With Cyberpunk 2077 and Keanu frickin' Reeves hogging the E3 dystopian spotlight, it's easy to forget there's another futuristic RPG on the way. One look at its strange galaxy of cystypigs and misfits though, and it'll be seared on your memory. Yes, The Outer Worlds offers a strange, dumpster fire of a future too, but this one has all the dark humor you'd expect from the creators behind some of the finest RPGs this industry has ever seen. We spoke to Megan Starks, a senior narrative designer at Obsidian Entertainment, about the challenges in creating a messed up future when – let's face it – 2019 is a little bit messy too.
Escapism in entertainment
"One of the things I love most about Obsidian games – and what I’m always trying to provide when I create content for them – is an added experience of escapism in the entertainment," she explains.
"When life gets stressful or tiring, the books, movies, and games I most want to spend time relaxing with always provide me a way to live vicariously through another character, in a world that’s fantastically different from mine, and in a role that makes me feel powerful and allows me to overcome any obstacles thrown at me, hopefully in really cool and satisfying ways."
As you can read all about in our The Outer Worlds preview from E3 2019, you'll need a weird mix of skills for the strange galaxy too, a jumble of alien planets terraformed (sometimes badly) by giant corporations and overseen by a force called the Board.
"The setting of The Outer Worlds might be a bit on the darker side, but the player character isn’t trapped in the oppressive system enforced by the Board in the same way that the game’s other characters are. The player is coming from outside of the colony and so is able to affect change and choose who they want to side with – if anyone at all."
That certainly applies to The Outer Worlds. It's one of those RPGs that really seems to deliver on the promise that you can play your way. Depending on the skills you level up, you can approach missions in different ways – intimidate a robot, break into a sewer system, or blast your way through the front doors. You can even choose who you hang out with, collecting companions with your own special skills.
Play it your way
"I think with every game we’re trying to provide more choices and support more combinations of play styles – we want you to play the way you want to play," says Starks, who is keen to note that Obsidian spends a hell of a lot of time working to ensure that players can follow their every whim in the pursuit of finding a place in the world that the studio has created.
"Whether that's in how you move through content; using stealth, combat, dialogue, and/or skill specialisations, to how you do or don't engage with the combat," Starks continues, "which factions you support and what your companions, should you recruit them, think of you and your choices, to how you choose to interact with other characters and resolve quests... we're always striving to provide something satisfying for everyone."
The Outer Worlds release date has been confirmed and it means you're going to have a difficult decision to make this October.
Of course, the question now is how reactive will The Outer Worlds actually be? Everything we've seen so far of the game and have heard coming from Obsidian would suggest that the studio is on track to deliver an experience that will meet its ambitions. Obsidian is only too aware that giving players choice is one thing, but making it feel as if that choice has consequence is another thing entirely. "One thing we’ve also put a focus on in The Outer Worlds is not just the availability of choices but the importance and weight of them as well. You’re playing the game, you should feel like your decisions really matter."
My personal favorite element? The grotesque cystypigs we saw at E3. They grow bacon flavored tumors that drop off, ready for eating. Stark explains they came from game co-director "Tim Cain’s strange and wonderful mind".
"It was one of the earliest concepts when creating The Outer Worlds’ lore, and definitely made me want to work on the game."
The Outer Worlds release date is set for October 25, 2019, when it launches on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.