The Halcyon cluster and its many colonies are struggling. Factions consisting of the Earth's finest are turning against each other, some doing it for power over the rest, while some do it for the freedom and wellbeing of the people. The Outer Worlds are in turmoil and it's up to a lone, recently-thawed colonist from a hibernation vessel called The Hope to pick a side - or many - and put Halcyon back on the right path, whichever path that may be.
This is the premise that we're given at the start of The Outer Worlds, the newest action-RPG from genre veterans Obsidian, and we've been exploring the game thoroughly to see everything that it has to offer.
At the start, you wake up in your hibernation pod. You were supposed to be awoken along with your fellow colonisers, but the vessel you were travelling with got lost in the vast darkness of space and, to the rest of the world, the drifting Hope is but a myth. However, Dr. Phineas Wells plans to right this wrong and starts by waking a single colonist from their hibernation pod: you.
As you're creating your character, Welles pulls out a variety of different pods and makes comments about their triumphs and shortcomings as you add points to or subtract points from your character's main stats. To create a brutish idiot you simply take some points away from intelligence to put into your physical attribute, at which point Welles will comment on the fact that you're not the brightest pea in a hibernation pod, and right here, at the very start, Obsidian Entertainment sets the tone for what's to come.
The creation of your character is really important, as it sets you up for what you can and can't do in missions as you'll go through them. If your character has points set in stats like persuasion, hacking, and lockpicking, your character will be able to talk their way out of sticky situations or persuade faction leaders to work alongside others. It also means you can gain information through computer logs behind locked doors to avoid confrontation or dialogue altogether.
If your character is a weapons master, however, you will instead be a combat powerhouse able to take down opponents (or potential friends) with ease. Even though you'll be able to switch paths at any point in the game by adding points to a separate skill arc as you level up, what you start off with stat-wise will set the foundation for what you become and start you off on a path of your choice.
Apart from skill points, you also get perk points to assign, albeit less often. These add to various aspects such as your base armour rating, weight management, and boost your combat skills. New to the combat aspect is the Tactical Time Dilation skill, which is similar to Fallout's V.A.T.S. system in the way that it slows down time but has you shoot in real-time.
Just like in Obsidian Entertainment's Fallout: New Vegas - a game this has often been compared to prior to release - there are plenty of stat-boosting consumables and wearable items to find or purchase using the in-game currency 'bits' that you'll find plenty of as you explore the vast world and/or complete missions. We found ourselves keeping plenty of consumables and armour sets in our inventory, should we come across a computer that needed a high hacking level to bypass or a door needing a fully leveled lockpicking skill to open, essentially creating a simulated 100% success rate when attempting these skill checks during missions.
As for stat-boosters, the game's companions also offer some help in terms of specific stats that they're skilled in. We mainly grabbed a tech-savvy mechanic and an intimidating mercenary during missions, while switching the mechanic out for our cleaning robot friend when rushing into battle.
Sticking to the subject of companions, each one has a special ability that one can trigger by pressing the right or left buttons on the d-pad during battle, one for each companion. These special abilities help immensely during tougher fights or when you find yourself overwhelmed, as they not only help out with support and damage but also pause the game as the animation is triggered. As you upgrade your companions with perks, you'll get to set your skill points in perks that elevate these as well, such as lessening the cooldown timers once used.
Moving on from the mechanics, The Outer Worlds has a lot in common with Obsidian Entertainment and its Fallout entry, New Vegas. The mission structure is the same, as are the many ways to bypass mission objectives through exploration and dialogue skill checks, and the fantastic humour is deeply integrated into the core of the game, meaning The Outer Worlds not only feels like a true spiritual successor to New Vegas, it looks very similar as well.
We're making it sound like nothing has evolved since 2010 - it definitely has - but it keeps with the essence of what made players adore New Vegas while keeping up with the evolutions we've seen since then. Players can create their own adventures without too many limits as to who their character can become or what side their character will stand on faction-wise. The missions are incredibly fun and immerse the player masterfully and even though some can be botched depending on how you go about them, a failed mission isn't the end; it just has you take a different route. Every action has a consequence and it adds to the replay value of the game in a grand way.
What took us out of the immersion bit is that failed missions seemed to lack meaningful consequences. By that, we mean that when we failed a mission, it went into the 'botched' mission tab. That's all well and good, but if you speak to people in the same storyline after failing, these botched missions are never addressed in dialogue, and we're still given quests (that all went straight to the botched tab after taking them on) as if nothing ever happened, which seemed bizarre.
We had a fantastic time traversing planets within the Halcyon cluster, and the absolutely beautiful, vastly varied environments we got to lay our eyes upon and the secrets that were hidden within definitely helped in that. The characters are interesting and funny and the banter between them and your companions was a joy to listen to. The mission structure and the game's many potential outcomes are masterfully crafted as well, so players who enjoyed Fallout: New Vegas will be blown away by what Obsidian Entertainment has created with this interstellar adventure. Consider our minds blown too.