It’s Not The Best Choice… (There’s No Punchline Coming.)
HIGH Eventually (I assume?) this will be a fine release.
LOW It sure as s*** ain’t right now.
WTF Putting the level cap to 99 in this game is the definition of arbitrary and capricious.
I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that made me ponder what the hell a written videogame review is even supposed to be in 2023 quite like The Outer Worlds: Spacer’s Choice Edition has.
Before we get into everything awful here, please read Josh Tolentino’s exceptional review for the original Outer Worlds. He does a great job running through what the game is and what makes it fabulous, and I find myself agreeing with so much of what he said. The Outer Worlds is a whip-smart Action-RPG with some truly outstanding writing that lambastes corporate culture while providing an exceptionally well-realized galaxy to explore. The game is directed by Leonard Boyarsky and Tim Cain, the original developers of the Fallout series as well as Fallout: New Vegas, and this definitely feels like something they would make.
My favorite thing about the dialogue and choices is that they’ve created a world that doesn’t define itself with the traditional ideals of “good” or “evil”. Essentially, everyone in The Outer Worlds is kind of a garbage human, so I found it liberating to go from virtuous hero in one scenario to being a sadistic, greedy bastard 30 minutes later because it felt like the right move at the time. I never found myself worrying about a morality arrow pointing in a specific direction due to a choice I made, and that’s a sign of a game where decisions truly matter.
In terms of combat, while it gets relatively monotonous, the shorter-than-average RPG runtime does a lot to make sure it doesn’t overstay its welcome, making The Outer Worlds an exceptional choice for anyone looking to play what is essentially a slightly improved, tighter Bethesda game. This is how I felt about it when it first released in 2019, and that is still the case today.
The Outer Worlds is a great videogame, full stop — but that’s not why people are reading this review.
No, they’re reading this because the recently released Spacer’s Choice Edition (a name so ironic given what that term means that I find it hard to believe Private Division didn’t know what they were implying) is the latest game industry dumpster fire, evidenced by the numerous reports citing its deficiencies, lots of anger, promises of patches, and the obligatory “we’re sorry” tweets from publisher 2K. It’s so bad that original developer Obsidian Entertainment even sent out an apology despite apparently having nothing to do with the new version.
That last bit is important.
While Obsidian actually did a fair bit of enhancing and patching to the original release, this new version of is essentially a whole new product, developed primarily by port-house-of-questionable-quality Virtuos, who are probably best known as the people behind the much-maligned Batman: Return To Arkham remasters.
When purchased (or “upgraded”) it shows up as a separate title, apart from the original release for those who owned it already. That’s because Private Division, the “boutique” publishing subsidiary of 2K, is about to lose the publishing rights to Microsoft, who now own Obsidian.
In other words, this is a cash-grab, and the last chance for 2K to capitalize on an IP before it’s no longer in their control. Also, is it a coincidence that something so clearly undercooked was released in mid-March (right before the end of the fiscal year) instead of being kept in the oven a bit longer? I’m not the first one on the internet to point out how hilarious/dystopian it is that The Outer Worlds has become such a cynical product of corporate apathy, but the projection going on here is something fierce.
So what the heck is the Spacer’s Choice Edition? Well it’s supposed to be an enhanced remaster of the original 2019 release with updated character models, new lighting, a new level cap, and they also threw in the DLC from the first game for good measure. It represents a pseudo “Definitive Edition” for a game that deserves such treatment, but it fails spectacularly at every turn.
I was given a code by the publisher for the Playstation 5 version. Like a lot of late-generation titles from the PS4/Xbox One era, The Outer Worlds did not perform well on then-modern hardware. It fared a little better on the PS4 Pro/Xbox One X, but for the most part they represented a significant step back from the PC version with bad framerates and a substantial nerfing of graphical fidelity.
While the graphics in the console version of Spacer’s Choice are a significant step up in terms of effects, the framerate is absolutely dreadful on PS5. There are two graphical options — quality mode targets 4K and 30FPS, and performance mode (I almost put that one in quotes) targets 1800p-ish resolution and 60FPS. Neither are particularly successful, but the performance mode has quite possibly the worst framerate I have encountered recently. It’s a stuttering mess that only reaches 60FPS while talking to characters in dialogue, and while the quality mode isn’t as ghastly as the performance mode, it certainly isn’t what anyone would classify as consistent.
That’s not the only problem. While the lighting engine has improved, the contrast of the images have been turned up considerably, making things look either incredibly washed-out or oddly neon in certain scenarios. The Outer Worlds was always colorful, but now it simply looks unnatural, and the lighting indoors is incredibly inconsistent. Combine that with the contrast issues, and some environments are borderline impossible to maneuver around because it’s so dark. I will give them credit for touching up and improving character models, but combined with the framerate, not only does it run like crap, I’m tempted to say it may be legitimately nauseating to look at.
Graphics aren’t the only place where Spacer’s Choice Edition is rushed. They’ve included the two DLC packs from the original release, but have done nothing to better integrate them into what should be a definitive edition. Both Peril on Gorgon and Murder on Eridanos are late-game expansions with a suggested minimum level warning, and both are introduced to the player early in the adventure when they won’t be able to properly tackle them. Also, the main menu advertises each DLC pack as if they’re something that can be bought instead of something I already own due to having this version. This is a small issue, but I think it speaks volumes about just how slapped-together this package feels.
The most significant gameplay enhancement comes in the form of a new level cap of 99. With the DLC installed, the original Outer Worlds had a level cap of 36, which doesn’t sound like much, but was perfectly adequate for an RPG that isn’t very long by RPG standards. One can blast through the main quest in about fifteen hours, and doing all the sidequests and DLC may take up to 50-ish hours. I find this a selling point by the way, as The Outer Worlds doesn’t have a lot of fat, nor does it have many quests that come off as filler. In my playthrough, I completed the main quest, did a fair amount of side content including both DLCs, all companion quests, some of the faction quests, and my final level was 46.
While Spacer’s Choice does benefit from being able to level past 36, I don’t see a world in which it has enough meat to justify going to level 99, and any significant benefit to a level cap increase probably peters out around level 50-ish. In The Outer Worlds, the vast majority of XP earned comes completing quests, and there aren’t an overwhelming amount of those to begin with. I suppose someone could spend 40 hours grinding through enemies to get to level 99, but I have no idea why anyone would want to. Spacer’s Choice does nothing to actually change the way leveling up works, nor does it rebalance the late game to accommodate this new cap. This is a poorly-implemented “enhancement” that serves only to be a bullet point on the back of the box.
The Outer Worlds: Spacer’s Choice Edition retails for $59.99, and while the price is a bit eyebrow-raising, the original version has maintained its value on digital storefronts surprisingly well. As such, if Spacer’s Choice actually was a definitive version, I wouldn’t find the price so tasteless. What I do find tasteless is the “upgrade” path, where players who own the original and the DLC can fork over another $10 to play a version that is worse than what they have.
So, at the moment this release is an abject mess. It performs poorly, it’s not a good deal from a cost perspective, it’s actively worse than previously-released versions, the gameplay enhancements are superfluous at best, the first of presumably many patches released didn’t seem to do much, and it comes off as nothing more than a cash grab for a quality game that deserves better. The nicest thing I can say about it is that the load times are slightly improved, but that tiny boost doesn’t make up for what went wrong here.
With the modern ability to patch games, there’s a good chance this review might be rendered completely irrelevant within a few months — that’s one of the perils of writing something in an age where so many experiences are dramatically different months after release. My hope is that someday the Spacer’s Choice Edition will be a great version of The Outer Worlds, but that day ain’t today.
Rating: 4.5 out of 10
Disclosures: This version of the game was originally developed by Obsidian, ported by Virtuos, and published by Private Division (A subsidiary of 2K games). It is currently available on PC, PS5, and XBS/X. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on PS5. Approximately 42 hours of play were devoted to the single-player modes. There are no multiplayer modes. This version of the game was completed.
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; one area depicts a dismembered corpse amid a large bloodstained environment. Cutscenes depict additional acts of violence: a man shooting himself in the head; a character executed off-screen. 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. The standard text is rather small, but a slider in the menu allows for larger text for those that require it, however the color of the font is not modifiable. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable, though there are several presets to choose from. A controller layout is available in the options menu.
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