But seeing The Outer Worlds on Xbox’s magnificent Game Pass lured me back in. I’d kick it off from the start again, and try to run through more than just a few hours before losing interest and wandering back into the warm embrace of some other decade-plus old game instead. But this time around – at the time of writing, of course – it’s working [rogue update: I actually finished it last week]. The Outer Worlds has its claws in, I’m coming around to its way of thinking, and I’ve ploughed through that all-important ten-hour milestone on my way to… erm… I don’t actually know what I’m doing in it, to be honest. Something about a ship full of long-frozen colonists. But I honestly don’t care, because I’m too busy – would you believe it – mucking about.
Turns out The Outer Worlds is another one of those that aligns perfectly with my need to investigate every box I walk past. While I can’t say this is a behaviour engaged in in real life, it’s definitely something I have to do in many a game. Stuff to find, stuff to grab, stuff to steal – it’s all there. And it’s mixed in The Outer Worlds with a great system, whereby if you’re seen or discovered stealing, you can talk/lie/bribe/intimidate your way out of trouble, rather than going to jail over an accidentally nabbed sweet roll. Bloody Skyrim. So I can happily plod around, incredibly slowly, surely boring anyone who might happen to be watching me play half to death, picking up every pointless bit of crap I can.
And then when I’m not picking up tins of space-tuna, I’m usually diving deep into conversations. The things I normally skip through with some classic speed-reading have ended up being something I sit through – and enjoy – in The Outer Worlds. A combination of smart writing and solid voice acting makes for something that doesn’t feel like it’s padding getting in the way. Who knew? It’s not a laugh-riot, it’s not the Absolute Best writing I’ve seen in a game, but it’s a fantastic mixture that manages to keep the attention of a seriously addled brain. So, kudos there.
And, of course, all of this is bookended nicely by the ongoing, genuinely rather funny satire of naked, unfettered capitalism that runs through the game’s very core. It’s not a manual on anarchism, trying to convert the young and impressionable to a thought process along the lines of ‘What if no hierarchy’ – but it does poke fun, throw hypothetical (believable) situations in your face, and put the consequences of end-stage capitalism in your way. The worker having to pay funeral costs for a colleague’s suicide as they were the closest living person to the deceased – that being literally the closest; the nearest person to the person when they died.
The shunning of wonderful companion character Parvati for having the nerve to follow in her father’s footsteps as a mechanic, rather than doing what her aptitude tests as a child told her she had to do. The chap with the moon head working at the Spacer’s Choice emporium who, after a dozen or more questions around the subject of his personal happiness, finally breaks down a bit and shows some humanity, rather than another corporate slogan. I really like it. It’s a pretty straightforward concept, but Obsidian’s writers run with it throughout, and it brings a lot of character to the game.
So it is that I’ve returned to The Outer Worlds and – third time lucky – got into it. I always knew it was a good game; it’s just taken a fair old while for my headspace to align with what the game offers. It’s a lesson we all need to remember (I’m sure most of us have already learned it): you don’t have to play stuff just because it’s new. You don’t have to keep playing stuff if you’re not getting on with it. And giving a game another chance can reap rewards. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve another 30 hours or so of mucking about to be getting on with.