tldr; it’s Fallout in space!
First, the elephant in the room. Bethesda and Fallout76. There is just a ridiculous amount of “hold my beer” that is seems almost purposeful idiocy. Fallout 4 was in 2015, Elder Scrolls V in 2011. Everything since then has been a reskin – FO76 is FO4 w/ multiplayer and no NPCs, you can see source code online about that. So I get that they are a bit cash strapped with zero income and insanely long dev cycles. Still, to so firmly, and repeatedly consistent on making FO76 the butt of every joke is it’s own achievement. To somehow make EA & ActiBlizz look generous with their monetization is insane.
The good news in all this is that FO76’s $100/y subscription for a single player mode put a huge spotlight on Outer Worlds. So yay!
It’s not SPECIAL (due to IP I guess) but the model is still there. Pick stats, pick perks, pick skills. Make a character. Considering you never see your character except in the inventory screen, I’ve never understood this part. (hey Anthem!)
There’s a tutorial level which gives you the basics. Movement, attacks, stealth, dialogue. Instead of VATS (full stop time) we get Tactical Time Dilation or TTD (slows down time for a short period). With the right skills, hitting a body part inflicts a status (blind, cripple, etc..) which are all quite useful. I’m of the mind that it’s only useful to start a fight due to the recharge rate. There are perks to increase the rate, but that’s for later levels.
By the end of the tutorial, you enter a ship, talk to the flippant AI, and then get the first big quest to enter the nearby town and get a reactor.
World & Quests
I completed the first planet, in the sense that all the map was explored and all the quests done. Some of the quests are straightforward – go to this dangerous area, collect this thing. Others are more complicated – collect money from 4 people who are broke, who will send you on other errands. A small fraction require you to pay attention to quest text – find an engineering tome based on log entries. The overarching one deals with socio-political issues. Support the company-run town that treats people like slaves, or the deserters who are leeching off the town to survive. It’s an interesting moral & ethical choice, right in line with FO3’s Megaton choice but with arguably more nuance.
The quest text and NPC dialogue is just the right amount of snark. The ship AI is pretty solid on that. The dialogue skills (or even some other skill checks in dialogue) add a lot of flavor to NPCs, or open new quests. A LOT of branching, which is neat.
Quick note on lockpicking/hacking. No mini-games! You have the skill and the consumables, you just do it. Chests are marginal in terms of gains… but doors can open up alternate travel routes or loot rooms.
Complete the planet, move on to the larger map of other locations. It isn’t an open world map for everything, more like the dozen or so locations are all decently sized and open. Which I think works better than FO4’s everything-is-the-same overworld.
There are melee and ranged weapons. Why anyone would use melee (aside from a single stealth hit) is beyond me. Ranged weapons have different damage, effects, and modifications (lots and lots of mods) so you can tailor your setup fairly well. Enemies have their own resistances, and weak points. It’s a bit of a rock/paper/scissors game.
I died more than once, due to enemy numbers and not really paying attention. Since there’s no reliance on VATS, you need to use walls/boxes to duck behind. Running in all blazes gets you a pretty corpse.
I’m liking it. It does have a Borderlands feel, but without the black outline on everything. Characters are smooth enough in animation, except a in direct dialogue. Maybe it’s a homage to FO, but there’s a lot of “dead eyes syndrome”. It’s inconsistent though, cause some NPCs look just fine.
I’ve never played an Obsidian game that didn’t have game crashing bugs at launch. Until now. The entire first planet, not a single one. I can’t even think of a single one, point of fact. Wow!
Back to Bethesda here. That Obsidian could launch this clean with a fraction of the resources within Bethesda… that speaks enough for the state of those two companies.
I’ve read this is a ~30hrs to complete, and I think I’m about 4 or so in now. So far, I have only positive to say about it. Worth buying, and worth supporting Obsidian so they can keep up their solid work.