I’ve spent a good amount of time with The Outer Worlds since it was released at the end of October and there is plenty to love about the game. It washes the bad taste of Fallout 4 out of your mouth. The gunplay and melee combat are fun, and there are plenty of ways to make the game challenging for yourself (i.e., flaws to choose or opting not to take on companions). Between all the praise the game has received for being a top-notch RPG that shows other game development shops how to do this setting right, NOT ONE OF YOU JERKS TOLD ME THE BEST PART OF THIS GAME WOULD BE COMPANIONS AND I CAN NEVER FORGIVE YOU!
More Than Fallout, Much Like Mass Effect
I jumped into The Outer Worlds because every person who could, said that Obsidian made the best Fallout game of them all, Fallout: New Vegas. A game I never played (forgive me). The prospect of playing a game from Obsidian that was like Fallout but more ambitious, with a space theme and a better variety of locals to explore was too good to pass up. But if someone had told me that this game had some Mass Effect injected into it, I would have been throwing up signal flares, organizing parades, and talking until my lips fell off about how excited I am.
I’m a huge fan of the Mass Effect series and I’m not alone in that. Just check out how the rest of the BNP crew feels when we talk about how the game influenced our game preferences. If there is one thing we can all agree on, it’s that one of the more compelling parts of the game are the members of the crew you assemble, their loyalty missions and getting to know their backstories and personalities. So I was surprised to find out that The Outer Worlds mimics the “build your crew/family” dynamic that Mass Effect is known for.
As a huge fan of Fallout 3 when it came out in 2008 (geez, I’m old), I know that those games let you take companions with you on your missions. However, if I’m truly being honest, companions in the Fallout universe never felt like anything other than bullet sponges. They’re interesting when you first meet them but never really contribute to the overall plot or side missions. They are silent sidekicks or stalkers (shoutout to Fawkes and Dogmeat though), which sucks because they are genuinely so intriguing at the start.
The Unreliable and Its Crew Change Everything
The Outer Worlds is a whole different beast though. By the time you finish your first set of main missions, you end up with at least two companions and your ship, The Unreliable. From there you’re traversing the galaxy with a crew by your side and more members to come. The writing and dialogue are extremely well done, and despite that dead-eyed stare that all of the character models have, they feel real and engaging. Then that feeling kicks in: These characters are going to be something special.
There are moments where I’ve just finished missions on a certain planet and I’m amazed at how fascinating it is to see these characters talk to one another once I’ve returned to the ship. Whether it’s about how they felt after we completed a certain mission or with one another about the latest Tossball game or serial drama. You can talk to them and find out more about their backstories and lives before they joined you on your journey. It’s a dynamic that works so well in this type of RPG and makes you care about the characters.
There are even several missions, very much like the loyalty missions in Mass Effect, that are exciting and develop those characters even more. Some of them aren’t as dire as helping Mordin cure the Genophage or Garrus get revenge, but they are meaningful nonetheless. Parvati in particular, fresh off the only planet she has ever known, is deep. You follow as she navigates her way through love, her own sexual agency, and explores the galaxy for the first time. Even Vicar Max, the preacher who hates Philosophism provides great insights on several missions and during his quest to translate a certain book.
I think the character who has one of the best missions in the game is Nyoka. Funny enough, you don’t think much of her the first time you meet. After all, she’s the town drunk. Hell, you spend the majority of her recruitment mission finding a way to make her sober enough to take you where you need to go. It’s after you recruit her that you find out that about her old crew, finding out what happened to them and putting them to rest. You see a whole different side of the character who, at first, got angry and defensive when you tried to pry into her past. It’s good stuff.
A Connected World, Connected Characters
Sometimes, I take the time to consider which characters are leaving the ship with me. The preacher might provide some interesting commentary on the Philosophists who have set up camp on one planet or Doc Ellie might give you some insight while you’re on the planet Byzantium, where she was born. Two factions warring against each other might hit too close to home for one character, while others might get angry at how stupid the politics of corporations can get. The team at Obsidian put so much work into the world and how these characters react to it.
It’s that same dynamic that makes the Mass Effect games so engaging. The only difference is the open world and exploration of The Outer Worlds. The Outer Worlds has the option of releasing companions or rather, telling them to get the hell off of your ship. It’s a mechanic shared with its spiritual predecessor Fallout. But I don’t know why you would kick any of these characters off of your ship when you could learn more about what type of person they are and their view on the universe.
If you haven’t, play The Outer Worlds. It’s a game you can so easily get lost in. The politics of how the games multiple corporations work. The way the different colonies and planets operate, and how they are treated by said corporations. The combat feels satisfying, especially when you have such a large variety of enemies to fight and great sci-fi weapons to play with. If there is one last thing I can tell you about The Outer Worlds it’s this…
Fuck Spacer’s Choice.