Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher: Private Division
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: eShop Download
Category: Role-Playing, First-Person, Action, Adventure
No. of Players: 1 player
Release Date: June 5th, 2020 (Worldwide)
Price: $59.99 USD
Obsidian Entertainment started development for The Outer Worlds in 2016. Leonard Boyarsky and Tim Cain, known for working on the Fallout Series, served as directors on the game. Private Division acquired the rights to publish The Outer Worlds prior to Microsoft’s procurement of Obsidian Entertainment.
The Outer Worlds was announced to the world during the Game Awards 2018. 10 months later, the game launched worldwide on Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC in October 2019. It was later revealed that the Nintendo Switch version is in the works and was being handled by Virtuos. The Switch release was meant to be on March 5th, 2020 but the COVID-19 Global Pandemic caused the release to be pushed back until May 5th.
When The Outer Worlds released for the other platforms, it received mostly positive reviews from critics. It also won a number of awards for its writing, voice acting, and visual design from the likes of The Game Awards 2019, New York Game Awards 2020, and NAVGTR 2020.
The Outer Worlds is set in an alternate future in 2355. Mega-Corporations have colonized planets in the far reaches of Space and in particular, the Halcyon System. The Corporations are referred to collectively as The Board. Thanks to the invention of the Skip Drive, intergalactic travel from Earth to the new colonies became possible. As the Board colonized and terraformed the different planets of the Halcyon System, they encouraged the residents of Earth to leave their home planet and help in the colonization effort.
In 2285, two large colony ships from Earth set off to colonize two planets in the Halcyon system: Terra 1 and Terra 2. The ships were the Hope and the Groundbreaker. As the journey to the new planets took 10 years to reach, the colonists on board were put into cryogenic sleep and are awoken when they reach their destination. The Groundbreaker made the trip successfully. The Hope was not so lucky. Something happened on board that caused the ship to be lost for 60 years.
In 2355, 70 years after the Hope left Earth and went missing, an enigmatic scientist (though I suppose mad scientist is more appropriate) called Phineas Welles finds the ship and manages to resuscitate one of the passengers (the passenger is the character that you will play as for the duration of the game). Welles enlists the help of the passenger (who we will now refer to as the Stranger) to procure resources that will help him awaken the other passengers on the ship.
The Stanger is jettisoned from the Hope in an escape pod and onto the nearby planet Terra 2. The plan was to rendezvous with a man called Alex Hawthorne. However, the plan does not go accordingly and Hawthorne finds himself flattened under the Stranger’s escape pod. Forced to improvise, the Stranger is advised by Welles to take Hawthorne’s ship and continue on to find the resources.
The Stranger finds the ship on the verge of being impounded by the local authorities. After helping them with their bandit problem, the authorities waiver the impounded fees as thanks. Onboard Hawthorne’s ship known as the Unreliable, the Stranger meets with the ship’s AI called ADA. She tells the Stranger that she can only fly under the command of Captain Hawthorne and implies under subtext that the stranger takes up the guise of Hawthorne.
Unfortunately, the Unreliable is without a power converter. It is up to the stranger to acquire one from the local town of Edgewater. Making their way to the town, the Stranger meets a gravedigger on the outskirts of town and is informed that if they require a power converter, they should talk with Reed Tobson, the town’s Mayor.
To skip ahead without providing too many spoilers, the Stranger learns how the greed and incompetence of the Board has left the colonies in the Halcyon System on the point of ruin. As you meet with other leaders and individuals of the many different factions, both tightly under the thumb of the Board and strictly in opposition to it, the Stranger must choose who to side with and aid. This will come with consequences that the Stanger must eventually face sooner or later.
The Outer Worlds is an expansive, Sci-Fi, open-world(s), first-person shooter RPG that features exploration and combat. As the Stranger (who is a customizable avatar), you must travel to and from the planets and satellites of the Halcyon system to find the resources needed to resuscitate your fellow passengers.
On your journey, you will visit many different settlements and colonies that each have their own problems to deal with that you can choose to help or ignore. Sometimes, by lending a hand, you will be granted assistance in return like information, payment, or even a companion to help you on your journey to explore the Halcyon System.
More often than not, you will have to make decisions on who to help and who to turn your back on, this is because you will have to deal with opposing factions that can both offer you similar things but at the cost betraying the other side. This can make multiple playthroughs feel different as you choose to help one set of people in one game and then opting to help the other set in the other game.
Each locale that you visit is reachable via the Unreliable (once you have it up and running of course). As you follow the main course of events in the game, you will be able to visit more places. Some planets require you to acquire a special Navkey that will give you the coordinates to reach the planet. Once you have access to a planet or ship (like the Groundbreaker), you can visit them as often as you like. This will often be the case with side quests and companion missions. They can sometimes require you to planet hop multiple times to complete objectives.
Speaking of companions, during the main story arc and subsequent side missions, you will have the option to have other people join you as crew. They become companions and offer special perks that can help you in certain situations. You can have six companions in total but you can only have two in your party at any one time. The others will wait aboard your ship until you head out again. You will then be able to choose who will accompany you on your next outing.
The worlds themselves can have small towns and outposts, large cities, and everything in between. While you cannot enter all buildings, there are plenty you can. Depending on the area, either friendly or hostile occupants can inhabit the buildings. You can also find objects like consumables, ammunition, weapons, and other items. Certain areas outside and dead bodies can have items of interest as well. Be sure to look around and loot wherever you can, you never know when you might find something useful.
On the topic of weapons and hostiles. Whilst most people you interact with are communicative, other people would rather get straight into a fight with you. Such characters like these are Marauders. They are humans who have turned into violent cannibals that roam in the wildlands of each planet that have no qualms with murdering you and your party members. They are sometimes in the company of wild beasts called canids that will chase after you can spit acid. The Marauders will use both melee and ranged weapons on you and are dangerous up close and at a distance.
Aside from Marauders and Canids, you should look out for other organic and mechanical threats. All kinds of creatures and security droids roam the Outer Worlds. Most of them do not take too kindly to you and your party trespassing on their territory. How you deal with them is up to you but you can usually avoid a fight if you are willing to take a long way around them.
Should you choose to fight, and you will more often than not, you can use your own Melee and ranged weapons against them. There is a multitude of weapons that you can use that range from pistols and light machine guns to Plasma weapons and grenade launchers. Some Corporations manufacture their own weapons including the most popular Spacer’s Choice. All weapons have limited durability, which you can repair and modify to make stronger and better.
Your companions fight alongside you in combat and have abilities that can deal extra damage to enemies. You also have the ability to slow down time for a limited period. This is called Tactical Time Dilation (TTD). It gives you a chance to perform status effects on your enemies like Bleed, Blind, Maim, and Stagger. If you stay still whilst using TTD, it will last longer than if you are moving or shooting. Over time, you can recover the TTD gauge so it is ready to be used again when you need it.
With so many different items that you can pick up, you can find yourself encumbered quite quickly. Plenty of items have health and performance perks when consumed but more often than not, you will most likely sell it off just to make a quick buck. Consumables weigh much less than weapons and armor. If you find yourself with too many duplicate weapons and armor, you can break them down into part that you can use to repair and mod your weapons later.
Armor is very important as it makes you more resistant to enemy fire and attacks. It is just as important to find and wear body armor and helmets (or goggles) to protect yourself and your allies. You can also choose what weapons your allies use to give them a fighting chance of survival in combat. While customizing your armor cosmetically is not an option, you can choose if you want the helmet to be visible or not. This goes for your allies as well. Gearing up yourself and your allies with the best equipment available is paramount to scoring an easy victory or loading up from the last save point.
On the subject of saving, The Outer Worlds features both auto-saving and manual saving. Auto-saving kicks in usually when you enter a new area or compound, return to your ship, or finish a quest. Manual Saving can occur via the main menu in all of the Game’s difficulty modes except Supernova. In Supernova difficulty, saving is only restricted when on board the Unreliable.
CONTENT & FEATURES:
As an RPG, The Outer Worlds has a number of features that those familiar with the genre will be accustomed to. Your character has a list of skills that can be raised when you earn experience and level up with Skill points. Skills like Dialogue, Science and Medical that can give you extra clout in conversations with other characters. They will also help with your ability to hack computer systems, pick locks, or use workbenches, along with other practical uses.
Skills grouped together in certain ‘areas of expertise’ raise in unison until they reach 50. You can further raise the skills singularly afterward where need be. Should you need to, you can redistribute your skill points to benefit other attributes. Onboard the Unreliable is a special machine that allows redistribution of skill points. It will cost bits in order to use the machine and will increase in price every time you make a change.
As well as Skills, there are also Perks. Perks provide permanent improvements and can make you run faster, increase weight capacity to carry more items, speed up cooldowns, etc. Companions can also receive Perks that you can choose to benefit your particular playstyle. Perk Points are given to you when you reach certain levels. They can also be awarded to you if you are found to have a flaw (like being attacked by Raptidons too many times), Spacer’s Choice will give you the option to accept a Perk point at the expense of some of your skills.
The Outer Worlds has a lot going on with so much to learn and remember. Should you ever find yourself stuck or forget how to perform a certain action, you can check out the Tutorials in the codex section in Journal. The Journal also serves as keeping a record of all your current and completed quests. From here, you can choose which quests you would like to make a priority and embark on. Active quests are marked with a green icon on the map.
The Map is probably the most useful feature in the game. Your current location is marked on the Map. You can also fast travel to certain areas that you have previously visited. This makes it so much easier than having to hike back from point A to point B all the time. Other things like Vendors that you have found and Workbenches are also marked on the Map. This is particularly helpful should you find yourself low on supplies or in need of repairing and modding weapons.
There are plenty more features that I can talk about. However, I think you get the general idea that The Outer Worlds has plenty to offer. To cover them briefly, you can alter your Companions’ behaviors, like how far behind they follow you or whether they are aggressive or defensive in combat. You can check your reputation with the many corporations, companies, and factions you have had dealings with. At the beginning of the game, you can personalize your character with a set of customization options as well.
I think it is safe to say that The Outer Worlds is not renowned for its incredible soundtrack. Don’t get me wrong. The soundtrack is pretty good and has distinct Mass Effect/Sci-Fi TV show vibes. The sound effects are also very good and help build amplify the atmosphere. Like the swooshing of the doors as they open or the blasts from your weapons when fired.
The Outer Worlds may not have a stellar soundtrack but it does have an impressive voice cast. Every living NPC has spoken dialogue, some much more than others, and it makes the towns and outposts you visit feel much more ‘lived in’. While you can’t talk with every single NPC, you can exchange conversation with most of them. You can also interact with your companions at any time they are in your party or onboard the Unreliable. You can learn more about them and sometimes get their thoughts on the current mission at hand.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE:
The Outer Worlds is a very vibrant and colorful game. In the other version of this game (like PC and Xbox 360) the visuals are actually quite stunning to look at. Unfortunately, that is not the case for the Nintendo Switch version. Virtuos handled the port for Nintendo Switch and have had great success with porting last generation games to the Switch, including the likes of Final Fantasy X and the most recent Bioshock: The Collection.
Understandably, The Outer Worlds is a lot more demanding on the hybrid console and required some severe optimization. The result of such means that the visuals took an exceptionally heavy hit on Switch. There is a faint blurriness to everything and a lack in detail. It is as if the final textures failed to render. Then there are some textures and models that just pop-up!
You can get extremely close to objects like signs and still not be able to read them and all of a sudden, the sign will be readable and yet, still somewhat low res. The worst is when out of nowhere, you find yourself in the middle of a pack of Mantisaurs or Marauders and you have to fight your way through them. You can usually get by in the lower difficulty modes but if you are playing on the harder difficulties, you will most likely get killed without having the chance to weigh your options first.
The performance is reasonable. I mean that in the sense that loading times can take a while whilst transitioning between areas. Then there are frame rate drops in highly populated areas. You can be walking around in an area and then in an instant, the screen will stop and a loading icon will appear. This will occur every now and again to load in previously undisplayed models. This can be anything from enemies to sometimes, whole buildings. Even with the launch day patch, it was not enough to give the game some much-needed polish to make it look more presentable.
I, like many others, was enthusiastic to hear that The Outer Worlds was coming to Nintendo Switch. It had an appeal to it that was like Fallout meets Mass Effect. The depth of its gameplay and the many side quests to get involved in really called out to me. There is certainly plenty to do in the game and interacting with other characters makes The Outer Worlds feel so full of life.
The biggest issue that I have is how the game looks on the Nintendo Switch. The loading times can feel long but are necessary to load up the next area. I don’t have a problem with that and it is a necessary evil. My problem is how the game looks visually and it does dampen the experience for me. The detail is lacking in a lot of the open areas and the leaves on the trees, and bushes look like mulched together, it is just not nice to look at all.
I was not impressed in the beginning and felt like my expectations were not met at all. After edging myself to continue playing for a few more hours, I began to look past the visuals and value its other merits. I actually enjoy the gameplay and the interweaving story arcs. What is the expression? “Never judge a book by its cover”. The Outer Worlds is certainly worth the time to play if you can look past its faults and appreciate the bigger picture.
The Outer Worlds on Nintendo Switch is not the prettiest to look at or the definitive version of the game. If you want stunning visuals, by all means, buy the game for one of the other platforms. The $60 price tag is certainly a deterrent at first but if a major patch comes along to give the game, the polish it deserves, it could well be “Outer This World”.
THE VERDICT: 7/10
*A download key was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review
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This post was written by Mike Scorpio