The Outer Worlds is a new single-player first-person sci-fi RPG from Obsidian Entertainment and Private Division. Lost in transit while on a colonist ship bound for the furthest edge of the galaxy, you awake decades later only to find yourself in the midst of a deep conspiracy threatening to destroy the Halcyon colony. As you explore the furthest reaches of space and encounter various factions, all vying for power, the character you decide to become will determine how this player-driven story unfolds. In the corporate equation for the colony, you are the unplanned variable.
It’s not all just about shooting: you can employ stealth, often have to partake in mild puzzle-solving, and dialogue with other characters emerges as a key element. As you progress, you accumulate a band of assistants whose equipment and fighting styles you can influence, each of whom has some drama going on in which you can get involved, triggering stories that feel like mini-soap operas.
Each of the planets in Halcyon is run by a different corporation – one churning out canned food, for example, and another meds – and you begin to encounter groups who have escaped the corporate yoke. All the planets, meanwhile, have a problem with aggressive outlaws and dangerous wildlife. Your overarching mission is to subvert the Board, which controls the various corporations and has clearly been running Halcyon into the ground, before reanimating the settlers on the Hope in the expectation that they will run Halcyon in a less venal, money-grabbing and authoritarian manner.
There’s a category of games I think of as Saturday morning cartoon games. They lack depth, but they are fluffy and easy to enjoy. As I look back on some screenshots as Pippin laser blasts a poor marauder into a pile of dust, I realise that’s what The Outer Worlds is to me. If you meet it on those terms, I think you’ll enjoy it.
It offers some of the finest escapism seen in any game this year. For a game emerging from the left-field of the industry it’s stunningly classy, well-designed and utterly coherent. If you’re a fan of action-RPGs and crave some proper Fallout-style action that’s distilled to its proper essence – i.e. with none of that building nonsense or other extraneous elements – then you’ll love The Outer Worlds.