. She immediately asked me for a favor. She ran with a couple of friends she described as hunters. Two of them were killed and she asked if we could bury them together. It seemed like an innocent request from what little information I had, so I trusted her and we headed off.

The dialogue was straightforward in a way that I could get behind. I was usually given three choices, all of which were clearly laid out. There was no guesswork as to what my character would actually say once I selected some vague summation of their line. There was a nice option, a neutral option, and a rude option. Sometimes I was given an option gated by a skill check. If my skill level was high enough, I could say it. If not, it was grayed out. It was familiar territory.

Dialogue wasn’t limited to my character though. Nyoka and my other companion, Parvati, spoke to each other as we roamed. I saw some of their general banter, and I assume (hope) they’ll comment on each others’ specific actions. Still, even the brief interaction I saw them have gave the world a bit more soul.

It didn’t take long before I came across a group of marauders blocking my path. I took that as a good time to review my character’s strengths and weaknesses. I was set up with a jack-of-all-trades, so I decided to give stealth melee a try. It didn’t go well. I was caught almost immediately and sprinted up to hack everyone to pieces. That went much better. I’m not sure if I was seen by some enemy offscreen or if I needed higher stealth, but I came out of that encounter feeling like stealth melee is only a feasible option for characters who really optimize their stats in that direction.

My next combat encounter was with a group of large insectoids not two minutes later. This time I opted to hang back with a sniper rifle, then bust out a minigun when they got too close. Much like with dialogue, The Outer Worlds isn’t reinventing the wheel when it comes to first-person shooting. A time-dilation ability slowed down the pace when things got too crazy, but that was as inventive as things got. There wasn’t a VATS-like feature to be found, and I didn’t find myself necessarily missing it. VATS was a necessity in old Fallout games. Hitting a target without it was practically impossible. This isn’t the case in The Outer Worlds. Shooting is just fluid enough and melee is just fast enough to get by. I wasn’t enraptured, but the variety of weapons, assumed variety of abilities, and the occasional flaw was enough to keep me interested.

I wrapped up my time in this demo by exploring an outpost, killing marauders, and getting new gear.

All in all, I enjoyed my time with The Outer Worlds. It has a strong mechanical foundation, competent combat, and a setting bursting at the seams with possibility. Nothing felt like a game-changer for the landscape of video games though. I didn’t see anything that I expect to be a hot trend replicated for the next 10 years, but that’s okay. I have high hopes for the narrative branches this game presented me with. For almost every reason people are already excited about The Outer Worlds, they’re justified.

The Outer Worlds releases later this year on October 25 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. A Switch version was also recently announced to be in the works, but it won’t be launching until an undetermined date later on.

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Brandon Doerrer

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