By all rights you should be dead.
As a gifted member of society, you, along with many others, were chosen to leave a broken Earth and assist with the colonisation efforts of alien planets. But something went wrong. Somehow your ship, The Hope, ended up stranded in space; instead of sleeping for 10 years you’ve slept for 70. So yes, you should be mush. A mad scientist with a cocktail of substances has other plans though. He’s brought you out of your sleep, and now you get to explore The Outer Worlds.
After creating your very own freelancer, The Outer Worlds wastes no time in throwing you into a hostile world and letting you decide what you want to do in it. Initially you’ll no doubt follow your reviver’s plans, but even then you have numerous ways of carrying them out. After some play you might decide that your saviour is actually a bit of a douche and turn your back on him. In The Outer Worlds there are many factions you can lend your strength to, and no doubt you will. You can try to be friends to them all, play them off against each other, or just be a bit of a dick to everyone you meet. There’s no right or wrong way to play The Outer Worlds; it’s all about charting your own course through the game.
Unlike the Fallout series, The Outer Worlds doesn’t restrict you to one admittedly large map. Instead, thanks to acquiring your own ship early on in the game, you’re free to travel from one planet to another, with some planets even having multiple locations for you to explore. The result is that The Outer Worlds actually feels more expansive than any of the Fallout games. And more varied, too; your playground is not just one continuous bit of wasteland. You can’t just go planet-hopping willy-nilly as soon as you’ve got your ship though: you need a reason to visit most of them, and sometimes the required credentials, too.
As you embark on your spacely endeavours, you’ll find that there are six companions for you to recruit, two of which can accompany you at any time. They’re useful for assisting you in combat, and you can even command them to use damaging special skills. Equip them with the right items and develop them them the right way, and you may find that the proficiencies they have, such as hacking or engineering, might even rub off on you. But they do have personalities of their own. Engage in activities that they are opposed to and they might not want to follow you anymore. And going it alone is an option thanks to the many skill-booting perks available for solo players.
Every level up grants you ten points to distribute across a wide range of of skills; whether you chose to be a jack of all trades or a highly specialised freelancer is up to you. A perk point is also doled out for every second level up, allowing you to further develop your planet-hopping problem solver. Interestingly, perk points can also be obtained by accepting flaws. Take an excessive amount of fire damage over time, for example, and you might be offered a perk point in exchange for being a little bit weaker to fire. Is it worth it? It’s up to you.
Levelling up and carefully selecting perks aren’t the only way to make your freelancer more competent, either. Body armour and helmets generally confer skill bonuses when equipped, and nearly every piece of equipment can be modded or tinkered with to make them more effective. Fail to maintain your equipment and you’ll find its usefulness waning, but you find plenty of weapon and armour parts that are required to carry out repairs. Unwanted equipment can be broken down for materials too.
When you’re into it, The Outer Worlds is engrossing. It’s truly impressive just how much choice you have, making it very open for multiple playthroughs. There are so many factions for you to side with, skills to master and playstyles to lean upon. Your experience with the game could vary quite wildly compared to someone else. And it has a brilliant sense of humour. There are questlines where you can help people to ultimately attain your goal if you want, or simply shoot them in the face if you can’t be bothered to do the legwork. It isn’t as zany as Borderlands, but it has an enjoyable playfulness about it.
For all the praises I can sing about The Outer Worlds, however, it does have one issue that detracts from it quite a bit: its planets often feel lifeless. Behind the safety of thick metal walls you’ll find a sparse number of citizens, but they mainly stand around doing nothing. It’s outside the walls where The Outer Worlds‘ stillness is more of an issue, though. Enemies tend to lay in wait in specific locations, and you might get fed up of fighting the same few species time and time again on each planet. And marauders are everywhere.
There’s a good chance you’ll grow tired of running everywhere as well. The Outer Worlds is a very nice looking game, especially on Xbox One X, but between explorable locations there really isn’t much to do except take in the scenery and perhaps partake in a bit of looting. I don’t usually like making use of fast travel where it can be avoided, but eventually I just had to as the thought of making may way from one building to another made me die a little inside.
Put the essence of the Fallout, Mass Effect and Borderlands series into a blender, and what you get is The Outer Worlds. It’s an open-world adventure that lets you visit run-down planets and face their hostilities. There are people to recruit, relationships to maintain and difficult decisions to be made. And it’s all wrapped in a lighthearted tone, although not at the expense of a strong story; The Outer Worlds really does have good dialogue. It’s just a shame that you spend so much time running though environments that feel deader than Fallout’s wastelands.