Rating: RAY GUN
It's a blast. This is a pun.
What is this? »
Fallout is one of my favourite games series and — despite the fact that my enthusiasm has waned with recent releases — their mix of nuclear paranoia (is it still paranoia if the bombs have already dropped) and ludicrously optimistic 1950s futurism remains a brilliant seed for their game worlds. Setting a role-playing game within that universe and dropping the player's character into the middle of it proved to be a winning formula as Obsidian found with their much lauded entry "Fallout: New Vegas." Drawing from that experience, Obsidian clearly threw the Fallout concept into a blender along with a swathe of other sci-fi influences to come up with their space sci-fi RPG: "The Outer Worlds."
Fallout's '50s optimism is twisted delightfully in The Outer Worlds, which takes that familiar retro futurism thread and pulls at it until it unravels into a disturbingly chirpy dystopia. The universe of The Outer Worlds takes the warring corporate future envisioned in cyberpunk, and wraps it in the aesthetics and PR of the tobacco industry and Avon.
It pulls inspiration from pulp fiction of the same era, and everything carries the DNA of Flash Gordon or Dan Dare. That retro imagery is, however, cut with the storytelling and characters you'd expect from more modern sci-fi shows like Star Trek and Firefly. It results in a stylised and retro game world that never feels like it's bogged down by any of the politics and baggage of the era, instead it feels progressive with a diverse cast of characters struggling against the oppression these corporations seek to exert.
And they're a great bunch of characters. I mentioned that the game draws on influences like Firefly and nowhere is that more apparent than in the motley crew you recruit during the game. They range from an adorable engineer; to a brilliantly competent and collected hunter; a holy man with anger issues, and a derpy, but loyal, rebel. They're an incredibly likeable bunch, and their personal stories play out in a way that complements the main story arc and brings a real sense of camaraderie to proceedings.
For me, The Outer Worlds takes the things I loved about Fallout and Mass Effect and puts a spin on them that feels fresh, but also comfortingly familiar. Gameplay-wise it doesn't really break any new ground, but spending time in the universe with the people that populate it is unrelentingly enjoyable. It's touching and funny and encapsulates a good versus evil battle in which the good really aren't that good, and the evil are utterly banal. It oddly feels even more relevant at the moment in the midst of disease and Brexit.
The Outer Worlds is a wonderful piece of escapism for these troubled times, and it's well worth the hours you spend on it.