When I first heard that Obsidian’s new role-playing game was only 30-40 hours long, I let out a sigh of relief. A very good game that didn’t weigh me down with filler content for the sake of being able to add hours to its playtime? Sign me the hell up. Now that I’ve actually played the game, though, I’ve come to realize that this pragmatic philosophy can be found throughout the experience, in a number of small but brilliant design decisions.
The first thing that I noticed was that, while The Outer Worlds features locking and hacking, unlike most games, it doesn’t bog you down with a silly mini game to do it. If you have a high enough stat, or if you have the right tools, you just press and hold a button for a couple of seconds and voila: you did the thing. That’s it. That’s the whole idea.
This probably sounds like a tiny detail, but I can’t help but wonder how many hours of my life I’ve wasted doing hacking and lock picking mini games that didn’t add anything to the experience, other than tedium. I enjoyed the brain teasing aspect of discovering the right word in Fallout’s hacking game, for instance, but eventually I just started using one of the many online tools that would outright tell you what the right answer was. After a few hundred times of doing the same thing, anything becomes boring. The Outer Worlds doesn’t even bother. Can your character do it, technically speaking? Great, press the button, let’s get to the interesting part of the game now.
Another thing I love about The Outer Worlds is that it makes inventory management a breeze. You can sort your items by value, which is a godsend. You can also earn a perk early on in the game that allows you to fast travel even while over encumbered, and it’s a feature that, as a character who steals nearly everything, I value deeply. No more spending ages trying to figure out what to carry, what to sell, and what to keep. I don’t really have to think about inventory much at all now. I also enjoy the fact you can just … walk through your companions. No more getting stuck in random places because the AI won’t move! I could cry.
And then there’s the quest log, which breaks down every step of what’s happened thus far, in terms of what you’ve done and who you’ve spoken to. Given the huge number of quests that you’re given almost immediately, I appreciate that the game knows I probably won’t be able to hold all of the information in my head at once.
Instead, The Outer Worlds seems to do everything in its power to remove friction from the experience, instead opting to get me back into the action as quickly and as smoothly as possible. Going back to other games that aren’t as thoughtful about the small things is going to be hard after this.
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