Take my love, take my land, take me where I cannot stand.
Burn the sky and drown the sea, you can’t take The Outer Worlds from me.
When Obsidian’s The Outer Worlds released last year, I powered through it in three days. Literally; I barely slept. It spoke to me on a visceral level, deep in my soul, which is of course why I forgot to publish an actual review.
Well, past Brian, for once present Brian is gonna look after you, you lazy, lazy man.
If you haven’t played The Outer Worlds, well, now’s your chance. Best described as a soap opera in space (but NOT, oddly enough, a space opera), this RPG is full of pining and desperate intrigue across a failing capitalist empire.
Unlike Bioshock, where that failure is the point of the setting, or Fallout, which examines dystopia through the lens of ‘meh, but ooh power armour’, the stagnating society of The Outer Worlds instead serves as a backdrop for stories deeply rooted in classism, greed and, sometimes, love.
I mean come on, one side quest features a toothpaste that can be used as a beauty tool for the wealthy, or an opiate for the starving masses.
What it really is, though, is a reminder that exploitation will follow us into space. Because have you looked outside lately?
Read my lips
The facial animations are stellar, which would surprise people unfamiliar with Obsidian’s work outside of Fallout New Vegas (obligatory plug for that one). Graphics weren’t a huge strain on the PS4 Pro’s tech, and the Switch handles things pretty alright as well. What this means is that the faces actually manage to look like real people talking to you, instead of floating head monstrosities you may have expected.
There were a few bugs, but oddly not with graphics. A couple of times, when I approached the veeeeery edge of an area, the sound would selectively drop out. This could mean that I heard my companion’s footsteps, but not my own gun. This happened on the PS4 Pro last year, so of course I went straight for the same exact spot to check it out. Yup, still there. I guess no one got my bug report.
While jarring, however, it’s not even close to gamebreaking; it’d take a lot more than that to ruin this thing for me.
Companions to kill for
From a runaway doctor after my own disastrously bisexual heart, to a homoromantic asexual mechanic, I will protect them not only with my own life, but with the lives of everyone around me. OK, they’re not all so endearing. Felix is just boring, and SAM the robot is just kinda there. But the women are all legendary, and I want to hang out with them outside of work. Maybe do some karaoke, I dunno, they’re just cool.
Once, the aforementioned no-touch lesbian (who I would slaughter worlds to protect) asked me very nicely not to slaughter her entire community. So I didn’t. Instead, I killed the entire military. Like, their whole command structure. And a couple of shifty looking dudes. Maybe they were just hanging around at the time, I dunno. I was in a serious thing.
Hey, I said I’d kill worlds for her. I’m just that kind of friend.
Spread across a planet, a couple of space stations, and a heap of moons, the Outer Worlds is just right. Bigger doesn’t always mean better, and the content packed into a relatively small area is just more reason to love it.
Packed with secrets and quirky easter eggs, I was still discovering new stuff 40 hours in. Did you expect the hunter with a minigun to suddenly quote Futurama? Me neither, but it made my day. The Outer Worlds is an adoring homage to the height of space opera, as well as classic and contemporary SF.
Rinse and Repeat
A second or even third playthrough doesn’t make the homages to well-loved franchises any less entertaining. Actually, having already played the main quest and companion stories gave me the freedom to follow minor NPCs around and listen to their lives. This is an experience that I have a lot more frequently on the Switch, which almost insists that I slow down and experience the world around me. This makes a change from blasting across the alkali flats, as I usually do on other platforms.
In the process I also learned a lot more about Tossball, the space sport, which bears an uncanny relation to a bastard child of hurling, lacrosse, and Death Race 2000. Does this imply that angry Irish-Americans college students colonised space? Yes. Yes it does. And I have the collection of player cards to prove it.
But Does It Port?
When a game is released onto a new console after release, particularly a smaller one like the Switch, there are bound to be gameplay changes. The Outer Worlds makes one of the most fundamentally baffling changes I’ve ever experienced.
There are four available button layouts, each more batshit insane than the last. Who, in the name of all that’s holy, decided to make the B button the crouch button? Seriously, I want their name. They need a strong talking to about intuitive control schemes because, my dear friend, this is absolutely not it.
In fairness, I can understand the logic of this. As a handheld console, and a Nintendo one at that, the B button sounds like a good call. But there was nothing, I repeat NOTHING, wrong with the original console control scheme. Probably would’ve paid to think less about what makes it feel Nintendoy, and more about what feels natural in the hand.
Bottom button for crouching instead of jumping, GETOUDDAHERE.
Better Docked Than Not
Aside from that requiring a serious brain rewiring on my part, the rest of the port was about as good as can be expected. The smaller screen and less immersive sound options meant that instead of losing hours to the game, I was playing a mission or two at a time. Is this my own fault for preferring Bluetooth headsets? It’s hard to say. If this were my first time playing the game, it probably wouldn’t bother me so much. But it’s my third, and little details like this are what makes or breaks a port for me.
I lose hours of my life to the Switch, but the games that really suck me in tend to have simpler graphics with clean lines and bright colours, which makes more sense on the itty bitty screen. In this case, The Outer Worlds is so goddamn so beautiful on PS4 that the Switch version looks muddy by comparison, rather than stylistic.
And what is this, a UI for ants? The Outer Worlds is a text-heavy game, and even with my own pretty good vision, this was EFFORT to read. The text-enlargement doesn’t get all the menus as well, especially in those parts where the game really wants to get everything on a single screen.
I’m talking about the controls menu again. Because of course I am.
Docked? This wasn’t really a problem. But when the selling point of a port is portability, and for those with Switch Lites, the Undockables, it’s not spectacular.
Which is a shame, because the rest of the game really, really is.
A World of its Own
Nothing in the last four years has come as close to what I think an RPG should be as The Outer Worlds.
The Outer Worlds is as close to perfect as makes no odds, and you should definitely pick up this out-of-this-world masterpiece. Whether that experience is on Switch is a hard maybe.
Compared to the same game on hardier platforms, The Outer Worlds on Switch may not be the best choice. But, it’s Spacer’s Choice!