I have been playing The Outer Worlds via the Xbox Game Pass lately. And… I am not impressed.
People have been gushing about how this is Obsidian’s return to form, how it is a non-Fallout Fallout game, and so on. From what I have seen thus far though, having completed the first major area? It’s a slap-stick snooze-fest generic Unreal Engine title. That might be a controversial impression, so let me unpack it a bit.
First, it’s slap-stick due to the comically evil corporations in charge. One of the very first side-quests you get is to collect the grave fees from the families of those workers who have died. No payment, no continued burial. Another NPC mentioned how one of their workers committed suicide, and if anyone found out, the family would be fined for destruction of company property. All the words were there to evoke a sense of capitalist dystopian hellscape… but the tone wasn’t.
Every single quest or conversation is accompanied by a wink and/or eyebrow waggle. This isn’t Deus Ex or Syndicate or Blade Runner, this is Rick and Morty-level irreverence. And while there are certainly outlandish elements to the Fallout lore and in-jokes aplenty, the actual post-apocalypse piece is taken seriously. That isn’t the case with the Outer Worlds. I don’t know if that was done intentionally or not, or if perhaps things get more serious later on. I just know that when I completed a recent quest in which a NPC was sold as an indentured servant to pay off her debts instead of being assassinated, it did not even remotely register as a moral quandary.
Second, the snooze-fest piece refers both to combat and the non-combat pieces of the game. Having heard that Normal difficulty was actually quite easy, I went ahead and chose the next level up on the slider. And while I have indeed died several times in routine combat, there was never a sense that it was due to skill or anything. “Oops, there was a melee guy there, and he deals increased damage because the difficulty level is higher.” Indeed, combat feels disjointed most of the time, especially when you have companions who essentially teleport around when you trigger their special abilities.
Outside of combat, things are so formulaic that I don’t even know why Obsidian bothered with exploration elements at all. There are three ammo types for all guns (light, heavy, energy); there are multiple damage types (physical, corrosive, etc) but they map 1:1 in a cookie-cutter resistance way; 99% of everything you find is either currency, unnecessary food, and more copies of generic guns/armor to break down for generic parts to repair the guns you chosen to use; mods for guns/armor sound important but are again generic nonsense (your melee weapon deals plasma damage now!) that just ticks the customization 101 box. Even the Perks are boring.
Finally, when I said “generic Unreal Engine title,” you probably know what I mean. NPCs look basically the same, enemies look the same, you can look at a room and immediately understand where you might be able to go and how you might interact with the space. For all the bugs and shortcomings with the Gamebryo/Creation engine that Bethesda uses, going from that to this game is like going from an Erector Set to Mega Bloks.
Like I said, I’m only past the first planet so maybe things turn around. I have heard from basically everyone on the internet already that the game doesn’t though, and it’s only a 20-hour trip besides.
Suffice it to say, I’m not impressed. And I’m starting to think Fallout had more to do with Obsidian’s success than the other way around.
As you may have heard from other bloggers, the Xbox Ultimate Game Pass is an extremely good deal. Even if you do not partake in all the Xbox Gold shenanigans – purchasing cheaper game months and then upgrading them to Ultimate via this $1 deal – it is kind of a no-brainer. I looked at the list of available games that I might be interested in and… well, see for yourself:
- The Outer Worlds
- Darksiders 3
- RAGE 2
- Halo: Master Chief Collection
- Gears 5, 4, etc
- Into the Breach
- Metro: Exodus
- Middle-Earth: Shadow of War
Will I be able to complete all of those games before my three months are up? Probably not. I can barely complete a goddamn dungeon in whatever game I happen to be playing at the moment. However. Just the fact that I’m playing The Outer Worlds for $1 is enough to justify everything else.
As an aside, I was initially thrown off by the advertised “$44.99/quarter” price once this $1 thing runs out. Then a calculator showed me that that’s $15/month. The PC-only “beta” version of the Game Pass is advertised at $5/month, “marked down” from $10/month. Everyone knows I am downright cruel when it comes to pinching pennies, but goddamn. People were talking about how Stadia was going to change gaming forever, but the Netflix future for gaming is already here.