The Outer Worlds full review

Fallout: New Vegas was the little spin-off that could, and still more popular in certain circles than its bigger budget follow-up Fallout 4. That’s why there’s so much excitement for developer Obsidian Entertainment taking a turn at its own expansive, anarchic sci-fi RPG shooter in the upcoming The Outer Worlds.

This isn’t a Fallout game, but the DNA is clear. Only instead of a post-apocalyptic Earth it takes an arch-capitalistic space colony as its settings, leaning deeper into anti-corporate themes as it lets players build characters that let them navigate the world of Halcyon just about any way they please.

The Outer Worlds comes out on 25 October 2019, and will hit PC, PS4, and Xbox One, as you’d probably expect. You can pre-order it now if you’re that way inclined.

At its core, this is a very Fallout-esque game. It’s a first-person sci-fi RPG in which you’ll navigate the various planets of the Halcyon from behind the barrel of a gun. Shooting is central, but you can also talk, bribe, hack, and sneak your way through most of the problems that you’ll face, and Obsidian is placing a heavy emphasis on the scope of player choice here.

The hands-off E3 demo I watched is a case in point. It saw the player hired by the leader of a 100% legitimate frontier business to take out a rival factory nearby. From the off it was made clear that we had a choice to carry out the mission by either sabotaging the factory or killing its owner.

Things only opened up further from there. There was the choice to shoot through the front entrance, use a disguise to sneak past the guards, or hack though the back door. Once on the inside we could use stealth, trickery, or big guns to get past the guards, hack or fight robotic sentries, overload the conveyor lines, and even choose between killing the owner, joining his side, or trying to forge a truce between the two factions.

Player choice is hyped up by just about every major modern game, especially in the RPG space, but from what I’ve seen The Outer Worlds does deliver on the promise. Actions and questlines are also locked or unlocked based on the stats you’ve invested in, forcing you to make long-term decisions about the kind of person your character is going to be.

It helps that the world itself looks gnarly in the best possible way. There’s always an element of detachment when a multi-million dollar game backed by a major publisher decides to skewer corporate interests, but Obsidian doesn’t seem to be pulling its punches here, but there’s still a light touch, and the setting here is as gritty as it is gross and tongue-in-cheek.

That factory that the demo player broke into for example? It produced ‘boarst’, which is revealed to be a meat produced by specially grown cystipigs, developed to produce bacon-flavoured tumours. Mmmmmm.

As for combat, the demo didn’t actually show too much. Gunplay looked solid, if unremarkable, but the introduction of a slowed-down tactical mode should help players who’d rather focus on the RPG side of things. Companion characters will also assist, so depending on how you level up you can be either a one-person army or step back from the fight and keep things cool - or just avoid ever fighting at all.

Early verdict

The Outer Worlds is essentially trying to appeal to a very specific niche, and you probably know if you’re in it. The good news is, it really seems like it’s going to deliver on what it promises.

If I have a hesitation it’s that not much of what I’ve seen so far feels especially new or groundbreaking, but I’m not sure it’s trying to be. This is comfort food for Fallout fans, and that is no bad thing.