Thursday, June 27, 2019
Want to quickly get to grips with the tone of Obsidian Entertainment’s sprawling interplanetary RPG? One word. Cystypigs. A creature bred in a factory specifically for the ripe, tasty bacon-flavoured tumours that regularly fall off to make endless 'Borst' snacks for the inhabitants of the planet of Monarch. Dark? Check. Funny? Yep, that’s a tick too. That The Outer Worlds is also an in-depth RPG with rich skill trees, endless tantalising decisions, exciting monsters, and a slo-mo combat system just feels like an added bonus at this point.
As you might expect from the developer behind Fallout: New Vegas, The Outer Worlds is all about how you want to play. The behind closed doors hands-off demo at E3 2019 is clearly crafted to show off just that. We arrive on a colourful planet called Monarch which, according to Obsidian, was meant to be terraformed by a nefarious corporation known as The Board. Existing lifeforms were meant to be annihilated and replaced with earth species but the job went awry and Monarch’s existing flora and fauna just mutated and became stronger. Giant colourful praying mantis insect monsters called Mantosaurs, anyone? So as not to spoil the story, Obsidian sends us on punny side quest ‘The Slaughterhouse Clive’ as a pub landlord called Catherine asks us to take down the self-named ‘King’ of Monarch who runs the Borst factory. Yes, he’s called Clive.
En route to the factory we’re introduced to the companions system. You can have two companions at any one time in The Outer Worlds and they’ll each have their own missions and needs. Don’t worry, you can go solo if you’re more the lone wolf type and there will be perks to help out with that, but companions do come in seriously handy. While they’ll support you in combat, companions will bolster your dialogue decisions in conversations and help your cause. There’s also a skill option that lets you invest in ‘leadership’ points. For once, this means it’s not all about you and you can improve the skills and endurance of those around you.
Speaking of skills, we approach a marauder blockade and encounter The Outer Worlds definitely-not-VATS VATS-alike, Tactical Time Dilation (TTD). Thanks to having been in hypersleep for years, your character suffers from hibernation sickness. While this sounds unpleasant, what it actually means is that you handily have the ability to slow down your perception of time, stretching those moments before a firefight ensues and giving you a dangerous advantage. These particular marauders don’t have a chance as they fall to the ground in a hail of plasma and bullet fire.
It’s here too that Obsidian explains the weapons system. This particular character has increased technology and science skills so can upgrade weapons and improve reload speeds but more traditional RPG players can invest in TTD skills if they don’t want The Outer Worlds to play like an FPS. Upgrade enough and you’ll unlock location-based aiming which means you can target legs to incapacitate foes or even eyes to blind them. Grim? Yes. Useful? Of course. Given the vast array of upgradeable weaponry, it looks like hours of tinkering with builds is on the horizon. Electric bullets? Don’t mind if I do.
Sneaking past a herd of *double checks notes* Mega Raptodons who apparently will turn things a little too Jurassic Park for a short demo, we finally reach the Borst factory and try not to imagine how it smells. While there is a sneaky entrance hidden behind a waterfall that quest-giver Catherine mentioned, it turns out that it’s locked and this particular character build doesn’t have the skills to pick the lock. This means heading in the guarded front door and a chance to see one of The Outer Worlds' many pieces of sci-fi tech in action.
The Holographic Shroud isn’t a Harry Potter-style invisibility cloak but blends you and your companions into your current situation instead with an electronic disguise. Those who would previously be hostile will speak to you and there’s a good chance to talk your way through a situation. A guard questions our presence and we pass a lying skill check about it being a first work day and not having a keycard. It’s easy to see how things could have gone very differently if another conversation option had been chosen, making even this small moment feel like it could have been played out with distinctly more bloodshed.
Heading inside and meeting some of the aforementioned cystypigs, we also encounter a stack of mechanical enemies in the shape of robots doing busy work around the factory. While the Holographic Shroud is still hard at work in disguise mode, failing a skill check means violence unfortunately ensues. It turns out that those electric bullets from earlier make short work of automatons and it clatters to the floor.
While you’d think that would mean you could get away scot free, The Outer Worlds chooses to throw out one of the many optional ‘Flaws’ that you can develop. Robophobia, an innate fear of mechanical enemies, is offered up and while it’s not ideal to be scared of a whole enemy subset, it would hand over a useful skill point if taken. Balancing the risks and rewards of these Flaws looks like it’ll be great fun as they stack up.
Finally, we meet Clive, the bacony King of Monarch and it’s a final chance to see the in-depth conversation options in action. While we could easily just kill him as Catherine requested, there’s an option to switch the bounty for a year’s worth of Borst, or even an option to suggest an alternative plan that keeps both Clive and Catherine alive. Given his Hannibal-esque weirdness about bacon tumours, you might not want to keep him breathing but at least the option is there to ensure things aren’t just a matter of black and white.
While it’s only a small glimpse into what’s on offer, The Outer Worlds demo was a brilliant surprise. While not quite an open world sandbox, this looks like a unique RPG with a veritable toy box of different ways to play. Even better is that we don’t have to wait until 2020 to find out. October 25th here we come.
Thursday, June 27, 2019 @ 07:16 PM
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Friday, June 28, 2019 @ 04:27 AM
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Sunday, August 04, 2019 @ 12:21 PM