The moment that The Outer Worlds was announced, I was hooked. A sci-fi RPG where you explore different planets and space stations and run into cooky characters that may or may not try to get you to try some corporate fish in a can? It seems to combine No Man’s Sky with the Fallout series and part of that is definitely purposeful because some of the minds that have worked on the original Fallouts and New Vegas are behind The Outer Worlds.
And that is very much apparent in how the game plays, and that’s great. I am a huge fan of the Fallout series and I have been looking for something to scratch that itch for some time now. Thankfully Obsidian Entertainment has me covered. The only caveat is, I saw there was a big sale on the Nintendo E-Shop so I wanted to see how the game would run on my Switch. The answer is: it does its best.
A Rude Awakening
You play as the “stranger” who was part of a group of colonists from Earth that had been frozen for the trip. The problem is that no one can really unthaw the denizens without them turning into a giant pile of goop. One man, Phinneas Wells, fights to rescue the group, and after several failed attempts to create a serum that will allow him to keep the frozen people alive after thawing, he finally manages to create enough to unthaw one person.
The problem is that the colonial government of Halcyon doesn’t like this. They put a stop to the experiments and Wells barges into the chamber where the frozen people lie, abducts one, and unthaws him. That one freshly frozen individual is you and now it’s up to you to decide what happens from here on out.
Wells sends you to Edgewater on Terra 2, a small town run by a corporate conglomerate called Spacer’s Choice. By the time you reach the town for the first time, you have already spoken to a few people who have begun to shape your view of the world but it isn’t until you meet Silas that you realize how twisted these colones truly are.
Silas is a Gravedigger for Edgewater which means he caters the dead and ensures they are properly disposed of. He also collects gravesite fees which everyone must pay for themselves and for people who are close to them that have suddenly passed. That includes coworkers.
In my first playthrough, I was already sick of everything that Edgewater stood for before I even passed its gates. Once I was inside, that perception didn’t improve, which is great. Too often, I feel like the first town or two are the most likable spaces and are a home away from home. The Outer Worlds manages to make quite a few towns feel like hollow work huts in the best possible way because you can try to change that.
Choice is Your Greatest Strength and Your Greatest Enemy
The greatest strength of The Outer Worlds is its ability to make all your decisions cascade and reflect your run. Whether it’s simply talking to NPCs or how you decide to assign your skill points, you will be making decisions that will have ramifications down the line. In this way, it feels a lot more like Fallout than newer Fallouts tend to.
For instance, I did a few odd jobs in Edgewater for a little bit, but eventually, there came a time where I wanted to leave the planet and explore other places. To do this, I had to go to a deserter colony across the way and remove their energy source to use to power my own ship. I didn’t like that idea since those people seemed to be a lot more in line with how I felt about Spacer’s Choice.
I went to the tiny village with every intention of taking their power away and was talked out of it. Why was I going to hurt these people when I could remove the source of the disgusting toxic settlement of Edgewater? I turned right around and took Edgewater’s power supply instead and flew away in my ship to another adventure. When I returned, I had hoped that the town would be deserted, but everyone was there, and everyone was very angry.
I was chased out of town, and I realized that any quests that were in Edgewater were completely off-limits to me now. I told myself to be more careful moving forward, but apparently, I had a knack for annoying the corporate settlements. I angered two more towns in my playthrough, which both annoyed and relieved me.
I had this power over the world, and I could make it more in line with what I wanted. I feel that Fallout can be a little too forgiving when it comes to settlement and individual allegiances. I like that the Outer Worlds makes these spaces feel a little more reactive to your decisions.
However, every time I angered a town, my potential quest prospects were diminished. By the end of the game, I was struggling to find quests to boost my experience the last few levels it needed to be at its limit.
The skill tree is fairly simple compared to other RPGs, but its simplicity allows for more varied repeat playthroughs of the game. In my first playthrough, I tried to create a character that was modest in skills to start and build from there. I thought I would learn what skills would best match and teach my character to adapt as he went along. The problem was all of the skills are viable at parts of the game, so I ended up being a jack of all trades and a master of none because you can’t get to the max rank of every skill in one run.
That was fine, but I saw there were plenty of missed opportunities for more interesting or even easier encounters with faction leaders. In my second playthrough, I decided that I wanted to be a mercenary leader, so I made myself average across the board except for my dialogue and intelligence. I aligned with the corporate towns and did anything for a quick buck. I’m about halfway through again, and I still see so much potential for new runs.
If you are someone who likes to see everything that a game has to offer, The Outer Worlds will have plenty to show you if you are willing to replay it for its many permutations.
The Tiny Worlds of Outer Worlds
One of the biggest draws to The Outer Worlds is its planet skipping mechanic, where you get in your ship “The Unreliable” and skip across the galaxy exploring other planets. A jump can be done from the comfort of your main terminal, and you can see the station, planet, or ship that you will be embarking to out the window. It may be a small detail, but I really appreciated that the scenery actually changed because it kept me immersed in The Outer Worlds.
That being said, the locations can be a mixed bag. The space stations are generally just one location, the Ground Breaker being the exception to the rule. The planets can be decently sized but often lack much personality and places to explore.
It might partially be the Switch port’s sacrifices to the overall game, but the lack of caves and other unmarked locations to venture into did hamper some of my enjoyment of the game overall. It meant that I had to rely on finding quests to enjoy my time, and as I said earlier, I kind of messed up and made a lot of board members dislike me during my first playthrough.
Byzantium, the capital of the colony, is like District 1 from The Hunger Games, where everyone there is living in the lap of luxury without having to lift a finger for themselves. They get to piggyback off the backs of the corporate towns like Edgewater. So in a way, Byzantium is the worst of the worst. When you travel there for the first time, it can feel like you are stepping into a different universe because of how many resources have been allocated to their lifestyle.
The towns themselves are enjoyable and filled to the brim with interesting characters, but I just wish that there was more of a reason to leave their walls for uncharted territories. I feel like this is the biggest area that The Outer Worlds can improve upon for its sequel because if they do manage to make these worlds feel as interesting to explore as something from a Fallout game, The Outer Worlds 2 might just be one of the best first-person RPGs.
The Switch Does Its Best
The Switch can play The Outer Worlds, but there were definitely sacrifices. The textures look like they were smeared onto surfaces, and characters often look like they are about to fuze with their surroundings. The first few hours of playing, I was actually really uncomfortable playing because it hurt to try to focus on the alien-looking worlds.
They were so hard to make out, and it felt like my character needed glasses. Eventually, I became accustomed to the Switch version’s look, and the game started to become more enjoyable. I have avoided looking at anything online about The Outer Worlds now because I don’t want to be reminded how much worse the Switch version looks and mess up my eyes again.
There were also moments where the Switch would stop everything to load a section of the world. Often, I could expect this to happen when there was a firefight about to happen, which unfortunately meant that I rarely could ever sneak up on a group of marauders because they would spawn in right next to me. Usually, I ended up sprinting into the middle of a town to let the enemies spawn in and then running to a nearby bar or to a hill outside of town so I could stand a chance.
This is also the first first-person shooter that I played on the Switch, and I have realized that the joy-cons are difficult to use in this setting. Maybe I’m just too used to the level of control from normal-sized control sticks, but I felt like I had no control with the joy-cons. My cross air would simply not go where I wanted it to g. So while my character looked up at a building’s ornate architecture, a marauder was kicking my teeth in.
Luckily, I have a spare wired controller to use for just this purpose which helped a lot. I wouldn’t recommend playing this game portably for that reason. Plus, your Switch will sound like The Unreliable about to take off whenever you play in portable with the Outer Worlds. I stuck to the dock version for 99 percent of my playtime.
While the Switch has its downsides, there is a lot to love about this port. If you are looking for a replayable RPG, you could go worse than playing The Outer Worlds on the Switch. It’s better than playing Skyrim for the thousandth time anyway.