The Outer Worlds review: Your story to tell

The Outer Worlds provides a solid set of tools and a vibrant world full of interesting characters to carve your own path. Our review of Obsidian Entertainment's Game of the Year contender.

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Nothing makes me buy into a game more than knowing my decisions have an impact on the outcome. The more I’m asked to invest, the more I expect to receive in return. Experiences like this often leave me thinking about them long after I’m done, and such is the case with The Outer Worlds. From its first moments until its last, players will be asked to make decisions which will alter how the story plays out. Seemingly insignificant moments will come back to bite hours later, and hindsight will force players to second guess their choices and fire up another run. 

Welcome to Edgewater

The Outer Worlds Review Score

In The Outer Worlds, players find themselves waking from hibernation after the ship they’re traveling on goes dark and is abandoned. Their immediate goal, given by Phineas Welles, the stranger that wakes them from cryo-sleep, is to head to a nearby colony to secure resources and wake the remaining passengers aboard the ship. This kicks off a journey that sees players trying to make sense of a world that, on the surface seems stable, but is struggling against the immense pressure of corporate greed.

Once given control things begin in similar fashion to many open-world games. Players create their ideal character both aesthetically and by allotting skill points to shape how they wish to play. The game will run through a tutorial mission that teaches the ins and outs of movement, stealth, dialogue, and both melee and ranged combat. This tutorial mission leads to the Unreliable, a ship that serves as a personal hub throughout the experience. It’s complete with a map to travel to different planets, personal quarters to store items, and a workbench to tinker, modify, repair, or break down gear. Soon enough, though, the training wheels come off and players are given total control to shape the events of almost every moment of The Outer Worlds.

Basic training

Truthfully, it took me a few hours to really get my feet under me in The Outer Worlds. I was engaging in every conversation and exploring all dialogue options. This led to a quest page full of things to do all over the game’s first planet, Terra 2. I even recruited my first companion, but, as someone who’d recently woken from hibernation and been dropped off on a strange world, I was figuring it all out. I wasn’t seeing the complete picture.

My first major task was to decide the fate of two opposing groups of people, but I had lots of side quests to deal with along the path. The path, by the way, was littered with enemies like humans, robots, and alien beasts. To my surprise, only once was combat challenging on the default difficulty, and I didn’t initially understand it to appreciate all the moving parts. 

What I failed to realize in my first hours was the depth combat could have with the right skills and perks. Bump Leadership and companions can unleash devastating special attacks. Add a few points to the Ranged skill and see enemy weak points in Tactical Time Dilation, The Outer Worlds’ version of Fallout’s V.A.T.S. I understood little of this in the first few hours, and this left me feeling like combat was simply there out of necessity.

Once I had a feel for combat and how the skill and perk trees worked, things opened up. I started thinking outside the box about how to approach objectives. There is almost always more than one way to tackle a quest in The Outer Worlds. Players can choose to invest heavily in the Persuade skill to talk their way out of a sticky situation, go with a balance of combat and people skills, or shoot their way through any problems that pop up. I regret a lot of my skill-point decisions from my first run, mostly because the game teased me by showing I could have talked my way out of something had I spent my skill points better. Say hello to replay value.

Let’s have a chat

The Outer Worlds is not just about shooting and conflict, though. Most of my time was spent exploring, digging into the lore presented through environmental storytelling, and working my way through conversations that would shape the future of the colony. I’m not someone who can leave a building or crate unchecked. I must read all terminals, pick up all gear, and look high and low for alternate paths to complete an objective or find a hidden stash of weapons. The Outer Worlds has an abundance of subtle things to discover.

The high of exploration is driven by gorgeous graphics in The Outer Worlds. Realism isn’t the goal, with Obsidian Entertainment opting instead to go with a colorful world full of unique characters and creatures. Whether walking through the abandoned buildings of Terra 2 or exploring the dark corridors of a space station, Halcyon is a world I can’t get enough of. This extends to each of the game’s characters, which are all unique in how they look and are exceptionally portrayed through great writing and acting.

Want some company?

The quality of characters in The Outer Worlds is never on better display than with its various companions to meet and travel with. Each has their own story and gameplay benefits when in the player’s company. I had my favorites shortly after meeting them, and generally stuck with those two (yes, you can travel with two at a time) unless there was a gameplay reason for taking someone else, such as their personal quest.

In hindsight, The Outer Worlds might have my favorite companions in any game, partly because of how relatable I found them, but also because they offered real value to my decisions. At one point I was settled on a major choice, until my companion offered up an alternate perspective I hadn’t considered. I’m used to NPCs telling me something is bad because they believe it’s bad, but this was more subtle and genuinely convinced me I was making the wrong move when I previously thought it was a no-brainer.

Every ship has its creaks

If there’s anything that just wasn’t quite up to standard with The Outer Worlds, it was in its menus. The pop-up description for inventory items blocks the rest of the inventory, which made navigation a bit of a chore. The Codex, for some reason, would give me a notification if I repeated an in-game action I’d already been notified of. The quest log would only allow tracking a single quest, even with several to tackle while in the area. This led me to track a quest, check the map, track another, check the map, and repeat this through my entire quest page.

For the most part, I was a fan of the game’s workbench where players can tinker, modify, scrap, or repair their weapons and armor. What I wasn’t a fan of was finding a weapon in the world and not being able to compare it to what I had equipped. Carry weight is limited based on skills, perks, mods and companions, so I might pick a weapon up or leave it behind based on stats, but this decision required entering and exiting several menus. I also would have preferred my personal storage on the Unreliable be connected to the workbench for easier modifications to gear. None of these were game breaking and it would only cause me momentary frustration, but it’s something that could have been better polished.

A prosperous land

It took me a few hours to really get my feet under me in The Outer Worlds. During those early stages, I thought this was a good game most would enjoy, but I wasn’t thinking about it between sessions and questioning decisions. It was an issue of mastery, though, and it would be unrealistic to expect the best a game has to offer in the first 10 percent of its content. As I began to invest more, I found a highly rewarding experience. When I reached the conclusion of my first run, I couldn’t wait to get back in and right some wrongs by approaching things from a different perspective.

The Outer Worlds demands players put in the time and effort if they want the best it has to offer. It’s a fine game under any circumstances, but it’s a top-notch RPG with heavy consequences at almost every turn for those that are willing to immerse themselves. The Outer Worlds doesn’t tell you a story, it gives you a world full of interesting characters and asks you to tell your own.


This review is based on a PC download code provided by the publisher. The Outer Worlds will be available in retail and digital stores on October 25, 2019.

Managing Editor

Bill, who is also known as Rumpo, is a lifelong gamer and Toronto Maple Leafs fan. He is known for his guide writing and, unsettlingly enough, enjoys grinding out in-depth collectible articles. Tweet him @RumpoPlays if you have a question or comment about one of his guides.

Review for
The Outer Worlds
9
Pros
  • Replay value with no end in sight
  • Game gets better with every passing hour
  • Multiple ways to play and approach quests
  • Characters worth remembering and investing in
  • Visually stunning with its color palette
  • Great use of environmental storytelling
  • Extensive dialogue options for every interaction
  • Combat is great if you decide to commit to it
  • Fantastic companions that players will care about
Cons
  • The inventory could be less clunky in places
  • The workbench would benefit from personal storage
From The Chatty
  • reply
    October 22, 2019 6:00 AM

    Bill Lavoy posted a new article, The Outer Worlds review: Your story to tell

    • reply
      October 22, 2019 6:35 AM

      oooohhh, I thought this releases on the 25th

    • reply
      October 22, 2019 6:37 AM

      looks like the first really meaty RPG in some time

      • reply
        October 22, 2019 6:51 AM

        Disco ... Elysium ...! But Outer Worlds has action-filled combat and I’m looking forward to it too.

    • reply
      October 22, 2019 7:01 AM

      Hell yes HELL YES FUCK

    • reply
      October 22, 2019 7:25 AM

      Great review!!

    • reply
      October 22, 2019 7:27 AM

      So glad it's good, getting more hype!

    • reply
      October 22, 2019 7:53 AM

      Oh shi...there goes $60! Great job to the Obsidian team!

    • reply
      October 22, 2019 7:53 AM

      Alright gonna preload this. Looks good. Sounds fun and challenging.

    • reply
      October 22, 2019 8:19 AM

      Nice, not sure I can hold out for the Switch version. Might need to grab a cheap used XBO.

      • reply
        October 22, 2019 9:49 AM

        It's on pc as well! Gamepass, even!

        • reply
          October 22, 2019 10:34 AM

          I only have a Dell laptop from like 2007, lol. They need to get this out on Switch ASAP...like before Christmas break would be great.

      • reply
        October 22, 2019 10:36 AM

        It’s also on PS4, if you have that.

    • reply
      October 22, 2019 10:34 AM

      I will play this after I'm satisfied* with Disco Elysium.

      *being satisfied will probably involve include multiple playthroughs.

    • reply
      October 22, 2019 11:43 AM

      YES! I knew it was going to own, good thing I am already pre-ordered on the PC and ready to go!

      Friday is going to own \m/ :) \m/ and be a good day.

      Thanks for the write up!

      [ Q ] regarding the loot system, I have scene videos that show that the loot is graded by levels(1,2,3 etc) is it also colour graded(white, green, blue, purple, orange, yellow)? TIA

      • reply
        October 22, 2019 12:28 PM

        valcan_s, the fact that you're not a gamepass subscriber shocks me.

        • reply
          October 22, 2019 1:13 PM

          I can't stand the idea of not owning a game or really anything that I want, that concept bothers Me even if I think it's an amazing deal which it is.

          Might sound crazy, but I can't support game passes on any platform. Basically I think it de values games in the long run and makes gamers not appreciate games in regards to the opposite which is saving up and buying it out and only owning games that a person really wants. Having said that in My current situation I can see how anyone would think that a game pass was made for Me(that makes sense for sure). Also I make a point to support the games and developers I like as much as Humanly possible so I buy them out and also double dip on GOG when ever I can.

          It's weird I know :) , just roll with it.

          • reply
            October 22, 2019 1:20 PM

            you can buy the games at a discount...

            • reply
              October 22, 2019 1:47 PM

              That is a really solid point, I never thought of it that way. GMG does that as well though so you can skip the monthly fee if you want games at a discount for free. Having said that the try full games as long as you want is pretty incredible with the pass.

              Bottom line it's an amazing service and I have always thought so regardless of the other stuff I mentioned.

          • reply
            October 22, 2019 1:22 PM

            In no way do I have an argument against anything you said, which is also the reason I find exclusives to be absolute insanity.

            But I will say that every single rumbling I've heard coming out of the companies that have been bought by / sold on Microsoft Game Pass has been positive! So!

            • reply
              October 22, 2019 1:52 PM

              Yeah it is crazy, Man I am very glad of this for I do worry for those Devs/Games "But I will say that every single rumbling I've heard coming out of the companies that have been bought by / sold on Microsoft Game Pass has been positive! So!"

              It be very cool if it was super positive and helped everyone in the long run, we just have to believe.

    • reply
      October 22, 2019 4:37 PM

      Does anyone know if cross-play / cross-save is allowed for Xbox / PC?

      • reply
        October 22, 2019 9:13 PM

        Not mentioned on the Xbox Gamepass site so it's looking like a hard no.

    • reply
      October 22, 2019 9:59 PM

      Is there a FOV setting?

    • reply
      October 22, 2019 10:11 PM

      Is there prostitution?

      • reply
        October 23, 2019 2:38 AM

        I don't believe so, no. If there is I didn't run into it while reviewing the game.

    • reply
      October 22, 2019 11:15 PM

      Apparently the PC version is pretty solid. Can't wait. Light and fun, easy to get into RPG is exactly what I've been missing in my gaming life lately.

      • reply
        October 23, 2019 2:35 AM

        My review was based on a PC copy. No crashes. Don't recall any glitches at all. I would get a tiny bit of rendering weirdness outside, with objects (usually a small rock or bush) popping in. I played in 2560x1440 and was getting about 100 (or more) frames per second with everything cranked as high as it could go.

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