Having finished The Outer Worlds, I’m reminded of the last time I enjoyed an RPG that much. It was probably Dragon Age: Origins. Which are very different genres: Outer Worlds is a science fiction shooter set in a caricature world; Origins was a sword and spell tactical game set in a fantasy world.
There’s two really specific ways the games connect in my mind, aside from the level of fun.
One of the things I rather enjoyed is the open ended way of conversing. In both OW and DA, you can pretty much respond to given situation how you want. Will your interactions be kind hearted, greedy, or antagonistic? It’s up to you. While some games insert hilarious options, The Outer Worlds, like Dragon Age: Origins: is very consistent in this execution of choice. Down to the point that it may as well be a running gag being able to introduce yourself as the former captain of The Unreliable instead of yourself. Plus there’s the case of choices that actually make a difference, and party interaction.
Another is the Not Another Sandbox Thing. I really enjoyed the Elder Scroll games, for an example. But the 2000s will probably be best remembered as the era of sandbox games, and when shooters traded the dozen guns in your back pocket for MMO-like skill attributes. But I don’t really like “Open world” sandboxes as a game design. I find that they often cause a lose of focus, and in many games not made by Really Big Makers Of Games, it often feels more like a copout rather than a benefit. In fact even when it’s made by big fish it still feels that way quite often. By contrast, Outer Worlds and Dragon Age: Origins are more like a series of small contained environments. You get the open-world aspects of being able to choose where you go, and how you go questing. But you’re not dumped in a sandbox and left to wander around. I find this lends a greater focus to problem solving, and questing.
Pretty tersely: The Outer Worlds is probably the best modern RPG game that I’ve played in quite a while.