I first played The Outer Worlds on PS4 when it first came out in 2019. It is a very rare time when I bought a game at full price on release (usually I wait until its cheaper!). This year I had the urge to replay it (enough time passed that I’d forgotten most of it!) and I picked up the DLC expansions in the sale, so I had a bit of new content to enjoy as well. I was very excited because both DLC sounded very fun!
My second play through made me just as happy as my first one. I actually maybe enjoyed it more the second time as I had a better understanding from the start of how my actions might piss off the various factions in the game, and its really best not to make the Board angry too early on! Though it is going to take a third play through for me to remember not to accept the scared of automechanicals flaw!
The Outer Worlds really feels like a game that was made specifically for me.
I almost don’t know how to put into words for you how much I loved this game. It’s everything, it’s like Obsidian took all my favourite things and blended them together!
A Crew of Nutcases
The first videogames I truly loved where BioWare’s classic RPGs Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Mass Effect and Dragon Age: Origins.1 The Outer Worlds has the feel of those games in the graphics style, the ships and your crew and the humour in the characters and the relationships you can build with them (including their often delightful side quests). While maybe there aren’t the shining stars I formed (perhaps unhealthy) attachments to, as with the crew of the Normandy2 they are a fun bunch.
In the end, I did really find myself caring about Ellie. At the start I found her tough guy loner bluster a little tiresome but after I recognised it as an act of rebellion against her parents I actually grew to care for her. She’s just a hurt little girl at heart. She became a fixture in my squad. As did Vicar Max, again at the start his religious doctrine is annoying but as you take him through his crisis of faith I found myself invested in him. Then there is Parvati, who maybe is a bit too sweet and awkward for me but I can’t deny how charming her side quest is. Even as I was doing it I was annoyed she was making me run all over the galaxy buy stuff for her (no spoilers!), but damn it I just couldn’t say no to her!
I think because when you mean they they all (except for Parvati who is always delightful) are a dick in one way or another, but they get to know them and find out why, they end up feeling more real as a genuine rag tag group of reluctant friends.
It’s Silly & It’s Gorgeous
I prefer a bit of silliness and humour in most things. I love the Saint’s Row games (especially IV) for the OTT energy, and some of the chaos and hyperviolence of world in Outer Worlds reminded me of that (there are always violent psycho dialogue options!). The BioWare games all definitely have moments amid otherwise quite serious universe. I also have enjoyed Bethesda’s Fallout games because they kick it up a little bit further with the post-apocalyptic retro-future setting providing scope to inject a jot of satire (I did love finding out what sick experiment was being run when ever I found a new Vault!). I really like the 1950s aesthetics and music to juxtapose that nostalgic cosy vibe with the violent warped reality of life in the nuclear wasteland.
The Outer Worlds takes this idea further and goes hard into the satire! It also uses a retro future aesthetic but goes with bright and colourful Art Deco 1920s art style (which I LOVE) that fits perfectly with its setting of a world where capitalism rules with an iron fist. I loved looking at the ads that fill the world and the loading screens, and the catchy jingles on the vending machines! The Auntie Cleo products in particular put me in mind of some of the insane old adverts of radium based products!3
This Art Deco style is also reminiscent of the BioShock games, which is also a world in which the wealthy aimed to create a paradise for themselves ungoverned by laws or morality, and ended up in a nightmare. Like BioShock,4 The Outer Worlds is filled in crazy scientists doing wacky weird shit and horrific experiments!
The World is Fucked but I Loved It!
Prosperity awaits you in Halcyon – humanity’s furthest colony, located on the very edge of the frontier! Come bask in a lifetime of guaranteed full employment*, with only a minor term of [REDACTED] years of service!Obsidian Entertainment
There is no escaping the satire in this game, it is the fabric of the story and the world.
The game is set in the human colony of Halycon, a star system out on the far fringes of known space. In the 23rd century a consortium of 10 corporations bought the license to the star system and arranged for two large colony ships to make the journey. One arrived as planned, the other had a malfunction in its “skip drive” and took 25 years longer than planned meaning nobody could be revived safely. The discovery of the ship (the Hope) is kept a secret from the colonists. You play as a colonist revived from The Hope, known in game as The Stranger.
Halcyon is unusual as a colony as it is the only one entirely owned and operated by corporations (aka The Board). This unfettered capitalism lead to some terrible decision making, cut corners and numerous corporate cover-ups. Along with the starter population being halved (missing many of the top scientists), means the colony is rapidly falling apart and starving to death. The Board has created a brutal, desolate place lacking in any humanity or empathy. Each poorly conceived “solution” they have come up with seemed to bring further problems for the colony. I highly recommend both the DLC as they really do expand the world and introduce you to some more (horrific) Corporate fuckery elsewhere in the colony, and they are both a lot of fun. My only criticism of The Outer Worlds is that its too short! I always want more and the DLC do provide a satisfying amount of extra gameplay.
It is a world full of extremes. On one end those at the top of the corporate chain and soulless capitalists whose goal is only to increase production by any means and minimise the damage to corporate reputation. The wealthy people are petty, spoiled idiots with no idea or interested in what is happening elsewhere in the colony (Ellie’s side quest is great). The wealthy actually really reminded me of the upper class characters and NPCs in the Fable games, another favourite!5 On the other there are revolutionary factions but of course, as happens, they have also swung past empathy into extreme ideologies in their response.
Sanity is almost extinct in Halycon.
It feel a little too close to possible
The Outer Worlds is a very fun game to play. It’s bright and colourful, and is funny. But at times… at times, uncomfortably a little too real.
It’s a little too close to reality in 2023 where billionaires and private companies are very much involved in the space race. Where corporations are dictating government policies, and every day empathy is eroded to pay for profit. Where we may very well see a global food shortage in our lifetimes. Where in the US food is awash with dangerous chemicals and growth hormones making everyone sick,6 where fucking Lunchables are being fed to school children in the USA as a “healthy” option.7
It is also based on events that have happened in the past, obviously colonisation is nothing new. Company towns where residents work for a single employer who dictates many aspects of their lives have certainly been a thing in the US and the UK.8 I visited the museum if an old cotton mill in Derbyshire last year where I learned about this. The owner of the 18th century mill was also the primary landlord for the village, and he dictated many rules about life and “morality” including mandatory church.
Though this is extreme in the satire, this version of the of humanity (if we do make it to other worlds) feels entirely possible! This is a vision of the future often explored in science-fiction. It reminded me of a more colourful cartoonish version of the world in Killjoys, or to an extent Firefly (the Unreliable feels very Serenity).
In Killjoys, The Company (who control the star system) sold colonists a promise of life on a new world for the seventh generation of their in exchange for essentially indentured hard labour. The Expanse – which is serious in tone hard sci-fi – also explores what humanity would do when new worlds were discovered, and that was of course squabbles over land rights and dangerously messing around the technology and ecosystems they don’t understood.
History shows nothing if not that humans never learn from it. New planets will just give us new ways to repeat the same mistakes.
I definitely won’t rushing to sign up for any colony ships IRL, but I am now impatiently waiting for Outer Worlds 2 (this is how you make a perfect game teaser trailer)!
Have you played The Outer Worlds?
- I love Mass Effect so much I think its fused to my soul (but not Andromeda, I often genuinely for that even happened). DA:O is very special to me, Dragon Age 2 and Dragon Age: Inquisitions were huge dissapointments! ↩︎
- Garrus is my ride or die, and Kaidan I have such an emotional attachment to its impossible for me to romance anyone else in Mass Effect. The same with Alistair in Dragon Age: Origins (I think that character has made me genuinely swoon). ↩︎
- I read Radium Girls a couple of years ago, a fascinating and infuriating and really tragic story which really shows how far Corporations will go to cover up their mistakes and how little their care for their workers. I highly recommend it. If you’re interested this is an Amazon Affiliate link (I get pennies if you buy it!): https://amzn.to/46GpU1D ↩︎
- I love the world and the story of BioShock but its too scary for me to play myself! I have to watch someone else play it. I did read Rapture years ago which is the story of how Rapture was created and loved it. I keep thinking I should reread it! ↩︎
- OMG I was looking up what the nobels/aristocrats were called in Fables but found out there is going to be a Fable 4 and it has this amazing trailer! I do not pay attention to game releases but this one has be super excited, also another Xbox Exclusive (and we have a PS5), so between Fable 4 and Outer Worlds 2 I will have to finally build myself a gaming PC! ↩︎
- I had no idea things were this bad in the US, the conditions cattle and pigs in are somehow worse than the Cysty Pig factory in the game! ↩︎
- Seriously when I read this Outer Worlds was the first thing that came to mind! Thank God we are not this far gone in the UK… yet. ↩︎
- This is an interesting article: https: 11 Company Towns Founded By Corporations. ↩︎