The Outer Worlds: Critical Consensus
Obsidian Entertainment's return to the action-RPG genre may be wobbly in places, but shines with the studio's signature style
The Outer Worlds, not to be confused with indie darling Outer Wilds, has been one of the most eagerly anticipated releases of the year. From Obsidian Entertainment, and the creative minds behind the original Fallout games, it's the hearty dose of RPG many fans of the genre have been waiting for.
Overall, the critical reception has been a positive one, though the planet-hopping sci-fi romp is unable to escape comparisons to the Fallout franchise. That's hardly surprising of course, given that its sacred lineage was pressed so heavily in the promo trailers.
Being closely tied to such a beloved franchise doesn't appear to have done the game much harm either, as critics looking for "Fallout in space" -- a very popular demand it would seem -- are more than satisfied by what The Outer Worlds has to offer.
"A delightful sci-fi romp with razor-sharp writing, lashings of humour and immaculately observed characters that put most game franchises to shame"Steve Boxer, The Guardian
In his glowing five star review for The Guardian, Steve Boxer describes it as "a delightful sci-fi romp with razor-sharp writing, lashings of humour and immaculately observed characters that put most game franchises to shame."
Leaning into a similar 1950s aesthetic as its RPG ancestor, Boxer writes that The Outer Worlds manages to avoid being derivative, and instead feels "cosy, inviting, and, despite its stylized air, curiously plausible."
Set in the Halcyon system, where a shadowy cabal of executives are casually burning society to the ground, The Outer Worlds sees the player character attempting to redress the balance of things (or sell out for some sweet corporate kickbacks) with the help of a few plucky companions and some laser cannons.
It's a thematically rich game, though critics veer back-and-forth a little on how well its really explores its own subject material. In her thoughtful and well-measured review for Kotaku, Gita Jackson writes that the game's examination of class conflict and corporate greed "will challenge you to make hard choices in your quest to find a better way of life."
"The Outer Worlds is so impactful that it made me question and ultimately settle more thoughtfully into my beliefs," she writes. "My game ended with what felt like a utopian, worker-led vision for Halcyon, and the game gives you the room to enact whatever your personal vision may be. It pushed me without feeling preachy and gave me some fun shootouts between the politicking."
The Outer Worlds' satire and moral choices don't always land though, with some critics finding a lack of depth in these areas. In his lukewarm review for Eurogamer, Edwin Evans-Thirlwell writes that the satire is "more often cute than cutting."
"The game tries sporadically to explore the question of a corporate-run dystopia in earnest, typically by asking you to weigh the mutually exclusive claims of two factions, capitalist and anti-capitalist," he writes. "But much of the time, the portrayal is too reliant on clichés sucked dry by Fallout and Bioshock."
Over at USgamer, Mike Williams four star review has plenty of praise for The Outer Worlds, including the surprisingly good facial animations and general lack of bugs, but he writes that the game feels a little thin or underdeveloped in some areas.
"Sometimes, it can feel like each region is a beautiful movie set surrounding just a few quests," he writes, suggesting that there are fewer interesting narrative opportunities in favour of "straightforward combat."
"[The] tonal confusion that makes it tough to stay invested in the story and characters"Dustin Bailey. PCGamesN
The gunplay was broadly well-received though, with the caveat that it's basically Fallout 4 with a little more polish, complete with its own time freezing mechanic similar to the iconic VATS.
In his 79/100 review for PC Gamer, Tom Senior writes that combat isn't challenging, but the "Jetsons-style sci fi weapons are fun to use and battles are frequently hilarious."
"Enemies explode into chunks with enthusiasm, often while screaming overwrought barks," he continues. "It's entertaining even when it goes wrong. I blew a man's head clean off and he fell over screaming 'aaaaargh my eyes, I can't see!'"
Where The Outer Worlds continues to attract praise is its aesthetic and world. The colourful universe and pulpy, B-Movie vibes struck a chord with most critics, who hearkened back to those Halcyon days (pun intended) of Red Dwarf, Firefly, and Farscape.
In his 8.5 review for IGN, Dan Stapleton takes similar joy from the stitching together of Bethesda and BioWare RPG sensibilities.
"It's not as explorable as one big open world but it still packs in a large portion of flexible quests and conflicts within its series of smaller ones," he writes. "And the combat, character, and companion systems have enough new spins on existing ideas to make it feel like an homage with its own personality rather than a copy."
Dustin Bailey over at PCGamesN is a little less generous in his 7/10 review, suggesting the game struggles to find a healthy balance between weighty moral choice and whimsical satire. While the payoffs are "usually fantastic," there is a "tonal confusion that makes it tough to stay invested in the story and characters."
Ultimately though, The Outer Worlds appears to be a plucky space romp with plenty of charm and gruesome head-exploding violence. By all accounts, it's remarkably less buggy than we've come to expect from Obsidian, and still achieves the trademark grim humour and rich narrative for which the studio is renowned.