I want you to know I had every intention of poisoning the tumor-ridden pigs in The Outer Worlds. I'd snuck into the local meat factory – using a disguise that made me look like a guard – and inched around to the control panel for the feeding system But – curses! – I didn't have the medicine skills needed to mess with the Vitamin A doses. So I had to turn to the RPG player's last resort... slaughtering absolutely everyone in the building to complete my objective.
This is just one of the weird, dystopian, slightly tongue in cheek missions you'll be faced with in Obsidian's The Outer Worlds. Its Fallout roots – the game 's creators have Fallout 2 and Fallout: New Vegas on their resumes – can be felt throughout the design, but the universe feels sharper, wittier, and just a bit weirder.
"The focus of our dystopia is corporate control," says Carrie Patel, senior narrative designer. "And the dark humor is really important. We want the experience to be fun, and we want players to find things they can enjoy and laugh at, and not just be depressed at the state of this world."
Best of the boarst
Back to the mission, the request of local boss lady Catherine Malin. To win her approval I need to take out Clive Lumberg, the boarst king of Monarch. His cystypigs grow bacon flavored tumors, which can then be harvested and sold. It was up to me how I dealt with the problem, but Malin dropped some hints about sabotaging the factory by poisoning the cystypigs, messing with the financial records or breaking the canning machinery. I'm usually a "smash them to meat paste" kind of mercenary, but I was interested to see how else I could play this one out.
We'd been dropped into the game a few hours in, and with cookie-cutter generalist characters, so by the time I get back there in October I might have the skills I need to cruelly assassinate the little oinkers. But even this time around I didn't mind not being able to go all Assas-Swine's Creed on the situation, as The Outer World's shooting is just as fun as its brainier stuff.
This mission is one of the main quests and I'd seen it played out differently by the developers at E3 2019, so I knew the "choose your own adventure" spiel wasn't just talk. Even if you're a psychopath. "If you run around murdering everybody, you won't be entirely lost," promises Patel. "We've got a lot of internal experience with this kind of openness and this style of choice. For stuff that's [part of the] critical path and really key to the story we do provide additional failsafes."
Joining the sprat race
The real joy though, was exploring the world for myself. A simple conversation with Nelson Mayson – a fellow sporting a bowler hat and an ostentatiously lustrous mustache – turned into a quest that had me hunting for vermin-like sprats in a cave and getting wrist deep in feces at a makeshift animal rescue. A chat with one of my two companions meant heading off to find the graves of some of her friends, and preparing to face a giant bug called a mantiqueen. That was just in the town of Fallbrook too, and there's a whole wilderness of lore and quests to explore, and a spaceship – that we were expressly told not to head to – that could take you out into the universe.
The companions were the real surprise of the demo. I had two; badass Nyoka and the more introverted Parvati, and I kind of fell in love with them both. It's the fact they interact with not just you, but the people you chat too along the way, making them feel like more than just another bit of equipment hanging out in your inventory. They're snarky, indignant, and even a little disappointed at times. They're also totally optional.
"I think for a game like this we do have to recognize that some players will choose to play solo," says Patel. "Either they like the achievement or they like that play style, or they're just focused on the pure mechanical challenge. But for everyone else, looking for ways to build them into the world and the player's story, but also give them a life outside the player. They have their own objectives, their own goals, and they also have relationships with each other that you'll see as you run around the world and hear them banter with each other, or hanging out on your ship talking to each other."
I still have a lingering sense of guilt I had to leave the demo before I finished the search for Nyoka's lost friends. The few hours I spent in the game just weren't enough, dammit. Playing a demo of The Outer Worlds is like trying to dance in someone else's shoes. Sure, you're feeling the beat and enjoying the party - but there's no escaping the fact you wouldn't have chosen bright yellow suede loafers a size too small. The last time I felt like that? Playing a demo of Skyrim for the first time. I can't wait to get lost in The Outer Worlds on my own terms, and with my own renegade but ultimately charming and well intentioned firearms expert.
The Outer Worlds will be released on PS4, Xbox One and PC (via the Epic Store) on October 25 and on Nintendo Switch at a later date.