Interstellar travel has always been something that fascinated the sci-if geek in us, as mere specks in the greater tapestry of the galaxy overwhelmed by our hungering curiosity that drives us to wonder what could be out there.
While movie franchises such as Star Wars and Star Trek have fed that hunger, games such as Mass Effect and No Man’s Sky have taken that itch-scratching to a new, more active level, but more often than not, some attempts feel like a rather hollow affair; either the planets were too derelict or lack any distinct personality. Obsidian Entertainment‘s upcoming FPS RPG The Outer Worlds aims to deliver an interplanetary experience that will bring a lot of colour and diversity to time in the game.
From the onset, you’ll notice that each world that you visit is vastly different from the other. Not just in aesthetics, but in the way its inhabitants interact with you. Last time out at PAX East, we saw a more advanced, tech-themed planet that showed us a more combat-savvy approach to encounters, as well as got to get a look at the Fallout VATS-esque Tactical Time Dilation mechanic. We know that The Outer Worlds is an RPG first, shooter second, and TTD is designed to ensure RPG players who don’t really enjoy shooters get to ease into the first-person shooter aspect of the game. The super-secret gameplay walkthrough we were entreated to at E3 2019 reinforced that aspect.
Our demo journey this time took us to Fallbrook, a swampy, run down offshoot establishment run by smugglers, bandits and other sorts of vigilantes. Specifically, we were taken to a factory/farm that bred cystypigs — genetically-modified pigs that, well, bore massive cysts on their backs. These cysts would then grow as the cystypigs fed, which would then drop off their backs. They are then harvested, canned and sold as what is called “boarst wurst”, or essentially The Outer Worlds’ gross version of the delicacy we call Spam.
It’s a really interesting premise and concept, harvesting pigs’ back boils as canned food. It does go to show how imaginative the writing team at Obsidian were at conceptualising boarst wurst, as well as its various food applications and advertisements. Also one could look at it as a satire on GMO food in real life, which is a really cool allegory. Now imagine how boarst wurst would taste.
Of course, being a factory in a seedy environment calls for some seedy undertakings. As it turns out, the head honcho of the cystypig factory was an opportunistic villain, seeking to milk cash out of his factory and the ones who toiled at it 24/7. And in Fallbrook itself, the local authorities (who are, unsurprisingly, vigilantes themselves) were the quest-givers, who wanted nothing more than to see the factory owner dealt with, by any means necessary.
The one in charge of things here, the crime lord Catherine Malin, a leering, sneering but tough woman who, like the factory owner, was also an opportunist. Her request for the protagonist was to kill the boarst factory owner and reap a reward. A simple task, at face value, but if you took the time to speak more to her, she might’ve even doubled the reward based on the dialogue options you took, or even give you an alternative option at approaching this facility undetected. Of course, these dialogue options open up to you depending on what choices you made before, or what stats and background you currently possess. Those with a higher investment in the Charisma department would certainly be able to sweet-talk their way to Catherine’s better side, as are those who have a more seedy background from the onset. Either way, the amount of player agency here is immense, and we’ve only seen the demo.
Moving on, we fast-forward to the boarst factory. Accompanied by companions Nyoka and Ellie, the party approaches the entrance, but quickly notice that it is front-loaded with guards. Just for a show of force, the player brings up their gun’s sights and we get to the Tactical Time Dilation mechanic once more, as if to remind us once more that there are shooter elements to the game. This showing of the TTD gives us a better look at the various bonuses or debuffs it confers, depending on where you shoot your target. Shooting at the head gives the enemy blindness, as opposed to a standard fatal headshot; shooting their arms or legs will cripple their movement or ability to use their weapons, and so on.
Once that is done, the group slinks through the stink-filled sewer bowels underneath, ending up at the pig pens. It’s an arduous effort, but enough to get them in without having to power through the dozens of guards at the front door. From there on, there is the option of continuing to the owner’s office via stealth, or to start unloading lead on the guards’ faces, or use some other means to distract the guards or convince them to lay their weapons down temporarily. Again, more player agency is available to the player here, and it looks promising.
Choosing the stealth option means hiding behind the exposed backsides of the cystypigs. It’s not the most scenic route, most might argue, but it is an effective choice nonetheless. Had the group started firing in the pig pens, who knows what dangers those pigs might bring should their cysts burst prematurely.
Before long, the group ends up in the owner’s apartment, where the player is given another dilemma: end the factory owner’s reign there and then, basically giving Catherine Malin total control over Fallbrook, or pull a 180 and off Malin instead, this time establishing the boarst guy as the head honcho of the town. Either way, you’ll have a wealth of consequences available to you regardless of the choice you make. Remember, there’s an option to complete the entire game without ever having to kill anybody! But of course, even a pacifist approach will still bear some form of consequence, and such is the nature of The Outer Worlds.
The 20 minutes we saw in the new build of The Outer Worlds offers a more nuanced roleplaying experience to players who seek a more intriguing narrative, and this demo certainly made our wait for October 25 more palpable.
After all, Obsidian is renowned for their work in Fallout: New Vegas, Pillars of Eternity and Tyranny – all of which were masterclasses of video game writing. And speaking of New Vegas, this game certainly bears all the hallmarks of that game, whilst making things fresh.
Marion has a serious RPG addiction. Sometimes it bleeds into real life; he forgets to sleep because he thinks he has a Witcher’s body clock. Forgive him in advance if he suddenly blurts out terms such as “Mind Flayer” and “Magic Missile”, because never once does he stop thinking about his next Dungeons & Dragons game.