The Outer Worlds - Recensione

Author: Stefano "Revan" Castagnola
Date: 2020-07-30 22:09:43
In 2010 Obsidian delivered to the masses Fallout: New Vegas, what would later become his most acclaimed and most successful commercial game, despite a positive initial reception but not too enthusiastic, but which then led to the re-evaluation of the game over time. Up to turn it into a real classic. Despite the excellent sales of its RPG, however, shortly thereafter the Californian label would have slipped into a negative spiral that would have brought it one step away from failure, finding salvation in crowdfunding and spending the following years on low budget titles and clearly inspired by the great isometric role-playing games of the past, momentarily putting the world of triple A productions behind them.


In the meantime, Bethesda presented its new Fallouts to the world, attempting a different path than its predecessors, a choice that however left a bitter to a part of the fans of the first hour, already disappointed by the more action footprint and the simplifications to the formula operated with Fallout 4 (and then even outraged by the failed multiplayer experiment of F allout 76) .

Many have started, first softly and then more and more noisily to invoke a "new New Vegas", perhaps the result of a new collaboration between Obsidian and Bethesda. It is in this context that The Outer Worlds fits , announced at the previous Game Awards and immediately presented as a spiritual heir to the cult already mentioned . "From the creators of Fallout and the developers of Fallout: New Vegas " reads the announcement trailer, difficult not to understand the message.

From the first moments the inspiration appears very clear, in big and small things: the first person perspective, the multiple choice dialogues, the "mute" protagonist (or better to say, not dubbed), the many skills among which to juggle , the presence of different factions and a reputation system that weighs all our actions allowing us to earn the sympathies (or to end up on the black lists) of the main forces in the field. And again: an open gameplay influenced by the choices made in the creation and development of our character, important decisions to be taken that influence the development of the events and, in order not to miss anything, also an optional "hardcore" mode, which adds elements survival such as the need to drink and eat.

At this point there is only one question: Is The Outer Worlds the worthy heir to New Vegas we have been waiting for? And the answer is, let's face it right away, a definite yes that leaves no room for doubt .

Welcome to Alcione

Now that we have got the more cumbersome question out of the way, let's take a closer look at each of the elements that characterize the formula of Obsidian's new work, starting from what distinguishes it from its main inspiration: the setting. In fact, we leave behind the post-apocalyptic western atmospheres of the Mojave desert to catapult us to the most remote corners of the galaxy , exploring the colony of Alcione, dominated by mega-corporations interested only in profit and who make war on hits of invasive advertising, and often even with much more questionable means.

With the partial exception of Knights of the Old Republic II (which however, like every Star Wars, mixes sci-fi and fantasy), it is the first real foray of American developers in science fiction, but to distinguish it from other space adventures is the thick tone light and that makes little trouble ironing on situations that normally would have little fun, and is undoubtedly one of the trademarks of the two creators, Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky, who already in 1997 with Fallout had shown a certain predisposition for the black humor.

This time the duo of authors lashed out against the corporate world, painting a portrait with deliberately extreme and often grotesque features : we will therefore find companies that impose work shifts of even 20 consecutive hours, employees who dream of the promotion that will give them the right to a bathroom break, employees and workers who repeat company slogans as mantras and who are obliged by contract to buy only the products made by their company, and much more.

The tone chosen by the developers may certainly not appeal to everyone, however I found it well made and often quite funny. Furthermore, although the irony and the taste for the absurd find ample space in our adventures in the external worlds, there is no shortage of moments in which the authors stage more serious themes while tackling them with competence . In particular in some secondary missions, or by exploring around the game maps it is possible to reconstruct many life stories from the space frontier, often very interesting but reserved for those who are willing to leave the seed. Of course, if you are looking for a title with a markedly cynical, serious and in some ways realistic imprint like The Witcher III, probably The Outer Worlds is not for you, but on the other hand, just look at any trailer to immediately understand what is the tone of the game , and understand if it fits your ropes.

Worlds to explore, a fast spaceship and a faithful crew

The decision to move into space has also brought about another significant change compared to New Vegas : The Outer Worlds is not an open world, but it is divided into many different areas . The size of the levels can also vary a lot, in some cases you could spend several minutes to travel the map from one point to another, on other occasions the crossing is much shorter, however each level maintains a sandbox-like structure and is therefore it can be freely explored, even if there are loads (not really very short) in the transition from open spaces to inhabited centers or to large building complexes.

Speaking of space travel: obviously a ship cannot be missing, which acts as a real player base, in which to rest between one adventure and another. But a ship cannot be said to be complete without a crew, so we can recruit up to six companions ready to follow us in battle (only two at a time, however, the others will wait for us on board), all with a personal mission, a background to discover and numerous interaction with the player and with the NPCs scattered throughout the game world. They are not the most memorable ever created by the Californian studio, but they do their homework, some a little more than others.

If the setting is interesting and rather different from what is commonly seen in GgR - and in general in video games -, the narrative structure is instead a little less original but above all it is not the main strength of the production; this does not mean that it is badly made, mind you, indeed the numerous dialogues are often on good levels, even if they do not reach the heights of excellence of other works of the software house . However, The Outer Worlds focuses primarily on player freedom rather than building an exciting story full of twists. Exactly like New Vegas did, and before that they did Arcanum and Fallout , to quote again the illustrious curriculum of the authors.

Choices Matter!

For long stretches, therefore, the story remains in the background and proceeds at a slow pace, giving the player a goal but without harnessing him too much, leaving him free to experiment and choose whether to deepen this or that faction, whether to explore in this or that direction, whether to ignore momentarily the main plot to devote himself to secondary missions, but above all leaving him free to approach each situation in several different ways.

The approaches depend heavily on how you decide to develop your avatar. Starting from the character creation screen, where you can decide their gender, appearance, attributes and initial abilities, you can then at each level step choose which of these abilities to enhance and every two levels you will instead have an advantage, to be used to obtain very useful bonuses ranging from the possibility of carrying a greater load, higher quantities of health, temporary aiming bonuses that are activated after each kill and much more.

A classic and well-established system in which a particular and interesting idea, that of defects, fits: by walking around Alcione you will come across endless dangers of all kinds, some of which could indelibly traumatize you . By taking a certain amount of damage from robotic enemies, you could develop a phobia for robots, or become acophobic after some too ruinous fall, traits that, if you had to accept them, would lead to permanent malus to your character in some situations.

Wait, but why would a player choose to self-penalize? Well, because by accepting a defect you earn a point to spend on an advantage of your choice! I obviously chose a defect that proved to be more penalizing than initially expected (nothing tragic, however, is clear), but this is another matter ... in any case, it is up to you to assess whether the game is worth the candle.

Open gameplay full of possibilities

These aspects, but above all the choice of skills, play a key role in the gameplay of The Outer Worlds and in the possibilities available to us. Investing points on guns and rifles or on defense allows you to create a more leathery protagonist and increase your chances of survival in gunfights, but you can also focus on hacking, break-in, stealth or talking, all skills that will be useful to those who prefer a less direct and brutal approach.

The result is an open gameplay, which leaves the player plenty of room for maneuver and allows him to face and solve each mission in many different ways , sometimes with as many as four or five possible alternatives within the same quest. In addition, a great merit of The Outer Worlds lies in its non-linear structure, with entire sub-plots of which the existence is not even suspected, based on the choices made. For example, in my first game I arrived at a certain location following several passages in the main story and only after completing numerous intermediate missions, but reloading a game start save to experiment a little I discovered that it is possible to get there even in the early stages , provided you collaborate with another faction, in doing so I also discovered several completely new missions. In short, in terms of quest design and non-linearity the work done by Obsidian is really excellent .

The choices made in the development of the character are then doubly important because it will not be possible to create a hero capable of getting by in every situation. This means that, although it is certainly possible to create hybrids or diversify your talents without this being particularly penalizing, doing so could mean giving up specializing in some areas and perhaps closing some possibilities, reserved only for the most skilled burglars, hackers, speakers and so on. Those who prefer to make their way through bullets will have the opportunity to spend a lot of time with the combat system, which historically has never been Obsidian's greatest strength in the past, as anyone who has tried games like Alpha Protocol and Fallout: New Vegas will remember.

This time, however, the result is much better and at times even good: the weapons are quite varied and respond well to our commands , there are localized damage with the enemies that can be blinded, crippled or otherwise impaired by our shots and also the clashes they are further enhanced by the addition of the bullet time, which you can activate for a few seconds in order to dodge the enemy projectiles or to aim with greater precision. Of course, it's not Doom , but considering that The Outer Worlds is not a shooter as much as a RPG in which, moreover, it is possible to avoid almost all the fights, the result is appreciable, even if partially affected by a rather deficient AI, especially in the human opponents.

Not everything is perfect

However, there are some flaws: the faction system is a little less complex and successful than could be expected and inevitably suffers in comparison with that of New Vegas. If in fact the Mojave factions were all well interconnected and each gesture could have repercussions on the relations with the powers of the area, here the implementation is decidedly more superficial, many factions simply operate in their area of influence (usually a planet), beyond which their importance in events is drastically reduced. Moreover, it is all too easy to be able to maximize one's reputation with almost all the main sides without this compromising the relationship with the other factions.

Furthermore, as much as writing is, as already said, often on good levels, there is some occasional stumbling block but above all to be absent is the ability to give truly impactful moments or characters and dialogues capable of being indelibly printed in the memory of the player , in the past the main trademarks of Obsidian but for some years now the Californian studio no longer seems able to reach the heights of excellence to which it had accustomed us and which more recently we have instead found in the work of other developers such as CD Projekt Red.

All this matters up to a certain point, because as already mentioned The Outer Worlds is not by its nature a work that lives and dies from the strength of its narrative, in addition to the fact that the script still remains above average , so mention these aspects as flaws it is a bit exaggerated, however in the past the Californian team had accustomed us too well and the absence of writers such as Chris Avellone and George Ziets has not yet been fully metabolized.

It is good to also spend a few words on the technical system, another cracked tile of many past productions of Obsidian. My experience with The Outer Worlds has not been ruined by big problems, except when a companion has disappeared from the spaceship also causing the failure of his personal mission, but it was enough to reload to solve. Also, on a couple of occasions I happened to temporarily turn off game audio. Nothing too serious in any case, and a very full-bodied day one patch is already planned, which will hopefully put these last uncertainties in order.

As for the graphics, the glance is convincing, in particular as regards the landscapes, while the faces are not always of great quality (nor are their facial animations) and the same goes for textures, which up close appear rather grainy. This on a "standard" PS4, it is not excluded that the situation may improve on mid-gen consoles and on PC.

Having said that, there is also to consider that this is a project born under the aegis of Private Division, "indie" division of Take Two dedicated to financing interesting ideas but with relatively limited budgets, far from Rockstar's colossal standards, Activision, EA and Ubisoft. In short, although Obsidian has been acquired by Microsoft in the meantime, The Outer Worlds is a game that is a little halfway between the world of AA and triple A productions , so you can turn a blind eye to the technical sector not in the state art.

Beyond these small uncertainties, however, the new RPG of the creators of New Vegas and Pillars of Eternity certainly has charm to sell and much to offer to lovers of the genre, both to those a little more "casual" than to the most passionate ones. It would not be fair to say "welcome back, Obsidian" because in reality the Californian software house had never left, what can be said is that the expected return to the mainstream scene has not disappointed.