The hero journey is as much about that individual growing as it is about the adversity that they are meeting. In most tropes, that adversity is a “Bad Guy” – comics are based on this model. A great bad guy has a generally complicated story, and a relateable goal. Usually taken to some extreme.
Outer Worlds has quite a few bad guys, and it’s sometimes hard to see who’s really the good guy when you’re in the frontier. I rather enjoyed that fact. With a single exception, every bad guy has good intentions. Especially the most fervent. The reasoning isn’t clear at the start, but eventually it does come out.
I am going to compare to WoW for a bit now. Vanilla didn’t have a single bad guy, though it did have quite a few. Every expansion past that had a bad guy (or guys), each of which ended up failing by the end. Illidan was jailed. Arthas was killed. Deathwing died. Garrosh/Sha were defeated. WoD I’ll get to. Sargeras is captured.
In WoD Guldan survives and in BfA… Sylvanas wins? In that sense, WoD was pretty much a giant waste of time, and generally ignored once Legion came about. BfA is lined up pretty strong to be in the same boat. Lore-wise, there’s not a whole lot that’s changed since the end of Legion (Horde & Alliance are BFFs) and the prospective end. If all of BfA had been skipped, and instead of burning Teldrassil, Sylvanas has simply broken the crown at the start… would that have made a difference? Maybe in terms of Jaina’s redemption arc? For sure a horde-heavy arc though, not much has changed.
Feels more like the Xanatos Gambit, where regardless of hero actions, the bad guy wins. Which is fine if you’re aiming for parody/satire, less so when you’re trying to be serious. In defeats the concept of player agency – where they have an impact on the direction of the story.
Time will tell if BfA is seen as the worst of all WoW expansions, but it’s certainly taking a page out of all the weak parts from previous ones. Maybe it’s the WoW devs that are going through their own redemption arc…