The Outer Worlds: Things to know before playing
The Outer Worlds is one of the least frustrating RPGs of its scope and size to be released in recent memory. Its helpful quest marker system and a number of quality of life considerations means that aside from a bit of tedious inventory management, many of the normal burdens of these types of games aren't an issue in this title. That said, it's also a game with a lot of systems and moving parts, and many of these aren't explained clearly (or at all) in the game itself.
These words of advice are based on about 40 hours with the game, completing the main quest and a healthy amount of side content.
Play on Hard (but not Supernova)
It may seem a little silly to start off a list of tips for The Outer Worlds by telling you to crank up the difficulty, but for most players with any familiarity with this style of game, this is going to be the right call. Normal difficulty just doesn't present a satisfying challenge for most of the game, unless you wander into high-level areas early on. Playing on Hard will encourage you to pay more attention to weapon choice and tuning, and will make avoiding combat feel more rewarding.
That said, we can't recommend playing on the game's special "Supernova" difficulty setting for your first playthrough. This is a special level of challenge that can only be selected at the start of a new game, and while you can step down from it during your playthrough, you can never go back to Supernova once you've switched away from it.
Supernova adds some survival elements to the game, which can be fun, and limits saving options, which definitely adds to the challenge - but it also causes companion deaths to be permanent, which is far too unforgiving for a game like this, without good enough companion AI to justify this challenge. Even on Normal difficulty your companions are likely to be knocked out in many fights, and it's hard to imagine Supernova being more fun than frustrating, unless you're specifically planning a no-companion playthrough (which would involve missing out on a lot of the best parts of the game).
Try Supernova after you've already beaten the game first - but stick to Hard for your initial playthrough.
Follow companion quests to their conclusions for special bonuses
Your companions have indiviudal interests and missions that they'd like to pursue, in much the same fashion as Mass Effect loyalty missions. These can often be complicated and all involve going to multiple locations, but it's worth pursuing these missions to their conclusions early because your reward will be special perks for the companions that aren't attainable any other way, and which can give powerful in-game bonuses.
You'll have to go into the details screen for the companion in order to see the effects of their special perks once you've unlocked them. Because of the branching nature of The Outer Worlds we're not sure if there are different possibilities for these capstone perks per-character, but examples we saw included an Ellie perk that reduced the costs of bribes, and a Parvati perk that prolonged the effects of food and drink.
It's also worth noting that the companions in The Outer Worlds are great characters, across the board, and all of the companion missions are entertaining in their own ways. Some of the game's funniest, most dramatic, and most emotional moments can be found on these missions, so they'd be worth doing even if they didn't give you tangible bonuses.
When it comes to skills, 50 points can get you a lot - but 80 and 100 can get you the world
The skill system in The Outer Worlds actually makes it fairly viable to be good at a lot of different things at the same time. If you don't plan on doing much melee combat, you can ignore both the melee and dodge/block skill areas, and distribute your points elsewhere. Doing this will allow you to reach the 50 point mark in most skills before you reach level 20 (not a cap by any means, but a good indication you're getting close to the ending stages of the game).
Beyond the 50 point mark you have to start leveling up skills individually, rather than as broad groups, and here is where you need to be more selective. When it comes to key dialogue moments, avoiding combat with your words, pushing for better outcomes, or coming up with creative solutions, you'll frequently see challenges at 30 and 35 point tiers in the first half of the game.
As you get closer to the end, the required skills will jump up, and there are some paths you can't follow, choices you can't make, and doors you can't unlock unless you have 80 or even 100 points in skills like persuasion or science.
That brings us to our next tip...
Use the re-spec machine on your ship
This may feel cheesy and cheaty for you depending on how dedicated you are to your roleplaying, but the game provides for cheap and easy re-speccing of your character at any point, using a terminal on your ship that's near the engine room. This process will cost 500 bits the first time and 1000 the second time, but you aren't likely to need to do it much more often than that if you save this process for key moments.
Using this terminal will allow you to totally re-allocate your skill points and perks, which can be critical if you find out you need just a little bit more sneaking prowess to handle a stealth mission, or if you suddenly decide that all the points you spent on melee are far less important than having an 80 in persuasion.
This option won't be for everyone (there's something to be said for playing The Outer Worlds again and again as different characters with different skills, instead of re-speccing), but the fact that this option is available in the game is one of the ways the title avoids the frustrations that can crop up in other, similar games.
Choose your words carefully
You need to pay closer attention to the dialogue options you choose in The Outer Worlds than you do in most other RPGs. Fallout may have trained you to pick skill-based dialogue options (like Persuade, Lie, or Intimidate) whenever you have the requisite skills, but the results of those choices aren't always entirely positive in The Outer Worlds. This is a game that really rewards you for thinking like your character, and considering who you are talking to. How do you really feel about trying to intimidate the person you are talking to? And how do you think they will respond to that?
Dialogue choices that may not seem consequential in the moment can also impact the particular shades of your ending montage, especially when it comes to your companions. When choosing how you talk to them, try to think of what you know about who you are talking to, and how the words you choose might impact their worldviews. It's more complicated than characters liking you or disliking you - by the end of the game you are a very influential and powerful figure in the lives of those around you, and your opinions carry more weight than you might be expecting.
Weapon and armor levels can be a quick guide as to what is "better" - but you can also dive into the details
Weapons and armor all have "levels" in their item descriptions. These levels aren't character level requirements, but more of a rough guide as to how advanced the piece of equipment is. Though there a lot of qualities that go into making equipment right for you, in general a level 20 piece of gear will be better than a level 3 piece of gear. Heavy armor will usually have significantly more defense than light armor, even when the light armor is higher level, but when the light armor's skill boosts are taken into account, the game regards the light armor as "better." Higher level gear is rarer and sells for significantly more credits.
You can use gear levels as a rough indicator of how well equipped you and your companions are for your current mission. If you're in an area where you're picking up level 15 weapons and your companion is using a level 5 gun, it's probably time to give them something new. With all that said, since you can modify and tinker with weapons to make them better, even lower level gear can remain viable for a while. Go into the full detail screen for your weapons or armor (seen above) if you really want to get into the raw numbers and figure out what gear is "best" for the situation. Of course, because the combat in The Outer Worlds is rarely that challenging, you won't have to worry about this much unless you want to.
Science weapons also act as a curveball to the level formula, since their special effects can be useful well beyond what their levels indicate, and their damage scales up as you increase your science skill score.
Feel free to use weapon and armor mods early and often - but be careful with the ones that change damage types
The Outer Worlds has a weapon and armor modification system, and over the course of the game you'll end up with dozens of surplus mods on hand unless you regularly sell them. Though you'll change the weapons and armor you and your companions have equipped throughout the game, upgrading regularly, you shouldn't feel the need to save the "best" mods for your perfect, "final" equipment. You'll rarely hold on to something for more than a quarter of the game, in practical terms, and mods are so plentiful that you can feel free to apply them to whatever gear you're currently using that you like.
That said - it's worth paying attention to which modifications you're using. Some, like silencers or zoom scopes, make more sense on some weapons than others. And others - especially the ones that change damage types, should be used with a great deal of care. Shock damage, for example, does more damage to mechanicals, plasma damage does more damage to living things (aside from mantis creatures), and N-Ray damage does more damage to all living things but less damage to mechanicals. It's good to have a variety of damage types on your weapons and those of your companions, so you'll be ready for whatever you come across, and it's not a good move to just throw plasma or shock on everything you pick up. Look for the mods that actually enhance damage or weapon performance instead.
Tune your weapons and armor
Aside from repairing and modifying your weapons, The Outer Worlds gives you the option to "tune" your gear using workbenches. Very simply, this allows you to make weapons and armor better just by spending small amounts of credits. Money translates into more damage and higher defense ratings - and you'll probably have a lot more money than you need by the end of the later stages of the game.
Your skills will affect how significant this tuning will be, but in general it means you'll be getting a few more points of damage or defense each time you spend credits. These improvements are small, but you can keep pumping money into your best gear over and over again if you like. There's no real downside to doing this other that the financial cost, so when you pick up a new weapon or piece of armor you expect to be using for a while, find a workbench and do some tinkering.
Be picky with accepting any flaws the game offers you
The Outer Worlds has a fun dynamic flaw system, which offers you optional permanent flaws on the fly, in response to what's happening to you in the game. If you fall from a dangerous height, it might offer you a permanent leg injury that slows your movement speed. If you're shot with plasma one too many times, you might get a chance to choose a permanent weakness to the plasma damage type.
You get extra perk points for accepting these flaws, but our advice is to be very selective before taking these flaws on. You level up fast in The Outer Worlds, and there aren't actually that many incredible, fun, or exciting perks available (this is one way where The Outer Worlds lags behind the Fallout series, where perks are one of the best parts of the game). Many of the flaws you get offered during your playthrough can be serious hindrances, especially the ones that reduce your movement speed or increase the damage you take. Picking up a couple of these can tip the game into the no-fun zone, with no way to undo your choice.
During my review playthrough I only accepted one flaw, and that was one that applied a minor penalty to my melee combat (something I wasn't using anyway). I had a chance to accept or reject about 10 flaws over the course of my playthrough, so don't feel like you need to take the first one you see in order to experience the fun of flaws.
That said, it would probably make for an interesting challenge to accept every flaw the game suggests as you play, reaching the end as a half-blinded, phobia-plagued, barely alive wreck. If you do plan on playing that way, you should probably put it on Twitch or make it into a YouTube series. I wouldn't personally want to play that way, but I know I'd like to watch.
Don't worry - the game will make it very clear when you reach the "point of no return" before the ending mission
With big RPGs like this, it's common to have a dozen active quests at a time, of varying degrees of importance. The Outer Worlds is no exception, and you'll split your focus between the core story missions, random sidequests, helping your companions, and dealing with faction squabbles in the system.
It can all be hard to keep track of, but don't worry about accidentally reaching the end before you've done all you want to do: The Outer Worlds will helpfully give you a clear indication when you are about to enter the endgame. At that point, you'll want to make sure to wrap up side missions you're interested in completing, because that will be your last chance before you'll be committed and will no longer be able to move around freely. Anything left unfinished might have a negative impact on some element of your ending montage.
The Outer Worlds officially launches on October 25th on PC, Xbox One, and PS4. It will be available as part of the Xbox Game Pass, giving Windows 10 PC players a chance to play the game even if they don't want to make their purchase through the Epic Game Store.