The Outer Worlds is a shooter RPG set in space. Developed by Obsidian Entertainment, now an Xbox Game Studio, known especially for their work on Fallout: New Vegas. New Vegas isn’t my personal favourite but many consider it to be the best Fallout game.
As they literally worked on a Fallout the comparisons to the series are inevitable. There’s also the fact that the Outer Worlds was clearly designed to mirror Fallout, the target audience is definitely the same.
So there will be quite a few comparisons here in this review.
Gameplay? 7/10 – Takes many leads from Fallout for the gameplay but falls short in many areas. Interesting ideas hampered by other bad mechanics.
I think this section might be quite long, it also might seem quite negative. Sorry in advance. I am also going to start off with a pretty negative single comment, just to set the tone.
The Outer Worlds plays almost exactly like a Fallout game, only worse in almost all areas. I’m sorry but that’s how I feel.
Let’s start with the combat. The combat is pretty much identical to Fallout, with one exception being that you can’t go into third person. There are guns and melee weapons like you’d expect.
There are different types, with different damage types. Examples are pistols, machine guns, and hunting rifles. Scythes, axes, and hammers. With physical, plasma, and shock as some of the damage types. So obviously there is some complexity there, and that’s not even all the different kinds of each.
Each weapon can be upgraded with different mods as well as increasing their level. Increasing the level makes them do more damage, this is a good feature as you can keep a gun that you like for longer.
I really do like the weaponry, and the amount of it that is available. It’s good to have so much choice. I don’t think all weapons are made equal but when you find one that you like and you upgrade it? It will tear through anything, which is fun.
In Fallout you have VATs, which is a really good mechanic. It covers the FPS weaknesses whilst also giving you a very satisfying scenamitc of blowing things apart. The Outer Worlds tries to add something similar but it’s not as good.
Tactical Time Dilation is their addition. This is a mode that slows down time, for a short while. You gain tactical information about your enemy when you aim at them and can still shoot them. It’s an interesting idea but it pales in comparison to VATs, there is no satisfaction after using it.
The issue is that you don’t get the combat advantage nor the satisfaction that VATs gives you. Sure you get some information about the enemy but do you get to deal massive targeted critical hits? No you don’t. Does it give you the ability to accurately cripple an enemies limb? Again no it doesn’t.
So whilst it looks pretty cool, it doesn’t give you any of the benefits that actually make VATs such a good system in the Fallout games.
In combat you can take up to 2 companions, these are people that you pick up along your journey. They provide some boost to your stats whilst aiding you in battle. You can equip them with weapons and armour, this makes them more effective in combat. The companions level up alongside you and have their own small skill trees that you can invest into.
That about does it for the direct combat information, let’s move on to travel next.
Travel comes in 3 forms: Space travel, Fast travel, and not fast travel, aka walking.
As the Outer Worlds is set in space, you will be traveling in space… duh. You are in the Halcyon system and can travel between different locations across the solar system. This travel is mostly fine, the only load times that affect you are when you try to land somewhere.
Next fast traveling, you get it from the start which I love! You can’t fast travel everywhere, which I don’t like. There are times where you have to go to a certain area multiple times but there aren’t any fast travel locations right on top of it. So you have to keep walking around. It’s just an annoyance for me, then there’s the loading screens when you do travel.
Finally the walking, there is quite a lot of it. Now the scenery is genuinely nice and can take some of the tedium away. The problem is that each planet, for example, seems much emptier than you would expect. So walking along, you have some nice trees, maybe an animal, or a bandit, and that’s about it.
So the main issues are all of the loading screens and there not being much to do on your way. I think it just makes it laborious at times, still not the worst thing in the world.
The final main points to discuss are the menus and by extension the skill tree and stats.
So the menus, I don’t like them very much. Coming from Fallout which gives you the Pip-Boy as your menu, which is such a stylish menu system, The Outer Worlds’ menus are just plain and boring. There’s nothing that really stands out and they aren’t as efficient to navigate. It’s all just a pain really.
Some of it is simple stuff like not saving your place when you leave and go back into the menu. It just feels like a downgraded version of the Pip-Boy in every way which is a shame really as they have worked with it before.
This follows onto the stats and perks tree. Stats are handled in a different way in the Outer Worlds, and I’m honestly not sure if I actually like it or not.
Basically when you level up, you get points to put into your stats, pretty standard. There are a bunch of groups of stats, you can add to a group, this will add a point to each skill in that group. Then when you get past a certain point, each of the stats in the group have to be increased individually instead. So the initial progression is quite quick and painless, then the stats growth kind of slows down. It’s interesting but I don’t know if I like this, as there are a lot of skills that can be improved.
Then the perk tree. Every 2 levels you gain a perk point when you level up, so not every level. Then you can go to the perk tree to spend your point. There are 3 tiers that are progressively unlocked as you redeem more perk points. The perks are things like more health, more carry weight, and evolve as you go along.
I don’t think I like this, the main reason being that there isn’t always a perk in your current tier that you want to unlock. So if you haven’t spent enough points in your current tier you have to spend it on a perk you don’t want so that you can unlock the next tier.
This happened to me a few times, some of the perks are either bad or just don’t help with my play style so I didn’t want them. I was forced to get them so that I could unlock more, it’s a very restrictive system.
This also directly follows on to why I think another mechanic wasn’t that well thought out. The Flaws system. Now as an idea, it’s actually great. Think about it, you can develop, say, a phobia of robots and that affects how you fight them but you get an extra perk point.
The problem is that some of the Flaws are game breaking, they can make it way too hard for you to fight a particular enemy type for example. This exact Flaw could impact how you interact with one of your own companions who is a robot. The worst part though, is what I discussed above, the perk system itself isn’t good enough.
It’s not good enough to warrant you needing or wanting more perk points most of the time. It’s a crying shame because it has some potential as a quirky system.
There is also a reputation meter, this shows you how different factions feel about you. This is pretty standard, but it doesn’t really have the pay off you’d expect. I had a good reputation with multiple conflicting factions but because one person didn’t like me I couldn’t bring peace. The question is, then why bother with reputation? And why bother doing any of these quests to help people? It just seems pointless and a literal waste of time.
Visuals? 9/10 – The strongest part of the game, at least on Xbox One X. Gorgeous visuals full of colour and life.
The visuals of the Outer Worlds are probably it’s strongest aspect. I found very few issues with the visuals.
The occasional frame drop or bad texture, and some of the facial animations are the only complaints I have.
While I don’t actually think there are that many deeply differing environments, the ones that are present are gorgeous. The Outer Worlds paints a very different picture to Fallout in this aspect.
Where Fallout is a post-apocalyptic wasteland, with dreary scenes and dust everywhere. The Outer Worlds has bold and exotic planets with bright colourful wildlife.
It actually makes a nice change to effectively play a Fallout game with some colour, it was for sure the highlight of the game as a whole.
Another note in the visual department is the Spacer Choice MoonMan helmet. The design for the mascot and the subsequent helmet that you can wear is perfection.
Audio? 7/10 – Clean but boring audio doesn’t really excite you at any point.
Overall the audio performance was pretty good, I don’t think there were many issues that I experienced or that I noticed.
This is something that will come up a lot I think, but it was just all kind of boring. From landing on a new planet, walking into a new settlement, to fighting giant monsters. Nothing really excites you, nor does it instill a sense of grandeur.
You are potentially traveling around a distant solar system as a gun toting space cowboy. Yet the OST suggests you’re more of an old man in his pyjamas, it’s kind of a let down.
I think this probably has an effect on how little engagement I felt.
Story? 7/10 – Dull writing let a story with real potential down. Generic and dull in a lot of places which is a shame.
So as usual I will talk about the beginning of the story and try not to go too far into spoiler territory.
The game starts with a short clip explaining about traveling for 10 years in stasis to the Halcyon system. This is another solar system and where the game is set.
You find yourself being woken from a cryo stasis pod by an old man, who has seemingly broken into the ship that was transporting you. On the ship there are many, many pods along with yours. It seems he was only able to save one.
He tells you that something went wrong and that you have actually been in stasis for around 70 years not 10. Explaining that he needs your help getting the necessary supplies to help the other people in stasis.
He sends you, in your pod, to a planet to meet a smuggler that is supposed to help you. Things go instantly wrong, as you land on the smuggler not near him. Then through some shenanigans you take on the role of the Unreliable, the smugglers ship.
That will do for the actual telling of the story. At this point, there is a lot of potential.
For me the story seems pretty generic, there’s some interesting choices that can be made, which I do appreciate. Examples of this are times where you can choose which settlement deserves power, this can cause the other to die. It’s a potentially big choice, but as far as my experience goes it never paid off.
That’s a theme that I noticed, your choices don’t really pay off at any point. You do a quest line, you make this choice, you see the outcome of that choice, sure. Then that’s about it. There is something that happens late in the game, depending on who you helped but it makes no difference. If I had killed every person in the game, the game would have ended the same.
So they don’t handle your choices as well as games like Mass Effect for example.
Acting? 8/10 – Decent actors leaving little to complain about, let down by the writing for the most part.
The voice acting is ok, I can’t think of a voice that I hate, or really dislike. So there’s that. I will say that even though I don’t hate/dislike any of them, no one voice actor stood out to me at all.
I don’t personally think this is award winning stuff but it’s definitely better than a lot of other games. Some of those other games being bigger AAAs.
The issue with the voice acting is that, whilst none of it is awful, there is too much of it per person, per interaction. This may seem like an odd thing to say after I have previously said that some games don’t have enough. The thing is, that every interaction with an NPC is dull, unengaging, and at times laborious.
It’s fine to have a hundred lines of dialogue to go through with a single NPC, so long as that dialogue is interesting. So long as the situation that you are in is engaging, the story you are living is interesting.
I feel that The Outer Worlds falls short of this consistently. It got to the point where I didn’t even want to speak to my companions anymore at all because they were mostly boring. Then after the mid game I started to skip more and more text from everyone else, and just followed the markers and checked the quest log.
If nothing being said, or the story being presented doesn’t draw you in, then the voice acting is affected. I think that’s what has happened here, some good voice actors not being given good enough material to perform.
Writing? 7/10 – Good potential with some funny takes, let down by generic basis and too much dull dialogue.
I mentioned it above that I find that the story is pretty generic. Big bad corporation, trying to make money, whilst killing people, and you’re the only one that can stop them. But it’s in space. Which, in of itself isn’t that new of an idea.
It’s ok for what it is, if you don’t go into this with the big AAA mindset then it’s easier to accept. That doesn’t make it interesting, but some slack can be cut.
Then my main, genuine, issue with the writing. All of the dialogue is boring, and unengaging.
The game has a lot of people to talk to, not unusual for a game like this, and each person has a lot to say. Still not that unusual. But I wasn’t interested in anything that any of them were saying. This is unusual for me, as someone who can play through a game a dozen times and still listen to every piece of dialogue happily.
This dullness carries over to the companions as well. I pretty much didn’t care about any of them. You can speak to them whilst on your ship, like in other games, but I didn’t even want to.
I will give an exception to Parvati here, I didn’t mind her character that much. I even kind of enjoyed her personal quest line of her basically falling in love. That was at least a nice thread to follow.
This is in stark contrast to say SAM. SAM is a cleaning robot on the Unreliable that you reactivate. SAM looks amazing, the idea of having a huge robot following you around, especially when that robot sprays acid everywhere.
The problem is that SAMs’ whole shtick is that it likes to clean. So all of the dialogue basically revolves around it saying that it will clean up whilst killing people. It’s kinda funny at first but after the 30th time the same line has been used, and nothing has changed. Well it gets boring.
The obvious thread that could have been taken, is that you could have gone on a quest to install a full AI into SAM. That would have been more interesting than 90% of the other story lines. It would have also given at least one of the companions some genuine development.
Credit where credit is due though. One story line that I think is incredible, is the Dumb Ending. In the Outer Worlds you can basically choose how intelligent your character is. This also means that you can choose to make them extremely dumb.
Most games that have “Intelligence” stats, don’t really make any use of this, Dark Souls for example. In Dark Souls there is an Intelligence stat but it just governs if you can use magic or not. The Outer Worlds is different.
In the Outer Worlds there is an entire secret ending that can be found prematurely, it can only be discovered if you made your character with below average intelligence. It’s a stupid ending, pun very much intended. It is a fantastic idea and execution though, so hats off to the writers there.
Performance? 8/10 – Mostly good performance, let down in a few areas. Worth being aware of the performance issues found on the Switch port though.
I played on an Xbox One X and found no particularly bad performance drops. There were some areas where the frames dropped a little. That’s about it, which isn’t too bad and pretty acceptable.
The loading screens are probably the worst in terms of performance. A lot of the loading screens are very long, they are very reminiscent of the old Skyrim and Fallout ones. It’s one thing for huge worlds like those to take a little while to load years ago.
The difference is this is a much smaller game, with much smaller areas, that is much newer, and the loading screens are still long.
The Switch version. Now I won’t hold that against the Outer Worlds too much here but based on the footage available. Damn. It’s not good, it looks to be one of the worst ports to the switch so far. The visual fidelity has seemingly had to be lowered so far that a lot of the textures have just been entirely removed. This just to get it to run on the Switch.
Fun Factor? 6/10 – For me personally there wasn’t all that much fun to be had. Mostly a dull adventure through a small solar system.
I honestly didn’t have that much fun playing the Outer Worlds, for the most part it is just kind of dull. It may just be me with this opinion but there is too much text, coming from too many NPCs that are just not interesting.
I never once felt invested in the people, story, or decisions I was taking. Now i am all for dialogue heavy games, just think about my love for the Mass Effect series. I’ve played all of the games multiple times, I have even re-restarted ME1 again because I want all of the achievements. It never gets dull.
The Outer Worlds never feels like this, on my first time through I was just bored constantly. The only reason I finished it was because it was on my list of games to finish. I was trying to cross it off so I didn’t have to play it again and that’s the only reason.
Value? 8/10 – There is value to be had, especially if you already have Game Pass.
I will make it clear from the start that the value of this game is propped up heavily by the fact that it is available on Xbox Game Pass.
From what I’ve seen, to buy it for Xbox or PS it will set you back around £30. I personally don’t think it’s worth that, hence me saying that it’s propped up by Game Pass. As far as I know it is still available on there, which is why I ended up playing it.
Checking on How Long to Beat, the average full completion of this game is around 35 hours. I don’t think that is all that long really.
Should be noted that the Outer Worlds is getting a Switch port as well. The port seems to be going for £45 to £50, which is even worse value for money. The main reason being that by all accounts it is a poor port, with some of the most ridiculous toned down graphics I’ve seen.
My suggestion is, if you have Game Pass and you have nothing else to play then this is definitely an option. For me though, I wouldn’t spend money on it.
How Much Did The Reviewer Enjoy It ? 6/10 – Whilst there is definitely potential here, the Outer Worlds falls short in many areas.
So in case you couldn’t work this out after reading everything above, I didn’t really enjoy the Outer Worlds that much. It was all just very lackluster and unpolished.
The obvious comparisons will always be Fallout, and it’s clear that’s the demographic they aimed for. I just think they missed the mark at almost every turn.
The shooting mechanics are just as clunky and bad as Fallout. The saving grace for Fallout is VATs which the Outer Worlds does not have, instead having Tactical Time Dilation, which is worse. It provides less actual use in combat whilst also being less satisfying to use.
The menus are all less stylistic than Fallout and harder to navigate. All of the dialogue feels longer and more drawn out, whilst being much less interesting.
To make it more constructive for a moment, I think there is potential here. As a series, the Outer Worlds could easily rival Fallout for example. They’re in space so there is so much more they could do, they just didn’t. They literally put a worse Fallout in space.
I think with quite a lot of work, and a much larger focus on interesting story/conversations in the game the Outer Worlds 2 could be amazing. So that’s what I’ll hold out for, and if they do release a sequel I will at least try it.
The Outer Worlds review.
Written by Kyle Munn.