A Killer Among The Stars
HIGH The writing continues to be outstanding.
LOW Some sidequests feel like obnoxious padding.
WTF No one else notices the infected citizens? No one?
Halcyon Helen is an intergalactic star. She’s the main character of what The Outer Worlds calls serials – essentially, soap operas for their universe. She’s looked up to by many for providing investigative shows people that help people forget their busy and miserable lives. And at the beginning of The Outer Worlds’ final DLC entry Murder on Eridanos — she’s also dead.
While on a promotional tour for a new liquor brand, Helen is tragically murdered by an unknown assailant in her hotel’s ballroom. The planet’s authorities waste no time in hiring the best freelancer in the galaxy — the player! — to investigate her murder, and so the mystery begins!
From the jump, developer Obsidian’s clever writing is on full display as one of the first steps in this DLC is taking a video call from Eridanos authorities as they attempt to hire me for the investigation. The messy call plays out in hilarious fashion as key players try to undermine each other to get on my good side. Despite the grim subject matter, the characterization and writing is witty and upbeat throughout. A few throwaway lines by extremely low-level NPCs even had me setting my controller down because I was laughing so hard. Obsidian, the writing staff and voice actors continue to bring their A-game.
Mechanically, Murder on Eridanos doesn’t deviate from what players should expect from The Outer Worlds. The existing pillars of gameplay are exploring, shooting and talking, but because the DLC focuses on solving the mystery, Eridanos emphasizes exploration and talking over shooting. Combat is still sprinkled throughout, but I think if Obsidian had taken a risk by including very little (or no) combat it would’ve paid off with a more streamlined and cohesive package.
Talking works well in Eridanos because the key suspects feel real and multifaceted. Each suspect could have reasons for wanting to murder Helen and must be vetted to determine who had the most compelling motive. On top of that, Eridanos does a great job of fleshing out Helen — at a certain point the celebrity persona of Halcyon Helen ends and the real woman behind her begins. As I interviewed hotel staff, her costars, an athlete she dated and more, I began to understand that Helen wasn’t just a bimbo actress. Was she possibly murdered due to something dark going on behind the scenes?
However, other parts of the script aren’t as compelling or cohesive. One interesting subplot involves citizens’ minds being altered by a parasite and the intrigue is only exacerbated by no one on the planet seeming to notice. This infection occasionally culminates in NPCs going full aggro and needing to be killed, but I felt strange murdering these ordinary people just for falling victim to a parasite. Although the issue is eventually addressed, Eridanos doesn’t present a way to incapacitate these poor people, and because no one else on the planet seemed to care, I couldn’t ask anyone about it.
Also the second half of Eridanos dragged for me. Because much emphasis is placed on going back and forth across the planet to interview suspects, I found myself staring at a lot of loading screens as I fast-traveled everywhere. Go to the map, fast travel, load screen, enter a building, load screen, talk to someone and exit, load screen, fast travel somewhere else, load screen.
This was all punctuated by a few completely unnecessary sidequests that boil down to tasks with literally no story impact. Eridanos took me about 10 hours to complete, but some of the fat could’ve been trimmed for a leaner experience. Of course, the side quests are optional, but it was hard to tell which would flesh out the bigger picture on Eridanos and which existed only to pad the gameplay, so I ended up doing all of them thinking that they’d serve the story in some way — but they didn’t.
Murder on Eridanos is an interesting way to put a bow on The Outer Worlds. Instead of a balls-to-the-wall action finale, it offers up a slower-paced mystery that showcases what Obsidian is best at – writing and acting. Although it makes some missteps and the pacing could be better, I enjoyed uncovering the mystery. Regardless of all else, Obsidian is nearly in a league of their own when it comes to writing. and experiencing more of their work is always enjoyable.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Obsidian and published by Private Division This copy of the DLC was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PS4. Approximately 10 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M with descriptors for Strong Language, Intense Violence, and Blood and Gore. The official ESRB description is as follows: “This is an action role-playing game in which players assume the role of a colonist in a space colony. From a first-person perspective, players explore an open-world environment, interact with characters, complete mission objectives, and battle alien creatures. Players use blasters, machine guns, and shotguns to kill creatures and human enemies in frenetic combat; action is highlighted by slow-motion and blood-splatter effects. Players can also shoot and kill civilians, though this may negatively affect players’ progress. Some attacks result in decapitation and dismemberment of creatures. The words “f**k,” “sh*t,” and “a*shole” are heard throughout the game.“
Colorblind Modes: According to Obsidian, the game was explicitly designed to be playable independent of color information. However, it has no colorblind modes selectable..
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All dialogue, cinematics, and combat barks are reflected in text and visual interface elements. User Interface and subtitle text can be changed among 11 sizes. There are no audio cues needed for gameplay, though some enemies may attack players from behind. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: On PS4, the controls are not customizable, however the game has four control maps with a right- or left-hand option available for each setting. Y and X Axes can be standard or inverted and many control stick sensitivity and dead zone sliders are available.