I think Fallout 3 may be last Bethesda-style RPG that I enjoyed and will enjoy. I tried Obsidian Entertainment’s Fallout: New Vegas which was so buggy on PC at launch that I effectively wrote it off. I didn’t much care for Skyrim either. I learned my lesson and didn’t bother with Fallout 4. I was tired of the treks across post-apocalyptic wastes and clunky action. I haven’t returned to one of those Bethesda-style action RPG in 7 years and was going to keep it that way until The Outer Worlds launched on Xbox Game Pass. I heard rumblings of it being Fallout meets Mass Effect and was intrigued.
Obsidian looked like they were on a quest to prove to the world that they could make a better version of one of those Bethesda-style action RPGs without the bugs and a strong narrative backbone. The space faring sci-fi setting was a departure from the Fallouts and Elder Scrolls of the Bethesda but anyone who’s familiar with Bethesda’s work will see past the aesthetic differences.
They made one of those games at a smaller and more manageable scale. It wasn’t a sprawling, detailed or intricate Bethesda’s behemoths but it was certainly lightyears ahead on the stability front. It also looked markedly better thanks to superb art and that Unreal Engine 4.0 magic.
The game makes a wonderful first impression filled with promise of adventure and good times. There were fun and humorous moments in dialog, hacked terminals, and combat. Then I landed in Monarch and — very much like its citizens — I was tired of it. I met with the new corporations and factions, heard their stories, and was bored of it all. The runaway capitalism schtick was no longer hitting its mark. Conspiracy theories seeped in to replace it but by the time I reached the jewel of the Halcyon colony, Byzantium, I was jaded and desperate to wrap up my time with this game.
Building my character was fun and motivated me to engage with the quests, combat, and exploration. I liked the perk system and the choice of accepting a flaw in favor of a perk point. I took the concussion flaw for an extra skill point after suffering repeated blows to the head. In retrospect, that hindered me a bit because I focused on expanding dialog and hacking options with a sprinkle of engineering and science on the side. I wanted to keep options open and was willing to forgo combat effectiveness for it.
The combat was serviceable. Tactical Time Dilation was an interesting take on Fallout’s V.A.T.S. It gave me the opportunity to slow down time, target weak spots, and inflict status effects such as blinding or crippling enemies. I could have finished the game without it but then I would have been forced to fight in real time and that wasn’t ideal considering my lack of investment in combat skills. A mixture of cheesy tactics and TTD took me far and I would argue that it may have taken me too far because I was melting against the likes of Universal Defense Logistics in the latter stages of the game. When I was looting UDL forces for better armor on the run up towards the end, I realized something had gone awry.
I probably could have avoided most of my deaths with judicious expenditures but I was stubborn and was willing to send my companions out as fodder. I am certain I would have changed my reckless ways if I had chosen a difficulty beyond “hard” where companion permadeath was enabled.
When I heard of the inclusion of companions and their quests, I immediately thought of Mass Effect 2. I misplaced my optimism for these companion quests because they were generally uninteresting and rote. I spent far too much time helping Parvati secure a date. Getting Vicar Max high in search of enlightenment was a letdown. And the others? Insurance fraud and wild goose chases. These quirky quests and tidbits were given too much limelight in the Outer Worlds. They may have contributed towards the ending I received but I didn’t like the pay offs.
The faction quests unlocked material change in the world and they offered insight to the political workings of the colony. Trying to find the balance of happiness for all parties was intriguing. Did Obsidian intentionally want me to prefer helping these corporations over my companions?
I came to The Outer Worlds with thoughts of Mass Effect mixed with a Bethesda-style action RPG. Instead, I got a Bethesda-style action RPG with a dash of Mass Effect flavoring. The first few hours of it was great but I felt all of it outstayed its welcome due to its limitations. I started to see familiar faces on new characters. I grew weary of the same talking heads with their tiresome tales of woe. It’s been 10 years since my last enjoyable foray into this style of RPG and unless there are drastic changes to the formula, it will be another 10 before I revisit it.
I don’t like it