Getting a crew together to make a Western RPG game in half the time it takes to make a Bethesda piece shines in its professionalism and smoothness but conceptually points to an *as well, growing creatively bankrupt video game industry. The eighth generation of consoles has not produced as many games in quantity or quality as the previous generation. As a result AA games have taken a hit and AAA games have become AAAA games that often lose as much as they win. There’s a lot of ideas in The Outer Worlds reflected in the clashing sensibilities of its creators; the combination of Leonard Boyarsky’s dark morbidity and Tim Cain’s silliness don’t always match their previous ‘New Vegas‘ tone. But as far as time wasters go a player could do a lot worse.
I completed The Outer Worlds, which is more than I can say for many other games in 2019, aside from Control and Gears 5. But in a previous generation where we received Fallout 3, New Vegas and RAGE, we received a smaller Fallout 4 and Rage 2 in place of new ideas. Worlds attempts to break off on its own but lacks the characterization and consistent camp of its predecessor. Though created by the original Fallout makers, their superiority and experience shined through in New Vegas, which didn’t have momentum but always had progress. That is not evident here. I had no idea what I was fighting for or had much drive to finish the story, but despite the usual problems of a semi-open hub world the plot did at least contain urgency. I didn’t feel my actions although impactful, lined up with the world I was constantly sprinting through. Like a politician shaking hands while running for Executive Office, perhaps Worlds could have used more grounded personal stakes instead, as character over story is what Obsidian does best. I am tired of the standard quest line, that I could only follow my connection to my crew members and the man who unthaws you; Phineas Welles. Side quests in Fallout contained depth and eventually drew you back into the main story. The briskness of The Outer Worlds does not have time for that. It’s Fallout Lite after all. I took a months long break between the first and last half of the game to complete it before my XBOX GAME PASS expired and the dutiful nature of it sanded down any exciting exploratory edge to it. That’s on me. And I am open to hearing from other gamers some of the exciting side quests I may have missed.
The biggest problem the game faced however wasn’t an issue of time. The length is very decent and I appreciate a shorter RPG particularly as I become an older fussy gamer. Sometimes I feel like playing like a saint, as I did for most of my 90 hour New Vegas run (even excluding DLC), but those days are over and anything that gets in the way of the path of least resistance seems like a tedious deviation. The pacing is slack. The beats are so familiar they get boring so like in Gears or any other game I’ll often sprint past enemies and combat in an effort to reach the end quicker. The tedium is why I haven’t beaten Red Dead Redemption 2 yet. I’ve played so many games like this before, I’m bored with it. I know how all the beats and quests go and constantly run up against a lack of sophistication and evolution among game developer habits. Maybe I’m just ungrateful.
My chief complaint: Before the last boss I was at level 50 hacking. I thought that was enough. Unfortunately the game greets you with a major difficulty spike that causes you to run past all enemies as they level up around you. The shooting mechanics are also worse than Fallout. It seems a lot of these PC friendly games, Gears of War included that are touted as cross-platform seem to contain mounds of input lag. As I grow impatient with video games for not evolving their storytelling to flesh out their characters, it seems the developer punishes the player for wanting to play a character over an absolutionist. The latter is boring, as well I’m not a psychopath, I’ll fight the path of least resistance in any shooter but I’ll avoid getting messy if I have to.
The story for Worlds is as unremarkable as Skyrim or Red Dead Redemption 2. The few flashes of personality from crew members like Parvatti, Felix, and Nyoka or the central character mad scientist Phineas Welles recall a smaller story begging for greater depth. Perhaps now that developer Obsidian was bought out by its own corporation Microsoft (the same kind of anti-thetical irony that propelled Disney’s Dumbo), perhaps we will see a Fallout Level event from this developer in the future fans deserve, but for now, my Halcyon fighting days are over.