Take the heart of what makes open-world role-playing games such as Fallout so addictive and launch it at a strange, alien world, and you’ll have The Outer Worlds – the newest game from developer Obsidian Entertainment. It’s the single-player first-person shooter RPG fans have been dreaming about, with the freedom to do almost anything while exploring a crazy world.
Welcome to Monarch
The Outer Worlds takes place on Monarch, a mining colony where terraforming failed to take. Instead of making the place more hospitable to humans, the process made the local creatures and fauna larger and more aggressive. As a result, all but one corporation moved to a different planet and instituted a trade blockade around all but one town, Fallbrook, which pretty much invites smuggling and organized crime.
Players take the role of a character who awakens from stasis to find themselves trying to survive in a ruthless and crazy world. One of the first things you do is meet the local crime lord Catherine Malin, who smuggles goods through her company, Sublight Salvage and Shipping Corporation.
Presenters at E3 explained that conversations with characters will be unique to the player’s selected traits such as intimidation or persuasiveness. So, there are dialogue paths and choices that may never be seen by certain characters, creating a more unique experience and higher replay value. The presenter’s character happened to be charming, which he used to score some work from Malin.
She hires you to take out a company run by “The King,” Clive Lumbergh, so that she can seize control of it. Best of all, she doesn’t much care how you wreck the company so long as you get it done. It can include running straight into the factory and killing everyone in sight, sabotaging the plant, or sneaking in and assassinating Clive without any additional bloodshed.
Off to the slaughter
As it turns out, Clive is the largest “borst” producer around, and Malin is tired both of paying for her meals and of Lumbergh’s ego. This is where Obsidian’s signature open-world style comes into play in The Outer Worlds.
First, players must figure out how to get inside the borst factory, which includes shooting their way in through the front door or tracking down a contact who will give you a disguise. Lacking the firepower or charm to get in through the front door, the presenters chose to sneak in through a conveniently placed sewer.
Then you need to decide which companions to bring with you. Obsidian explained that all companions are fully fleshed out characters with histories and preferences. If you do things they like, they’ll like you more. Do things they disapprove of and they might choose to abandon you.
Companions bring more to the table than just adding extra guns. While additional firepower is always appreciated, they also provide bonuses to skills. For example, the presenters chose to bring a monster hunter who provided bonuses to stealth and weapons. A medic companion also boosted their lying and medical traits. The custom character they were playing leaned toward Leadership, which strengthened companions as they entered combat.
Fighting is fairly straightforward in The Outer Worlds. Players use a variety of weapons to shoot and stab things until they’re dead. Depending on the character’s skills, they can upgrade and build new toys of mass destruction. Additionally, characters have a tactical time dilation ability as a side effect of the hibernation sickness. This effectively slows down time. The meter drains slowly, giving players plenty of time to take in the area, plan their strategy, and give instructions to companions.
You can use this ability for tactical planning or for running in and quickly shooting everything in the head. Where you shoot makes a difference, too. Shots to legs and arms could disable enemies, while aiming for the chest or head will kill them. Time dilation and companion special moves recharge quickly, so you needn’t save them for special occasions. Just trigger then whenever they’re ready.
The other, other white meat
Soon after entering the borst factory, players can have a taste – so to speak – of Obsidian’s signature dark humor. Borst comes from “cystipigs” that are specially bioengineered to produce borst-filled pockets that grow on the outside of their skin. Eventually, they grow big enough that they fall off, and people can harvest them.
Even while midway through the mission, players can decide how to proceed. They can stealthily sabotage the plant by poisoning the pigs, kill all the workers, or do a little bit of everything. But things may go wrong at any point if enemies spot you or you accidentally upset a procedurally generated creature.
The presenters chose to clear out the factory floor by making their way to the control room and making a public announcement. That’s where we got our first look at the “dumb” option, which is a specific character trait for characters with below average intelligence that opens unique dialogue paths. However, be careful when going with this trait. As a dumb character, sometimes the game will only let you make a dumb response.
But being dumb doesn’t necessarily prevent you from being able to do smart things. Players can overcome their low IQ by putting extra points into science or hacking. They’d have a disadvantage compared to smarter characters, but Obsidian said it’s entirely possible to have a dumb hacker.
Obsidian chose to lie about the King inviting the workers to dinner, since their medic companion improved this skill. This led the factory workers to all quit their jobs and leave. All that remained was getting to Clive. However, the character did not have the right companions to help hack the terminal and sabotage the factory. So that meant dealing with him directly.
After some lockpicking, the presenters got into Clive’s private quarters to find him covered in blood and cutting up borst. He’s just as creepy as advertised. One of the companions chimes in and indicates that the player doesn’t have much of a chance in a fight, which Clive overhears and responds to.
But even as the mission closed in on its conclusion, The Outer Worlds presented players with a variety of options to turn things around. They could take their chances and kill Clive like Malin hired them to do. Or, they could turn things around by telling Clive who hired them. Doing so will cause Clive to offer you a lifetime supply of borst in return for betraying Malin and killing her instead. So, players need to choose between money or borst. Or, if you have the skill, you could try to get the two to cooperate with each other in harmony.
True to Obsidian’s sense of humor, the presenters played the ultimate prank on their audience by not making a choice. That’s right, they left everyone to discover the consequences of their actions when the game releases in the fall. Based on what we’ve seen, we can’t leave Earth soon enough.
The Outer Worlds launches on October 25 and will be available on the PC through the Epic Games Store or the Microsoft Store and Games Pass.