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The Outer Worlds hands-on preview: Lost in space

Obsidian has released a lot of gameplay footage of upcoming RPG The Outer Worlds over the past several months, but now it's time for Shacknews to go hands-on for the first time.


Re-colonizing the cosmos can be a messy endeavor, especially if something goes terribly wrong with one of the vessels filled with would-be colonists. If those cryogenically frozen explorers eventually wake up, they'll wake up to a universe that they might not recognize. It's a universe filled with danger, opportunity, and... branding. That's the idea behind The Outer Worlds, from the crew at Obsidian Entertainment.

The Outer Worlds has come a long way since its premiere at The Game Awards. It had a strong showing at E3 2019 earlier this year, with Obsidian making the rounds across various media outlets (including Shacknews) to show off bits and pieces of the upcoming space-faring RPG. Fresh off our E3 2019 interview, Shacknews recently had the opportunity to go hands-on with The Outer Worlds for the first time.

The Outer Worlds preview

Obsidian will greatly focus on player customization for The Outer Worlds. But for this playthrough, we were placed on the settlement of Monarch with a pre-made character. While it's largely expected that players will have direction on where to go to progress the story, we were essentially given a chance to run free and engage in whatever quests we wanted with only two companions, Nyoka and Parvati, at our disposal.

The outer fields offered a vague sense of guidance. It was a desolate, rocky field, like a futuristic take on an Old Western setting. There were arrows marking a path to help lead the way, but I still wanted a sense of purpose. So I turned to chat with my companions. Nyoka offered up a mission, asking if we could honor one of her fallen friends by visiting their gravesite. It was a simple enough task, even if it meant getting through a particularly dangerous path. Even Monarch's main path is littered with monsters, with Mantisaur Soldiers and Mantiqueens roaming around every corner.

Combat can vary depending on character build. It's possible to build characters adept at shooting or characters who are more pacifist and able to get around most conflict. There's also a build that specializes in getting the most out of your companions. If you craft a good leader build, your companions can take care of most of your combat needs, busting out moves that can clear out enemies in short order. While I got to play around with some of the Outer Worlds big guns, I also relied on my companions to use their special abilities to help dispatch any danger.

The Outer Worlds preview

The mission with Nyoka ultimately went sideways, especially the part where she asked to take out a giant Mantisaur. So after dying and regrouping, I looked around and found a town called Fallbrook located right behind me. The denizens are noticeably shady and this is where I got to put the Outer Worlds dialogue trees to good use. There are options to Charm, Intimidate, and even Lie. Lie was a choice used quite frequently over the course of our playthrough.

The side mission in Fallbrook felt like much more of an Obsidian-style RPG. We were tasked with infiltrating a boarst factory up the road run by a man named Clive Lumbergh. The mission involved taking Clive down a peg by getting rid of him so that Catherine Malin, the hotel owner supplying the mission, could take over his business.

The Outer Worlds preview

The easiest way to get into the factory would be to get armed to the teeth and try to shoot anything in the way. There is that option to just go full aggro. There's also a more methodical method involving seeing a guy next door to craft a phony badge. Attaching the fake badge would fool the supervisors into allowing the party inside.

While I did attempt the nonviolent option, poking around the factory too much did eventually get me exposed. When things go sideways, it's time to shoot anything that moves. That includes Clive himself, who was more than ready to defend himself. After successfully murdering this business owner, it was time to grab my companions and run away as fast as possible.

The Outer Worlds looks like it'll be filled with those spontaneous moments that make for fun water cooler conversation. The characters all seem to have a lot to say, there are many ways to interact with them and get to know them better, and the action so far has proven to be competent. But this does appear to be a small vertical slice of what the final game looks to offer, given that I was handed a pre-built character. The fun will be when I can craft one from scratch with my own personality quirks and my own methods for progression.

There's more out there waiting in The Outer Worlds. The game is set to release on October 25 on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Xbox One users can find it on Xbox Game Pass on release day. As for Nintendo Switch owners, their version of the game is coming soon.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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