Okay, so I’m in love with Outer Worlds.
The obtuse, weird storytelling, decision-making dichotomies and Firefly inspired world are my jam. It makes me nostalgic for New Vegas in the best way.
The gameplay loop for Outer Worlds is a mix between New Vegas and, weirdly, Red Dead Redemption 2. If you’ve played a western RPG this side of Fallout 3, you know what I’m talking about.
You meet a weird, quirky character.
You eventually come to an agreement that you’ll go do a thing for them (recover X, kill Y, save Z).
On the way, you shoot a bunch of stuff, then, you’ll step into a ruined house and scavenge whatever the inhabitants have left behind.
Guns, ammunition, packet noodles, poisonous monster meat… uh… and a surprising amount of cigarettes.
For a game that wants you to be a Han Solo-esque space pirate change-maker, Outer Worlds made me feel like Arthur Morgan a little too often — Han Solo does not kick in the door to a shack and rummage through cupboards for space change.
Arthur Morgan, conversely, picks through every drawer in the house hoping to find a bundle of cash or a bottle of whiskey because he’s desperate.
Han Solo flies a cool ship and goes to exotic places, he does not rummage.
To be clear, Outer Worlds does make you the captain of a space pirate ship as per Firefly and you do go to a ton of cool, weird, dangerous locals.
But the bit in-between is what I struggled with.
The combat didn’t do it for me.
The guns themselves just didn’t grab me.
I spent the first 15 hours shrugging each time I killed a pack of marauders.
Part of the issue is that Obsidian hasn’t really evolved their gun play since New Vegas, and even then, a lot of the weapons in New Vegas felt like cumbersome mallets that flung bullets in the general direction of baddies rather than deadly firearms.
My initial jaunt through the Halcyon system didn’t change my mind about this.
The first ten hours of the game offered some decent pistols, rifles and plasma rifles, but again, all a bit nothing to use.
The plasma weapons, in particular, make a very satisfying KA-KOW when you pull the trigger, and when charged, they buck, hard. You can craft and tailor plasma weapons but they always feel just a little bit like you have too much control. They do damage, yes, but I never felt on the edge of control in the way really good gunplay does.
As a result of this, I glided through a lot of combat encounters, intent on reaching the next conversation — I didn’t really engage with the equipment too much because the guns didn’t draw my attention.
I just kind of cruised by, filling people full of assault rifle rounds.
Until, crawling through the toxic wasteland of Monarch, I downed a group of marauders laying it ambush for me.
I spotted the trap a mile out, and picked them off — the battle was long, difficult, and not overly fun.
But they were dead, I was alive, so I started hoovering up their loot.
I snagged two guns I’d never seen before.
A deadly assault rifle with a scope, and the Vermin.
The first I noticed about the Vermin was the ammunition type.
It did not fire small ammo like the light pistol.
The Vermin, in fact, uses heavy ammunition as per the description:
The most powerful pistol on the colonies — the heavy ammo it uses inflicts extreme damage but has a lot of kick.
I equipped the gun, marvelling at the hugeness of it, and wandered further into the marauder camp.
A bad guy sprung out at me, sword in hand, and I pulled the trigger.
A round exploded from the chamber. The gun kicked in my hand, threatening to tear itself free from my grip. The bullet ripped through the marauders head and pinwheeled his body over the create he’d been hiding behind.
I stared at the controller in awe.
The next thirty minutes I got into as many fights as the game would allow, unleashing hell from the giant revolver, revelling in all the glory of tactile CRACK of the firing mechanism, and the sickening spatter of marauders disintegrating as I put holes into them at close range.
Then I found a workbench and poured as much money as I could into raising the gun’s level, so it did even more damage.
I found a series of cool attachments, changing the ammo type to plasma and adding a barrel that makes critical hits do even more damage.
What I have now is a huge revolver that, with my character build, is designed for headshots.
My interest piqued, and I continued investigating equipment: I tinkered my armour, swapped out and messed around with the modification slots, and found myself on the lookout for modifications that might max out my ability to sneak up right behind baddies, and blow their brains out with my extremely very big handgun.
The Vermin has the special ability of knockout, which, when the dice-roll aligns, knocks over enemies that are hit in the head.
Few things give me greater satisfaction than sneaking up to a named bad-guy, shooting them in the back of the skull, and, standing over their prone, twitching body, filling them with shotgun slug.
Through something as simple as one weapon, I connected with a whole gameplay loop.
The combat is still very 2013, but I kind of don’t mind it now.
In the same way laser weapons in New Vegas engaged me, The Vermin grabbed me by the loins and said here, go be a space cowboy Han Solo Arhtur Morgan type.