Publisher: Private Division
Developer: Obsidian Entertainment
Release: October 25, 2019
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
We spent a couple days checking out The Outer Worlds earlier this year, but after seeing it again at E3, our anticipation has only increased. The team at Obsidian prepared an impressive demo that highlighted many of the game’s pillars, like entertaining combat and meaningful player choice. Plus, we got to meet a new companion named Nyoka, and she seems to be a fun addition to your crew.
The demo took place on the planet Monarch, which is home to a wildland area that is the largest single zone in the game. The player was joined by two companions: Ellie (who we have met before) and Nyoka. Nyoka is a big game hunter, and while that fact figures into her personal quest, the team at Obsidian isn’t saying too much about her backstory right now. However, we know a few things about her personality. She’s a big fan of alcohol, and she’s tough (and a bit jaded). Having her along should make you feel like someone has your back – especially since her special attack involves a furious hail of fire from an enormous gun. Like other characters you meet, Nyoka may seem a bit distant when she joins the crew, but she can become more attached over time.
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If you’re a big fan of Nyoka or any of the other companions, you might want to consider delving into a leadership build for your character. Obsidian had discussed this option before, but this time we got to see the archetype in action. This development path involves investing in abilities that improve your companions more than they directly impact your own skills. Not only does this make companions more effective in combat through things like health boosts, but it also means that they can lend you additional expertise based on their specialty skills. For instance, Nyoka provides bonuses to stealth and weapon skills, since she is a huntress.
The events of the demo take the hero to a boarst (a hybrid meat) factory with the goal of taking it out. That could mean sabotaging the machinery and killing the “cystypigs” that provide boarst, or taking out the man in charge of operations. You can make this call in the moment; you aren’t bound to keep your promises to anyone about how you will (or won’t) approach a situation. And in addition to making choices about to handle key moments, you also decide what kinds of gameplay tactics to employ. One option to gain entrance to the factory is going through the front door with guns blazing. However, in the demo we saw, a stealthy approach resulted in fewer direct confrontations.
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Despite evading detection most of the time (which is easier since your A.I.-controlled companions won’t tip off enemies when trying to sneak), we still saw some combat. This gave Obsidian a chance to showcase weapon modifications like a gun that shoots electrical bullets, not to mention the tactical time dilation (TTD). Like the V.A.T.S. system in the Fallout series, the TTD effect slows your perception of time and allows you to target specific areas on your foes for certain advantages. For example, if you shoot their legs, their movement is impaired and they may not be able to close the gap before you finish them. If you shoot their arms, they may drop their weapons. The goal behind the TTD system is to provide a more deliberate and strategic layer for players who are less interested in combat strictly as a skill-based shooter – though most players are likely to use a combination rather than stick to one side of that spectrum.
Balancing playstyles and accommodating different choices in a complex RPG is not easy, but from what we’ve seen, The Outer Worlds seems to be sitting at the sweet spot. It doesn’t aim to provide a world that says “you can only do one of these three things: stealth, action, or persuasion.” Instead, you play in a way you think is fun, and then you get to see how the world responds. As the list of companions continues to grow, we look forward to seeing even more personalities who can react to your actions.