The Outer Worlds follows in the footsteps of other RPGs and gives the player a cast of companions who can help with skill checks, aid the player in combat, and provide new objectives via quests. What’s fantastic about The Outer Worlds is that every member of my crew is an absolute trash baby. I would absolutely not trust most of my companions with babysitting my cats for the weekend or driving my mom to a doctor’s appointment, and that just makes me love them more.
Pavarti, the precocious engineer that players recruit from Edgewater, is the first companion that players will recruit to their party. She’s anxious, eager to please, and absolutely incapable of saying no. Pavarti’s the kind of person who will help you move three times in one year and still show up with the main course to every potluck you host. Living under corporations has turned her into a little jelly woman, and her spine doesn’t start to shore up until the conclusion of the game and the tutelage of a helpful player.
Pavarti is also the most functional companion in the game. The rest of the crew somehow manage to be less able to navigate any kind of polite society. Felix is a dingus who struggles with big words or abstract concepts. Vicar Max is a pretentious preacher who feels an all-encompassing need to be right. Ellie’s an abrasive asshole who ignores the “do no harm” part of the medical profession, Nyoka’s constantly drunk and looking to sass those around her, and SAM is a robot.
Here’s the thing: I’ve adventured with tons of companions across a whole host of digital worlds. Some of them have taught me things, like Mass Effect’s Garrus, or Fallout 4’s Nick Valentine. I’ve watched other video game companions grow into their own, like BioShock Infinite’s Elizabeth.
All of that is great; obviously it’s good to travel with learned scholars and dedicated soldiers. If I’m taking the role of secret agent and space marine Shepard, that’s fantastic! I want to be around the best of the best.
But The Outer Worlds isn’t a game about hyper-competency or conviction. It’s a game about doing the best you can in a world controlled by malevolent, capitalist forces intent on keeping the populace under their thumb. There are no easy choices in The Outer Worlds, I’m constantly trying to keep enough extra cash in my pocket to bribe the authorities, Everyone’s constantly mad at me and I spend most of my time complaining to people who don’t care. It’s like being a millennial!
The desperation and oppression of The Outer Worlds wouldn’t work if all of my companions were polished, professional, and functional adults.
Not only are they more relatable, but they’re a result of their environments. And this contrast — their vulnerability, combined with the choices I have to make — leads to heartbreaking moments throughout the game. I chose to route power away from the town of Edgewater, and I could tell it broke Pavarti’s heart throughout the game from the comments she made.
The cast of The Outer Worlds are a bunch of garbage people, and that’s what made me fall in love with them so much. It’s a potent reminder that power fantasies are great, but sometimes exploring what happens when people are starved of power is much more interesting.
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