When The Outer Worlds was unveiled during the Game Awards last year, many fans were led to believe that the title would meld comedy with the dense RPG mechanics Obsidian Entertainment is known for. While the presentation I witnessed behind closed doors at E3 this year certainly evidenced some funny moments, I was surprised to learn that the game is more serious than I expected. In my eyes, this works both in its favor and against it.
The demo began in a smuggling town called Fallbrook, the likes of which was led by a menacing figure named Catherine Malin. She explained why she’s at odds with a local factory owner who manufactures bacon-flavored tumors from genetically engineered pigs, and instructed the player and his two companions, Ellie and Nyoko, to eliminate him however they’d like. By asking questions and utilizing certain dialogue trees, the user learned that he can pick a lock underneath the facility in order to enter unnoticed.
As the party exited the town and journeyed to the factory on foot, it encountered a group of bandits scavenging for supplies. While combat follows traditional first-person shooter mechanics, The Outer Worlds employs a “time dilation” system reminiscent of Fallout‘s V.A.T.S. Players can slow down time in order to examine enemy stats or carefully choose where they’d like to shoot next. Obsidian remarked that RPG fans who don’t typically play first-person shooters can invest in skills that allow them to extend the system’s duration or rely on their companions to do the brunt of work.
After these foes were eliminated, the player spotted a few feral creatures roaming in the distance. The developer told me that these indigenous species were among some of the most powerful in the current world we were in, and thus needed to be avoided lest we end the demo prematurely. Upon safely navigating around the monsters, the player finally reached his destination and used his high lock picking skill to infiltrate the factory.
We dropped down into a pen and looked up to see a row of gigantic pig butts in our faces. Because this was a stealth playthrough, the player smoothly evaded the patrolling robots and entered a command room. He dialed up the factory’s owner, Clive, and was given three options to choose from: threaten his life, tell him he has an appointment with the king, or say something completely stupid (Obsidian noted that it incorporated unintelligent dialogue options for those players aspiring to be the galaxy’s most notorious idiot).
The player chose the second option, and a direct passage opened to the bacon businessman. The demo ended when given the choice to murder Clive and claim Catherine’s reward, or accept an offer to assassinate Catherine in exchange for a lifetime supply of tumors.
Throughout the course of the presentation, I was impressed by The Outer Worlds‘ gameplay mechanics, skill systems, and dialogue options. On the other hand, it was disappointing to realize how ancillary the comedy was. While I never expected the game to be a spiritual successor to South Park: The Stick of Truth, I did expect it to strike a balance between the licensed game and Fallout: New Vegas. The Outer Worlds seems like its Fallout more than anything else, which is somewhat of a letdown considering all the gritty first-person games on the market.
Judging from what I saw of it last week, The Outer Worlds is certainly a RPG worth being excited for. It may not make everyone laugh when it releases this October, but its gameplay looks to be captivating enough to keep genre veterans invested.