Fallout Worlds is one of the best… ahem, sorry, I keep slipping with the name. This week’s The Outer Worlds is a brand-new game, set in a brand-new universe, but in nearly every way that counts, it’s a Fallout game.
For one, the team at Outer Worlds creators Obsidian Entertainment includes team members from the original Fallout‘s development. That team later stretched its “3D Fallout” wings in 2010 by making the revered Fallout: New Vegas. So much pedigree, plus a late-2018 trailer that looked Fallout as all get-out, set serious expectations for this week’s game launch on Windows 10, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.
Even if you were to start playing Outer Worlds oblivious to those facts, you wouldn’t need long to feel a sense of déjà vu. The Bethesda series’ trappings, for one, are all over this offline, single-player Obsidian game. Create a character with a wide range of combat and non-combat ratings—and make tough decisions on which of those abilities to spend the most points on. Then dive into a first-person RPG where the game teases a ridiculous number of options and strategies to proceed.
Want to be a goodie two-shoes? Follow quests’ orders and avoid combat. Want to raise hell? Ignore your stated objectives, kill anything that annoys you, and pick up useful weapons, items, and keys that still somehow get you to the end. In either case, expect a ton of characters in a ton of cities to offer a ton of dialogue.
On paper, that above description should’ve been 2015’s Fallout 4. But opinions on that game were divided, and I counted among our staff’s most disappointed players. Its plot dragged with boring characters and unclear momentum. Its world looked chunky, repetitive, and ugly—and not in an “it’s the apocalypse” way, either. The world was redundant. Its “settlement” system required too much investment with too little payoff. For every blip of surprise, excitement, and power armor, so much of the package otherwise felt flat.
But what if someone went back to the Fallout 3 wheel, with a clear understanding of what made Fallout‘s questing, 3D exploration, and choice-filled quests so addictive, and doubled down on that formula, complaints of “too familiar” be damned?
You’d get The Outer Worlds.
The Outer Worlds is a dizzying, dense shot at reclaiming the indisputable glory of Fallout: New Vegas, and the results show a studio that knows its source material well enough to understand what’s worth reinventing and what’s worth leaving alone.
It’s a stubborn game, made precisely for people who want the same sensations as FO3 and FO:NV, but it’s also not a lazy retread. The writing is rich. Quality-of-life tweaks line every step of the way. Unnecessary clutter is gone.
Crucially—at the precise moments the new-game smell wears off, and certain rudimentary and grindy tasks threaten to slow the game’s momentum down—is when The Outer Worlds‘ pieces come together. That’s when enough plot threads have unraveled for players to grab onto and when enough superpowers emerge for players to find their own badass path to blasting off these godforsaken rocks. Say hello and hell-yes to this year’s ultimate confluence of familiar, refreshing, rich, twitchy, and fun in gaming’s 3D-RPG universe.
Pick your power source
The year is 2351-ish… in a 1950s “this is what the future will look like” way. The planets of Outer Worlds‘ universe are dominated by art deco, cigarettes, lasers, baseball (albeit a futuristic version), and colorful worlds seemingly ripped from Hollywood’s Technicolor era. You land in this far-from-Earth solar system, dubbed Halcyon (named after its star), as one of thousands who went into cryo-sleep on a colonization vessel roughly one century earlier. You’d signed onto the promise that you’d wake on a new colony in a few years.
Instead, you remained asleep on a ship that was left for dead. Your existence was covered up by The Board, the corporate cabal that runs this game’s human-populated universe. Your ship, The Hope, became the stuff of urban legend—but a renegade researcher and doctor by the name of Phineas Welles eventually found your ship parked near an isolated ice planet. You’re the only frozen colonist he was able to save.
Welles launches you via an escape pod, then puts a hefty responsibility on your shoulders: wanna help expose the truth, bring down the Board, and possibly save the rest of your crewmates? Phineas suffers from some health issues, he says, so he can only help you by talking into your helmet’s earpiece and making radio calls on your behalf.
You take control after crash-landing on a puny planet whose denizens have been roiled by Halcyon’s unfeeling corporate overlords in various ways. You’re stuck on this planet, because your plan to blast off into space with a helpful accomplice went screwy. Now you need a power source to get a different spaceship beyond your landing site’s atmosphere. A standard tutorial mission plays out in very Fallout 3 style: use melee, guns, stealth, dialogue, and general exploration to reach your next destination by any means necessary. Whatever you choose to do will likely rack up your “experience points” bar, even if you ignore kind citizens’ pleas and become a murderous sociopath.