Role-playing games are often defined by how expansive and how immersive they can be.
It's all about the hours and days you spent sucked into the world of the game, crossing hills and mountains, forests and deserts, all in search of something or even just straight-up wandering and looking for a quest. 'The Outer Worlds', however, feels less about exploring landscapes and more about exploring relationships. The game is, when you come right down to it, about the type of character you want to play and not about the world that character exists in.
You start off on a colonist ship that's been stranded and left to drift through space, with a mad scientist tipping you off to a nearby planet where you'll meet a space captain who can help you out. Only problem is your escape pod's killed said space captain and his ship - now your ship - is grounded. From there, you've got to find parts for it, collect some weapons, acclimate yourself to the universe, and generally go about developing who you are.
Whereas most role-playing games would simply guide you through the different factions and their different attributes, 'The Outer Worlds' really does put the choice in your hands. If you want to be an anarchist, working tirelessly to destroy the corporations in the system, you can - but they'll shoot you on sight the very second you appear on one of their planets or townships. Likewise, the dialogue choices you make in each conversation have far-reaching consequences.
This isn't anything new in role-playing games, but it's the first time in quite a while where it's had any kind of real impact on how you play the game. The only other game where it's been baked into it is - you guessed it - 'Fallout: New Vegas'. So often in RPGs nowadays, speech / persuasion skills are neglected by developers because they think players want to be getting into the action quicker. In 'The Outer Worlds', you can just easily talk your way out of a fight as you can shoot your way out. This makes the game more intimate and - dare we say it - more like a RPG.
That being said, 'The Outer Worlds' didn't feel as big as other RPGs. Each planet you arrive on has a richly designed texture map, and they all come with different NPCs, wild animals, music and distinctive factions and characters to interact with. Yet, there's something... boxed in about them. You never really find yourself wandering too far off the map, instead simply ambling along the roads and meeting the odd outlaw or marauder and fighting them off.
To that end, the combat system is fluid and easy to handle, and adapts to your playthrough with ease. If you prefer getting up close and personal with enemies, you can use one-handed melees to slice and bash your way through. If you'd rather get into deep, tactical shootouts, the range of guns available makes this possible as each gun comes with customisable mods and different damage types to suit different enemies. You can make fights last as long as you like, or you can blast through and end them quickly - all depending on how you like to play.
'The Outer Worlds' does feel like it's trying to cater to every type of RPG player, be it the ones who spend hours reading through the messages and logs to get a sense of the world, or the ones who simply play through the main quest and ignore the side stories and optional quests. That's no bad thing, as so often RPGs simply have it that you must follow the main quest and only want you to deviate from it until you're at a certain level. Here, you can do as you please and - provided you're up to the challenge - go where you like. Between picking up bounty hunting jobs, faction quests, and everything else, you can happily ignore the main quest for as long as you please.
The main issue with 'The Outer Worlds' really depends on what you're expecting from it. The trailers and marketing for it have really pushed out its credentials with 'Fallout: New Vegas', and that's what you're getting here - 'Fallout: New Vegas' set in space. The humour is plentiful, and takes inspiration from 'Futurama', 'The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy' and about a dozen more sci-fi callbacks. It's easy to pick up, relatively easy to master, and it's all so familiar that it'll either breed contempt or comfort. If you're not as up on RPGs as other genres, 'The Outer Worlds' cobbles together the mechanics and the feel from some of the genre's greatest hits to give you something not entirely unique, but certainly enjoyable.