The Outer Worlds: We Should Do More Of This

By Bob Case Posted Saturday Nov 2, 2019

Filed under: Video Games 170 comments

We interrupt our Baldur’s Gate series coverage to bring you an update on a newer shiny object.


Link (YouTube)

(The above video is by Skill Up, one of Youtube’s better reviewers in my opinion)

The below isn’t really a review. If you want to read a review, there a hundred out there. Long story short: it’s good. Some are talking GOTY contender, though that’s the sort of thing people start talking about in October so we’ll see.

Instead, it’s more like a barely-organized complaining vehicle. Obsidian’s Fallout-in-SpaceYes, that description is an oversimplification, but it’s a useful one. game The Outer Worlds has been out for a little over a week now, and its existence is frustrating to me.

Not because it’s a bad game – in fact, it’s quite good, maybe even very good. My only question is, why weren’t we doing this the whole time? What I mean is that between Fallout: New Vegas and this, Obsidian has demonstrated – to my satisfaction at least – that they’re better at making Bethesda games than Bethesda is. It’s been nine years since New Vegas came out, and The Outer Worlds had (apparently) a three-year development cycle, so in a better world we could’ve had three of these by now.

Instead, Bethesda became the 800 pound gorilla of the genre, and Obsidian became the studio that handles sequels, spinoffs, and localizing Russian MMOs. This is a pretty damning indictment of the industry’s ability to allocate financial resources effectively. Of course, there are reasons. Obsidian’s bottom line always smells vaguely of flop sweat, while Todd Howard is an E3 presentation made incarnate in human fleshSay what you want about the guy, but if I had to choose one person to sell my game it would probably be him.. It’s not hard to see why Bethesda is a AAA powerhouse while Obsidian is one of those developers that checks its checking account before it orders a frappaccino. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.

The fact that the writers took the time to let me bicker about my own code name really means something to me.
The fact that the writers took the time to let me bicker about my own code name really means something to me.

I’m also frustrated because I should have called it sooner. For years I’ve had an informal template for single-player RPG success simmering away in my head. I should have committed it to writing earlier, so I could say “I told you so” now, but better late than never. There are three main steps:

  1. Establish the tone of the game early: Every good RPG I’ve ever played had an idea of what its tone was going to be. In this case, it comes from the directors, Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky, whose pedigrees go back to the original Fallout. (Though in its style of humor and overall vibe of hammy cynicism, The Outer Worlds calls Fallout 2 to mind more than the original game.) In in end it ends up being (perhaps) an overly safe and familiar choice, but when launching a new IP keeping it simple is wise.
  2. Don’t let the length get out of hand: Obsidian’s old signature was biting off more than they could chew – making games that just weren’t finished. The Outer Worlds is also unfinished, but it’s unfinished in a skillful way. There are several planets on the travel screen you just plain can’t visit. In one town in the final third of the game, fully half of the shops and things were closed in a way that made it seem like they ran out of development time. It’s noticeable, but it doesn’t effect the flow of the game much. They brought this one in for a smoother landing than previous titles. And a tight forty-hour game is, in my opinion, better than a sloppy 80-hour sprawler.
  3. Use a popular engine that everyone knows: I personally don’t think it’s a coincidence that RPGs are often instantly recognizable by their engines. There was the Infinity Engine era, then Bethesda used Gamebryo (Gamebryo gets a lot of flack, and not without reason, but the fact that Bethesda’s team probably knows its tools like the backs of their hands is an asset). Obsidian used Unity for the Pillars of Eternity series (which I personally very much liked), and now they’ve used Unreal for The Outer Worlds. RPGs have a lot of content, a lot of difficult scripting, and a lot of player freedom. With all that complicating things, you don’t want your engine complicating them further. Just pick one that’s well-supported, well-documented, and whose tools can be learned relatively quickly. Leave developing in-house engines to companies that are more specialized to the task. (Looking at you, EA and Frostbite)

On the off chance that I’m roughly as smart as I think I am, this means that a Bethesda-style AAA powerhouse is not really the ideal RPG developer at all. Back when the game was first announced, Jason Schreier at Kotaku described its publisher Private Division as a “AA” (as opposed to “AAA”) outfit. You don’t often hear of “AA” publishers – instead, everything between “AAA” and “indie” seems to be a giant grey area. But maybe we should. There’s unmet demand in the mid-market.

The ending credits list the surviving and departed characters of the dev cycle's tabletop campaigns. More developers should encourage this sort of thing on their teams - it's good practice.
The ending credits list the surviving and departed characters of the dev cycle's tabletop campaigns. More developers should encourage this sort of thing on their teams - it's good practice.

The combination of all the above makes The Outer Worlds one of the most meta games ever made. This is the part of the piece where I’ll start to get into story spoilers, but I’ll keep them vague and only about the game’s first area.

In The Outer Worlds, the villains are (largely – there are some exceptions) corporate fat cats. Their weakness is not only callousness but ineptitude. The first town has a problem with the plague – before long, you learn that this “plague” is probably just the flu, and it’s probably caused by the fact that the local suits are feeding the colonists a terrible diet made up primarily of artificially processed fish-like substance. Not only is this bad for their health, it’s degrading their industrial machinery, despite numerous attempts by the local engineer to point the problem out.

That pattern persists. Several times, when you finally corner the latest questline’s corporate stooge and prepare to deliver some righteous comeuppance, the game deflates your victory by revealing their real motivation: not malice but a combination of stress, a desperate situation, and run-of-the-mill human incompetence. Sometimes, it feels like a lack of nerve – like they wanted to make a full-bore anticapitalist game but blinked at the last second – but it just as often delivers affecting moments and decisions.

And so while playing The Outer Worlds I sometimes felt like I was roleplaying as Obsidian itself: trying to work within a broken system and frequently ending up in moral/economic quicksand. I have no idea if this was intentional on their part, but fortunately The Author Is Dead and therefore unable to contradict me.

In any case, the game has been critically successful, will probably be commercially successful, and, without giving anything specific away, has a cracking sequel hook. Expansions and a sequel are probably both in the future. In the meantime, earlier today I went to pick my phone up off my desk and was briefly confused when it wasn’t outlined in blue. If you’ve played the game, you’ll probably get that reference. I want to try a science build next.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Yes, that description is an oversimplification, but it’s a useful one.

[2] Say what you want about the guy, but if I had to choose one person to sell my game it would probably be him.



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170 thoughts on “The Outer Worlds: We Should Do More Of This

  1. tmtvl says:

    Neat, I may check it out when it comes to Steam… if I don’t forget by then.

    1. Geebs says:

      If you think about it, buying this on Steam actually helps Obsidian. Epic already bought all of the copies they were expecting to sell anyway, as part of the exclusivity deal. Any copies sold on Steam have effectively been paid for twice.

      1. CloverMan-88 says:

        I’d say that Epic probably tried to get the exclusivity deal as cheap as possible, so they probqbly didn’t pay for that many copies. So it’s more than possible that enough people bought TOW on Epic store already, and the money goes to Obsidian by now. With a better split.

        It’s ok to dislike Epic store, but don’t pretend like it’s a worse deal for developers. Sure, the best scenario for developers would be “epic pays for X copies upfront, and then everybody buys the game on steam” but that’s not what happened.

        1. Geebs says:

          Apparently, sales have tanked on PC and Xbox One because it’s available on Game Pass; but it’s selling well on PS4.

          So, probably not.

          1. Jeff says:

            I appreciate Microsoft flipping Epic the bird.

          2. GloatingSwine says:

            On the other hand, Microsoft own Obsidian now, so them seeing good numbers for the game on their subscription platform is the most likely thing to show them it’s a style of game worth investing in.

    2. Everyone Who Hates Capitalism Needs To Go Live In The Forest says:

      You could wishlist the game on Steam, set a calendar reminder on your phone for its Steam release-date, or buy it on Playstation or Xbox…

  2. kunedog says:

    Sometimes, it feels like a lack of nerve – like they wanted to make a full-bore anti-capitalist game but blinked at the last second – but it just as often delivers affecting moments and decisions.

    For those who’ve played it, is this true? Is OW really overtly anticapitalist?

    I had already heard the part about the humor/tone and the fact that none of the characters seem to take their world seriously, which really turned me off and felt like a red flag that this is definitely not a worthy successor to New Vegas, but an anti-capitalist vibe (or explicit one-sided theme) would confirm that.

    1. Xander77 says:

      It’s also overtly anti-racist and anti-cannibal. The horror.

      Welcome to current year.

      1. kunedog says:

        > anti-racist and anti-cannibal

        Hey, that sounds great, a lot more like New Vegas (i.e. that very not-current-year game).

      2. Joe says:

        Look, I can cope with with anti-racist, but anti-cannibal? No, that’s a dealbreaker. You aren’t my real dad, you can’t tell me who I can and can’t eat!

        1. baud says:

          For the cannibalism thing

          It’s only in one quest and if you’re just a little genre-savy, you’ll see it coming from miles away.

          And it’s unlike New Vegas where you could become a cannibal.

          1. Decius says:

            Huh. Fallout 2, Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood Of Steel and Brotherhood of Steel are the only Fallout series games where you can’t eat human flesh.

            Sure, New Vegas had the perk that made it easier, but there are sources of edible human-sourced meat in Fallout, NV, 3, and 4.

            1. Everyone Who Hates Capitalism Needs To Go Live In The Forest says:

              Yeah, but the meat in Fallout 1 was just a side-story, and didn’t give you any buffs.

              1. Decius says:

                It counted as food, just like the other food items.

                It was entirely possible to not discover it at all, even if you ate it. That’s what made it horrifying.

                1. Everyone Who Hates Capitalism Needs To Go Live In The Forest says:

                  Get your flavor-text out of my murder-simulator!

                  1. Decius says:

                    The flavor is the best part of eating people!

          2. AzzyGaiden says:

            The marauders are implied to be cannibals, and there’s a questline later in the game where you can discover that a particularly sociopathic NPC is also a cannibalistic serial killer. You can even do a quest for him!

        2. GloatingSwine says:

          It might be anti-cannibal, but..

          Grinding up human corpses for fertiliser is a key component of the “good” outcome of the first town’s dilemma.

          And hey, they’re company property so it’s efficient use of residual human resources.

      3. Geebs says:

        To be fair, most of the stuff that Bob has brought up seems to be more in the vein of “incompetent bureaucracy” rather than capitalism per se. If Obsidian wanted to take a swipe at capitalism, I’m not sure that really works with the game’s setting – as in, these companies have achieved the incredible feat of moving a bunch of people to another solar system and having most of them actually survive, but simultaneously are too inefficient to deal with a bunch of local bandits or whatever. It’s the Andromeda problem again.

        There’s plenty to critique about $political_system in the real world, which I won’t do here, but capital has at least made it possible for me to e.g. put saffron in my paella without having to either a) claim literal descent from god and confiscate it off everyone else in my tribe, b) assemble an army and sack somebody else’s city for it or c) build a fleet of ships and wait for 6 months.

        1. Everyone Who Hates Capitalism Needs To Go Live In The Forest says:

          Yeah, but shipping people off to another world only involves technological challenges. The game clearly has space-magic super-engines to get around, so hauling a bunch of people to another planet is easy in its world (compared to real life).

        2. Ninety-Three says:

          Seconding this: if the game contains a single critique of free markets, the inherent problems of allowing capital to accumulate, or money buying political power, I haven’t seen it. It’s just that the people running things are a mix of cartoonishly incompetent and cartoonishly villainous, in ways not specific to any economic system.

          1. Gordon says:

            Mm, not sure I agree.

            In the first real quest, neither Reed Tobson or Adelaide are villains or stupid. Both, in fact, seem genuinely concerned in their own ways for the well-being of their neighbors, but Reed is laboring under a system demanding certain quotas of production At Any Cost, and dictating ruinous policies like the healthcare system and the grave rentals under threat of shutting the whole place down.

            This is why I sided with the deserters instead of just ousting Reed. Reed wasn’t the problem. The corporation was the problem. Inserting Adelaide into the same position under the same pressures would have either resulted in the same outcome as Reed, or she would have come to blows with the company later, this time without the botanical labs to fall back on.

            1. Ninety-Three says:

              The issue with helping the botanical labs is that Reed said if they didn’t meet their quotas, the town would be shut down. It’s not clear what that means, but I guessed that at a minimum, it would be no more power for anyone. Diverting power away from town buys them at most a year, then they’re cast out into the wilderness with nothing. I figured if they wanted the wilderness they could take it any time, so I sided with the town to give people more choice.

              1. AzzyGaiden says:

                Edgewater has its own geothermal plant that works just fine, so it’s unclear how its power could be cut off externally.

                1. Ninety-Three says:

                  The corporation would send someone to decommission things. As generally negligent as they are, they also came across as malevolent enough to pull something like that.

                  1. stratigo says:

                    They send you, later in the game, to try and kill everyone.

                    Regardless of the state of the town actually.

          2. Syal says:

            Going to mention there’s a difference between being anti-capitalism and being anti-capitalist. I’m four minutes into an LP and the opening to the game is how the company just stranded a bunch of people in space because it was cheaper.

            1. Ninety-Three says:

              Governments (which the corps essentially are in Outer Worlds) doing bad things because it would take less resources is not particularly unique to capitalism or capitalists.

              1. Syal says:

                “Hundreds of thousands of colonists, left to drift out here forever, just to keep from damaging the Board’s bottom line. Disgraceful.”

                “The Board’s bottom line” is a phrase specific to for-profit companies.

      4. Tmacnt08 says:

        Anti-Cannibal? Mumbles must be furious.

    2. Felix Jones says:

      It’s about the same level of satire as Idiocracy, perhaps a bit darker. People being forced to rent their own graves, corp-sponsored servants (aka slaves) only allowed to talk in company slogans.

      It’s a bit odd because it takes place in a frontier colony setting where people would theoretically just move if they didn’t like the laws (planets are huge, no amount of slow-boat space-faring colonists could fill one), and the corps don’t seem to have the muscle to enforce their dystopia.

      1. Chad Miller says:

        I got the impression that the ecosystems of these planets were weird enough that people wouldn’t necessarily be able to survive on them without imported goods from other planets/stations or the corporations’ various processing plants. That The Deserters appeared to be an exception were a major factor in my siding with them (although if I had known about the option to keep the town but oust Reed I would have done that)

        Groundbreaker is teetering on the edge of annexation for this exact reason.

        1. Felix Jones says:

          Terra 2 is properly terraformed while Monarch is the messed up one. Ironically, that’s the planet where the corps don’t have sway. In colonial America, laws in the colonies were enforced by English soldiers, and even then people still pretty much did as they pleased. Anyone who didn’t like the colonial government just went west. There’s no similar “Terra Authority” ruling over Halcyon that I’ve seen.

          It just seems that the frontier setting and evil mega-corp themes don’t mesh together. Instead of one big oppressive authority ruling over everyone there should be a bunch of mini-states each with their own rules and eccentricities, like Fallout.

          The closest analog I can think of to what this game is trying to portray were the old American “Company Towns,” where the whole town was owned by one company and all the residents were employees. The thing is, company towns worked fine. In order to attract people to live in them they had to provide a *better* quality of life than the residents could get elsewhere. They weren’t some kind of nightmarish craphole place to live, and they declined due to normal economic forces (the companies went out of business or the people found better jobs). When one of them did try to pull crap on their employees, everyone went on strike, a concept which seems totally unheard of in the game.

          1. Coming Second says:

            The lack of collective bargaining is really stark, now you point it out. The whole crisis in the first town revolves around the fact that the deserters and the plague left Reed very low on workers, lowering the efficiency of the factory to the point where the company are threatening to pull the plug. In that scenario the remaining workers have a lot of power, regardless of Reed’s goons. An effective solution should surely be to get the deserters to come back after making Reed allow them to form a union.

            Instead both parties just hang around waiting for a particularly powerful individual to fix the issue one way or another depending on their whims, in the time-honoured and distinctly un-socialist manner of most RPGs.

        2. AzzyGaiden says:

          The game doesn’t do a great job of explaining it, but I think that’s the rub. The terraformed planets of Halcyon aren’t yet self-sustaining, and the population is surviving on genetically modified livestock and processed foods in between increasingly infrequent supply drops from Earth. Adelaide has managed to “figure out” sustainable horticulture by using human remains as fertilizer, something that you’re given the opportunity to find morally troubling, which seems silly given that the alternative is starvation.

    3. AzzyGaiden says:

      The tone is essentially the Central Bureaucracy episode from Futurama (one off-screen character is clearly based on Mom) with a few touches of Idiocracy thrown in to boot. The dialogue has that old timey aw-shucks quality you get in Firefly. The plot is Shamus’ “but what do they eat?” question from his Fallout 3 review writ large.

      Sometimes the premise wears a little thin and the helplessness of the world’s characters becomes glaring. One early questline involves going one level down, shooting about a half-dozen guys (or passing a speech check), getting an item, coming back up, and handing it over. This solves a problem that apparently vexed an entire base full of engineers and soldiers, and would eventually result in the base becoming uninhabitable. One wonders why bother helping these people since they’ll all apparently starve to death the next time the deep fryer runs out of grease.

      The game is anti-racist in the sense that race just isn’t a thing. Characters all have super diverse mixed-ethnicity names, sexuality is a nonissue, clothing and hairstyles are all unisex — a female character can have a beard, a male character can wear makeup — go wild, man. It’s very 2019 in that regard.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        Sometimes the premise wears a little thin and the helplessness of the world’s characters becomes glaring. One early questline involves going one level down, shooting about a half-dozen guys (or passing a speech check), getting an item, coming back up, and handing it over.

        Hey, be fair. There were at least a dozen guys there!

      2. CloverMan-88 says:

        From how they hyped up the Back Decks I expected it to be an area AT LEAST as big as the rest of the Groundbreaker. I smell heavy budget cuts in that questline.

    4. Guest says:

      Because NV definitely had nothing to say.

      You definitely don’t meet one of the big bads in that game who gives you a speech where he namechecks political philosophers.

      Because the NCR in NV definitely aren’t a critique of liberal beaurocracy. Because Mr. House and NV itself definitely aren’t representative of industrialist capitalists who live like vampires off everyone else, while just outside their walls, people live in desperate poverty, being gunned down when they try to get in. Because Caesar’s Legion is definitely apolitical.

      lol. just lol.

      1. Shamus says:

        When skirting the edge of politics, the smart thing to do is to NOT be dismissive, smug, and mocking.

        What you’re doing is a great way to start pointless fights that won’t change anyone’s mind, but will result in me having to moderate a bunch of hostility until I get frustrated and lock the thread.

        1. I guess this is the issue with games these days (or rather people’s view of games). The developers of Outer Worlds stated they where not making any statements with the game.

          This does not mean they aren’t making statements on say capitalism within the game.

          In addition the player character is played as “the straight guy”, a “stranger in a strange land” (go Iron Maiden). I say that as I have not seen any choices as to choosing a player background (to the extent the Mass Effect trilogy did), I’ll assume the same over the top corporatism existed on Earth too, but it’s possible it didn’t at least not to this extent.

          The universe of The Outer Worlds has nothing to do with our “real” world, at least not intentionally. People will see patterns and compare things, after all even the developers/writers… well… “write what you know” so using the real world as inspiration is a given.

          The game looks like a fun crazy romp in another world, and that seems to be what it was designed to be.

          If you get shocked or upset at something in the game then get shocked within the context of the game world and not the real world.

          The same thing goes for upcoming Cyberpunk 2077.

          1. The Rocketeer says:

            What? The two writers behind the game explicitly and enthusiastically acknowledge the statement they’re making with the game. The last time this game came up, I quoted a couple paragraphs of a much longer section detailing the values and worldview they brought into the setting from a cover feature in Game Informer. Either the writers never said they “weren’t making a statement with the game” or they chickens out and lied their asses off.

            1. https://www.pcgamer.com/the-outer-worlds-co-director-says-it-will-be-political-but-not-politically-charged/
              “the goal is to avoid staking out a position on obviously political matters, and instead let players draw their own conclusions. “

              1. The Rocketeer says:

                Predictable, but not credible.

                1. PPX14 says:

                  apt + credible = predictable

                  Haha just noticed that looking at your comment.

              2. Wanderer says:

                A feat which I think it accomplishes. You can draw your own lines back to the real world (the incompetence of the corps relating to video game publishers is a nice one) and make your own conclusions.

                There’s a nice revolution versus reform struggle on one planet if we want to read socialist thought into the game, for instance. The RPG videogame ‘compromise where neither side all dies’ does exist, and you can make statements on ludonarrative harmony or dissonance there as to whether it’s optimum, and whether that’s a statement on reality, but I had to seek out that conclusion (for which I’m primed by reading socialist stuff) but that’s not the game lecturing me.

                1. BlueHorus says:

                  So I haven’t played this game, but it is definitely possible to be ‘political’ without being ‘politically charged’ (at the risk of defining terms into oblivion).
                  Example: Game of Thrones, specifically the way the books treat the ‘Sparrows’ religious group vs the way the Show did.

                  In the books, they’re a realistic in-universe response to the ongoing war, providing much-needed material relief for war refugees mixed with spiritual guidance mixed with an outlet for the anger the smallfolk feel for the nobles who caused the war.
                  Utterly grounded in the setting to the point that they’re a bit alien to some modern audiences (they have a very medievil obsession with Margery Tyrell’s hymen, at one point.)
                  Political, definitely, but not ‘politically charged’.

                  In the show, they’re some crazed religious cult who smash stuff and mutilate themselves because, well, crazy religious extermists, right?
                  The show also emphasises their hatred of gay people in order to make Relevant Political Commentary. Very much ‘politically charged’, because it’s a conscious effort to relate the story to real life.

                  1. SidheKnight says:

                    We could argue, in broad strokes, that book!sparrows = realistic depiction of RL crusader/inquisitorial orders, and tv!sparrows = stereotypical representation of crusaders/inquisitors. Right?

    5. Freddo says:

      The game presents a straw-man capitalist world, but the mismanagement, empty sloganeering and disregard of human life for the cause all made it feel more like late stage socialism. It is a bit of cardboard world building, with no explanation of why things are in such a terrible state. I half expected that there would be a big reveal that the colony was founded by a B ark (https://hitchhikers.fandom.com/wiki/Golgafrinchan_Ark_Fleet_Ship_B).

      To me the game played more like a AA version of Mass Effect, mostly due to
      -your 3 man/woman team starting of fairly powerful and well equipped for combat
      -combat largely being encounters with groups of 4-6 enemies
      But that is also largely to be expected due to the choice of engine.

      1. Joe Informatico says:

        The game presents a straw-man capitalist world, but the mismanagement, empty sloganeering and disregard of human life for the cause all made it feel more like late stage socialism.

        I mean, I see all those things in the news on a daily basis these days, so I fail to see how late-state capitalism is different in that regard. Maybe the common factor is the Western industrialized nation-state?

    6. trevalyan says:

      One early planet alone is a case of anticapitalism being less than ideal by anyone’s standards, while the “capitalist villain” is a relatively good dude who’s sticking with the company out of misplaced idealism and hereditary position. The real villain may as well be written by Ayn Rand, except they have the technical skills and determination to be a Galtian hero. There are layers upon layers of tightly wrapped writing around that quest: it stands well on its own, but becomes more interesting the more familiar you are with political theory in general and Objectivism in particular.

      The game was marketed as anti-corporation, but most of the first half of the game is deconstructing anti-capitalism. It’s wild.

      1. Wanderer says:

        And you can read the game as an entire reform versus revolution discussion within socialism, too! Are people better off burning the system to the ground to start a better one, or are we better to try to turn the system to our own ends?

        1. trevalyan says:

          Yeah, the game is pretty decisive on that one, too. There are two “revolutionary” leaders. I wouldn’t trust one with my shoes, let alone my future, no matter what their philosophy or charisma is. The second is a technically skilled “nice” demagogue.

          It’s almost a bit too devoted to crushing idealism in a game about evil corporations, but there you have it.

          1. AzzyGaiden says:

            It doesn’t help that the philosophies espoused by basically everyone are absurdly simplistic. The major religious conflict in the game is literally just “free will vs. predestination,” which makes one companion’s crisis-of-faith arc pretty laughable (granted he is easily the least interesting one of the bunch IMO).

    7. Oozecruise says:

      Only in the sense that the companies act like dictatorial states. I got more of a China vibe then anything but it’s certainly not ignoring the capitalist angle.
      The game isnt bad but it also cant stand up to New Vegas, The last 3rd of the main questline feels incredibly rushed and the world is too small to measure up to New Vegas. However the gameplay systems are fantastic and just what we need for this type of game, if they’re allowed to make a sequel and make it just a little bit bigger it would make for a fantastic game.

  3. Xander77 says:

    Hah. There are two opinions on OW out there, and I really genuinely thought you’d go with “it’s more of the same, and the same just isn’t good enough anymore – cue praise for Disco Elysium”.

    1. Coming Second says:

      Really wish I hadn’t played OW after Disco Elysium. I like the pew pew pew and all but it just seems so hopelessly shallow by comparison.

  4. Grimwear says:

    I’m not sure how I feel about Obsidian anymore. They get really unlucky and then put out some good stuff and some…eh stuff. I really liked New Vegas and KOTOR 2 but then they got screwed over. I was a big fan of the South Park: The Stick of Truth game and went so far as to watch the small documentary where Matt and Trey specifically went to Obsidian to have them make it but then THQ went under, Ubisoft got their hands on it, and they gave the South Park game to their garbage dev team that couldn’t make a working version of Tetris.

    Then I recently played and finished Tyranny and really enjoyed it. I liked the story even if the third act was blatantly rushed, I loved the magic system, and it was the first time I went full wizard in a game so I went and played Pillars of Eternity and dang it suuuuuuuuuuucks. I figured I’d go wizard again and suddenly everything I hate about magic systems comes back. As someone who never played DnD I assume they’re using a DnD system where I only have X spell uses per rest and when I level I have to choose my spells and can never respec. Gone was the fluid magic making and swapping that made Tyranny fun. Honestly I wish their first big kickstarter push had been for Tyranny rather than PoE. And they suffered as a consequence. Divinity is massively more popular than PoE with PoE 2 having 4.2k reviews to Divinity 2s 50k. PoE killed my desire to play rpgs for awhile but seeing the reception Outer Worlds is getting I may pick it up when it hits Steam.

    I guess the point of my rambling is that I don’t know how to feel about Obsidian. They make some amazing games but then also make horrible boring games too. It’s just weird to me that their game I hate the most and consider the most banal is their big indie passion project.

    1. AzzyGaiden says:

      I wanted to like Tyranny but I couldn’t handle the top-heavy worldbuilding. The game starts with an absurdly massive loredump and then drops you into the world apparently assuming that you’re now a scholar of this intricately detailed, somewhat convoluted Bronze Age fantasy society. It was way too much and I dropped out because I couldn’t tell my Archons from my Fatebinders from my Overlords.

    2. tmtvl says:

      Have you played PoE2? It doesn’t fix the magic system, but it still stands head and shoulders above it’s disappointing predecessor.

      1. Grimwear says:

        I haven’t. If anything I’ll most likely go and play Divinity first since Divinity let’s you playturn-based rather than realtime with pause. I really dislike RTWP but since I got Tyranny and PoE cheap I figured I’d give them a shot. I did read in an update that PoE2 added in a turn-based game mode but I’m wary of a game that adds in another mode for playing it as an after thought. And from what I read from people RTWP makes trash mob fights easy but aren’t great tactically for important fights whereas turn based makes those important fights a lot better but trash mob fights take way too long.

  5. The Rocketeer says:

    Something tells me this game wasn’t knowingly written as the subtle Straussian esoteric critique which it should be interpreted as. And I don’t mean Bob’s Obsidian self-insert quest.

  6. The Big Brzezinski says:

    I’m enjoying the game, but I’m not in love with it. I ran smack into the “Sealed Door Crash” bug, and it’s preventing me from finishing my very first playthrough. My charismatic space doctor character seems to talk his way out of most of the gameplay, and I end up calmly walking through spaces I can tell were meant to be fought or snuck through. None of the skills seem to synergize with each other, so character building is extremely shallow. Most troubling is the fact that combat is mostly mediocre, bordering on bad at times. Enemies are so stupid I’ve walked up to one before thinking I could talk to him, only to have him suddenly notice I’ve been walking in front of him for twenty seconds and start shooting. None of the guns have any punch. Pistols and shotguns are just about worthless, especially compared to assault and battle rifles.

    The fact that problems like these haven’t cause me to drop the game outright is testament to how strong the overall package is. The writing, art direction, and sound design are exemplary. At the same time, I’m not sure I’ll be exploring alternate paths as throughly in OW as I did in similar games. Mass Effect: New Vegas is a solid example of why 7.5/10 is nothing to be ashamed of, and that is perfectly fine.

    1. Anonymous Coward says:

      If that’s the same crash that I had, there’s a workaround:

      Open the door, but don’t walk through it. You can shoot the person inside without entering and supposedly you can then continue onwards.

      If you’re more a pacifist, it gets more complicated: If you look through the open door, you can see another one on the other end of the room. You can reach that by circling back to the big round room and walking on the railings. That door doesn’t crash for some reason…

    2. AzzyGaiden says:

      I’m on my second playthrough on Hard mode and have taken to automatically selling all my extra items because I just don’t need them. I don’t use consumables (except for the occasional hit of Adreno) or mods and my chosen weapons and armor serve me just fine with the occasional tinkering. There’s still very little that can touch me, and I’ve barely leveled my weapons stats.

      In addition to the rock-stupid enemies, most of the NPCs just stand around scratching their asses which makes stealing and pickpocketing trivial. One particularly egregious example is the innkeeper on the Groundbreaker. I crouched behind him, nicked his keycard, unlocked the storage room three feet away, and helped myself to a few thousand bucks worth of gear while he stood outside smiling like an idiot. Morrowind had better security than this.

      Maybe there’s some metanarrative about processed foods making you stupid which explains why everyone on Halcyon acts like they’ve taken a blow to the head recently.

  7. Asdasd says:

    RPS and Eurogamer are the main games sites I visit apart from here. They were pretty cold on both this and Disco Elysium, which really surprised me as they’re the kind of narrative-focused, choice n consequence games that I thought were the bedrock of their tastes. I hope to play getting around to playing both at some point to see for myself.

    1. Xander77 says:

      The RPS review for Disco Elysium makes zero sense.

      “It’s a flawed masterpiece.”

      “Ok, what are the flaws?”

      “Umm…. the flaw is in the part of my brain that feels unrestrained enthusiasm would be desperately uncool, but can’t actually come up with any meaningful shortcomings.”

      1. Christopher Wolf says:

        Disco Elysium is good. Play it. End of review.

        Hmm…there might be a reason I don’t get paid to write reviews.

    2. Zekiel says:

      I thought RPS was quite positive about it? Enough to make me wonder about giving it a go. These days I *really* like the idea of a short(ish) RPG that does something unusual. I loved New Vegas but I just can’t get excited about the Outer Worlds

  8. Shen says:

    Hard truth time: the reason there are so few games like this is because way too many people got hooked on Skyrim. Bethesda became THE name in RPGs, every company began chasing that open-world retention (cutting down on RPGs in general in favour of RPG-elements) and, let’s be honest, it was a pretty handy wake-up call that good writing was not the necessary ingredient for mega-success.

    Here’s hoping that audience exhaustion and this game’s success can trigger a similar shift in the industry.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      good writing was not the necessary ingredient for mega-success.

      Sad but true. Skyrim did insanely well; the proof is in the sales. Story-driven RPGs are niche, and always will be. Again, it’s sad.

    2. Joe Informatico says:

      I hate that you’re probably right.

  9. baud says:

    In the AA space, there’s Focus Home Interactive who has published a certain number of RPGs those last few years (Vampyr, Greedfall, the Surge, Call of Cthulhu, The Council)

    Regarding The Outer Worlds, I’ve been following a Let’s Play and I like the aesthetics, but I feel like the writing is not up to par, with the bumbling incompetence not limited to the villains. And I agree that the pseudo anti capitalistic felt very weak.

  10. ElementalAlchemist says:

    Jason Schreier at Kotaku described its publisher Private Division as a “AA”

    Private Division is a division of Take-Two Interactive. There is absolutely nothing “AA” about it. It’s simply their label for third party developers. EA has exactly the same thing with their EA Partners label.

    The Outer Worlds is also unfinished, but it’s unfinished in a skillful way. There are several planets on the travel screen you just plain can’t visit.

    You can’t visit them for the same reason you couldn’t visit Jupiter (aside from flying past) – because they are gas giants.

    1. Decius says:

      You can put DLC there pretty easily.

      Hard Nova had Auriel being not only a gas giant, but the local political powerhouse.

      And the Bio of a Space Tyrant novel series had Jupiter as the cold-war United States expy.

      1. Nick Pitino says:

        *Shudder*

        I read lots of books that afterwards I’ll rank as “meh” and not read again. There are exceedingly few novels I’ve read and afterwards actively hated and been offended by. The Bio of a Space Tyrant series falls under the latter.

        1. Decius says:

          Piers Anthony has always had characters with dubious sexual mores. I’m not sure if it’s an attempt to portray them as flawed, or what.

          Skip those scenes.

  11. Dicker says:

    It’s bizzare seeing people praise this game, Fallout 3 came out over a decade ago, this is the same game but with better graphics marginally less stupid but marginally more uninspired writing.and a much smaller world.

    Especially when I see quotes like “The Outer Worlds is also unfinished, but it’s unfinished in a skillful way. ” which, given how barren the later areas of the game are and how little variety there is in terms of items, makes me think whoever wrote that got a check from Microsoft or got some sort of secret version that is nothing like the game I got nor how the game looked.

    1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      Yup. That’s the explanation. Everyone who say they loved that game and have a different opinion from yours are secretly paid by Microsoft.

      1. Dicker says:

        Well I’m finding a very hard time finding out how one can say it’s good without being paid.
        As I said, it’s Fallout 3 and everything that was bad there is lovingly recreated here without attempting to fix it.

        1. MelTorefas says:

          Well I’m finding a very hard time finding out how one can say it’s good without being paid.

          There seems to be some sort of Theory of Mind issue going on here. People like different things. The fact that you can’t find enough things you like about it to call it good, doesn’t mean that anyone who does has been paid to do so.

          1. Dicker says:

            Seems more like different standards of quality rather than preferences.
            Again what part of this game can be considered good when compared to other shooters and RPGs?

    2. tmtvl says:

      Fallout 3 is less stupid? With your dad disabling the water purifier to prevent the bad guys from… activating it? With the water being “irradiated” after 200 years? Come to think of it, the food is still good after 200 years? “You’re not a mercenary”? Detonating the nuke in Megaton? Little Lamplight?

      1. Dicker says:

        Please read more carefully.

        1. Shamus says:

          You made an assertion. Someone questioned it. You told them to read your original post without making any effort to address their objections.

          Are you trying to have a discussion or not?

          For the record, I have the same questions regarding your comment. Outer Worlds is not “marginally” less stupid. It’s MASSIVELY less stupid*. We can haggle over where we draw the line between stupid and not stupid, and we may value different parts of the experience (characters, worldbuilding, quest design, dialog, choices) and give a soft pass to problems outside those areas, but if you’re not willing to discuss particulars then there’s no discussion to be had. You’re just running around shouting “You’re wrong!” at people.

          * I’m just a few hours in, so maybe it’ll all fall apart once I get a feel for the plot structure, but the story isn’t immediately hurting my head like FO3 did.

          Late, late edit: And calling them the “same game” is a really tough point to defend. They have different stories, art, tone, setting, plot, characters, and leveling mechanics. If Outer Worlds and Fallout 3 are the same game, then every first-person shooter is Doom, every MMO is Warcraft, and every third person shooter is Tomb Raider. Like, if characters, tone, gameplay, and genre don’t distinguish games from each other, then what does?

          1. Ninety-Three says:

            Clarifying for everyone’s sake: Dicker said that this (OW, the same “this game” that people are praising earlier in the sentence) is the same game (as Fallout), but marginally less stupid. Tmtvl then misread that as “Fallout is less stupid”. Dicker told him to reread.

            1. Shamus says:

              Thank you.

              I thought Tmtvl was haggling with the assertion of “marginally less stupid”, which is the bit I got hung up on.

          2. Dicker says:

            The first major quest of Outer Worlds concerns people that are too dumb to figure out that eating sand is bad for them. They also have trouble farming because of the poor soil but somehow the wilderness around them is filled with predators, some of which can even be eaten by the player.

            Once you enter the next area you’ll have the option to betray the scientist by handing him over to the bad guys. But first you have to jump through several hoops before you’re given the privilege of telling someone the coordinates of the scientist’s lab so first you have to travel to the capital city (which is off limits at first but simply saying you have the scientist’s location is enough to let you travel there once you give someone the ability to mark you as approved) and then do a mission (or two, I haven’t seen what comes after the first one). Only then can you (maybe) hand the Board some coordinates. Alternatively you can of course go nuts and start shooting everything in sight as soon as you land.

            Generally the main source of OW’s stupidity are the corporations and The Board; they’re cartoonishly evil and incompetent in a way that would be appropriate for a comedy focused game, but most of it is played straight so you just end up wondering why he corporations are always trying to cut costs in any way they can EXCEPT where it would result in having to replace dead employees less often.

            It certainly isn’t as stupid as Fallout 3 but I wouldn’t say it’s massively less stupid.

        2. tmtvl says:

          You said:

          Fallout 3 came out over a decade ago, this is the same game but with better graphics marginally less stupid but marginally more uninspired writing.and a much smaller world.

          Fallout 3 may well have better graphics, less inspired writing, and a smaller world; but I’ll never believe it’s “less stupid” than anything Obsidian releases.

          1. Decius says:

            You appear to have read that backwards: Outer Worlds is being credited with “better graphics marginally less stupid but marginally more uninspired writing.and a much smaller world”.

            All of those points are debatable, even the ‘smaller world’ claim (Technically, EVE Online has the second largest game world, behind No Man’s Sky- but those are vacuous worlds, and if you measure by ‘amount of content’ there is no longer an objective metric.

      2. ZekeCool says:

        Not to mention the shantytown buildings still being the norm 200 years after the bombs fell.

    3. Ninety-Three says:

      makes me think whoever wrote that got a check from Microsoft

      Pedantry: Outer Worlds was funded by Take Two, the Microsoft buyout came later.

      1. Boobah says:

        So you’re making the assertion Take Two is spreading cash around to make Microsoft’s purchase worth more? After the deal is concluded? Because that’s the implication.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          I’m pretty sure Microsoft has better things to spend their money on than selling more copies of a game they don’t earn anything from.

    4. Biggus Rickus says:

      I’ve played Fallout 3, and this is a better game in a lot of ways, including the setting not being a theme park. It’s not as thoughtful as New Vegas in my opinion, but it’s a hell of a lot better written than Fallout 3.

  12. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Had to skip the spoilery part as I’m starting the game today, which also means I haven’t exactly made my personal opinion on it yet. But yeah, Jim Sterling released a video titled “Bethesda is obsolete” after playing this game which can be roughly summed up as “other people can do Bethesda’s job better than Bethesda”, and while I think that is a touch of an oversimplification I agree with the general premise.

    My take is that we have a few of these “brand names” gamedev studios that made some really neat stuff, it became fairly popular, they started getting more money so they could make the same stuff with much better production values and we convinced ourselves that nobody else can do anything like them. As an RPG player I can think of Bethesda and Bioware, I think some parts of the Western audience (particularly those who did not have console experience) thought similarly of Square and JRPGs for a while, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was something similar in the shooter department though that’s not really my genre. The thing is that while yes, some people will be put off if you drop graphics quality there are a lot of people who are looking to get a certain itch scratched, and if your budget is smaller you don’t need to get everyone to buy your game every single time, Jeff Vogel had an interesting blog post not too long ago about the money behind making games for a niche audience.

    Again, haven’t played it yet and from what I understand Outer Worlds doesn’t quite fall in that “huge world to explore” Bethesda thing but still a subset of the fanbase is very receptive of it (a game can scratch more than one itch after all), Spiders has been trying to make “AA (if that) Bioware” games for years, haven’t played Greedfall (yet) and their previous games are superjanky but by goddess they’re trying and there are moments of brilliance there. There is SureAi, a team that’s made two entire games in Bethesda’s modding toolset, completely unrelated settingwise to TES, and I can’t recommend Enderal hard enough. Yes, they’re using a lot of pre-existing assets and you can occasionally see the seams (both literally and metaphorically) but when I saw those reused assets I was actually constantly reminded of how much more interesting this world was than Skyrim’s. if these guys made a game they could sell rather than give away for free I’d be all “shut up and take my money”.

    Meanwhile the “brand names” became complacent and self-assured in their celebrity/minor divinity status. They bought the idea (regardless of which side started it) that “nobody else can do this stuff” but also completely and utterly misunderstood or lost track of what “this stuff” is, it’s just “the things they do”. This is how I understand the whole “Bioware magic” idea, that the people in charge can see the components but they don’t know how to execute them (the character needs to be a bloody hero, make him grander, make him save everything, solve all the world’s problems!) and don’t understand how they fit (more romance, even if it doesn’t make sense, make everything romanceable, even the campfire, have everyone throw themselves at the player character! Make the campfire have hots for the player character!) so they assume that if you just mash them together somehow, through magic, a good game comes out of it. This, plus the lifeservice thing, gave us FO76, Bethesda completely bought into the “open world” bit of being praised for “open world RPGs”, so they gave us the most open world they could and thought players would love it, I mean, it’s not humanly possible that nobody in the studio saw that there were issues, they just went along with the idea that “people don’t mind our games being broken”. Completely ignoring the fact that their games have been for years fixed by fans, that a big part of the love was how a handful of modders provided the community with tools to tailor the gaming experience to their own desires, that their worlds at least tried to have an atmosphere before, that in this case they gave us a sandbox but not the toys to play with while we’re in it, and I’d even argue that without even a few interesting pebbles we could build our sand towns around. Because we haven’t been calling them out on this, because they bought into the concept that they can do no wrong and even if something is broken the fans are gonna go “oh Bethesda” and laugh heartily, except it’s not that we loved the brokenness, we knew we could fix it ourselves and we’ve convinced ourselves that nobody else could give us what Bethesda does.

    Being a brand name is the only reason EA keeps Bioware alive despite the criticism of their recent releases. Being a brand name is why Bethesda is still allowed to make attempts at salvaging FO76 and while people still perk up at the news of “classic Bethesda” games. Every time someone elbows into the same niche these studios fill there is a risk/chance (depending on the point of view) that players will realise they can get their fix elsewhere. That someone will look at Spiders and be like “huh, those guys made a Biowarelike without hundreds of millions of dollars… I wonder if we could do this to” and these studios can’t maintain their model as “just one of the studios making this kind of stuff”, with they budgets they’re having they need to be best sellers every single time.

    1. Chad Miller says:

      “Bethesda is obsolete”

      I think Bethesda ruined Fallout and never liked The Elder Scrolls to begin with, and even I can’t quite get behind this sentiment. Yes, Fallout 4 is an embarrassment to roleplaying. Yes, Fallout 76 is an embarrassment in general. Yes, they’re basically a joke barring some course correction with Starfield or whatever comes after that. Yes, I too prefer Obsidian’s better writing siloed into different planets to Bethedsa’s complete nonsense as a thinly-veiled excuse to tromp across an open-world. But that doesn’t change the fact that plenty of people liked what Skyrim had to offer and there are plenty of people now wishing Bethesda would give them another Fallout 4.

      The Outer Worlds is fun, it’s a welcome entry into the genre, and it’s a better Fallout game than Fallout 4. But I don’t think it’s fair to say Bethesda’s popularity is entirely hype.

      (also it pains me to admit it but I prefer Fallout 4 Survival to Outer Worlds Supernova, even though the latter is a release feature and the former was haphazardly patched in)

      1. Agammamon says:

        I don’t think its ‘Bethesda’ that did that – its Howard. And not because he didn’t like TES to begin with. But because almost all of his career has been at this one creative endeavor. Creatives like to do new things, the player base wants ‘like that, but better’. He’s pushed back on that with the games the company has released and, sometimes, its worked. I didn’t think much of Oblivion but I really enjoyed Skyrim even though its not really like Morrorwind – its an ‘open-world screw-around game vice an RPG (openworld or not). At the same time I didn’t enjoy FO4 as much even though the same principles (‘streamlining’) were applied to it as were applied to TES.

        In that case its because I think, for an open-world screw-around game, Skyrim hits a sweet spot between ‘stat complexity’ and ‘streamlining’ and FO4 goes too far.

        I honestly think it would be best for the dude to move on. Not because he’s shite but because he doesn’t want to make the sort of games BGS customers want from BGS. It would be better for all of us.

        1. Gethsemani says:

          Howard, and BGS by extension, absolutely know what their fans want. The problem with Bethesda games, just as with CoD, NHL or Fifa, is that the fanbase is massive and a large part of the core base are not “core gamers”. Hence, Fallout 4 was an absolute success if you look at sales, player retention and player satisfaction at large, but a more measured success if you look at those things in the subset of fans that are “core gamers”. The simple truth is that the average “casual gamer” likes their faff-around open worlds with RPG elements, much more so then dedicated cRPG players who wants deeper RPG mechanics and more immersive (and comprehensive) stories.

          This also means that any time Fallout 4 is discussed on a gaming forum, gaming blog or wherever, it is the more critical subset of fans that make their voices heard. In essence, those of us who play lots of games get an echo chamber where it is accepted as gospel that Fallout 4 was “not that good”, whereas popular opinion elsewhere is the exact opposite. The Outer Worlds runs the risk of getting the opposite, where core gamers will laud it as the new best thing, whereas casual gamers will either overlook it or simply consider it an okay game.

        2. Chad Miller says:

          Clarification: I meant that I personally never liked TES to begin with, not that Bethesda never liked it (I can see where my wording was a bit ambiguous)

    2. Kathryn says:

      Thanks for the tip on Jeff Vogel’s blog post. I enjoyed it.

      He also had a couple of posts on video game addiction, for those who were interested in Shamus’s recent post on skinner boxes.

    3. GloatingSwine says:

      Bethesda was already obsolete, and it wasn’t Obsidian that did it, it was CDPR. They do the big open world RPG way better than Bethesda are constitutionally capable of.

      What Obsidian have done is made Bioware obsolete. (Well, moreso than EA already had)

  13. Zaxares says:

    “Obsidian’s old signature was biting off more than they could chew – making games that just weren’t finished. The Outer Worlds is also unfinished, but it’s unfinished in a skillful way. There are several planets on the travel screen you just plain can’t visit. In one town in the final third of the game, fully half of the shops and things were closed in a way that made it seem like they ran out of development time. It’s noticeable, but it doesn’t effect the flow of the game much.”

    Oh my GAWD, are they STILL doing this? I had hoped that Obsidian had finally gotten rid of that bugbear, but if you’re correct, then what I term “the Obsidian Curse” is alive and well. The first 2/3 of the game will be akin to a magical experience where you love the characters, love the world, are hooked into the story and just can’t stop playing… And then the last 1/3 of the game devolves into a mess of rushed endings, dangling plotholes, character revelations that are jarringly at odds with everything else we know about them, mysteriously unfinished zones etc. And you can’t help but wonder what the hell just happened to that amazing game you were playing. They’ve done better on some games, but it really does sound like somewhere along the line, Obsidian just SUCKS at project management. It’s like they’re steaming away and suddenly go “Oh crap, we have 6 months to launch date and we’re nowhere near finished!” and then slap everything together Homer Simpson tax submission-style and hand it off to the publisher.

    1. Everyone Who Hates Capitalism Needs To Go Live In The Forest says:

      You mean you don’t file your taxes the day before they’re due?

      1. Decius says:

        If you file the day before they’re due you’re missing out on at least 24 hours of procrastination.

      2. Agammamon says:

        *Day before*?! Look at Mr Hashisshittogether over here. The IRS gives filing extensions for late filers, don’t you know.

        But look, Obsidian still has a better record than Troika.

        1. Decius says:

          The tax return is due in October. It’s the request for extension that’s due by the 15th.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      Would it really BE an Obsidian game if they didn’t bungle the end?

      But don’t worry, this game doesn’t end with ‘rocks fall, everyone dies’ like other Obsidian games. Fear not.

      Instead ……………….it’s asteroids………..

      1. Galad says:

        Is that spoilered part for real? I should just go youtube it, seeing how I have no interest in this game.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          No idea.
          I would assume it’s not the actual ending, because there would be much more of an outcry. But, it’s not THAT implausible…similar things have happened since NWN2.

          The game Satellite Reign ends with a literal satellite rain after all.

        2. Gethsemani says:

          It is not. At least not the 3 or so endings I’ve gotten myself or was told about by friends. It is a traditional Obsidian ending with slides and narration for each major character and location.

      2. Zekiel says:

        Hearing about NWN2’s ending makes me feel all nostalgic for the awesome crapness that was KOTOR2’s final section.

    3. ElementalAlchemist says:

      Oh my GAWD, are they STILL doing this?

      All developers do it. That’s the nature of game development. Some just mask it from the enduser better than others.

    4. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      Not really. The game is complete, and is the most stable release of AA and above games of 2019. You can tell they wanted to do more (don’t devs always?) but the game is complete. It’s no use waiting months like other big games for it to be stable.

  14. John says:

    It’s funny that everyone keeps comparing this game to Fallout. Or maybe not. It looks kind of like a latter-day Fallout. It has real-time combat like a latter-day Fallout. I hear it’s even got a sort of a VATS-y thing like a latter-day Fallout. But The Outer Worlds isn’t an open-world game like Fallout. It’s more of a a take your spaceship and your crew to various planets game and do quests there kind of game. To me, that suggests that it’s actually a latter-day Knights of the Old Republic or possibly even a latter-day Mass Effect. From the sound of it, however, all of the people and planets in The Outer Worlds are varying degrees of hopeless or awful, so maybe it’s more of a latter-day Knights of the Old Republic 2. (They are both Obsidian games, after all.)

    Can anyone who’s played the game tell me what–apart from the combat–makes it so Fallout-ish?

    1. ElementalAlchemist says:

      It’s Cain & Boyarsky’s spiritual successor to Fallout. There are certain thematic elements that are similar. You start off as someone emerging into a different time. You were in cryostasis on a ship for decades, which is similar to the Vault concept (and more or less identical to FO4). It is set in the future, but everything is a throwback to a bygone era’s conception of the future. Fallout has a 50’s theme, but TOW has more of a 20’s/30’s sort of vibe. There is a wacky science element, although it’s a little different to Fallout’s Vault-Tec experiments. And obviously there’s the slow-mo combat that is a Bethesda VATS analogue as you mentioned. Aside from that, to me it resembles nothing so much as Bioshock. Artistically it is very similar. Even the UI has elements that seem almost lifted straight from it. That said, mechanically it is much more generic, and the writing is pretty mediocre (it certainly doesn’t come close to the likes of Obsidian’s former games like TSL, FONV, MOTB, etc.).

      If you want to know why people are raving about it so much, refer to Eddie Murphy’s starving man in the desert routine. I dare say that eventually people will realise that TOW is just an ordinary old plain cracker.

    2. Chad Miller says:

      * The dialogue system calls back to the Infinity Engine/3d Fallouts system (non-voiced blank slate protagonist, similar multiple choice)

      * Character building is a stat/skill/perk system

      * General “there’s more than one way to do everything” ethos

  15. Ashen says:

    I don’t know, I’m a huge Obsidian fan, but this game feels really uninspired and boring. I’m almost at the end and frankly I don’t really feel like finishing it.

    I never really got what tone they were shooting for. The setting is so over the top absurd (it gets close to Borderlands level at times) you’d think this is a comedy, but it’s actually played straight and serious. It’s not like Fallout where the more whimsical elements serve as comic relief for the mostly down to earth post-apocalyptic setting. At the same time, writing lacks any sort of flair, it’s functional but after 20 odd hours I can’t name a single memorable quest or character. I guess the Vicar dude is mildly interesting, but then his story goes nowhere fast.

    In the end, this feels like almost the opposite of most Obsidian games. It’s polished, isn’t buggy, the gameplay is solid and there’s some decent level design, but the narrative really drags down and there isn’t a single original idea that hasn’t been better executed somewhere else.

    1. AzzyGaiden says:

      The script is in desperate need of someone with an actual voice. What we get feels cobbled together from properties like Futurama, Firefly, Star Wars, Idiocracy, and Fallout, without the wit or specificity of any of them.

  16. cheekibreeki says:

    The Outer Worlds was okay, its certainly better than the two POE games and Tyranny but I can’t help but feel disappointed that the combined efforts of Tim Cain and Leonard Boyarsky didn’t leave a product as great as Fallout or Arcanum. On a more positive note, Im glad Obsidian finally lifted it’s terrible bug curse and managed to make the combat palpable for once

  17. Ninety-Three says:

    My only question is, why weren’t we doing this the whole time?

    Because Obsidian were flat broke. For years they were limping along on Kickstarter budgets so shoestring that they couldn’t afford to animate “a man walks into scene and falls down” (when it happened in POE, they had to fade-to-black from no one there to a guy on the ground). The Outer Worlds was funded entirely by a deal with Take Two so that they could finally have the budget to go back to your point 3 and use a real 3D engine.

    Sometimes, it feels like a lack of nerve – like they wanted to make a full-bore anticapitalist game but blinked at the last second

    I don’t think so. I haven’t completed the game yet, but so far the game hasn’t actually thrown any shade at capitalism. It’s set on the frontier with no law except what the corporations make, so from a political perspective it makes more sense to model them as their own authoritarian nation-states rather than as capitalist entities operating in some larger framework. They’re effectively dictatorships, and not particularly capitalistic ones either: with the recurring theme of corps imposing collective responsibility on people, the emphasis on inept bureaucracy ruining productivity, and a famine plot, it’s closer to the USSR than either a traditional or an exaggerated market economy.

    If they were ever going for “anticapitalist”, they were doing a really bad job of it before they blinked.

  18. Darren says:

    One problem Obsidian has is that they always get treated as if they’re just shoveling out something we’re drowning in.

    Deadfire is an ambitious fusion of Baldur’s Gate gameplay and Elder Scrolls open world structure, but nobody played it because Divinity’s turn-based gameplay was deemed the True Way Forward.

    The Outer Worlds is the first time in nearly 10 years we get a really good Fallout experience, but it’s dismissed as old news because Disco Elysium is offering avant garde craziness.

    And that’s not to knock any other games or developers. But the discourse around Obsidian’s titles always seems like they’re fighting a misplaced perception that there’s no need for what they’re offering. It’s very strange.

    1. Gwydden says:

      It’s funny you should say that because, after trying PoE and Tyranny, I don’t feel like trying Deadfire or TOW out. I found the former two’s writing aggressively dull (if that’s what passes for brilliant RPG writing, boy, are we looking at a low bar) and their gameplay unremarkable. I was indeed too busy with D:OS2 and DE, titles I found much more creative, to bother with Obsidian’s latest bland attempts to relive past glories. TOW seems to be doing well enough now, but then people are in a mood to stick it to Bethesda and Obsidian has consciously leveraged that. We’ll see if anyone remembers it in a couple years.

      EDIT: But incidentally, I have seen a lot more talk about TOW than DE, so if anything it seems like the latter’s the one people are ignoring because of the shiny AA game by an established company. I suspect TOW will end up like DA:I (post-release hype then no one cares bout it after a few months) while DE will at the very least become a cult classic.

      1. Decius says:

        Did you find PoE’s writing dull, or inaccessible, or did you confuse the Kickstarter stories for the writing of the game world?

        1. Gwydden says:

          The first thing. It was shlocky fantasy writing at its worst: erratic plot, bland characters, the plague of worldbuilding and accompanying exposition, all delivered in dry, long-winded prose with little personality. PoE was a game I really wanted to like; I tried several times even, but the lackluster storytelling kept putting me off. Tyranny was similar, although there the awkward systems also played a part. PoE’s combat was somewhat enjoyable, at least, if not particularly so.

          1. Christopher Wolf says:

            I liked Tyranny in that you defaulted to “baddish guy” and if you wanted to play a “good guy” you had to really work for it.

          2. Decius says:

            “Plague of worldbuilding”

            Okay, we just disagree about what constitutes good writing. And also what constitutes exposition, if you think that revealing the world through characters talking about their place in it is “prose with little personality”.

            I found the writing difficult to access, since there’s nowhere you can just read a dry list of what the events around e.g. the Godhammer were; you could only see single facets at a time and couldn’t even see all of those in row.

            PoE’s combat is certainly tactically rich, if you want to optimize it, but the combat suffers badly from the level design, since almost all of it is in areas too tight for any positioning and with too many similar encounters in a row- the optimal choice is to implement the same plan seven or eight times on a given map.

            1. AzzyGaiden says:

              “Okay, we just disagree about what constitutes good writing. And also what constitutes exposition, if you think that revealing the world through characters talking about their place in it is ‘prose with little personality’.”

              It’s been a long time since I looked at PoE and Tyranny, but I feel like I get what Gwydden is saying.

              Your average person can talk about their job, where they’re from, their hobbies, their family, etc. They might have their opinions about politics or laws or whatever, but they’re often not fleshed out or even well informed. Many of these opinions will not hold up to strong scrutiny.

              What your average person generally can’t do is perceive their exact role in the immensely complex and flawed system that is society, how that society has come to be and how it functions. They do not have a tightly-constructed worldview and don’t have a quick and thought-out response to any form of criticism.

              I feel like Obsidian games generally fall into the latter category with their worldbuilding. It’s too clean, and some people are going to instinctively reject it because they can feel the writer’s hand too much.

              The former category is, admittedly, far more difficult to pull off. Morrowind is the best modern example I can come up with. More recently, I think BioWare did a pretty good job in the Dragon Age series, though Inquisition sometimes treads the line.

              1. Decius says:

                So… you think that NOT being able to get characters to remind/tell you the player about the things adjacent to what they are saying improves the storytelling?

                Also, Morrowind isn’t a modern example anymore. It’s classic already. One thing about Morrowind is that every single location has a story explaining why it’s there, even though only some of them were ever explicit. The bandits who live in that cave have names, and I recall that making me wonder whether I should have killed them, in a way that I never wondered about killing a mob named ‘bandit’.

                1. AzzyGaiden says:

                  Maybe I’m just old but I still think of Morrowind as “modern” in the sense that it’s first person and 3D. Early modern, but modern. Shakespeare rather than Chaucer.

                  To the main point, it’s the difference between showing and telling, between discovering things for myself and having information handed to me on a silver platter. It’s a subtle distinction, but real (to me, at least). To keep to the Morrowind example, if you want to learn the history of Vvardenfell and how it works, you have to really work at it. Most people don’t know, don’t care, are obviously biased, or are working from limited information themselves. There are lots of gaps you have to fill in yourself. There are no lore dumps. No one’s making sure that you have perfect, objective information so that you are fully informed when making your decisions. Everything is there for a reason, but the game trusts you to figure it out without signposting.

                  That, to me, is real worldbuilding.

          3. Zekiel says:

            Its interesting. I *loved* PoE, I think because I really enjoyed all the worldbuilding. As much as it pains me to admit it, the characters were just alright (I like Eder and Durance and Pellagina – but they’re not as good as the best of Bioware’s companions). And the plot was definitely poorly-paced.

            I keep feeling like I want to play PoE2, but the prospect of beginning another 60+ hour game – which probably has the same painfully long loading times as PoE1 – just puts me off every time.

    2. John says:

      Always? That’s only their last two games. Up until around Pillars of Eternity, I’d have said that Obsidian was fighting a not entirely undeserved perception that their games were ambitious but buggy and unfinished. In the post-Pillars period, however, you might be right. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Obsidian gets “treated as if they’re just shoveling out something we’re drowning in” though. It’s not that the market for real time with pause RPGs is glutted; it’s that the market for real time with pause RPGs isn’t all that big in the first place. I’d argue that a lot of the enthusiasm around the first Pillars was driven by nostalgia rather than by genuine and enduring love for real time with pause mechanics. Pillars of Eternity sated the nostalgia buyers, leaving a much smaller number of genre enthusiasts to play Deadfire. (Don’t ask me how Tyranny fits into this narrative.)

      1. Decius says:

        PoE had problems with pacing and player direction.

        Having a button in PoE that would take you from any cleared map to the world map and illuminate the areas on the world map that could currently progress active quests would have made a significant increase on Deadfire’s sales.

    3. Xander77 says:

      It’s not “always” though – only for the last few years, while Obsidian was playing catch-up. Perfecting adequate takes on a formula players were steadily growing bored with, instead of offering bold new takes and genre deconstructions.

  19. ColeusRattus says:

    Bob, you need to play Disco Elysium!

    1. Christopher Wolf says:

      Need is a strong word. Strongly recommend though!

      1. coleusrattus says:

        Having finished it two days ago and being quite blown away by it, I stand by “need”!

  20. Moss says:

    Bob, I’d love to hear your opinion on Disco Elysium (knowing your love of Planescape: Torment)

  21. Steve C says:

    I don’t get the hype for Outer Worlds. Really really don’t. I watched the first couple of interactions with NPCs and was completely turned off. That writing was hamfisted and awful. It’s playing up the “this npc is too stupid to live” trope. Except the game put the trope in an uncanny valley. I need it to be less (like say GTA) or more bombastic (Saints Row, Borderlands). No way I could stand that kind of writing for an entire game. There might be nonsensical plot in another game, which constitutes bad writing. Here I found it to be nonsensical characters. Which I consider worse.

    Then there is the high praise for art direction. Do not understand that. It looks like vomit to me. I don’t mean that in a “I’m just going to insult it” kind of way. I mean that the outdoor scenes in the opening sequence invoked strong associations with the color pallet and texture of vomit. It is the yellows, bits of red and the chunks. It does not look good to me. It looks really really awful. It reminds me of a sidewalk outside a bar, not an alien vista.

    The disconnect to the apparent consensus is worrisome to me. It reminds me of decades past when the N64 came out. I thought the PS1 and N64 games looked terrible. I believed it to be a significant reduction compared to SNES games that looked great. I still think that. The result was that there wasn’t anything I wanted to play for ~7 years until deep into the PS2 era.

    I read bylines like “We Should Do More Of This” and think Noooooooo!

    1. Decius says:

      There have been very few significant advances to sprite graphics since the SNES came out- the SNES did not support multiple levels of parallax in backgrounds, (two layers of background).

      Final Fantasy 3 through 5 for the SNES/SFC look much better than FF6-8, but the remastered versions lose that advantage- remastering the sprite graphics results in very little improvement, but the early polygonal graphics are easily improved quite a bit.

      Likewise Street Fighter 2 and its peers looked better than the first iteration of Super Smash Bros, but that advantage is so long gone that 2d fighting games have mostly moved to using polygonal models even when imitating the sprite-based legacy (i’m sure there are some exceptions, and it is noteworthy that the classics have remained classics.

      1. John says:

        Street Fighter (Capcom) went polygon in 2009. Guilty Gear (Arc Systems) went polygon in 2014, though they went all-in in the cell shading so it’s hard to tell. The last non-obscure proper 2D fighter of which I am aware is Skullgirls (Reverge Labs), which came out in 2012. I don’t know how many–if any–of the so-called anime fighters are 2D these days.

        1. Decius says:

          2d fighters don’t allow foreground/background movement. The difference between 2d and 3d fighters is gameplay, not graphics.

    2. Nessus says:

      I’m 100% with you on the art style. I’m enticed by the “New Vegas without the jank” promise that’s been tossed around by many reviewers, but then those same people gush about the aesthetic over video footage that looks almost physically painfully ugly.

      You’ve got a color palette that’s like the visual equivalent of the taste of Flintstones Vitamins. Visually Aggressive and dense textural detail patterns on all the scenery assets that actively camouflages 3-dimensional perspective cues to the point where the the total image always feels really “flat” no matter how dramatic the vista is underneath the textures is. A chonky “retro-future” “frontier hick” technology aesthetic that for me personally has never been attractive (there are works I like which use this sort of look, like Firefly or Borderlands, but I like those in spite of that look, not because of it).

      I’d really like to play this, but the more I see, the more I feel like I’m never going to unless it gets significant texture and lighting mods to de-uglify it. As it appears now, no matter how cool the gameplay or writing is, I’m just not going to be able to spend any amount of time in that world without feeling ill.

      …Speaking of which, does anyone know yet what kind of (if any) mod support this game will get? People keep comparing it to the Gamebryo-era Fallout and Elder Scrolls games, but a HUGE part of those games’ fan base/culture is in the gigantic mod scenes they fostered. I’ve been crossing my fingers that Obsidian would be aware of and continuing that, but the internet seems to be suspiciously silent about it so far. If OW isn’t as mod-friendly, I just can’t see it having the legs its antecedents have enjoyed.

  22. Outer Worlds seems to be a “solid game”, I’ve seen people report a few quirks and bugs, but mostly it seems fairly stable/complete.

    Some people stated that there might be a expansion or DLC coming, and/or that they left a few things out (unfinished). This may be the case and explain why the game has few issues (compared to various other AAA games out there).
    The engine itself is fairly mature and stable though so that might be part of the reason.

    The game does not appear to lack any polish so it seems Obsidian did manage to finish what they wanted to finish up (there most likely is cut content though).

    The PC settings menu seems rushed though, if anyone has seen Gopher on youtube you’ll find that he heavily criticised the lack of any option to turn off Chromatic Aberration which is excessive in this game, making everything look “smeared” and as if your eyes are unable to focus properly (which they probably are). Some have reported headaches due to this. Luckily you can edit a ini file to turn it off though. There might be some mouse acceleration stuff you can disable there too. But still, it should have been in the menu.

    I also seem to recall someone having issues with the game defaulting to a windowed fullscreen with a really low resolution for some reason.

    But overall the game seems solid. It’s not groundbreaking, it makes no statements on our society. It’s just a fun RPG action/adventure game. If Outer Worlds was not the reason Microsoft Studios bought Obsidian then it will surely be the reason why Microsoft Studios won’t mind giving Obsidian more or less whatever budget they want for their upcoming game(s). (IMO South Park showed that Obsidian is still able to make awesome “big” games)
    I still hope they’ll make their own KOTOR2’ish games in the future though (no voiced protagonist, more dialog, camera you can rotate around, I’m not a fan of locked cameras :/ )

    The Outer Worlds “World” I’m curious if Obsidian owns that fully or if the publisher Private Division owns some rights. If Obsidian holds all the cards then I think this universe might grow in the future which could be exiting.

    1. By “solid game” I also mean the design, graphics/art, writing/dialog, music. The menu theme itself have caused many to just stop and listen rather than click play. I predict it might get nominated for some awards.

  23. Taxi says:

    I’m sure the others have pointed it out already, but this is actually a 4th Obsidian game since FNV: Alpha Protocol, Pillars of Eternity, Tyranny and now this.

    So 5 games in 9 years, with only FNV being a leftover IP. Not bad for a scrappy studio?

    I’m a huge fan of AP. Yes it was a horrible mess in terms of tech, bugs, balance and tone, but it has the best dialog system ever, and perhaps the best dialogues indeed.

    Also isn’t it funny – KOTOR2 is usually regarded as somewhat better than KOTOR1; FNV better as FO3, never mind FO4.

    And Outer worlds gets nothing but praise. It sounds like a game I’d love if I had the option to play it.

    Go Obsidian! Man if only I had the time to play everything made by them since KOTOR2.

    1. ElementalAlchemist says:

      Your account is a bit off, both on the number of games and the order. The chronological order of Obsidian’s releases is:

      Knights of the Old Republic II – December 2004
      Neverwinter Nights 2 – October 2006
      Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer – September 2007
      Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir – November 2008
      Alpha Protocol – May 2010
      Fallout: New Vegas – October 2010
      Dungeon Siege III – June 2011
      South Park: The Stick of Truth – March 2014
      Pillars of Eternity – March 2015
      Skyforge (in collaboration with Allods Team) – July 2015
      Pillars of Eternity: The White March Part 1 – August 2015
      Pillars of Eternity: The White March Part 2 – February 2016
      Tyranny – November 2016
      Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire – May 2018
      The Outer Worlds – October 2019

      1. I’ll assume 2011 to 2014 was the period between the “old” Obsidian and “new” Obsidian, as well as working on the South Park game.
        Also, damn, KOTOR2 was before NWN2?
        And… that list is pretty damn impressive.

        1. ElementalAlchemist says:

          TSL was what they started with, yes. They had literally only just started the company when Bioware directed LucasArts to talk to them about the sequel, since LA wanted it within 12 months and Bioware wasn’t interested in that short of a turnaround. The company was founded in June 2003 and by October they were working on TSL (for release Xmas 2004).

          The period you mention is when they were working on South Park, but it is also when most of the studio was devoted to contract work on Armored Warfare for the Russian publisher My.com. This is what kept the company afloat before the PoE Kickstarter. Throughout this period they were constantly on the edge of bankruptcy.

  24. Mephane says:

    Oh crap, I forgot about this side-effect of the Epic Store shenanigans. Shamus will talk about this game and I can’t read it to avoid spoilers, so when it releases on Steam in a year (plus however long until I have completed it, plus the possibility that at that time I will still be neck deep in Cyberpunk 2077 and therefore play The Outer Worlds much later than on its Steam release) I would have to go back and read the posts much later… or more likely forget to and thus never get around to it. :(

    P.S.: For the record, I know it is also on Microsoft Game Pass or whatever it is called, I don’t care. I am not (yet?) ready to pay subscriptions for single player games, especially considering the fragmentation this market already comes with right at the start, i.e. the number of different subscriptions I’d either need to pay simultaneously, or more realistically juggle on and off to get to play the various titles I am actually interested in. And juggling subscriptions adds time pressure. If I were to subscribe just for 1 month of Uplay+ to play one game I am interested in, I now have to complete that game within that month lest I have to pay for a 2nd month to be able to complete it. No thanks, I would just rather buy.

    P.P.S.: Bonus negative points for any game that can be played as part of subscription and still has a mobile shovelware style P2W-ish cash shop on top anyway. I am especially but not only looking at you, Ubisoft.

  25. TLN says:

    I’ve only played a bit of Outer Worlds so far, and while it seems pretty neat for me it’s definitely been overshadowed by just how amazing Disco Elysium is. I had completely forgotten about the game since before they even changed the name from No Truce With The Furies so I had no real expectations, and turns out it gave me what is one of my favorite RPG experiences (or hell, let’s just say one of my favorite video game experiences!) in… i don’t know? A decade? I don’t think I’ve been this impressed or this excited to continue playing an RPG since at least New Vegas, if not even further back. I talked about it with a friend and I seriously struggled to come up with any bad parts except like “well sometimes it’s a pain in the ass going from one character to another back and forth through multiple load screens”, but that’s such a trivial concern compared to how great almost every other aspect of the game is.

    I’m really really hoping that Bob and/or Shamus will play & write about it because I think both of them would really enjoy it.

  26. certainOrder says:

    I often find that those who claim that capitalism is “evil” have failed to make a distinction between being pro-capitalism and being pro-business. The defining characteristic of capitalism is competitive markets based on prices. This single force has done more “good” than any other in history by improving the standard of living for the poorest amongst us.

    Certainly, businesses do not intend for these altruistic outcomes. As human beings, we should expect nothing more than for them to behave in the way most likely to personally benefit themselves. In the absence of competition, most businesses will trample individuals just as (probably more so) effectively as governments.

    I think Obsidian did a good job of bringing this out in dialog. Each character seems to be making decisions which are in their own best interests. But, it’s quite a stretch to claim that is a condemnation of capitalism; more like a condemnation of human selfishness. The real beauty of competition is that it turns our selfish tendencies into outcomes that benefit the whole. As several of your companions make clear throughout the game, the structure of capitalism is necessary to efficiency allocate scarce resources.

    I’m interested to hear other’s thoughts.

    1. trevalyan says:

      If you take enough business classes, you realize that from a theory standpoint, regulations have a primary purpose of raising the barriers to entry for a market. There are many good and bad reasons for having those regulations, and there is little merit to saying that no regulation/ all regulation should be cut. But they all make it easier for big businesses to keep out new entrants to a given field.

      I wouldn’t say capitalism is an “allocation,” per se. In modern Western societies, people are paid a certain sum for their work, and they can spend their money as prudently or foolishly as they like. It’s never been easier to buy products from anywhere in the world, or waste tens of thousands on microtransactions (I personally know two soldiers who did this).

      In that sense, the allocation of scarce resources in The Outer Worlds owes as much to 1984 or command economies as much as corporate greed.

      1. certainOrder says:

        Hmm. Interesting opinion.

        I do admit, my interests lie more with the study of economics, rather than the study of business. I also agree that there are many reasons for regulations which often do benefit existing corporations by raising the barrier to entrance in such regulated industries. Therefore you must surely agree that, to the extent that such regulations reduce competition in the marketplace, they are actually anti-capitalist policies, yes? In other words, you are actually substantiating my claim that there is significant confusion about the difference between being pro-capitalism and pro-business.

        I mostly agree that there are both “good” and “bad” reasons for regulations, although in my experience, economics isn’t really about making subjective, value-based judgements like that. Most adherents to the Chicago school of economic thought would say that the validity of a government regulation has as much to do with the expected impact on competition as it has to do with minimizing externalities. Insofar as there are legitimate grounds to impose regulatory costs on the purchase of a car from an automobile manufacturer to cover to costs of pollution imposed on the general population (an externality), these must also be weighed against the expected impact on the competitive marketplace. Since competition drives innovation, and more environmentally friendly cars require technological innovation, regulation which severly restricts competition may produce long term outcomes that are less desireable.

        I’d agree that capitalism isn’t an “allocation,” but if economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources which have alternative uses and capitalism is an economic system, then I’d say that capitalism is a system for the allocation of scarce resources. As such, I’m not totally sure I see the connection to Orwell’s 1984 or the command economies you speak of, as those systems as far as I can tell have more in common with planned economies, which are universally recognized in the economic community as producing suboptimal outcomes.

        In the case of The Outer Worlds, one could make a strong case that it is a place in desperate need of capitalism. The competitive landscape is essentially barren; it’s a place where consumer choice is relegated to picking between non-differentiated brands because of arbitraty reasons like being born into a particular community or preferring one brand’s jingle over another. I’m not sure that chalking all the negative outcomes up to “corporate greed” is a super productive point of view on a topic that’s relevant to all of us.

        1. trevalyan says:

          I hope I substantiated your claim about the confusion between capitalism and business- that was my intention, because you made a valid point.

          In practice, almost all modern economies use a mix of systems. Sometimes this can be purely cosmetic, as “Communist” China will happily let people die in the street if they can’t afford health care. In most Western economies, political pressure demands that “capitalist” systems include a great deal of government intervention with fiat money, regulations, and taxes. I understand why you’d want to concentrate on capitalism as a theory, for the sake of simplicity, but noting the mix of command economies with capitalism is important in the practical sense.

          At any rate, I didn’t say all the negative outcomes in TOW were down to corporate greed. I said there’s a mix of things to blame. Yet there is in-game history that absolutely and explicitly involves devaluing human lives in favor of corporate profits. Contra Gordon Gekko, greed is not always good.

      2. shoeboxjeddy says:

        “But they all make it easier for big businesses to keep out new entrants to a given field.” Assuming the “they” in this sentence is regulations, this is obviously untrue if we’re talking about anti-monopoly laws.

        1. Decius says:

          But obviously true if we’re talking about cosmetology licensing.

    2. Steve C says:

      I’m interested to hear other’s thoughts.

      My thoughts are you are clearly talking about politics and not about the game. The game isn’t even about that. The game is at most a surface level parody.

      1. certainOrder says:

        I admit to being new to this forum, but I assumed that it was a place for reasoned discussion. Normally, I’d expect such a claim as yours to be supported by evidence.

        In point of fact, I was talking about some basic economic theories and their impact on the plot and characters in the game; nothing to do with politics. I suspect that attempting to trivialize the game as a “surface level parody,” is a way to mask a lack of understanding about economic principles and their effect on the narrative structure of the game.

        I’d never fault anyone for disliking something as subjective as a game or a story, but it’s telling that you choose to respond to a perfectly innocent and rational discussion with insubstantial vitriol.

        1. Steve C says:

          I suspect that attempting to trivialize the game as a “surface level parody,” is a way to mask a lack of understanding about economic principles

          Inflammatory statements like that and the dig about “reasoned discussion” (implying what I wrote is does not count as such) is why politics is not allowed. And no your suspicion is incorrect. I have a minor in economics actually. That’s *how* I know it is politics. And why *I can’t* comment even if I wanted to. Since you are new, you should be aware that phrases like “perfectly innocent and rational discussion” to defend your position while characterizing anything someone else wrote as “insubstantial vitriol” is an example of why the rule exists.

          BTW there’s nothing wrong with a surface level parody.

          1. certainOrder says:

            That’s an interesting position. If I have violated some forum rules, I do apologize, however as far as I can see, the rules are: “Be nice, don’t post angry and enjoy yourself,” which I thought I was doing while highlighting a topic that is interesting (to me) and relevant to the game. I feel like I’d really like a moderator to weigh in on this: Were/are my posts inappropriate? Have I missed some critical ruleset? Because, it was fun at first and I’ve enjoyed the discussion until now. However, I certainly don’t want to be responsible for making it un-fun for others, so if I’m wrong here I’d like to know so I can gracefully disengage.

            I guess what I meant by “reasoned discussion” was that assertions would be supported by evidence. Your original comment consists of three assertions and no evidence. That’s not even a discussion, let alone a reasoned one. Surely someone who minors in economics should recognize this. I hope that your professors demand that you support a position that you hold, otherwise you’re not getting your money’s worth. Furthermore, claiming expertise in a field doesn’t preclude you from demonstrating that expertise…with evidence. I could easily claim any number of degrees or expertise instead of simply making a case, but I didn’t. Because there’s no substitute for substance.

            I do agree that economics and politics have historically been closely linked. However, it’s been about 200 years since they were considered the same field of study. Thank you, Adam Smith. And, generally the prohibition about politics in discussion is to prevent disagreements over subjective or arbitrary positions from derailing honest discussion, which isn’t the case here. There was honest and frank discussion prior to you joining in, and the economic principles in question are supported by centuries of evidence and are not subjective or arbitrary in the least. In fact, I try (although I do sometimes fail) to never make arbitrary or unsubstantiated claims, for exactly this reason.

            Finally, if I have taken your comment out of context, or misinterpreted your statements as antagonistic, I apologize for that too. However, surely you must admit that it was an understandable interpretation. Just as your latest comment could be interpreted as condescending and adversarial, although I’m choosing to believe you’re trying to be helpful and constructive.

            BTW, I never claimed that there was anything wrong a “surface level parody,” just that I disagree with your assessment that this game is one. Clearly, if that is your take then I wouldn’t expect a discussion of the deeper underlying principles that were used by the authors to craft a believable worldspace would be interesting to you. And, if they aren’t interesting, I’m confused as to why you would feel the need to weigh in at all.

            1. Shamus says:

              I am late in weighing in on this. I actually find economic discussions fascinating and I’ve really been enjoying this thread, but Steve C is right. I probably should have jumped in sooner.

              certainOrder is ALSO correct that the rules aren’t really formally posted, and this is more of a community norm than a law. I mean, I talked about it in this post, but I don’t expect newcomers to be aware of that post before they comment.

              The problem – and I’m thinking we’re all in agreement on this – is that economics leads inevitably to tribal politics in general conversation, and even moreso in internet-based discussions. There’s just no way this doesn’t end up as a proxy fight between Keynes, Hyack, Marx, Bastiat, and Smith, as filtered through the latest hashtag war on Twitter based on whatever people were recently shouting at each other on Fox News / MSNBC. It’s silly, but that’s the world we live in.

              It is probably possible to have an informed reasoned discussion on this between educated debaters that isn’t dragged down by the screeching of the usual tribal partisans, but that would take a moderator that has the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of the Buddha. I am confident that I am not that guy. Also, I’m not really impartial in this debate and so I’d make for a lousy referee.

              I realize it’s annoying and frustrating when we’re supposed to somehow discuss the Outer Worlds and yet somehow navigate around a topic that’s woven into its themes and worldbuilding. That’s like trying to discuss The Matrix without bringing up computers. But the alternative is an angry fight between random strangers and a biased moderator.

              Sorry. Let’s just close this topic and move on.

              1. certainOrder says:

                Lol, fair enough Shamus. I do think there is a semantics problem here, as my understanding of economics/capitalism is about the exact opposite of politics, so it’s a shame that we have to close it down. However, I do respect your decision to do so.

                I would ask as a personal favor, and on behalf of future newcomers, that some link or mention of your post be make more apparent and available. As you say, it’s a blurry line, and I think it’d be helpful for new people to have a sense of where the blurring begins before opening up a relevant, but potentially controversial topic.

                1. Ninety-Three says:

                  Lol, fair enough Shamus. I do think there is a semantics problem here, as my understanding of economics/capitalism is about the exact opposite of politics

                  Here it’s being used as something like “things that people get political about”, and “Capitalism: Good or bad?” is definitely a live political question these days. There exists a dry and less political science of economics that can be discussed somewhat neutrally, just like there exists a dry technical literature written by and for doctors on the precise medical details of abortion, but I wouldn’t trust an internet comments section to handle either of them without degenerating into a political flamewar.

                  1. certainOrder says:

                    Is this really how we close a topic here? By trying to poke someone with the last word and tell them what they *really* mean? Not exactly what I’d call academically rigorous.

                    1. Ninety-Three says:

                      I was trying to explain what the people on the other side of your semantics problem meant by politics.

                2. Syal says:

                  I’ll mention if you haven’t read Slate Star Codex it’d probably be up your alley. That one’s almost exclusively politics, with solid dialogues, and the rare non-political post is wonderful.

                  Thoug it’s kind of hard to navigate since every post is on the front page without page breaks and the titles of the posts don’t really stand out.

        2. Ninety-Three says:

          In point of fact, I was talking about some basic economic theories and their impact on the plot and characters in the game; nothing to do with politics.

          Man, I like capitalism but this is some politics:

          This single force has done more “good” than any other in history by improving the standard of living for the poorest amongst us.

          The community norms are that we don’t do that kind of thing here because it leads to miserable arguments and frustration.

  27. RJT says:

    The video in the article has been copyright claimed (falsely, I’m sure). Does anyone know of an alternate upload?

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