This was the year that Obsidian Entertainment finally stepped out of the shadow of New Vegas.
This year fans finally got what they wanted from Obsidian Entertainment, a brand new first-person action-RPG and we can happily say that it's one of the best we've seen in a long time. As a company, Obsidian knows what it's good at and that's shown throughout The Outer Worlds, from the moment you are thawed out of hibernation the tone for the rest of the game is set, with Phineas Wells commenting on your character creation as you adjust your attribute points - it is clear that a lot of thought has gone into every little detail and every small choice you make could have larger consequences.
The character creation offers up a vast array of choices; picking a background trait will benefit you in different ways depending on you which you decide on, some give you bonuses in melee combat that are useful in a sneaky playthrough whereas others give buffs to ranged weapons and so on. From the get-go, the choices you make will have consequences later on in the game, and this worked really well when it comes to speech options, where certain choices will be locked to you if you do not have a high enough persuasion, for example, and you might not be able to talk your way out of a situation and instead have to take a different approach. Having to alter your play style depending on your character build meant that you would find yourself questioning each new attribute point and assessing where each one is spent.
With such an open universe to explore, The Outer Worlds offers up an incredible array of quests to work through, and depending on the approach you take certain quests will become available earlier than others and your relationships with each individual faction can change whether or not they will even give you missions. This system is shown off really well near the start of the game when there is a mission where you have to decide between two factions and who you want to reroute power to; both sides give you reasons why they should get it but at the end of the day, you get the final vote. This choice will see one faction start to resent you whilst the other will take a liking to you and reward you accordingly.
Like any RPG a large portion of quests are optional, but with The Outer Worlds we found ourselves wanting to go through side quests, as the level of detail that was put into each mission made them all fun, even when you are just sent to help two NPCs go on a date. They're put to you in a way that doesn't seem forced and with the characters being so well designed and carefully thought-out, we found that we wanted to help out - after all, most of the time we got some benefit from it as well, whether it was some more backstory or a chance to explore new locations and meet new people.
Love it or hate it, inventory management is key. Having a large carry weight allows you to store many different attribute-changing items, giving you greater flexibility on the fly. Choosing a new outfit to boost your hacking ability can help to unlock doors or bypass a locked computer, and then going back to a heavier more battle-ready outfit will benefit you when the going gets tough and the fighting starts. By challenging the player at all times Obsidian makes you take a step back when situations become more challenging, making you reassess how you can overcome an obstacle.
As a whole, the game looks incredible, from the smallest details on the ship to the alien landscapes, Obsidian made sure that nothing goes unnoticed. Aboard the ship, each new crew member gets their own living quarters, designed with sentimental items from their backstory, further connecting us to the people we meet. Each new city and town you explore has a full working ecosystem, and taking a walk down a street you will see NPCs having discussions with each other, guards patrolling the streets, wildlife exploring nature, and more.
Perhaps the most striking thing about The Outer Worlds, however, is the absurd humour that veins through the whole experience. The writing is top class, however, the cast of sassy characters and their witty dialogue is but the tip of the iceberg. The world-building is top-notch, and we wouldn't be surprised to see a sequel in the future, such is the strength of the setting. This runs in tandem with the theme, which explores capitalism with a dry wit that we appreciated. Obsidian - ironically now owned by one of the biggest companies in the world - comments on capitalism with its tongue firmly in cheek, and we loved the results.
This year, The Outer Worlds was the gift that just kept on giving. While the game has a story that's beatable in 15 or so hours, there are so many other elements that add to the experience and we were lost in this adventure for significantly longer than that. The way that Obsidian has structured things gives players a reason to come back for more once the credits have rolled. Not only will there be a number of different outcomes but new play-styles are facilitated by the game's many systems, encouraging fresh ways to play, and that systems-driven flexibility coupled with out-of-this-world storytelling and an engaging setting makes this one of the best games of 2019.