The First Few Hours: Outer Worlds

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.

>Impressions: Sacred 2

>The Vitals: 8-9 hours, level 16.

I’ve always kinda enjoyed hack-and-slash RPGs; they’re relatively mindless but if the combat is satisfying and the environments are interesting it’s pretty easy to find that a few hours have mysteriously vanished, and dealing with loot is a fun, diverting meta-game in and of itself. For my money, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance is the finest console iteration of the genre – that game kicked an insane amount of ass. I always felt bad that I kept playing these so-called Diablo clones without having played the actual Diablo games – I picked up the Diablo battlechest a few years ago and, well, they haven’t aged well. I mean, you can see why they’re awesome but they’re still pretty dated.

Anyway, I’ve put in a non-inconsiderable amount of time into my first Sacred 2 campaign – 8-9 hours is usually the entirety of most console games – and yet I feel like even though I can give you a pretty good idea of what you’d be in for should you decide to try it, it’s still too early for me to speak to certain elements of the experience. I have absolutely no idea where the story is going, or what it even is, for starters, and I’ve only seen a tiny part of the world map; everything I’ve seen is standard-issue midevil forestry and small towns, with some unexplained and conspicuous steampunk architecture dotting the countryside. I’d love for the environments to be a bit more varied; I’m not ruling that possibility out just yet. I’m reminded a little bit of Titan Quest, actually, in terms of the graphics. Make of that what you will.

Sacred 2 debuted on the PC last year I believe, but you’d never know it – the controls on the Xbox360 are remarkably intuitive and easy to manage. My only real problem with the interface is probably a bug – when looking through loot, there’s a “Compare” button mapped to the LB, but it doesn’t seem to actually perform that task. This isn’t really that big a deal, but I suppose it may turn into one later, when the quality of loot improves.

Combat isn’t quite as responsive as I’d like it to be – it can occaisonally feel like it’s lagging, like playing WoW on a shitty connection. I’ve been doing a lot of sidequests, so generally speaking I’m getting one or two-hit kills, but when I get mobbed and my character isn’t responding to my button presses, it can get frustrating. It’s not a deal-breaker yet, but since games like this pretty much live or die based on how much the player can ignore the repetitiveness of pressing the attack button over and over again, I can see myself getting annoyed after a while.

The biggest problem in the game, by far, is the voice acting – this game very well might feature the worst voice acting I’ve ever encountered. I’m playing as a female Seraphim (which is what the game defaulted to when I first started it), and every time she opens her mouth (which is never necessary in the first place), I want to jump into the game and punch her in the face. This sin could maybe be forgiveable if it was just her, but the townspeople and questgivers are also this same, paradoxical mix of being too wooden and too expressive. It’s so bad that I’m tempted to say you should rent the game just to hear how bad it is. Jesus Christ. Of course, you don’t really need to play this game with the sound on anyway – so if you can’t handle it, you won’t be missing anything.

I guess I’m enjoying it, overall – in this dry season, it’s just nice to be playing something – and I’m certainly going to be keeping it in the tray for the forseeable future. But it’s got problems, and I’m not sure I’ll miss it if something else comes along.