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The Outer Worlds Review – How Far Out There?

James Romero over at SwitchWatchTV finally got his hands on the long-awaited Switch release of The Outer Worlds, and he has reviewed that for all of us to enjoy! This is something Switch owners have been desperate to get their hands on, but is The Outer Worlds on Switch the version we wanted? Or is this better played elsewhere? Check out the video below, or you can read the script here on SwitchWatch.co.uk.

The Outer Worlds is a sci-fi action RPG from the creators of Fallout New Vegas. Set in the Halcyon System 300 years into the future, there is a wonderful story and set of worlds to explore and experience. As Switch owners, we’ve had to wait a long time to get our hands on this one, but was it worth the wait? I’m James Romero here at SwitchWatch. Let’s jump in and find out!

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OVERVIEW & PERFORMANCE

To kick things off, I’m starting with an overview of the purchasing options and the port performance at a high level. Later on I’ll review the game in our normal format covering story, gameplay, audio, and value.

In terms of options, they are very simple. There is a physical release for The Outer Worlds (Yes, this includes a cartridge, but it does require a 6GB day 1 patch that is essential), or you can purchase it on the eShop. Neither option includes Switch exclusive content, and Obsidian are bringing out the first DLC for the game at some point later this year to all platforms.

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When a large game is ported onto the Switch, it’s almost always outsourced. Companies like Panic Button have carved out a niche as specialists in this field while some others typically deliver lower quality work.

Obsidian took the decision to have Virtuous lead the port, a safe pair of hands indeed having handled Dark Souls Remastered, Star Link: Battle for Atlas, XCOM 2, Spyro the Dragon, and more.

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In terms of features, gyro controls have been added to the Switch version of The Outer Worlds, a very welcome addition when playing in handheld mode, and you will be pleased to know that HD rumble is present and can be turned on or off depending on your preferences. The UI was rejigged to work well on a smaller screen, and I have to say it works well. They also exposed some of the sizing options and control sensitivity options to players so you can get it exactly how you like.

In the performance department, they opted for 30fps at 1080p when docked and 30fps at 720p when in handheld, and I’m pleased that mostly it holds. That’s not to say it’s perfect, if you run and look around quickly, you notice a dip with draw distances struggling to render or a slight delay on screen but not enough to make combat less enjoyable. To achieve this stability though, the visuals have take a dramatic dip when compared to other consoles. The developer themselves mentioned it was a challenge to take a current generation game made for 4K PCs to consoles, and even more so to the lower-powered Nintendo console. Nothing new there, but of course we are mostly used to seeing older games being ported over where the difference is a bit less noticeable.

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Here it feels as though every detail level has been turned down to the bare minimum. Textures look quite flat both in the environment and in objects and characters. Of course, if you are after the best looking experience, then the Switch is the wrong console. But nevertheless games, like The Witcher 3 have shown us that the Switch is capable of some lovely-looking visuals which have not been recreated here.

Perhaps sensibly, Virtuous opted for performance first and quality second, though I was hoping for a bit more oomph in the looks department considering the long wait.

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With all of that said, playing this beast of a game in handheld is a joy. The smaller screen makes the lower detail less noticeable, and the controls work superbly on the move.

STORY

Back in 1901, U.S. President William McKinley is not assassinated at the Pan-American Exposition. As a result, Theodore Roosevelt never succeeded him and large business trusts were never broken up. Fast forward to 2285, and a disturbing future lays ahead where mega-corporations control every aspect of life and social class determines your lot. Various star systems have been terraformed, and there’s a gold rush feeling where people are encouraged to strike out and lay claim to a system.

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Equally, justice is questionable in these remote systems with the corporations having so much power and so far away from Earth. 10 of these hyper conglomerates band together forming the board and striking out to the Halcyon System, a small 6 planet system that will take a 10 year cryosleep journey to reach. Two ships are dispatched, the Groundbreaker and the Hope, fast forward 70 years, and the Hope never made it. It’s discovered by a mad scientist, Phinneas Welles, who manages to revive just one crew member – you!

Phinneas tasks you with setting out to gather the necessary resources to wake up the rest of the frozen crew on the Hope, convincing you that the colony will be saved from its tough times by the crew. As far as back stories go, this one is rich and fascinating. Obsidian layered this story into every interaction. There’s historical references everywhere, the land itself shows hints of it’s past, and the style is superb. Everywhere you look there is dark humour on show, from Mad Men-styled retro posters to the quirky tyrannical rules and opportunistic entrepreneurs of the colony.

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For all of that though, the key to this story lays in the present and how the story unfolds during your play through. At every turn you are presented with choices that affect the story going forward, unlike in many grand RPGs, however, Obsidian have implemented this in a way that balances the impact so your choices matter and made choices that are more nuanced than just a simple right and wrong. This rich storytelling along with solid voiceover work and deep back story equates to a fascinating, rich story experience that’s brilliant and enjoyable.

GAMEPLAY

If you’ve played Obsidian’s Fallout New Vegas, then you will see similarities here. The game is an open world action RPG where you have a primary mission that can largely be Parked while you explore areas and get involved in local struggles and conflicts, determining the outcomes through your actions. The game’s first area, the frontier town of Edgewater, feels like a good old fashioned western town. There’s a conflict with deserters who they see as undermining and ruining the good work being done in the local cannery, of course to the deserters they see things very differently! You are here because you have taken a battered spaceship – the unreliable and need a power converter to get it airborne. This overarching personal objective where you need to get involved in a local problem and have tough choices in how to tackle it which then has multiple optional side quests forms the games approach. You can pick a side, try and make peace, profit or – and I don’t recommend this – kill everyone! You pick up a companion here and set off to resolve the problem, killing monsters and making choices along the way.

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Unlike Fallout New Vegas or Bethesda’s open world epics, The Outer Worlds feels more localized. The regions are smaller, and that works well as you find less filler NPCs. There is less random open world exploration, everything is a tighter experience. Yes, there are choices, but its more scripted and purposeful. Generally, you can approach situations either through force, through persuasion whether that’s intimidation or charm, or by being stealthy and sneaking around, and your character development echoes these choices. I love The Outer World and how it does stats and perks system – more on that in a while.

Combat leans closer to a first person shooter than the likes of fallout or mass effect, there is no tactical pausing where you line up skills and hit play – everything takes place in real-time though you do have the ability to slow down time – a quirk of your long cryo-stasis, this is implemented well and gives you a breather but you cannot get by solely using it – the more you move or if you shoot whilst slowing time down the effect wears of very quickly. You have melee, light weapons such as handguns and heavy weapons such as rifles at your disposal, a bit later on you also get sweet energy weapons such as plasma rifles and even the odd quirky science weapon such as a shrink ray.

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The controls are tight, aiming using ZL and firing using ZR fits perfectly and the little details such as pushing in the right stick for a quick melee attack adds to the sense of action. Your companions AI is solid and you can even tweak how they play in the settings to make them more aggressive or supportive, they add an excellent dynamic to battles with their skills which you can use with the d pad that have awesome effects with little cut scenes.

Through the use of mods you can tweak what type of damage your weapons deal with certain types being more effective against for example mechanical enemies or organics, everything is balanced nicely and the battles are enjoyable balancing cover, stealth, damage types and using your companions skills is both natural and enjoyable – the little details are great such as shooting enemies in the leg to cripple them or charging up a weapon for devastating blow, I love that each time you kill the last enemy in an area there is a satisfying little cut scene showing your killing shot and how you need to use your health concoction through a gas mask to heal but need to be careful not get killed whilst doing it.

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See Also

There is plenty of freedom in how to focus your skills and perks, what crew to assemble and indeed whether to try and opt for negotiation or stealth where possible or run in guns blazing.

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Outside of battle, there are items to pick up just about everywhere, many of which you can use to breakdown into items that can help you enhance your gear at work benches. The gear system is second to none – everything has durability and you need to ensure you repair your gear to keep it in top shape, the mods you can use are effective and give you choices in how you want to approach combat. Equally one nice touch is that you can select everything for your companions too and as they level you can pick perks that affect your skills – for example you can allocate a perk point from a companion that enhances your science skill or your persuasion or you could opt to just make them put out 25% more damage.

As mentioned, the areas are smaller and the unreliable can take you from place to place at your leisure, I find this an upside as there is very little dead time in the game – you move between exploring, fighting, chatting to locals without swathes of exploration and there’s even a handy fast travel system as well. That’s not to say the world isn’t deep – everywhere you go there are terminals with story and useful tips or passwords to use to unlock doors for example, but when you do get out in the world and look around at the strange and beautiful alien worlds it’s a joy, equally stumbling on a side quest that unlocks a sweet new satisfying weapon or figuring out a puzzle to find some sweet loot is all great fun. The game manages to balance action and deep RPG complexity – finding its own sweet spot where everything is distilled into a tight experience without dead space.

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AUDIO

The first thing that strikes me about the audio in The Outer Worlds is the superb voice acting, a brilliant and funny script certainly helps but the voice actors have done a fantastic job here. Justin Bell produces the game’s soundtrack, which combines the strange and wonderful orchestral worlds you explore with almost humorous yet dark western style sounds to produce excellent results. The music fits perfectly at home here.

VISUALS

We’ve already talked about the visuals when compared to other platforms and the performance but that doesn’t encompass the whole story, the style of The Outer Worlds is simply fantastic. Combining bleak steampunk machinery with gorgeous alien flora and fauna is a heady mix, everything from how your weapons and helmets look to the amount of detail that has gone into every little plant is mind boggling – even the loading screens are stunning with their propaganda style posters from the mega corporations which each have their own whimsical personality to the beautiful anotomical drawings of the local life. This is a rich and lived in world – a vision for the future that is more Star Wars or Firefly than Star Trek.

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VALUE

The Outer Worlds is a triple A game with a triple A price tag. It will set you back £50 or $60, but it’s a joy from start to finish. As the game is tighter than most of its peers, some might be disappointed that the campaign is probably only about 15 hours, though realistically if you pick up side quests and explore you are looking at closer to 30 hours of great gaming.

  • Story - 8/10
    8/10
  • Gameplay - 8/10
    8/10
  • Audio - 8/10
    8/10
  • Visuals & Performance - 8/10
    8/10
  • Value - 8/10
    8/10

Summary

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There is no doubt that The Outer Worlds is simply one of the best action RPG adventures in years. It takes a lot of inspiration from other titles, stamps its own personality on them, and what we are left with is a rich, deep and tight game that is a joy from start to finish. The addition of gyro controls and excellent UI on the move is very welcome. The visual quality of the port is a bit disappointing, though we should never expect parity with other consoles. I do feel that the visuals have been dumbed down quite a lot. If you already own this one, it’s hard to recommend again. Nevertheless, having this epic adventure on the move is a wonder!

Overall
8/10
8/10

Pros

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  • Story
  • Depth
  • Combat
  • Charming

Cons

  • Length
  • Visuals
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