There’s nothing like a game that lets you restore the working man to his rightful glory but dismantling the oppressive establishment board member by board member. With how dark and grey similar games like Fallout are, The Outer Worlds is a breath of fresh Sulphur-rich air.
The Outer Worlds is a 2019 first-person RPG developed by Obsidian Entertainment, the same group that worked on Fallout: New Vegas. Set in the far-off Earth colony of Halycon, The Outer Worlds has some of the most colorful environment, diverse and endearing characters, and interesting storylines in one game that I have seen in the same game in a hot minute. The quests all serve a purpose, making them feel like they have more meaning than in games like Fallout or Skyrim.
The Outer Worlds was shorter than I expected, truth be told, but there’s plenty for me to go on about.
The Experience System
Going into the game, unless you’re already familiar with how Obsidian makes a leveling system (aka, you’ve played New Vegas), you will be confused when you’re at the end of the game at level 27. The Max experience level you can reach is 30, which is not itself an issue, but coming from RPGs that usually go from 1–100, it makes the game feel even shorter than it is. There’s no real resolution to this, except making it clear to players that they’ll max out at 30.
Now I have heard complaints that the skill/perk system didn’t feel like it gave the player a lot of variability in the type of character they could play. I can’t really attest to that as much since I didn’t have that issue on either of my playthroughs.
What I did have a serious problem with was:
Now. Objectively, setting the top/main menu with L1 controls and the smaller menu with L2 controls makes sense on paper. In application on the PS4, it felt like a nightmare. I’m conditioned to use the trigger buttons as my main navigator when changing pages on nearly every game I’ve played on the PS4. So this switch-up is perhaps the most frustrating experience I have had with this game. Keeping the navigation controls easy to use is such a basic UX rule and it's things like this that remind me why.
Unfortunately, this isn’t my only grief with the menu system.
That pop-up, giving information about the selected item, doesn’t move and always blocks a third of the screen, including important information like the kind of ammo that weapon takes, the equipped weapons, and even the information at the bottom of the screen.
The easy resolution to that issue would be to present that information to the right over your character because let’s face it — it's much more important to see the specs for the weapons you want than how cool your character looks with it in hand. Decisions are made on which weapon will be chosen based on the amount of ammo your character has available, so blocking it is the worst thing that can be done.
Other than that, I’m not crazy about how to select weapons. When your slots are empty, once you select a weapon, it fills the slot. Once all slots are full, selecting a new weapon replaces the item in the first slot unless it is currently equipped. I don’t love it, and I particularly do not love having to leave the menu and unselect my weapon so I can change it, but it's manageable. Does it impact the experience? Absolutely.
Moving away from the menu, I want to talk about the in-game UI.
I typically go with the rule that less is more with game UI. I like feeling immersed, and it's hard to do when I have something blinking in my peripheral. That being said, I don’t hate the way it‘s done here. The compass system outlines objectives, enemies, and NPCs in a clear way. Objectives will sit on the top right when assigned and completed then disappear. Your and your companion’s health is clear and easy to glance at. What feels cluttered are the icons under the health bar. To find their significance, you have to search under the codex, which clearly explains what they signify. But that’s not something you can really do well during combat unless you don’t mind pausing mid-fight to start reading.
My main gripe is with the time dilation bar, that purple little strip under the health bar that is incredibly easy to miss. Time dilation is (depending on how you play the game) is a special perk/ability the character has due to narrative reasons, and the player can upgrade their capability with it by upgrading their perks. And yet it's crammed into the top left corner.
Overall, I think a good workaround for how cluttered the UI feels, would be to have everything disappear when the player isn’t actively holding their weapon. Then, if the user takes damage, the health bar can reappear.
Last but not least
The Loading Screen
Now, I appreciate the art and the diagrams presented in the loading screens. They even have alternate posters based on the actions you’ve taken in the game. I do think the text at the bottom is too small, but my main grief with this page is the loading time. The loading screens on my console are 2 minutes-long minimum. I did a little digging and found that if you’re not playing with an SSD, you’re going to experience longer than average loading screens. But it's not like my PS4 is that old to deal with these issues, and regardless of the console, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Besides all the points I brought up, I absolutely recommend the game to anyone and everyone. Its colorful, violent, tear-jerking, and plain fun.
And remember, it's not the Best Choice, It’s Spacer’s Choice!