THE OUTER WORLDS
By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on November 4, 2019
In an alternate timeline, set in a distant future, the Earth is in a right sorry state. The huge corporations that rule the planet (and are responsible for the majority of the mess we find ourselves in), have started building colonies on distant planets in faraway galaxies. To build and populate these colonies, they have sent massive faster-than-light spaceships, carrying literally thousands of people in cryo-sleep, into the deepest reaches of space where, as we all know, things tend to go horribly wrong...
As one of the inhabitants of such a spaceship, called the Hope, you have the rotten luck that what can go wrong, does go wrong and you and your fellow shipmates end up adrift at the very edge of space. You were on your way towards a new colony of planets in a far off galaxy. This colony goes by the name of Halcyon and was to be a shining beacon of hope for mankind or, which is closer to the truth, a new cash-cow for the corporations ruling mankind. Due to a failure in your ship's main drives, it never actually reached faster-than-light speed on its way to Halcyon. This extended your journey's duration to many, many times what it should have been. The Hope, you, the rest of the crew and its cargo, are given up on, resulting in your current situation of being a human popsicle, floating somewhere in space.
Now, the corporations running humanity, who are combined into one shady government apparatus called the Board, could have tried to saved you, but decided that it would be a gross misappropriation of funds, seeing as how everybody aboard the Hope has been in cryostasis for far too long and trying reviving any of them would inevitably lead to their death. So it is decided that the best course of action is pretending never ever happened and leave you and your shipmates to your ice-cold fate. But, as luck would have it, you are awakened by a man called Phineas Wells, who happens to be a scientist, intent on saving as many of the Hope's inhabitants. He also happens to be one of the contenders for the number one spot on the Board's "Most Wanted" list. Still, beggars can't be choosers, so you join Phineas as he leads you off the Hope and into a multi-planet-spanning adventure!
Yes, dear readers; it is time to explore space and reap the many rewards it has to offer! In The Outer Worlds, we take control of a fearless space captain who, joined by his or her trusty crew, will have to brave the many dangers the alien planets he or she visits have to offer. Now, if you've seen trailers of the game, you probably already know that there's only one word that can accurately describe The Outer World's graphics, and that word is: AWESOME! As you make your way through the various planets and space ports, you can't help but notice the plethora of tiny details that are incorporated into the environments. When outside, the lush wildlife of the planets paints a beautiful picture while the bustling spaceports look like colorful miniature cities floating in the vastness of space. On a quite regular basis, I found myself just standing still and taking in the cool views the game has to offer.
And while beautiful views are certainly important in a video game, they also only make up half of the fun, the other half being, naturally, the gameplay. Luckily, The Outer Worlds isn't lacking in that department. Btu let's start at the beginning; when you start your adventure, the first thing you do is customize your character. You can first select gender and other traits that make up your character's appearance, including your age. Now, the age thing is pretty awesome and makes it possible to create a character that looks as if he or she has seen many adventures already, each of them leaving its mark on the body.
After selecting how your character looks, it's time to select your abilities, skills and background, which decides what traits your character has, resulting in certain skill bonuses. The possibilities here are nigh endless and really help to customize your character to your preferred play style. After selecting what makes our hero or heroine tick, we set off to aid Phineas Wells in his quest to save the inhabitants of the Hope. To do so, we'll need to collect a bunch of chemicals needed for the creation of a formula Phineas has developed to safely thaw out people who have been in cryo-sleep for an extended period of time. Of course, it's never as simple as: "Well, the chemicals are stored here and here, now go out and get them." Along the way, you will come across a great many NPC's, who all have other favors to ask of you, so get ready for some serious adventuring.
Seeing as how the rule of the planets is divided between a number of corporations who, for obvious reasons, don't get along, you will be running errands for all of them. Successfully finishing a job for one faction will increase your standing with them, but may inadvertently hurt your standing with another faction. When engaging in conversation with NPC's, you can choose to approach the situation in a number of ways. You can be sympathetic, outright insulting or play dumb and act like you've got no idea what they are talking about. Every decision you make, has its influence on how your adventure unfolds, so be wary of your choices! You can also make use of your chosen traits during these conversations and use your skills to give certain answers. You can even lie if you so choose. Upgrading your skills will result in a higher chance to be able to use them during conversations, so if you're inclined to using one of your skills more often when talking to other characters, it's probably a good idea to increase that skill.
Now, in order to safely traverse the often hostile planets will mean you'll need weapons and armor. As you start out, you will be dressed in your cryo-sleep suit which, while looking quite snazzy, doesn't really do a lot in terms of protection against melee or ranged damage. This is why you should get your hands on some more serious armor. This, as well as the collecting of weapons is done by defeating enemies and looting their bodies or searching the various storage containers you'll come across. Be sure to check your inventory often to see if you've picked up items that are better than the ones you've got equipped at the moment. Trust me when I say that, if you want to stand a chance of surviving your adventure, you're going to need all the gear you can get your hands on.
By completing missions and killing hostile forces (both human and creature), you earn XP which, in turn, can be used to upgrade your character. Apart from that, you can explore your surroundings and gather useful items that are scattered across the galaxy, like consumables, quest items, junk, weapons, armor and gear upgrades. Without these items, your galactic adventure will come to a grinding halt fairly quickly. Sure, when you just start out, you can easily overcome your enemies with relatively small ranged or melee weapons, but as your quest unfolds, you'll need additional gear. It's pure logic: bigger enemies equals bigger guns needed, so always keep an eye on your arsenal. The fun thing about the weapons in The Outer World is the fact that, apart from looking really cool, they can also do some serious damage. Some of them even add a touch of environmental damage like, for example, shock or fire to the already explosive mix!
As you use the various weapons at your disposal, they will deteriorate and become less and less effective. This is why the powers that be invented workbenches. Here, you can repair weapons and armor using weapon- and armor parts you've collected during your travels. This is also where your chosen abilities come in; you see, a character with a high enough "Engineering" skill can also repair weapons and armor without using a Workbench while, at the same time, needing to spend less parts to do so. Now, say you've got a weapon you really like, but it's lacking in magazine size or accuracy. No problem there, because you can also upgrade your gear at Workbenches by using upgrade modules. These useful little packages can also be found throughout your travels and upgrade a certain trait of your chosen weapon or piece of armor.
One of the great universal truths in the galaxy has to be that often spoken phrase: "There's strength in numbers". The developers of The Outer Worlds also realized this and made sure that, while on your quest for survival, you won't have to fight alone. During your adventure, you'll come across NPC's that are looking to join your heroic crew aboard your very own ship (which you. well. let's call it "inherited" from its previous captain), the Unreliable. Each of these characters comes with its own backstory, abilities and companion missions and are actually very valuable when engaged in combat. You can also upgrade their abilities and gear, as well as fine-tune their behavior in battle. You can choose how far behind you they'll stay while traveling, which weapons they use and how they behave when a fight comes along. This makes for a varied party that can really help you out in a tight spot.
As already mentioned, each of your crew members has a past of their own and this is reflected in their so-called "Companion Missions". These missions are specific to the crew member in question and will have you dragging them halfway across the known galaxy in order to complete their missions. This, coupled with the main story missions and the numerous side missions, creates a game in which there is always something to do. To keep track of your current objectives, you can access your journal and see an overview of all current missions, divided into three categories: Main, Side and Companion. Besides these three categories, you can also see an overview of all your successfully completed and failed, or "Botched", missions, creating a compendium of all of your heroic (or plain stupid) deeds.
Of course, where there's a job to be done, there's rewards to be reaped. When completing quests for the various characters you encounter, you will receive items and, most importantly, money. Because the world is run by mega-corporations, one single currency has arisen in the form of so-called "Bits". You earn these bits by completing missions or, if you are of the more criminal persuasion, simply steal them from lockers, storage bins and even people's homes. Keep in mind though, that stealing is a criminal offence, even in this distant future and can hurt your standing with the aforementioned factions. Bits you find stashed away in abandoned structures are no problem, but entering other people's homes and stealing their money right from under their noses is frowned upon and will result in a more hostile standing. Same goes for needlessly attacking people of a neutral or friendly faction, so be careful what you get yourself into!
I can only say that I absolutely love The Outer Worlds. Its lush but truly dangerous environments are expansive and will take more than a little effort to traverse. Luckily, you will come across certain areas on the planets' surfaces that will act as fast travel points once discovered. So if you've just walked for miles on end to get to a certain mission, you can always fast travel back to a landing pad or even your ship's interior after completing your objectives, without having to walk all the way back. I personally didn't mind the walking back bit because of the environments. Have I already mentioned they look awesome? I did? Well, I'm going to tell you again: THEY LOOK AWESOME! Nevertheless, the fast travel points come in really handy when you want to quickly finish a mission when your mother or (depending on your situation) significant other is calling you downstairs because dinner's ready or something boring like that.
So, to make an already long story even longer, let me ask this question for you; Should you play The Outer Worlds? The answer to this, my friends, is an unequivocal and resounding "YES!" If you are into big RPG games with a cool story, fun and interesting characters, challenging missions and a huge arsenal of weapons and other gear, you really should give this game a whirl. Because it's a game in the RPG genre, you'd better free up some time, because it's going to take some serious hours of gaming to finish the campaign. This, however, is no problem, because the stories the developers came up with, as well as the amount of humor incorporated into the game make every second of playing The Outer Worlds more than worth your time and effort!