Obsidian Entertainment’s upcoming RPG, The Outer Worlds, is getting a lot of attention for its apparent similarities to Fallout 3 and New Vegas. Its dialogue screens are nearly identical, it’s got its own version of VATS, and you can choose whether to play as a hero, villain, or psychopath. However, one element of the modern Fallout games that’s always been lacking is build diversity, and The Outer Worlds looks set to address that in a big way.
Sure, you’ve always been able to tailor your Fallout builds so that you’re proficient in a specific form of combat, or better at speech, hacking, or lockpicking, but these don’t fundamentally alter the way you complete missions. Try and complete a pacifist run of Fallout 3 or Fallout 4 and you’ll need to break the game, or run through tricky sections while spamming stimpaks, in order to progress through the main quest.
It’s no coincidence that Fallout: New Vegas – also developed by Obsidian – offers the most choice in terms of how you tackle missions and create your character. Roughly 30% of the team working on The Outer Worlds also worked on New Vegas, and that commitment to diverse character builds is clearly visible in the E3 2019 gameplay demo.
We start in Fallbrook, the only town on the planet of Monarch capable of shipping in goods from other planets in the system, thanks to a gang of smugglers at the Sublight Salvage and Shipping Corporation. The company is run by Catherine Malin, one of the few people in Fallbrook willing to give work to an outsider like us. We need to convince her we’re reliable, though, which prompts a variety of dialogue options to flood the screen. She’s tough, so we’d need to be very strong to intimidate her into giving us a job. Instead, we roll out the old PCGamesN charm.
The mission is simple enough: there’s a meat factory nearby that’s making a lot of money, and Catherine wants it. How you go about the task – and indeed if you even want her to end up with the factory – is up to you. We’re told that you can blast right through the front gates, acquire a disguise to simply walk in, or look for a hidden entrance and sneak in undetected. We decide on the last option and set off towards the factory.
At this point we learn more about our current build. Obsidian says it is developing a new type of character concept, one entirely based on leadership qualities rather than combat, stealth, or dialogue. The leadership build is about making your companions stronger – both in terms of dealing and taking damage – and benefiting from their skills in turn.
For example, one of our companions is a fast-talking field medic called Ellie. This means we get a few medic skills while she’s in our party, but also some speech skills – most notably, lying. Our other companion in the demo, Nyoka, is an alcoholic big game hunter, so our weapon skills and stealth abilities are buffed as a result.
If your character is stupid, you sometimes won’t be able to say anything other than ‘hnnng’.
En route to the factory we come across a group of marauders, which is an excellent excuse to test the leadership build in combat. We start things off with a headshot, before activating one of Nyoka’s combat abilities, in which she fires a barrage of bullets that instantly remove two enemies from the equation. By the time we’ve taken aim at another marauder and squeezed the trigger, it’s time to use one of Ellie’s abilities: she fans her six-shooter, wasting another target. It’s rare that an RPG has your companions do all the hard work, but the leadership build appears to allow just that, with the majority of damage dealt in this brief skirmish having come from Nyoka and Ellie.
Casing the meat factory, we find the promised hidden entrance through its sewers, and emerge among its pig stock. The gestation crates here don’t hold any normal hogs though, instead they contain ‘cystipigs’ – genetically mutated swine that grow meaty tumours, which drop off when they become too bloated and are turned into affordable meat products. Thanks to their sheer size, we’re able to hide behind these porcine behemoths to avoid detection by factory workers and patrolling robots.
Eventually, we make it to a control room where we can either hack a terminal to take control of the robots, or use the intercom to address the workers on the factory floor. We opt for the latter and are presented with a ‘dumb’ option, reflecting our build’s low intelligence. As in Fallout: New Vegas, if your character is sufficiently stupid you’ll occassionally encounter ‘dumb’ speech options, and in some cases won’t be able to respond with anything other than ‘hnnng’. Further down in the dialogue options we see a skill check for ‘lie’ with a little human icon next to it – this means that one of our companions (Ellie) has boosted our skill points for fibbing, allowing us to pass this check. Through this quirk of the leadership build, we convince the workers that their boss has just invited them all to dinner – a thought they all find repulsive, so they down tools and flee the area.
We sneak past the remaining robots to reach a terminal on the opposite side of the factory, but as we’re too dumb and our companions aren’t gifted hackers, we can’t use it to shut down the place down without alerting the owner.
Unfortunately that’s where our demo ends, but it’s clear that build diversity is returning from Fallout: New Vegas in a big way. Obsidian has already teased the notion that you’ll be able to complete the whole game without killing any NPCs – or, indeed, by killing every NPC – and the leadership build is another example of the studio’s focus on flexible gameplay.
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The Outer Worlds release date is October 25. For everything else we know about the game so far, hit that link.