CURRENT STATUS: Around 12 hours in. Level 16. Running around on Monarch, all companions unlocked.

As much as I love classic BioWare RPGs, they’ve instilled some gameplay habits that I’ve found hard to shake. From KOTOR to Dragon Age to Mass Effect, I always do the same thing; my first time through, I err on the side of good, always picking the supportive/positive dialogue option, always being a good guy. THEN, 60 hours later, I’ll start a New Game + and pick all the bad guy options. I didn’t necessarily feel the urgency of my choices; I only wanted to achieve maximum virtue.

The Outer Worlds has, thankfully, broken me out of this loop, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

To begin with, the world you find yourself stumbling into is essentially a sci-fi capitalist dystopian nightmare; and like the good socialist I am, I try to help people break free from their corporate shackles. And sometimes those people don’t want to be free. They don’t know how to live independently. In short, doing the “right” thing isn’t always doing the “best” thing. Which means that you have a bit more emotional investment in the choices you end up making, because there is no clear “Paragon” path to follow. You do what you think feels right, and then you react to the repercussions.

Freedom of choice is, in essence, what the game is about. And even when I leave the main narrative aside, I’m still very much playing it in my own style. I’ve talked a lot here about trying to move away from playing violent shooters, and as such I’m opting out of combat when possible, just because I’d rather explore my way through something than kill everything. And the game respects this choice, and rewards you just as easily; you can gain plenty of XP from lockpicking and hacking and dialogue options, not just headshots. (This is helpful also because the combat is not quite as satisfying as other, similar shooters.)

That said, my crew and I are fully prepared to wreck shit when necessary. I do try to stay off the main roads whenever possible and sneak around and explore, but if I accidentally catch an enemy’s attention, well, that sucks for them. My companions and I are well-prepared to end threats.

I don’t really know how far into the story I am, and I’m not feeling particularly inclined towards picking up a walkthrough and finding out. For the first time in a long time, I’m allowing myself to truly role-play. (It is for this reason specifically that I wish there was a third-person view, because I’d love to see my character in this world.)

All things considered, The Outer Worlds was the last “big” game on my personal radar for the year. (Everything else either got pushed back to 2020, or is Death Stranding, which I remain extremely skeptical about; I’m sure there might be one or two more indie gems that pop up, too, though I don’t yet know what they are.) It’s certainly one of the best.

And on that note, I’m gonna start putting together my 2019 lists… and then I guess I also have to start putting together my decade lists. Hoo-boy.

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