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‘Outer Worlds’ Makes Me Want To Give All Bethesda’s Money To Obsidian

Too often games get on my backlog and then I play too much Destiny and I never end up getting them. Well, I am putting my foot down and diving into Outer Worlds, loot grinds be damned, and so far, I am extremely glad I made the leap.

This is not a full review, as I’m only about 8 hours into the game which is supposed to last between 20 and 40, depending on how much bonus exploration you do, but so far I love it, and the contrast between Outer Worlds and the current state of Bethesda’s offerings is quite frankly, stunning.

Outer Worlds returns to a time when conversations in games were more than just different versions of “No” and “No, but sarcastically.” While our character doesn’t speak, there is real, actual depth to pretty much every encounter in the game based on what you’re able to say, and what your ultimate objectives are.

In fact, the game leans so heavily on its writing and dialogue that this is actually the first time I’ve felt highly effective with an almost pure speech build. With almost maxed persuasion I can talk my way out of most fights with ease, and the ones I can’t avoid? I’ve specialized in companion “leadership” abilities so I have my wrecking crew just go to town on bad guys while I sit there smiling. It’s a ton of fun, and I genuinely have not been able to pull something like this off in many other games.

The result is that I’m finding Outer Worlds very, very relaxing. The most relaxing game I’ve ever played where I’m walking around at all times holding a gun, in fact. I can play for an hour and kill like, three enemies. This may sound boring, but given that I kill roughly 2,000 aliens an hour in Destiny these days, I am thankful for the break, and I am having a great time being engaged in conversations, sneaking around and stealing things, or just exploring.

The writing and voicework here is stellar. There is a lot of talk about “political” games these days, and while I think pretty much all art is political to some extent, I have come across a lot of ham-handed implementations of one agenda or another, where even if I agree with it, the way it’s presented is still annoying. That is not the case in Outer Worlds. The anti-corporate messaging that pervades the entirely game is hilarious and expertly written in both overt and subtle ways. You can have an entire conversation with someone about how worker suicide is an act of vandalism against company property and the entire town has to pay for it. Or you can walk to a gravestone and read someone’s name with “Lifetime Value: 32,500 bits” etched under it. Dark. Funny. Fantastic.

Anyone who has played Outer Worlds knows that one of its primary shining components is the companion system, as those are the most fleshed-out characters in the universe, and the highlight of the entire game. We are a long way from “I am sworn to carry your burdens,” as each character has an elaborate backstory and questline attached to them. Outer Worlds has also birthed what could be the best new video game character of the year in companion Parvati, a truly adorable sidekick voiced by Ashly Burch who channels Kaylee from Firefly pretty clearly. She makes me feel something I haven’t felt in a game in a very long time. To quote the narrator from Arrested Development, that feeling…is friendship. I will probably have an entire article about Parvati at some point because that’s how much of an impact she makes.

Combat is about what I’d expect from a game like this, and somehow, it manages to be better than Fallout, as I prefer its simple slow-mo system over VATS, and just regular shooting feels better in general. Again, I mostly rely on my companions to dish out damage, and their special moves are great.

I really have to keep circling back to the current state of Bethesda, though, as with Outer Worlds and whatever comes next, Obsidian seems poised to take the crown that its former partner no longer deserves. In the past few years we have:

  • Fallout 4 scaling back on all the RPG aspects that everyone loved from Obsidian’s New Vegas
  • An Elder Scrolls digital card game
  • An Elder Scrolls mobile game
  • A Fallout mobile game
  • A Fallout shared world MMO with zero NPCs and now a premium subscription model
  • Skyrim absolutely milked to death on every platform with ES6 probably not coming until a decade after Skyrim’s original release.

And here comes Obsidian with Outer Worlds, and in one fell swoop, gives fans everything they’ve been missing from Bethesda games for years now.

You can feel the budget constraints. Outer Worlds is long, but small. Zones will often just have you walking between a few building clusters repeatedly. The good voicework is hampered by NPC faces that often look like bad Halloween masks.

And yet I cannot wait to see what they do with more resources. As you may remember, Obsidian has been bought by Microsoft, and Outer Worlds is what they’ve made before the full fruits of that partnership have been revealed. If Microsoft was smart, they would give Obsidian a truly Bethesda-level budget to make their next game, whether it’s Outer Worlds 2 or something new, and possibly watch themselves give birth to their own in-house equivalent to Elder Scrolls or Fallout. That would be wild. And I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility based on what I’m seeing here.

Excellent work, Obsidian. I am genuinely impressed.

Follow me on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Pre-order my new sci-fi novel Herokiller, and read my first series, The Earthborn Trilogy, which is also on audiobook.

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