What do you feel is important when playing an RPG? Is it about a convincing and well-crafted world, about diversity in locations and enemies? For experienced RPG developer Obsidian Entertainment it's all of that, but with an even bigger emphasis on the player's freedom to choose their own course of action inside the game world. At least that's our impression from our recent studio visit and preview of Obsidian's upcoming single-player sci-fi RPG, The Outer Worlds. In their latest game, Obsidian aims to provide almost complete freedom of choice to the player, something which could make it stand out among sci-fi RPGs that follow a more linear storyline.
Obsidian's largest team yet, with previous experience on Pillars of Eternity II, South Park: The Stick of Truth and Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II, has been working on The Outer Worlds for over two years now. Our impression of the game's atmosphere is that of general light-heartedness, with a big comical element in the dialogue. It's going to be singleplayer only, limited to a first-person view with a familiar first-person shooter GUI and your party of three in the top left of the screen. The only time a third-person view comes up is when you're idle for some time. The game has a colourful 19th-century art nouveau-inspired style with lots of clunky mechanical technology. In the words of lead designer Charles Staples:
"It takes place in an alternate future where humanity has expanded. The game takes place in a colony on the edge of known human space, [which] was founded by a corporate board of ten corporations. They sent two main colony ships to found the colony, of which along the way one made it and one did not. The player was aboard the one that did not. [After 70 years] a crazed scientist finds the player and thaws him out of hibernation and asks you to save the rest of the colonists."
Immediately after the game starts, Obsidian gives players the freedom to choose their course of action. While we were watching a gameplay preview, co-game director Tim Cain explained: "the scientist wants you to help collect more chemicals to save the other colonists. But you don't have to help him do that, you could decide I'm going to hand him in to the evil board of corporations and turn this guy in to see what happens. [If you do so] you'll get a lot of money and get to live in the city of the elite [called Byzantium]." Cain continued: "It's really important for us that players can drive the story. We want this to be as open-end for players as possible. [...] Players can drive the story, be any kind of player you want to be. You want to be an anti-hero, you want to be a hero or you want to be a psychopath?"
Throughout the game, your home is a spaceship orbiting the game's two main planets: the successfully terraformed 'Terra-2' and the much less successful, alien-ridden world nicknamed 'Monarch'. Senior producer Matthew Singh told us that "your ship is your means to move between different locations. It's not like you'll be charting your course on a map, [but] there will be a travel system from your ship itself." The whole game map will be more or less free to explore from the start, but the enemies in some parts will be too difficult to visit early on.
Both planets have been colonised by the aforementioned corporations. These corporations are all-defining in The Outer Worlds: everything from cities to factories and every man-made item you'll come across are branded by them; and the people in the game identify exclusively by the corporation they're affiliated with. Each corporation is a bit different: for example, one corporation is characterised by building cheap but low-quality products such as armour and weapons, while the Aunty Cleo corporation specialises in food and recreational drugs (players can decide to use a number of drugs). Options for weapons modification differ by corporations as well.