Under New Management

Best described as a hostile takeover.

Despite what the corporations might suggest, Halcyon has issues with everything from providing basic necessities to an infestation of aggressive wildlife. Starvation and sickness plague those within settlement walls while lawlessness and indecency plague those outside of them. Due to the incessant mismanagement, it’s time for a change, and I can think of no better candidate than a recently defrosted colonist. They couldn’t do any worse at least. The Outer Worlds is a delightful narrative-driven RPG which tasks you with uncovering the truth behind the colony of Halcyon.

Which is exactly what I did.

I didn’t get immediately distracted by numerous side quests and miscellaneous objectives. Or by aiding companions in their personal quests. Or by revisiting the Groundbreaker to acquire new equipment. Or by repeatedly looking for the UDL Lab Weapons Terminal Keycard. No. Not at all.

I certainly didn’t revisit (and search) the facility multiple times to no avail, only to discover that the UDL Lab Weapons Terminal Keycard was on the table upstairs the entire time. That’d be silly. Definitely not something that the captain of the (aptly named) Unreliable would do. Exploration is where The Outer Worlds is at its best, though. Travelling from planet to planet and discovering new locations, then obsessively searching those locations for their secrets. I wasn’t anticipating the experience to be as content-dense as it was, and I was pleasantly surprised by how Peril of Gorgon seamlessly built upon its impressive foundation. Seldom does the opportunity to become wholly absorbed by an open world present itself, but the developers’ dedication to this nightmarish universe have made it possible.

I’d be lying if I said otherwise.

Companions have a similar prominence. Not only are they surprisingly useful, but they have distinct personalities and motivations which help them feel like they’re a part of this universe. They’ve often got contextual dialogue to share when encountering factions, visiting locations, and making decisions. Supporting them during their personal quests will unlock additional benefits, further improving their effectiveness and developing (or altering) their personality. They’re reasonably capable in combat, too. Despite their proclivity to mindlessly soak up incoming damage.

But you’d expect them to do that.

They’re also customisable and can be developed much in the same way as you develop the protagonist. However, the character development mechanics are underwhelming, and you’ll rarely find anything that fundamentally alters a build in the assortment of skills and perks available.

I had hoped for greater depth to the character development mechanics and for a wider variety of equipment, but the lack of either doesn’t detract from the experience. The Outer Worlds isn’t your typical adventure, though. It leans on its narrative-driven approach throughout the main campaign, and is defined by its action-orientated combat, and it favours build diversity through skill checks in dialogue, but the majority of character builds lack individuality due to uninspiring mechanics. It might not have been exactly what I’d expected it to be, but that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t an enjoyable experience. It was just, at times, an overly simplified one. And I’d still wholeheartedly recommend it to those who enjoy first-person narrative-driven RPGs but are looking for something refreshing and unusual.

Have a nice week, all!


Space Farin’ Capitalist

Cue an appropriate corporate jingle.

Alex Hawthorne, the principled captain of the Unreliable, who was most assuredly not dismembered in a horrific accident, believes in the stability of corporate leadership. Even if their employees are paid abhorrently low wages, have no job security whatsoever, have even less personal security, and are as likely to be eaten as they are to retire. But it’s better than the alternative. Living in the wilderness in a mostly competent self-sufficient society unshackled from the chains (and woes) of capitalism, only for an aspiring captain to arrive and destroy all that you’ve built.

Not exactly his finest moment.

But if you can’t dismantle capitalism you might as well embrace it. Martin Callahan can attest to the rewards afforded by a lifetime of corporate servitude, as he wearily advertises numerous Spacer’s Choice products while confined to his spherical prison. Not that he’d escape if he could.

Irreversibly altering the lives of the general populous is the ambition of any decent protagonist, though. Often without prior consultation with them. And usually while considering what’s best for you- or what yields the best rewards- rather than what’s best for them. The Outer Worlds does this particularly well, with the majority of decisions not necessarily resulting in a good or an evil outcome. There are (often significant) repercussions for your actions but they’re subtle. You’ll need to revisit locations, speak to NPCs, and consult your companions to fully appreciate your decisions. For those reasons, exploration is arguably the most enjoyable aspect of this adventure. Combing desolate ruins for abandoned equipment, exotic technology, or valuable information may help you to resolve quests in unexpected ways.

If you’d met his mother you’d understand.

However, character development is not nearly as impressive, and what appears to be comprehensive at first, is fairly shallow upon closer inspection. Flaws should appeal to me, but I don’t feel that weakening my build (in certain circumstances) is worth an extra perk. Especially when the majority of perks are unexciting statistical adjustments. Skills (and skill tiers) aren’t incredibly exciting, either. But I’d rather have extra skill points instead of an extra perk. I had expected better from The Outer Worlds but they’re still functional mechanics, even if they’re not inspiring ones.

Companions are equally perplexing.

I’m not sure whether they gain any benefit for equipping weapons that best suit their abilities. Or whether their proficiencies are adjusted by wearing equipment with appropriate statistical bonuses. Or whether I should just favour defensive statistics and equip them all with heavy armour.

The Outer Worlds is a competent narrative-driven RPG if not a simplified one. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the experience is pleasant enough. Despite not having an abundance of planets to travel to, and revisiting those planets with new landing locations, exploring each new planet is delightful. I’ve scarcely enjoyed picking through desolate ruins as much as I have here. I just wish that the character development mechanics were as impressive. Especially when modifying and upgrading equipment, which becomes so absurdly expensive (even with Science) that it encourages you to replace your equipment. Thus nullifying the bonuses from tinkering it. But my criticisms shouldn’t dissuade anyone, as I’m certain that everyone can find something that they enjoy about it.

Have a nice week, all!