If there’s one thing that should be immediately noticeable about The Outer Worlds, it’s that it draws heavily on the Fallout/Bioshock formula. Of course, sometimes the best form of flattery is mimicry, but the issue there is sometimes the loss of creativity. As a person who’s played all the Bioshock games and every Fallout since 3 except for 76, does this game stand out or simply add to the pile?
…this game’s actual focus is much like the series’ it draws from: dialogue.
If my intro gave you the right idea, then you likely know you shoot, melee, and interact your way through most of the game. The good news is that the handling and melee are only mildly-off-putting: they’re not quite as refined nor complex as the series’ they draw from, but they work just fine without feeling broken or unpolished. I did, however, somehow outpace the game and become OP about midway through, and literally nothing afterwards stood much of a chance. I practically just brought companions for their dialogue, and that perfectly leads to where this game’s actual focus is much like the series’ it draws from: dialogue. This is where it gets interesting (though I immediately suggest you put LOTS of points into the dialogue category), and the game naturally puts “either or” decisions at your feet. I felt like there might have been a hard-to-get way around this, but I reckon most players will simply be choosing. And with this they successfully mimic a lot of the charm of the Fallout series, yet improve upon it with more “attitude”, giving you more choices to sass with. Naturally, this also includes core world choices you have to make, and the branching dialogue choices/consequences/benefits that go with it. It’s easily the most interesting part of the game except one little issue: it doesn’t really feel like it pans out in a major way. I can’t spoil it by telling you, but the weight of my decisions never weighed upon me like I expected, and in some ways, I had more fun using the quick save function just to see what would happen if I simply shot my way out of dialogue. In short: my choices reflected more in the ending than the journey itself, and I came away a little disappointed. It was clear by certain occurrences that this game surely has multiple endings, though I fear they may not drastically differ enough.
It’s just a short game…
And I wasn’t interested in the multiple endings because after my 13-hour journey, not only had I completed most of the game’s quests, but I also found there to be no new game plus. This lack of incentivization and somewhat weak consequential world changes left me with little reason to start all over again from scratch. Though the hub makes it seem like there’s a lot to explore, each map is rather tiny and quickly traversed (especially with the sprint speed perk). It’s just a short game, and there’s no way around being unable to justify its full price tag against the other giants in the genre. This is definitely a “sale” game, and not a full price one.
…there are smile-inducing moments…
If you go into this expecting good graphics on PC, you’re going to be disappointed. The game clearly targeted the last gen consoles of its time (readily obvious from the get-go) and nary makes use of a more powerful PC’s hardware. Fortunately, the use of art style, especially in late-game areas, does compensate to an extent, and there are surprisingly detailed textures here and there. This low graphical target does see the game run perfectly smooth with only asset loading hiccups, though. The repetition and lack of weapon and enemy variety, however, will start to wear you down pretty quickly, and its completely segmented map areas show some lower budget underpinnings. The game’s strength in presentation is instead, much like its gameplay, in the dialogue. In this category specifically, it’s the writing. Not all of it is good, but there are smile-inducing moments brought on by both well-written humor as well as more enthusiastic voice-acting. As the teaser trailer for The Outer Worlds 2 so aptly demonstrated, the writing in this predecessor has an “unwritten” sort of sarcasm to it. And of course, I love sarcasm, so I couldn’t help but enjoy myself listening to some of the lines.
What the game lacks isn’t in its mimicry…
I went into this with little in the way of expectations except having skipped it initially because it, indeed, looked like a cheaper Fallout game using a bit of that Bioshock writing. I turned out to be correct but adding to the pile isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What the game lacks isn’t in its mimicry: they’ve competently captured the “magic”, and even improved on the dialogue design despite not having the combat complexity of either. What the game lacks is content, direct consequences, weapon and enemy variety, and the need for a slightly higher graphical budget (namely to eliminate many of the “map doors”). I did smile at the writing, though, and that’s always worth something.