Street Thievin’ and Corporation Deceivin’ in The Outer Worlds

A landing bay in The Outer Worlds

Occasionally, I’m reluctant to try new things, which causes me to miss out on some good stuff. The most recent example of this seems to be The Outer Worlds (2019), a sci-fi FPS RPG developed by Obsidian Entertainment.

When Obsidian initially released The Outer Worlds, many players and reviewers painted the game as a spiritual successor to an earlier Obsidian RPG title, Fallout: New Vegas (2010). These evocations held a lot of gravity and generated a lot of buzz for Obsidian’s new space-faring adventure. After all, New Vegas is widely heralded as one of the best contemporary roleplaying games. It did many things well, but most notably, it was a potent reminder of the RPG genre’s power: New Vegas contextualized its world and fully supported player choice, which produced a far more robust experience than other genres could offer.

As you might be able to tell, I’m a big fan of Fallout: New Vegas, so the comparisons to that game weren’t lost on me. But for whatever reason, I wasn’t keen on playing The Outer Worlds until just recently. Perhaps it was the game’s particular brand of sci-fi that turned me off — a pastiche of aesthetic influences that seems to strive for a happy medium between Star Wars’ junky Tatooine vibes and Mass Effect’s sleek, refined world.

But regardless, I fired The Outer Worlds up last week (it’s on Xbox Game pass!), and I’ve been having a blast. Part of the reason is the difficulty: I like my sci-fi/wasteland game worlds to be punishing, and in that sense, The Outer Worlds’ Supernova difficulty delivers a fitting challenge.

Like Fallout: New Vegas’s hardcore mode and Fallout 4’s survival difficulty, The Outer Worlds’ Supernova difficulty forces you to monitor your character’s hunger, thirst, and sleep levels — or perish. It also raises the amount of damage you take and removes quicksaving, so being reckless and entering a fight without taking precautions can mean certain death.

While Supernova difficulty might sound masochistic, it makes The Outer Worlds a lot more engaging, as do the similar modes in F:NV and F4. Death can come swiftly, making combat exhilarating and tense. But the low odds of survival also mean that every new gear and equipment upgrade has much more significance.

I have less to say about the game’s writing since I’m still in the first area. But so far, there’s a healthy amount of engaging exposition to sift through if you’re so inclined, and The Outer Worlds seems to have a good sense of humour. Most of the jokes target the game’s domineering corporations and their contrived notions of corporate chivalry. I am hoping that the writing will have a little more range later on: As of now, the game’s narrative theme amounts to “CORPORATIONS BAD!” But again, I’m only 4-5 hours in.

Anyway, I’m going to get in a few more hours of The Outer Worlds before the weekend concludes. Onwards!

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