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Developed by Obsidian Entertainment, The Outer Worlds is a sci-fi RPG that resembles a cross between a couple of Obsidian’s earlier titles - Fallout: New Vegas and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II. The game was initially released back in late 2019 and received its first story DLC - Peril on Gorgon - in September 2020, which was then followed by a Steam and GOG launch.
The game’s second and final story DLC - Murder on Eridanos - was released in March 2021, allowing us to experience The Outer Worlds as one big complete package. And with that being the case, we decided to give it a go and see for ourselves what this project co-directed by the legendary Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky had in store for us.
You May Never Understand How The Stranger Is Inspired
If you’ve seen any of the vibrant promotional materials for The Outer Worlds, you might have this picture of a wacky space adventure in your head, with your brain instinctively likening the game to things like Futurama, Flash Gordon, Rick and Morty, or even Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom stories. According to the game’s developers, Firefly and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil were also among their inspirations.
That’s quite a list. So, which of these impressive titles The Outer Worlds resembles most? Well, none of them really. When you actually start playing the game, the crazy vibrant paint job doesn’t hesitate to peel away, revealing a fairly by-the-numbers hub-based RPG with factions to support, terminals to hack, and dialog checks to pass. Think perspective and gameplay of New Vegas with the hub-based structure of Knights of the Old Republic.
But then, if you pay even the slightest bit of attention as you slog through The Outer Worlds’ seemingly endless weave of fetch quests, menial tasks, and forgettable combat encounters, you’ll undoubtedly realize that nothing about it makes any sense.
What’s positioned as this zany space adventure in a future world where corporations run the show, is in reality one of the least coherent and immersive games ever.
You see, for the most part, the game is populated with characters that act and talk like normal modern people and not the wacky dystopian space colonists they’re presented as. They’re neither crazy nor deadpan enough to exist in their world.
A world of mandatory slogans and excessive bureaucracy where you have to rent your own grave and where a team’s failure to meet impossible deadlines is punished by the summary execution of everyone involved.
And how do these normal everyday people react to this insanity? They don’t. They just keep going about their business and living their lives in this mad world without acknowledging it in any way.
The combination leaves you with a sense of great confusion as you try to wrap your head around this world that’s one wrestler-turned-president away from Idiocracy and its apparent inability to understand that a steady diet of canned wood chips may not be the healthiest thing in the universe. But at the same time, we’re often reminded that this is an advanced space-faring civilization capable of terraforming and putting its people in and out of cryosleep. The dissonance is maddening.
Now, to be fair, the game’s main quest does revolve around overthrowing the people in charge, but it’s presented as this mad enterprise spearheaded by a lone outlaw scientist whose radical idea is that slowly starving to death while singing happy tunes is no way to run a colony.
And in the meantime, the corporations are presented as greedy and profit-obsessed, not outright evil just for the fun of it like they actually come through. I honestly don't think the developers realize that profits have to come from somewhere.
So yeah, very little about The Outer Worlds makes sense, and in those rare instances where the game tries to explain itself, it just waves the inconsistencies away with a couple of throwaway lines at best.
Like when you take your merry band of companions who you’ve just met and know next to nothing about to the secret lair of a wanted terrorist and your employer, and the only thing standing between one of them selling you out is a quick exchange that boils down to, “Don’t worry, they’re with me.”
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