So, I’ve spent enough time with Outer Worlds that I finally read Rob’s review, and I think it – in addition to the Sam Greer review Emily posted above – nail how I feel about the game. As a game, I’d describe it as “aggressively fine”: there are no glaring issues, no big swings that completely miss the mark, gameplay wise. But the result of that is that nothing feels terribly exciting for me. It plays almost exactly like the nu-Fallouts, which is fine but not a whole lot else.
The writing, though, is where I completely fall off. I just can’t shake the feeling that this is little more than the radical centrist’s pastiche on late capitalism in which the very thought of rejecting capitalist structures altogether must be paired with some flavor of immorality and/or incompetence. I get why this is the case, but it’s still such a bummer that I get left feeling like I’m never playing a desired character role so much as I’m taking an elaborate Buzzfeed personality test to see how willing I am to seek long term changes at the expense of ruining people’s lives.
Take that Emerald Vale climax. Why is it that in my particular playthrough, I don’t find out about how horrible a person the deserters’ leader is until after I made the choice to give them the power? And why is she written so that her resentment toward the company town comes about as a result of grief, as opposed to any sort of class consciousness? And why does the game suddenly go so far out of its way at the last possible moment to tell me “You know, you’re going to kill a lot of people if you make this choice” when it had hours beforehand to make it clear why I should favor one faction over the other? When I got to the part where Parvati pleaded her case, I just rolled my eyes; not because I’m some heartless tank, but it just felt so contrived to the point that I could almost see the writer’s hand guiding me to making the choice that they’d have made themselves.
I’m just left with the impression that this game’s writers either couldn’t or didn’t want to imagine an alternative to capitalist society in any form that makes it desirable. So often, it seems like the most moral choices the game paints for the player are ones that find balance between the two poles and come out the other end supporting a “good capitalism” – "It’s “Horseshoe Theory: The Video Game:” If you go toward either extreme, you’ll be treated as a bad person, but if you stay in the middle then you’re officially a good guy!