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Exploring In The Outer Worlds Is Rewarding In A Different Way (Spoilers)
Obsidian’s latest RPG The Outer Worlds is out now. And it’s oh-so refreshing to see this style of western RPG being handled this way. It’s not about the open world. It’s about the world, divided into smaller but dense chunks. But what’s the most interesting part of the world in The Outer Worlds is how a lot of the small stories, subplot, and what you assume to be just world-building lore, has major ramifications. And uncovering them all through curiosity certainly feels rewarding.
Not only does the many side stories and lore you can uncover on your own makes the world-building better, it serves a bigger purpose. In the various locations you visit in The Outer Worlds, all of these do tie back into the main plot. And these details are all found through genuine curiosity. Maybe you overheard a conversation. Or go down the rabbit hole and ask about an incident as seen through the various town folk. Or hack terminals and read logs not meant for your eyes. And it’s up to you to connect these dots together.
The best part is, no matter how you role-play and what side you feel like supporting, there’s enough evidence or cases to justify your character’s decision-making. You can definitely make these decisions on your whim and be the wildcard as most RPGs of this ilk allow, but letting you to discover nuggets of information to make more informed decisions, or to strengthen your convictions, is a small touch of masterclass world-building and player empowerment.
Vague spoilers for the first big choice in the game follows
The Power Generator Dilemma
The first starting area, Emerald Vale and the town of Edgewater, is such one example. As you get the lay of the land you should encounter the town mayor, Reed Thompson. If you never liked capitalism and expect to screw the hyper-capitalist that governs the outer worlds of Halcyon, you probably wanted to hate this person already. You meet him while he was interrogating potential companion Parvati over something. It looks serious, but the mayor seemed to be calm about it.
He then talks to you and makes a case on why you should help him. There’s a power regulator you need for your ship. The deserters who abandoned Edgewater has one (but there’s also one in the town). Redirect the power generator to only supply the town and you can go nab it.
He makes a strong case. In this time of need where a plague has strucked, these deserters decided to run away, making life in town even harder. He is calm, but wish you can talk sense to the them into returning back and help the Edgewater get back on its feet.
Now, you can either have a changed view of this Reed character right here, or feel like he’s just bullshitting and spitting out mandated corporate spiel. The writing here gives you enough reasons to view it as one or another.
But the plague is not just a random word drop. Snoop around town and you can find the affects of the plague. The town cemetery is huge and the grave keeper (or “Junior Inhumer”) is already collecting grave fees in advance, which you can go do for him.
From this side quest, you also get to meet Abernathy, who is old and suspected that he might have fallen to a plague, which opens another side quest to retrieve medicine outside of company rations. In this other side quest, you’ll discover that medicine is limited and is distributed on meritocracy, to the point that the mayor’s stance on the plague is for those affected to… go work harder.
This discovery would make a strong case to not support the corporate boot licker.
There is also the story of a recent suicide. Going down that rabbit hole just shows how ridiculous the corporates are treating human life. “Sick leave” and “closest living relative” have a very wild interpretation if you work for Spacer’s Choice.
Outside of town there is one other faction, the mentioned deserters. Led by Adelaide McDevitt, she is utterly unsatisfied with how Edgewater is being run and decided to make a home, with her followers, at the abandoned Botanical Lab. Curiously, these folks are all fine and healthy, and those infected by the plague gets treated and back being fit as a fiddle.
And of course, following the crumbs by asking people about this and you’ll uncover some hard truths that will change your outlook of the corporate Spacer’s Choice. And also the deserters.
While Adelaide seems to come off as the old lady that you probably instinctively be symphatising with, her attitude does no favours. She is very persuasive, saying that you will look like a hero if you divert the power generator to the deserters. And if Parvati tags along with you, she will use the tragedy of her father’s death as a bargaining chip to show how corrupt the suits are. While true, it comes off rude, and you can totally call Adelaide out for doing that. And it makes a good case to not side with her.
Dig more about her past history and you can uncover her true motives for deserting the town, which may or may not change your outlook of the character.
If you pursue this little observation, you will find the big reason why and it leads to some pretty interesting twists. If you feel paralysed by the choice of which side to support there’s plenty of detail you can snoop about to make more reasonable, or rational choices.
In my playthrough, I felt convinced that Adelaide does not deserve that power, and sided with Reed and the corporations. But I can see in a future playthrough where I can have a character choosing the other side, and have that decision justified as well. Siding with Caesar’s Legion in Fallout New Vegas always feels wrong, in my eyes. In The Outer Worlds, it’s not black and white – there’s always a catch or a flaw that you need to live by if you support one faction or the other, and there’s mostly a good reason to side with them.
Spoilers end here
The Outer Worlds definitely delivers the role-playing aspect in an RPG. It lets you feel like you’ve discovering a new path or choice that you should make, even though it’s probably not hard-coded into the game to allow so. It gives players enough information to fill in the gap and roll with whatever choice they make while feeling good (or at least less bad) about it.
The reward of uncovering these small nuggets of side stories is an illusion, but man, what a good trick Obsidian has pulled. The end result is one of the most interesting worlds I have the chance to be immersed in a while.
Edgewater is not just a specific case either. All of the major locales you will visit and for all the major decisions you need to choose, there’s enough details to work with and uncover on your own. The game may lack an open world, but exploring The Outer Worlds is still rewarding in its own way and worth your time. Because the writing is so darn good.
The Outer Worlds is out now on the PS4, PC (Epic Games Store, Microsoft Store) and Xbox One. It is also available on Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass For PC.