The Outer Worlds is the latest game to soon be hitting the digital video game shelves for acclaimed studio Obsidian Entertainment. It features a sci fi single player story set at the edge of colonized space in a society where the corporations own most everything. Instead of what you would normally expect from a futuristic game, you get science fiction with more of a Victorian steampunk combined with the style of the days of the Robber Barons of the Old West. Along the way you meet and are joined by companions to help you throughout as you make choices that can change how various factions view you. At a recent press event, I was given an opportunity to play through an area of The Outer Worlds and see what it’s all about. While there, I also had a chance to sit down and talk with Lead Designer Charles Staples about this project.
I started my first few minutes in The Outer Worlds checking out the character I was given to play with and his various attributes and skills. It was a middle of the road character designed to help explore various skill sets and thankfully didn’t have below average Intelligence. This can be a big deal as lower Intelligence can lead to unique dialogue options which is a call back to the original Fallout. I actually talked to Charles Staples about having a low Int character and how fun that was to work with. He said: “On one of my playthroughs I did a below average intelligence and there are a lot of fun dialogue choices to go with it. I think our writers had a lot of fun working on that. But we made sure to not make it like an I SMASH kind of low intelligence but more subtle like you just get or misinterpret things someone is saying and those moments can be pretty hilarious.”
Once I had my character in hand, I then proceeded to check out the other various attributes and skills I had at my disposal. The stat system had main attributes, such as strength and charm, which you could eventually put points into as you level up. Doing so would give you certain skill-based bonuses. Charm, for instance, affected your Lie, Intimidate, Science, Persuade, Hack and Inspiration skills. It also affects how you gain - or lose - faction reputation, as well as how fast your companion skills refresh. As you level you gain points you can spend to level a specific skill group (an example would be putting a point into the Stealth set which would increase your Sneak, Hack and Lockpick skills). As you level these skill groups up, once one skills hits rank 50; you add skill points directly into that particular skill to focus more on that instead of the whole group if you wanted to.
In addition to your skills, you can also gain perks, which can help you in various ways, such as increase your carry weight, health and more. You will have six base attributes to put points into: Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, Perception, Charm and Temperament. In addition, there are also seven skill groups: Melee, Ranged, Defense, Dialog, Stealth, Tech and Leadership, with eighteen skills overall. There were 32 different perks in different tiers and allowing you to spend two perk points into one to better that perk. All these attributes, skills and perks will allow for some good diversity in your character allowing you to play them how you want.
According to Charles, this is an important pillar for how The Outer Worlds treats its RPG elements:
“The big thing for us was going back to our RPG roots and making sure that if you’re into RPGs and like old school games where you are able to make choices and have the game react appropriately to you, then this is for you. We also wanted to make sure the game was accessible enough so that is open to everyone to play. Maybe you haven’t played a lot of RPGs, but maybe this will be a chance to explore that.”
Before going off to explore I thought it was best to know with whom I was traveling.. My companions for this journey would be Nyoka,a machine gun toting badass who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, and Parvati,an engineer who could help you with locks or just slam down on things with her giant electro hammer. Companions are an important part of The Outer Worlds. Aside from the obvious of helping you to kill things, they can also depending on their own personal skillset can help you to have a higher skill score. A good example of this was I now had a higher Lockpick skill score thanks to having Parvati in my party. I only had these two companions with me for this preview but there are many more waiting to be discovered in The Outer Worlds and join your crew each with their own unique personality and skill sets. They also brought life into the game with their banter, such as having Parvati mention to you that she didn’t like the way people were looking at her like she was a sandwich. Meanwhile Nyoka just says it’s time for some games and whiskey.
I asked Charles Staples about designing a game with companions in mind:
“We knew from the start that we wanted to allow the player to have up to two companions and we wanted the companions to have a bigger role than in our previous games. We wanted them to interject in conversations more and have their own quests and personalities.” While playing the game it felt great to have Nyoka and Parvati with me, not just in combat which they excelled but in the game as a whole talking and breathing more life into the game.
Before I set off, I checked out the inventory to see what Obsidian had given me for my romp through The Outer Worlds. . I was not disappointed with what I found. The Inventory was separated into seven different tabs to keep items separated. You have Weapons tab, Armor tab, Consumables tab for medicines and drugs. Additionally, there is a tab for your weapons and armor mods, and your bog standard general and junk tabs.
Before heading out to a quest I decided to spend some time messing around with the various weapons and a special skill only the main character has. Because you were woken from cryo-sleep with an odd mix of chemicals, your brain has been affected which has granted you the ability to slow down time. This skill is called Tactical Time Dilation and has a set amount you can use that will refresh over time. In its simplest form it slows down time helping you to get that headshot that much easier or simply move out of the way of the charging robot of death. As it begins to get more powerful it also will tell you information of an enemy you are targeting and that aiming at specific parts may yield unique results. If you are familiar with VATS from the Fallout franchise this may seem familiar, but mind you this is all happening in real time. The gunplay felt solid as I switched from one weapon to another, the scope of the sniper rifle helped to get those critical headshots. Meanwhile, when paired with the LMG, this allowed me to just sit back and spray the field with bullets of death.
The Outer Worlds features melee combat as well and I will admit I was skeptical of it. Doing melee right in an FPS can be a hard thing to balance out with all the guns and ways for enemies to kill you from range before you get close to them, but I decided to stick to my acid sword as my companions and I went after some of the vicious local alien life of the planet. Melee is at a disadvantage because of range, but it excels in close group fights because each attack is an arc which can hit multiple enemies. I decided to use my Tactical Time Dilation to slow time down as I ran in close to my for before slicing and dicing them. Overall, in its early stages combat felt solid and balanced.
All of the weapons degraded and would eventually need to be repaired. As I played, I did notice some weapons degrade but nothing I needed to get fixed right away.You can either take these to a local NPC and for some money have your gear easily fixed up or, with the right parts, fix them yourself. Both weapons and armor could further have their stats boosted by adding mods to them. These come in the form of mod chips that say what they do like +10% reload speed or more armor. These could easily be attached by going to a local workbench and putting these mods into an item slot opening if they had them available.
There were a few different types of armor and head pieces I found off looted corpses. I rather enjoyed finding an eye patch as it put me in a piratey mood. From there you have various items in your consumable inventory for a quick buff and possible debuff (alcohol may give you better charisma but your intelligence goes down from it). Many of these items can be used in conjunction with your Emergency Medical Inhaler. This is a quick use item that allows you to breath in the fumes of the medicines connected to it to heal you quickly during combat. If you decide to increase your Medical skill you can Drug Mixing Slots on your Inhaler that can hold all types of consumables besides just a heal. which can be combined in your breather when you heal yourself. The Inhaler itself is represented in the Consumables inventory tab at the top with at first 1 empty slot for the basic healing drug of Adreno. You can unlock up to 4 of these slots if you increase your Medical skill.
I was at a crossroads and decided to head to the main town of the area Fallbrook. Its heavy steel walls and doors set in place to protect it from the local bestiary clashed with the neon glow of the sign of the city's sign. I got a sense of just what kind of place this might be as the first person to greet me told about the amenities of Fallbrook. It was a safe haven for those wanting to avoid the wilds of outside or just to waste time with drink and games.