Western RPGs are a dime a dozen, with most falling to the wayside as generic open world clutter, but The Outer Worlds is, to no surprise for anyone who knows of Obsidian Entertainment’s prior work, the crème de la crème, a true sequel to New Vegas if there ever was one. That’ll be more than enough to sell people on this title, but how does it hold up on the less powerful Nintendo handheld?
If you were disappointed with the RPG aspects of Fallout 4 and are itching for more of what New Vegas offered, then The Outer Worlds is the legendary automatic back-scratcher 3000 to Bethesda’s chewed up stick from the forest. Swapping out evil for generic sarcasm? Not so much, as you can gloriously fashion yourself as true scum, killing without remorse, wiping out settlements, making enemies of all who cross your path all whilst plowing through the colonies gunning down anyone who looks at you wrong. Or, if that’s not your thing, you can be good and make it onto Santa’s nice list, but where’s the fun in that?
With gruelling karma decisions comes an in-depth level system that opens the doors to customisation galore – you can be a numbskull meathead, an intelligent but sarky know-it-all or an agile thief: the choice is yours. As you level, you put points into various categories, such as melee, leadership and dialogue, which all impact the way in which you interact with the world, whilst also unlocking perks that can increase inventory space or give you more health. You can build up a character that can bluff and lie their way through any situation or deal with problems by means of blunt force trauma.
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In terms of how the combat handles, it’s slick and simple. Dismemberment galore, slow-time bullet hell, an easy to use weapon wheel and tons of customisation to be had all make for a great enhancement to the RPG aspects that ultimately sell The Outer Worlds and its cohorts. Whether you want to use the high ground to your advantage like one Obi-Wan Kenobi with a hunting rifle in hand, ready to pick off marauders like flies, or run in like a mad-man with a hammer swinging as people’s limbs fly off, there’s tons of available playstyles. The best part? Gunplay is responsive and enemies go down in a satisfying spectacle of gore, with melee weapons actually being viable despite your foes having an arsenal of ranged guns.
You awaken to a lengthy introduction that drags somewhat before landing on the lower planet of Terra 2, crushing your contact beneath you, leaving you to potentially assume their identity before embarking on a journey to repair their ship. With that done, your Outer Worlds adventure well and truly begins in all its glorious sci-fi fashion as the ability to traverse the solar system opens itself up to you.
The narrative at first feels aimless as you stumble, but the bulk of the brilliance in The Outer World’s storytelling is in its rich wealth of choices that stem from dialogue or your own actions. Do you want to call the moustachio-man in his pompous tuckaway a “spratfuck”? Do you want to help the lone survivor held up in a cave or pop a bullet in his head? Do you want to help a settlement of deserters thrive or shut down their power? You can truly mold your character’s path, and it all has an impact on the world given that your choices determine your standing with various people and leave genuine marks that impact the narrative.
In that regard, The Outer Worlds is no doubt a haven for replay value, making it worth every cent, as there’s so many alternate branches you can take. Toppled with engaging side quests to embark on and companions to meet as you build up your ship’s crew for your adventure across the solar system and The Outer Worlds excels as an RPG.
Dialogue and choice are fine and dandy for an RPG, but open worlds also bank on the more subtle details, the finer things, and Obsidian’s latest is no exception. Whether it’s stumbling into the geothermal plant and discovering the piling corpses of scientists or sifting through the logs of an unaware official’s computer, there’s plenty of detail tightly interwoven into the world, which is part of what makes it feel so alive. You can pay attention to spoken word and get by, or you can investigate further and truly engross yourself in the lore in an unbelievably immersive fashion.
Graphics / Art Direction
Low resolution and visuals lacking in detail so much so that the game could be from the era of Fallout 3, The Outer Worlds went through the meat grinder to find its day on the Switch and it unfortunately came out of the other side visibly scathed and battered. What’s worse is that even though it’s been chopped to smithereens in order to run, there’s still the problem of stuttering. Safe to say, it’s best that you don’t play this on the big screen and stick to the handheld mode, otherwise you’ll be sorely disappointed.
Toppled with a sour downgrade comes a claustrophobic field-of-view that’s nauseatingly low with no option for increase, which ultimately knocks this action-packed RPG spectacle down a peg or two, sparking headaches as your eyes are shoved as close to the blurry archaic world as possible. It’s advisable that if you have other platforms and aren’t looking to play The Outer Worlds on the go, you nab it elsewhere: the downgrades are hefty and more than noticeable. At the very least, the character models and designs are still leagues above that of Oblivion’s nightmarish monstrosities and the UI is slick and aesthetically pleasing, with drop-dead gorgeous loading screens that fared much better in the port over to the Switch than the gameplay’s graphics.
At any rate, the art direction is stellar, from the Groundbreaker which feels like Total Recall on a spaceship to the town of Edgewater that, in part, feels akin to a Borderlands settlement with Willy Wonka fauna and wildlife that’s eccentric and rich with colour. Toppled with a charming 50s aesthetic and a healthy dose of consumer criticism, like with Gladys cookies that she proudly proclaims taste “store bought” or the fact that suicide is illegal because it “damages company property,” The Outer Worlds takes everything Obsidian Entertainment built with Fallout and amplifies it tenfold – it shows in the design spectacularly but it’s a shame that the port gutted so much of its visual prowess.
Music / Sound Design
At times, The Outer Worlds has music reminiscent of Knights of the Old Republic in that it’s upbeat and fantastical, washing over you with a feeling of whimsical adventure, whilst at other times, the score is somber and relaxing, overwhelming you with a feeling of gravitas in the context of space’s endless clutching void. That being said, make no mistake that when action comes hurling around the corner at full speed, the tempo will rile up and make the firefights feel like a spectacle.
Guns are punchy, melee weapons swing with vigor, the user interface is satisfying with its weightful, sci-fi beepy sounds and the ambience is rich whilst remaining uncluttered, making the world feel like its breathing, rather than standing stagnant and stoic, waiting for you to push its buttons.
Final Score: 83%
There’s no doubt that The Outer Worlds is a great game, and perhaps one of the best RPGs of recent years, but the hiccups of the Switch port unfortunately drag it down. If you want a nifty RPG to play on the go, this is absolutely worth it, but if you’re looking to play it on a bigger screen? Go for another platform if you can’t endure the early PS3-era experience in terms of visual fidelity.
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