If the deep RPG system is the cake, then the dialog and storytelling is the icing on top. Obsidian is in top form here, and The Outer Worlds has some of the quirkiest, most enamoring, and surprisingly deep storytelling from the developer.
The characters feel alive and unique, complete with their own personalities, abilities, and traits. Parvarti, the absolutely amazing bashful engineer, is surprisingly layered and has a rather interesting romantic loyalty quest. You're basically gallivanting across the solar system to find cakes and other goodies to help Parvarti court her crush.
They'll not only help you in battle, but interject in dialog sequences to give you advice, crack a joke, and provide feedback. They're ever-present without being a hindrance and genuinely feel like part of your team. The ragtag bunch of misfits reminds me of Red Dwarf in a way, especially with the theme of a bunch of underdogs teaming up to go planet-hopping across an oppressive universe.
The other characters are nuanced and interesting too. Ellie is more of a rakish rapscallion, kind of like a female Han Solo, and Nyoka is like a drunken bounty hunter in space. There's even a robot that will clean your ship for you as well as help you destroy enemies. It's great.
The NPCs are also amazing too. Everyone you meet is pretty much a character in their own right, and you can tell Obsidian had tons of fun writing the characters out.
There's an NPC that has to wear a Spacer's Choice moonman helmet 100% of his life (Martin Callahan, one of the best NPCs in any game ever), a weird drug addict that can run around the cosmos with his mind, some killer cannibals that totally want you to stay for "dinner," and of course a mad scientist that's the best parts of Rick Sanchez and Doc Brown.
There's even a lady who solved a famine crises by grinding up dead bodies to feed to her followers. And a guy who went absolutely batshit after being locked in an abandoned power facility for years.
The storytelling is top-notch and often puts you in impossible situations. The kind of nail-biting, anxiety-ridden situations that permanently affect your game.
At many points in the game, you're put at a crossroads and have to make tough decisions. Right at the very beginning, you have to make one such decision at Edgewater, and it's pretty delicate. How you weave through the situations using your dialog skills and know-how determines peoples' fates.
These crossroad moments bring a real sense of meaning to your actions and puts you in the hot seat. It's pretty damn engaging.
Things get pretty intense when you actually start to like the NPCs, which is pretty easy given how interesting and fun they are.
A very small but awesome detail I noticed is the game records every step you make in a questline. This is fantastic because it lets you go back and check to see how you handled certain situations, why things happened, and lets you know what to do (or what not to do) in your next playthrough.
The direct dialog-and-action-based storytelling is aided by a silent helper: The art direction.
The Outer Worlds is a beautiful game, and the environments tell a visual story without having to say anything. Without the junky, broke-down, and Star Wars-like steampunk technology and neon signs and Red Dwarf-esque futurism, neither the characters no the story would be nearly as effective.
The setting frames everything in The Outer Worlds. It's the canvas in which everything is painted. The amazing giant Groundbreaker spaceship-city speaks volumes, as does the desolate fishing cannery town of Edgewater, or the It's not a hyper-futuristic journey into the heart of high-level sci-fi; it's more of an RPG romp in The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy, complete with humor and weird tech.
Your ship isn't some decked-out specialized starfighter. It's more like the Starbug of this particular alternate universe, a freighter that's made to haul cargo for cruel corporations, not jaunting around the galaxy.
There's a kind of haughty grandeur in The Outer Worlds' style and artistic design. A sense of hollow corporate logos, advertisements, and neon signs, all with hilarious taglines like "It's not the best choice, it's SPACER'S CHOICE!" Obsidian is poking serious fun at big corps like Amazon and Apple while lampooning America's emphasis on brands and soulless capitalism.
Although the backdrops are beautiful and often visually meaningful, the world structure is quite threadbare.
The Outer Worlds isn't billed as an open-world game, but it does feature planets that have open areas for you to explore. And by explore, I mean basically kill enemies, pick up look, and solve/enact sidequests. The worlds don't have a whole lot going for them. There's no innovative reactivity like, say, Breath of the Wild; the worlds feel static and artificial, and it can be distracting at times.
Yes, they're beautiful, and yes, they have interesting features and day-to-night cycles, but they feel empty nonetheless.
Last updated: Dec 8, 2019 at 06:11 am CST