No Mythological Creatures Were Harmed In This Playthrough
Despite all the dreadful things you can say about 2020, this year has actually been oddly fantastic for video gaming. There have been major releases just about everywhere. There were popular remakes and updates such as Persona 5 Royal, Final Fantasy VII, and Resident Evil III. There were highly-anticipated sequels such as The Last of Us Part II, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and Watchdogs Legion. Hell, there were even bizarre little indie darlings that blew up this year, like Among Us and Hades. It’s been an unprecedented year of high-quality gaming, featuring so many titles that should qualify for Game of The Year, which is exactly why The Outer Worlds: Peril on Gorgon, the DLC to Obsidian’s The Outer Worlds, fell by the wayside in terms of our current videogame zeitgeist.
Developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Private Division, The Outer Worlds: Peril on Gorgon is an expansion that brings us into formerly locked locations within the Halcyon system. In it, we learn a bit more about the Spacer’s Choice corporation and even learn about a great tragedy that befell many of the Halcyon system’s denizens. All for a storyline that sort of plays toward every anti-vaxxers greatest fear. But was this game worth the year-long wait? Honestly… no. And I would wait for it to go on sale before purchase. Here’s why.
Your Ending Means Absolutely Nothing
Like many who jumped back into The Outer Worlds, I struggled to remember what this game was even about, recalling little outside of the premise that it was Fallout in space in a universe of excessive corporatization gone wrong. A setting where human lives mattered naught compared to the whims of almighty capitalism, a science-fiction trope we’ve seen in series like Dead Space or even the original Alien franchise. So after loading up my last save for a quick recollection with the hopes of jumping into Gorgon immediately, I was pleasantly surprised replaying my ending and seeing all my hard-worked decisions so diligently play out. And as I re-learned the controls, I remembered just what made this game awesome in the first place. Things like long dialogue branches, storyline crossroads, and checkpoints, or the awful byzantine authority. Things like my beloved crew of followers on the Unreliable, each of whom I’d created a specific relationship with. I immediately remembered why I loved this game. It was also very pleasant to see everyone’s respective endings all determined by what I chose to do with Doctor Phineas Welles.
But ultimately, none of it mattered. Because for some strange reason, Peril On Gorgon takes place before the game’s actual ending. Normally this wouldn’t bother me, except that unlike other standard AAA games, which let you load a completed game save file, this game can only be played if you luckily saved an older file before the game’s final chapter. And while most do have older save files because constantly saving is the nature of RPG gaming, for those who don’t, be ready to be disheartened. Unfortunately, you’re locked out from this DLC and will need to start a new game from the beginning. That is, at least until you unlock the ‘Radio Free Monarch’ mission.
It’s a tiny neglected QoL feature. But beginning Peril on Goron in this way sort of highlights some of the glaring problems with The Outer Worlds. Mostly in that it’s starting to feel exhausted and copied straight from Fallout. A minor issue that was forgiving for 2019 because of the lack of high-quality content. But through the lens of the 2020 and all of its major hits that have been released since, it makes me wonder how The Outer Worlds was ever seriously considered a Game Of The Year contender. Whereas Bethesda’s Fallout allows for custom mods and a lot of quality-of-life integrations created by players, coders, and fans to make up for its somewhat glitched and lazy design at times (which the company itself had wholeheartedly embraced), The Outer Worlds does not. Instead, it plays an awful lot like the older games Obsidian is well known for, with menu-based traversal to planets just like in Knights Of The Old Republic II, inventory management, and breakdowns akin to South Park: The Stick of Truth. And, of course, many of the RPG-Shooter mechanics straight out of Fallout: New Vegas.
Peril On Gorgon sort of just reminds us of all these issues. Because for a game that praises itself for having a somewhat open-ended narrative, the series lacks the open-world environment, limiting travel to a small number of pre-rendered world maps and dungeons. Gorgeous to look at, but ultimately mostly the same, with similar space-themed aesthetics you’ve seen on other planets, just with a different color scheme.
Likewise, though there are new weapons, they’re mostly just upgrades (in name and number) from weapons you’ve already owned before. Customizable for sure, but they don’t add much outside of damage types (with corrosion still being the most broken) and DPS. The armor aesthetics add a few new skins and nothing customizable in apparel, with many added features, that while technically being a statistical upgrade, you won’t need because of the easy nature of the gameplay. And given the excessive amount of loot you’ll come across, which quickly becomes useless, it all becomes a joke in this DLC. And to be honest, outside of science weapons, most of the game’s guns are actually repetitive and even boring.
Frankly, Peril on Gorgon doesn’t really play like DLC as much as it feels like content that was cut from the original game. A chapter whose revelations and horrific backstories gradually reveal more of the corruption the world of Halcyon is known for, yet ultimately gives no grand resolution. Because for better or worse, it comes down to you to decide what to do here along with the main game’s ending. In theory, this should feel empowering but can often feel cliche, as every outcome boils down to a good, bad, or incredibly stupid type of ending. The Outer World’s consequences, unfortunately, feel customizable yet awfully shallow.
It’s Not The Best Choice; It’s The Illusion of Choice
In Peril on Gorgon, your character is mysteriously delivered a severed arm with a box, and a mission meant for the ship’s original captain. One that ultimately takes you to the planet Gorgon, where you meet the wealthy Wilhelmena Ambrose. A young woman who seeks to restore her family’s fame and upper-class status. She sends you on a quest to discover what went wrong with her mother’s research on the planet Gorgon. All to solve a mystery seemingly buried by Spacer’s Choice, which is the poor man’s and working-class brand of corporation which prides itself on ‘not being the best choice.’
It’s a typical mystery quest that leads to new truths and revelations, as well as a funny exploration of yet another corporate themed world gone to hell and utterly abandoned. What’s really unique about the colorful asteroid of Gorgon is that, much like the Monarch chapter, you’ll learn a lot about the planet’s inhabitants and history. Most importantly, you’ll learn about project Gorgon’s colossal failure and the consequences that had on the system. And while it’s funny to poke fun at the awfulness of corporatized interests, the story might also hit a little too close to home given current events. Without too many spoilers, I’ll say I found the game’s plot a tad disheartening, particularly with our current state of accelerated vaccine research and the in-game themes of profit-over-people. It’s something that the game couldn’t have anticipated obviously happening in the world, though it does make this one a harder pill to swallow once you hit the heart of the Peril on Gorgon DLC.
Still, despite all your in-game choices, such as going on a “kill everyone you meet run,” or dialogue and no violence run, or even creating a character that’s a complete idiot that can barely speak English run, nothing you choose in The Outer Worlds: Peril on Gorgon will really steer you away from the beats of the story. You’ll ultimately find that the branching storyline paths lead to the same crossroads, with choices about who to spare or kill, along with dialogue attribute checks ultimately determining Peril on Gorgon’s possible endings, which were satisfying enough and revealed a lot of messed up truths about the system. Yet, as highlighted again-and-again, the only real evil to defeat (or join) in the game are the corporations. Unfortunately, peril on Gorgon has no influence on that outcome. However self-contained as it may be, its story can help heal Halcyon in unprecedented ways if you guide the ending. But again, it comes down to choice, and the evil alternatives always felt shallow and one-dimensional in this game compared to the morally ‘good’ options as the best endings were always that middle-ground compromise, like unifying the MSI and Iconoclasts on Monarch. At least compared to the ‘bad’ alternative of “You obtained, killed, and doomed everything. The end.”
But Is It Fun?
If you liked the original game, the gameplay is exactly the same. It’s nearly identical to Fallout 4 with RPG adventure and shooter mechanics. Whereas Fallout had unique equipment like Power Armor or even menacing Deathclaws that served as a fun and serious challenge, The Outer Worlds has none of that. You just run through dungeons killing and looting virtually everything, laughing with your companions along the way. None of the gunfights in the Outer Worlds are honestly all that challenging, and because of the parodic take of excess capitalism featured in the game, every world becomes infested with excess weapons, consumables, and really just crap that you’ll likely never use but can sell for enormous profits. Credits to upgrade weapons and gear even though it’s unnecessary. Much like the increased level cap to 33, which also feels pointless, outside of a few boosts you can give yourself that doesn’t much impact gameplay.
It’s one of the game’s flaws in being a parody of its genre and really just a jab at Fallout. Nothing about The Outer Worlds items feels unique, and everything eventually becomes sort of useless outside of a Science Weapons build. Though even then, they’re less about damage and more about utilizing the wacky laws-of-physics defying mechanics for fun. Most of the time, you’ll be able to build a better weapon using modifications from weapons looted or found from enemies anyway. This is why the best thing about the game is actually its storylines and characters.
Parvati is honestly the biggest reason I think we all play. The game had a rather poor character problem where almost no one was entertaining or relatable. Where Vicar Max was an often failed attempt at discussing deep philosophical and religious questions and Felix was an anarchist who often felt more misguided and squishy than serious, the only redeeming characters (outside of yourself) were the women in the story. Ellie and Nyoka, the two badass ladies who fit the pirate-marauder sort of lifestyle, but most importantly, Parvati, played by Ashley Birch, who really makes this entire game. Between her sweet sentimentality and refreshing type of love story, Parvati was honestly the only real grounded and bearable character outside of yourself in The Outer Worlds. Which is exactly what Peril on Gorgon needed, as she is yet again the voice of heart and reason in the DLC. Keeping her as a companion really accentuates the horrifying revelations of this chapter and makes you sympathize with the serious nature of this section of the story. I can’t stress enough to take her along as a companion for the DLC.
The Status of the Next DLC
A Game of The Year nominated game for 2019, Peril on Gorgon was meant to expand on the stories of Halcyon, as your and your crew of misfits on The Unreliable continued to explore more of the game’s lore and history. And while entertainingly faithful to The Outer Worlds in that it’s a fun and silly sort of science fiction sort of Idiocracy, the game ultimately barely holds interest thanks to the many amazing releases this year that really accentuate a lot of The Outer World’s flaws on the whole. A bad sign for the next planned DLC.
Thus far, there are no details as to the exact date of the next expected DLC. There are, however, a bit of detail made available to the public via Twitter shares by journalist Tyler McVicker of the Valve News Network. This includes assets from the upcoming DLC, which apparently features quite a bit of the colorful booze and items, thus hinting at a possible focus on Spectrum Vodka, the Rizzos corporation. Not unlike how Peril on Gorgon focused on Spacer’s choice.
It’s Not The Best Choice
The Outer Worlds was a fun series for 2019 but now feels incredibly dated just one year later. If you’re a fan of Obsidian Role-playing games like Fallout: New Vegas, there’s still a lot to enjoy between the harrowing storylines and corporate parody. Just don’t expect anything groundbreaking, as it’s mostly more of the same.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Switch, and PC; Developer: Obsidian Entertainment; Publisher: Private Division; Players: 1; Released: September 9th, 2020; ESRB: M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, and Use of Drugs; MSRP: $14.99
A review copy was purchased by the author.