The Outer Hype, part 2

When I started playing The Outer Worlds back in December, I was not impressed. Having just completed the game yesterday, I can report that the game did not particularly redeem itself.

Dystopian dark humor only works when the rest of the game is dystopian, guys.

To be clear, the game may have been rigged from the start, so to speak. This was Obsidian, makers of Fallout: New Vegas! With a brand new IP! Like some kind of Mass Effect x Fallout space western! Except it wasn’t. At all. Like not even remotely close.

Was that Obsidian’s fault? Probably not, but they suffer the consequences of the hype just the same.

Parvati made most things bearable.

Regardless, the game did not improve. I was playing on Hard difficulty and the combat was just a mess from start to finish. Companion AI is tough to get right in any game, but here they are glorified abilities that you press once per combat, as they typically die immediately after they use them. Exploration was pointless, rewarding trash consumables or weapon mods you never have need of using. The whole Tinker/Upgrade system for level-based gear starts out as a promising way of keeping unique weapons (etc) relevant, but the escalating cost of doing so spirals out of control. When it’s easier and cheaper to just buy guns from a vending machine rather than try to upgrade the super-special gear you spent time exploring/questing for, you know things have fallen off the rails.

Quest-wise, things did not improve either. If you treat the game overall as a comedy, things might play out better from a tone perspective. And indeed there is some witty dialog to be had. Aside from that though, there was precisely one moment towards the end of the game in which I was surprised at the visual impact of a particular decision. Arguably though, it was surprising precisely because nothing else was ever taken seriously.

Kind of like this game, amirite?

Overall… well, I was going to suggest to give this game a pass, but I myself played it for a whole dollar via the Game Pass, so… do what you want. If you get past the first planet and aren’t feeling it though, don’t feel bad about moving on. It’s not going to scratch a Fallout itch, a Mass Effect itch, a BioShock itch, or any itch beyond a bizarre one for BBB Unreal engine comedy games.

And if you have one of those, you might want to see a dermatologist instead.

Posted on January 24, 2020, in Commentary, Review and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. The combat and gear situation is a mess for sure. Oddly enough on Normal companions stay alive longer, which makes them more meaningful and combat flow in a more natural way. Of course on Normal the game is overall too easy, so…

    I thought the later 20% or so of the game was really good for the story, and not just for the big reveal. The rich city area has some great details (like how even the rich parts have signs of decay, due to the big reveal), and the whole structure of everything comes together. Is it an amazing game? Nope. But I’d say its at least worth the 20hrs or so to see the main story, especially for a buck.


  2. When it’s easier and cheaper to just buy guns from a vending machine rather than try to upgrade the super-special gear you spent time exploring/questing for, you know things have fallen off the rails.

    This part is interesting, because gear obsolescence is obviously a common feature in these games, including early special rewards in NV. Perhaps Outer Worlds erred in making it theoretically possible to upgrade infinitely at all. Or perhaps if the game had been longer/wider/better tuned, the impact of replacing a beloved special with a white machine-bought would not have been so jarring.

    As to the tone, fair enough. I thought it wasn’t bad and reasonably clever. Reminded me of Vonnegut a bit or something.


    • The difference with New Vegas is that there were additional rewards for exploring beyond special items: crafting materials and little story vignettes. With Outer Wilds, the vignettes were basically reduced to tongue-in-cheek corporate overreach, and of course there are no crafting materials. The Borderlands series features level-based equipment and suffers similar obsolescence issues, but newly discovered items match your level and special guns are indeed special. Here they were basically just pre-modded items.

      The Science weapons were the exceptions, but only two were really worth the effort (Hammer and the Mind-Control gun).


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