When Obsidian Entertainment revealed The Outer Worlds at The Game Awards last year, the announcement caught the interests of gamers the world over, especially those who happened to be Fallout fans. Fallout: New Vegas is deemed one of the best in the series by franchise veterans, after all, and with Fallout 76 off to a rocky launch, The Outer Worlds was seen as something that fans could enjoy, returning us to Obsidian's take on action-RPGs, except this time in a whole new world of their own creation.
We recently got to play around two hours of the game in Munich, Germany, and as Fallout fans ourselves, we went in with high hopes. After putting the controller down, however, we can say this is very much its own thing, rather than anything approaching New Vegas 2. Sure, in terms of format some of the things that we also saw in the first reveal - like the framing of characters in dialogue and the dialogue system itself - are similar to Bethesda's RPG, but Obsidian is crafting an entirely new universe here, one that's rather expansive.
The first 45 minutes of this section allowed us to play through the game's opening, introducing us to the story. Phineas Welles, a rogue scientist on the run from the law who we've seen in the previous trailers, boards a ship full of frozen colonists meant to make their way to the Halcyon colony, but were left to orbit indefinitely after they didn't make it. You see, the cost of recovering them proved to be too high, and so they were left there by those on the colony. Welles boards the ship, unfreezes you, and sends you down to Halcyon's surface with the task of helping him to unfreeze the others, and this is how the game starts.
We won't say much more than that, but as you're unfrozen and freed, you get to create your character and customise them to your liking. Publisher Private Division asked us not to divulge any information about the visual personalisation element of the game, but with regards to RPG mechanics like skills and attributes, there's plenty to tweak and play around with, which will ultimately alter how proficient you are with certain play styles, weapons, and mechanics such as luck.
It took mere steps after landing on this planet to find a wounded NPC, and we got to test out the dialogue system. As expected we could be nice or hostile, and everything in between, and after we convinced him to give us his pistol we went off into the big wide world. Later on in the game, we got to experience more dialogue options such as lying, luck, and intimidation, so there are plenty of ways to play your character when it comes to fraternising with others.
After emerging from the cave where our wounded friend was sitting, we spied some Marauders, which are The Outer Worlds' version of bandits and raiders, i.e. random grunts who mooch about the place being a nuisance. We popped one in the head and learned that each enemy has a weak spot, and it's worth exploiting them for maximum damage. To help with this there's a limited gauge to activate slow-motion, letting you target enemies easier, and you don't need us to tell you it's incredibly satisfying to hit a fatal headshot or land a killing blow with a melee weapon in slow-motion.
Yes, there aren't just handguns in this game, and there's variety when it comes to your arsenal, including two-handed and one-handed melee weapons; rifles; shotguns; grenade launches; pulse hammers; and more. These can all be tweaked at workbenches, which lets you add various mods, and they'll need repairing as well since weapon degradation will cause you real problems when you're out on your adventures.
Once we'd sent the Marauders to meet their maker, we encountered the city of Edgewater, and here's where the game opened up dramatically. Of course, there's the central quest for Phineas Welles, but that soon includes a number of other missions as you look for the gear you need, and other side quests can be followed instead. It's a wide-open world with a lot of things to do and plenty of people to talk to, and speaking of which, the facial animations and mouth movements were superb. Admittedly people still looked a bit dead behind the eyes, but that's a small niggle.
Within minutes of entering Edgewater we had accidentally recruited our first companion, Parvati, who was later joined by another called Nyoka. You can decide which gear they use and carry (they're good pack mules), you can unlock new skills for them via the Inspiration skill, and they're very useful in combat - we lost count of the times we went into a fight we couldn't finish and Parvati brought the pain with her massive hammer. You can even command them directly, sending them to certain points or into a fight before you.
It's worth choosing wisely when it comes to the skills you invest in, since this can open a lot of doors, and we don't just mean your lockpicking skill. We mentioned that gear needs to be repaired on workbenches, but if you get your Engineering to a high enough point you can repair things on the go, and there are plenty of points to share around every time you level up.
Choice matters in terms of morality as well, as we found out. At one point we were charged with kicking a community out of an abandoned botanical plant so that we could get a resource, but they suggested instead getting it from elsewhere, leaving us with two choices. We don't know what the consequences of this are of course since we haven't played too much of the game, but Obsidian assured us that there certainly will be consequences.
We were also surprised on our journey to encounter Flaws. The one we found was called Raptiphobia, which meant that because of our increased exposure to creatures called raptidons out in the wild we developed a fear that lowered our Dexterity, Perception, and Temperament. These can be accepted or rejected, and the reason you might do the former is because accepting gives you one more perk point, so it's worth weighing up the risk and reward.
In terms of how each weapon handles, Obsidian has pretty much nailed this side of the game. All of the weapons feel satisfying to use, and as you develop your skills you can grow more proficient with them. Levelling up melee weapon skills, for example, lets you unlock heavy hits, and these are just as fun to use as the grenade launchers and machine guns. It depends on your style, and everyone from a Rambo gunfighter to a Dishonored-style assassin has toys to play with.
Of course there are other classic RPG elements we encountered during our various tasks and quests, including traders and vending machines to buy and sell gear, as well as plenty to loot in every nook and cranny of the world, and right now we're confident that The Outer Worlds can deliver a convincing RPG because of all these mechanics and solid gameplay.
What we wonder right now though is whether it can deliver a memorable RPG. We didn't get to see a whole lot, but what we did see didn't leave us bedazzled, and the personality wasn't quite there yet, and by that, we mean that we've not seen the same outstanding character, locations, and storylines just yet. The whole reason people are excited about the New Vegas developers doing this is because of the memorable nature of that game in all of these areas, so we just hope that The Outer Worlds can keep doing what it's doing, and leave us something to think about and savour after the credits have rolled.