The Outer Worlds is hilarious, if the short PAX East demo is indicative of its overall quality.
The demo – in which voice acting isn’t yet implemented – kicks off showing us the city of Byzantium, a metropolis for the rich. It’s where everyone wants to live, but tough immigration policies often mean they can’t. But beneath all the gloss, The City of the Elite hides a darker side.
You can see this rot represented visually, with buildings looking glossy and glamorous from afar, but with wear and tear clearly visible upon closer inspection. The entire city is a facade and the only thing that matters is advertising reach, as you’d expect from a colony founded by megacorps.
One of the first things you see upon entering is an advertising drone that’s peddling Auntie Cleo’s Energising Ointment, “Enjoy six cups’ worth of concentrated caffeine in every dollop!” it proclaims. It’s like if Dubai was governed by diet pill-peddling Instagram influencers. There’s a grim side to The Outer Worlds, but the constant barrage of gags keeps things balanced.
The demo also gives us a look at how Obsidian uses player stats to offer unique options – calling out a dumb remark with your intelligence stat, for example – or how your choice of companion can add something to different conversations. Then there’s how you can express yourself silently, with one dialogue option being simply “exude wordless fury” and another being “say nothing, but make your eye twitch a little”. It’s dripping with daftness.
At the start of the panel, Obsidian co-founder Tim Cain said, “People don’t want to feel depressed while they’re playing games”, and the entire game is seemingly built around this principle. This ethos even extends to the weapons you wield.
The Mandibular Rearranger is a science weapon that Obsidian created after finding a bug that added random values to NPCs’ heads and faces upon contact. Rather than fixing it, it was packaged as a feature in the form of a weapon that twists and deforms faces, making enemy heads go a bit Beetlejuice with each swing of the baton.
“There was a bug where the NPC faces were getting pushed to the extremes in some of the builds, and it was making us laugh,” said lead designer Charles Staples. “And we thought we should use this because it was making us laugh, and humor is a big part of this game.”
Let’s hope Obsidian runs into some more unintentional hilarity before The Outer Worlds launches some time this year.