Review: The Outer Worlds (Including Peril On Gorgon)
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So we’ve just had E3 after a year break due to the ongoing global pandemic, and it’s been an interesting one. One can argue it was thin on the ground for big releases and other news, though another can argue that might be due to the ongoing crisis.
Despite all this, there were still plenty of games announced or showcased during the event, which I’m excited about, and it gives me a chance to talk about upcoming games. So, why not do that as a post-E3 event and kill two birds with one stone?
This is not an exhaustive list: I found dozens of games I’m interested in, but I figured to test the waters with a few of my favorites. If there is demand, I’ll happily write a sequel for this.
Ooh, boy. Bethesda really needs some good news after several years of PR disasters, and they’re putting a lot of hopes into Starfield. After the lukewarm reception of Fallout 4 in 2015, all the controversy over Creation Club, and the absolute disaster that was Fallout 76’s launch, Bethesda has been floundering. However, the massive buyout by Microsoft earlier this year could mean big things for them.
I’ve long been cautious of Bethesda games, to the point I’m not wholly excited for the upcoming Elder Scrolls VI. After their development changes over the years to the lack of good RPG mechanics in recent hits, Starfield feels like a giant gamble where I don’t know what will happen. Bethesda is capable of incredible games; we’ve seen that. They’re capable of great writing; we’ve seen that as well. But how is this going to transfer in their first original IP in how many years?
I’m cautious, but I can’t deny I’m excited. It’s been described as a Skyrim in Space, and you know what? I like the sound of it. I know many like to rag on Skyrim in recent years for being shallow, poor writing, all of the famous bugs, and so on, but Skyrim is more open and available than most RPGs after it. It’s sold as well as it has for good reason. Starfield is exploding with potential, and if Bethesda learns from past mistakes (a long shot, but I want to believe in something positive for a change!), this game could be a blast to play. It could also be disappointing, but I love the idea of a massive open-world space RPG. It’s been a while since we’ve seen a high profile one, and it’s not as if Star Citizen is coming out anytime soon… (sobs into a pillow)
Just…I really hope you guys improve the writing for Starfield. Please?
Alekon (Out Now!)
Seeing this wonderful game in Wholesome direct made me want it right away, and Alekon might be one of the indie golden hits from this year’s E3. A unique, somewhat improved take on Pokemon Snap, Alekon is one hell of a debut. Taking all the things that make Pokemon Snap memorable and adding to them, it’s incredibly promising.
The devs behind this are wonderful as well, and I’ve had the joy of talking to them for the past couple of days. They are hardworking, passionate, and lovely to talk to. After a tough couple of weeks for me, it was a blessing to speak to them, who very graciously offered me a copy of their game to try out. I’ve been playing it for a while, and so far, I’m blown away.
With its diverse range of characters that feel alive, a ton of features and minigames that feel refreshing to play, beautiful visuals, and great worldbuilding, Alekon is shaping up to be something extraordinary. I love the free-roam options after completing the on-rails courses, and it works wonders for replayability. I’m only a few hours in so far, but I’m enjoying every minute of it.
Expect a more detailed review by me in the coming weeks, but this might be the PC’s competitor to Pokemon Snap…and it might just be better. It’s on Steam now for $15. Check out the link down below!
I’ll always be willing to play more games by these guys. It’s a successor to Two Point Hospital! Mark Webley was most famous for being part of the 90s AAA giant Bullfrog and Lionhead Studios, responsible for Populous, Theme Hospital, Dungeon Keeper, and Black and White. It’s wonderful to see at least some of these guys continue to prosper.
Two Point Hospital launched in 2018, and it was a pretty damn good game. It made my Top 10 games from that year. I loved Theme Hospital back in the day. A wacky, bonkers but lovable management game with a ton of weird diseases and shit to sort out.
Two Point Hospital wasn’t a massive game, and the hospital size is a bit limited, but it oozes charm from every orifice. It’s not even a remake, but an idolized painting of times long gone. It admirably brings Theme Hospital back into the current era, and it does a good job at it. It’s just familiar enough to bring back nostalgic fans, and it’s new and modernized enough to bring in the new fans. I’m glad they’ve been able to keep development going, and Two Point Campus has a lot of promise.
Combining city-builder elements and more of the wacky humor we’ve come to know and love with this company, this is one game from E3 everyone should look out for. The world needs more of these cozy management sims, and if they continue Two Point Hospital’s momentum, this school-focused sequel could become a big hit.
The Outer Worlds 2 (TBA)
In 2018, Obsidian released The Outer Worlds after some hype, and it released at the perfect time with people frustrated with Bethesda. As a result, the game received a lot of attention and critical acclaim in one of the best-timed launches in recent years. Being part of Xbox Game Pass helped a lot in that regard, I think. And for once, Obsidian didn’t launch a game that was broken to all hell. That was the biggest take for me.
The Outer Worlds was a decent RPG for the time, given Obsidian’s relative lack of budget. When I reviewed it in 2018, I found it a solid, if uninspired game for the time. If anything, I felt it was overvalued because it struggled in many regards, particularly gameplay and combat. It’s a good game but somewhat undeserving of its launch praise. Being bought by Microsoft will help Obsidian a lot going forward, I think. With that extra budget, there are high hopes for them.
With their massive RPG Unavowed plans, I was surprised to see a sequel to Outer Worlds in the works. I’m pleased it’s happening, though, even if it’s barely a proof of concept right now. They built a strong foundation for that universe, and its worldbuilding and dialogue were pretty strong. If they work on that, Outer Worlds 2 has the potential to be a true successor to Fallout: New Vegas…something the original didn’t quite live up to.
But hey, I’m always up for playing something by Obsidian!
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl (2022)
I’m not usually a fan of first-person shooters, but they need to be something special when I am. I’m a sucker for shooters that either bring many customizations or immersive shooters where I feel lost and at home exploring the elements. Great examples of these for me are Arma 3, Ravenfield, Cyberpunk 2077, and Doom, but the Stalker series is something else. Janky but atmospheric, they are fantastic shooters. Shadow of Chernobyl and Call of Pripyat were excellent, and they come blessed with a healthy modding scene. I can recommend Call of Chernobyl and Stalker Anomaly if you fancy trying out some mods.
The desire for a sequel has been brewing for years, and we’re finally getting one after a lot of development of a beefy cinematic trailer. I was left impressed, but questions remain.
Will this sequel build on the excellent atmosphere and lore of the original? Will it stay true to those? Those are important questions because a lot is riding on this. With this series in limbo for so long, a rough launch could spell disaster for this studio. It has plenty of promise, and a lot looks good from the trailer, but we need to see gameplay. With so many games having issues at launch, I’m keeping myself from hyping myself for a possible disappointment. Regardless, I have high hopes for this. It might be a few years overdue for a Stalker sequel, but I’m always up for immersive shooters.
ELEX 2 (TBA, Coming Soon)
Okay, this may not officially be an E3 announcement, but it may still be my most anticipated one. I’ve been waiting for a sequel to ELEX for a long time, and it’s a new Piranha Bytes game!
Piranha Bytes are an rare sort of developer. Despite a small team size, these guys put out unique, challenging, ambitious, and unpolished RPGs that can give AAA games a lesson in creativity. They’ve enjoyed a large cult following since the beginning, but I feel they struggle to reach many modern and western audiences because of strange customs. Many hate on them for not evolving, and I understand that. The first ELEX is very obtuse in many ways, to the point of outright fury, so I get why people got turned off ELEX initially. So did I.
However, ELEX is a fascinating RPG. It was blessed with strong world and quest design, many of which can be completed in different ways, as well as a really cool setting. It certainly sold well, enough for a sequel. With THQ Nordic’s considerable backing, ELEX 2 has the potential to be something grand and a chance for Pirana Bytes to leap their humble stature into a true challenger of RPGs. For that to happen, however, they need to consider fixing several problems that have plagued them for years, namely the combat and the rough beginnings. It can take several hours for their games to get going, often frustrated by their combat systems that demand hours of trial and error. Will they evolve to make something great, or will it remain a curse of their development cycle? Pirahna Bytes have made several games now, which tend to be hit and miss. Some are great, like Gothic 1, 2, and Risen 1, while others have failed, like the mess of Gothic 3 and the final Risen games. ELEX was something in the middle.
I will be watching, guys. And so will the world.
Falling Frontier (2021, TBA)
If anyone has watched The Expanse or read the books, you’ll be dying to have a game set in that universe. I’ve been theory-crafting what one would look like, or at least what I would want in it. Now, that’s up in the air if it’ll ever happen, but there’s an upcoming indie title that might scratch that itch. I present Falling Frontier. It actually won Most Anticipated Indie Game at E3, which is pretty high praise. Made by a solo developer in Todd D’Arcy and published by Hooded Horse, it’s one of three games the publisher is planning on bringing to Steam this year, though Falling Frontier has the most attention. The others are Alliance of the Sacred Sons and Terra Invicta, the latter developed by the guys who made the incredible XCOM mod, Long War. Safe to say, these guys are punching above their weight!
Their Steam Page: Falling Frontier is a sci-fi real-time strategy game developed by Stutter Fox Studios and published by Hooded Horse. Players explore and conquer a vast procedurally generated star system where intel and logistics are decisive factors. The game seems to explore guerilla warfare, realistic ship combat with a heavy emphasis on logistics. Now, that sounds incredibly intriguing to me. Unfortunately, too many games, war, or strategy alike tend to gloss over this vital part of warfare. If Falling Frontier gets this right, it could become an indie masterpiece.