My Pro-Corporate The Outer Worlds Playthrough
November 27, 2019
I grew up in the 90’s, when the graphical limitations on games meant that the story and character interactions had to work unpaid overtime to keep the attention of the player. The market for 40+ hour RPGs was also a lot smaller back then, which meant that developers didn’t have to dilute the experience in order to appeal to a broad audience with diverse tastes. Player choice was the name of the game, and nobody did it better than Black Isle Entertainment.
The bad graphics and small audience meant that they could get away with things that would never fly now. Take Fallout 2 for example: did those pickpocket kids in The Den annoy you? Pickpocket them right back, or shoot them dead in the street if you want. I understand that with modern graphics murdering children goes out the window, but I still think that a good RPG should include the choice for me to act in a truly evil fashion like that.
We’re trying out a new article series at UnleashTheGamer, where we attempt to amuse you by playing a game in a different manner than you might expect. When my editor asked me for an article like this, the first game that came to mind was The Outer Worlds.

Many people on the writing and dev teams are from the Black Isle/Fallout era, so I’ve been following its development for a long time now. Since most of the marketing and advertising had a strong anti-corporate message, I thought that doing a playthrough as a corporate toady would be just the thing to try and break this game.

So without further ado, here’s Part One of my Pro-Corporate playthrough of The Outer Worlds.

Prologue “Diplo-Sniper II: Revenge of the Diplo-Sniper”

I awoke from cryosleep to see a “Back to the Future” or “Rick and Morty” mad scientist attempting to extract me from a derelict corporate colony ship. He didn’t exactly fill me with confidence with his slapdash approach to my rescue from eternal purgatory; in fact, the more I think about it, the more it seems he treated me like a lab experiment, or a piece of somewhat valuable property. He doesn’t seem much different from the corporations that he’s claiming to rescue me from.

The mad scientist’s name turned out to be Phineas Vernon Welles, and like Doc Mitchell in Fallout New Vegas, he was among other things an amateur psychologist. He has a lot of comments to make on my attribute and background selection.

As is tradition for me, I chose to play a Diplo-Sniper: high intelligence, high charisma, and good dexterity for a character who can kill from distance when he can’t talk his way to victory. In games like this, there’s always chems/food that can boost your physical stats, but as the saying goes: you can’t fix stupid. Obsidian does low-INT playthroughs better than anyone else, but there’s nothing more frustrating to me than being locked out of a dialogue option or a non-combat solution to a problem.

Phineas sends me out to find more chemicals to “rescue” my fellow colonists. I’m not sure what he’s rescuing me from: it feels like out of the frying pan, into the fire.

Chapter One “Follow the Mellow Dick Road”

It’s hard to ignore “The Wizard of Oz” comparisons when the first thing that happens is that my house from another world lands on an infamous villain. It even looks like Hawthorne’s wearing red boots, although that could just be bloodstains due to his upper body being liquefied by my escape pod. Truly I am in a strange land.

After making my way through a cave, I meet a corporate flunky who is too wounded to continue on his own. Even though he’s desperately wounded, he rattles off some corporate slogans, which while very off-putting gives me a big clue as to how to act on this planet.

I take the “Mellow Dick” approach to convince him that it’s in the best interest of his employer to give me his sidearm, an early benefit of making a character with high charisma. It’s classic Diplo-Sniper: he thinks we’re friends now, but he’s still bleeding out and I have his gun.

Exiting the cave, I find my way blocked by 5-6 marauders, or in other words: people who it’s OK to kill indiscriminately. I like killing indiscriminately. I harvest their experience through a variety of stealth kills and open combat until I reach Lieutenant Mercer. She’s in the middle of writing a parking ticket for poor Captain Hawthorne’s ship, unaware or uncaring that the fine will never be paid.

Like with her flunky who I met in the cave, I decide to play it cool with Lieutenant Mercer. She comes off as an extremely pro-corporate person, so I turn on the charm and pretend to agree with her. It turns out to be a good decision since I now get her (and her other flunky’s) help in the upcoming battle to secure the spaceship Unreliable.

Since I have low strength, the gun I wheedled off the wounded guy in the cave is a life saver. After a pretty chaotic firefight, only myself and Lieutenant Mercer are left standing. She thanks me for my help, and I continue on to the town of Edgewater.

Chapter 2 “Buying into the Marketing”

At this point, the “sides” as I see them are a homicidally pragmatic mad scientist and a homicidally totalitarian corporation. I don’t see anyone who deserves my loyalty, and all I really care about is getting The Unreliable working again so that I can get the hell off of this planet. Hopefully, I can find the parts that I need in Edgewater.

The first person I meet is the town gravedigger, who seems overwhelmed by the duties of his position. I promise to help him, and move on into the town proper. There’s a ton of side quests for me to do or not do: a sick man wants meds, and a ladder-climbing bureaucrat wants the same meds to make a group of people better. A True Believer out on the docks wants me to eliminate the perceived robotic menace.

The owner of the local Saltuna factory wants me to bring some lost sheep back into the fold, and he tells me that they have the part I need to fix my ship. He lends me his mechanic, a young woman named Parvati to help out. She’s a very open person, honest and eager to help. If only all meatshields were this easy to recruit.

Chapter 3 “Focus Group Research”

I needed to get the lay of the land, so I decided to do some side-questing. I did some light grave-robbing (a time-honored tradition in Black Isle games), smashed some robots for a paranoid guard, and recovered some medicine for a bureaucrat. That last one surprised me; I had expected taking the corporate approach to solving the quest to be the “evil” option, but it turned out to be way more nuanced than that.

I had picked a pro-corporate playthrough for this article because I thought that playing against how the game “wanted” me to play would make for some funny moments and good stories. Usually, it’s easy to do this, since even games that market themselves as RPGs end up having a story-on-rails with clear right and wrong choices. I was starting to see that despite the hideously outdated well, everything, that The Outer Worlds was at heart a true AAA roleplaying experience.

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Chapter 4 “Customer Loyalty Program”

I arrived at the rebel community where to absolutely no one’s surprise, I met a tough-as-nails female sheriff and a smarter-than-everyone female scientist. How original. It’s not like that’s been done to death in every pop-culture medium since the 1960’s or anything. Real cutting-edge stuff there.

I had intended to pull off a classic corporate double-cross and betray Edgewater, but then I found out about the grave robbing. Now, as you know, the Diplo-Sniper has nothing against a little amateur archaeology; but there’s nothing there’s nothing that the Diplo-Sniper hates more than hypocrites.

They all claim to hate the corporation, but they rely on it to provide a steady supply of corpses so that they can grow their own food. That’s not rebellion; that’s just living in a Company Town with extra steps. In my view, I did them a favor by diverting power away from their community and stealing their Macguffin *ahem* Power Regulator to fix The Unreliable.

Chapter 5: “Fired Upwards”

With a pocket full of money from the Mayor and a fully repaired ship, there wasn’t any reason for the Diplo-Sniper to stick around Edgewater any more. To my surprise, I had grown attached to reeking little backwater. In my efforts to screw over absolutely everyone, I think I accidentally did some good.

Yes, I made the company stronger by brutally destroying the labor strike. I also brought back into the fold the management team that will improve the product while also keeping an eye out for worker satisfaction. This game was deep, much deeper than I expected. I was anxious to see what other adventures awaited me.

There was only one thing left to do in Edgewater. I headhunted the cream of the local talent to form my own greedy, self-serving corporation. And like a good company man: I took off in the middle of the night without paying my parking ticket.

EPILOGUE

I came into The Outer Worlds with my guard up and my expectations down. I was fully prepared to be annoyed by the ham-fisted insertion of politics into the game. Much of the marketing had a strong anti-corporate message, so I naturally started to worry.

And the best thing? They kept true to their roots. Don’t like a particular NPC? Blow their head off; the story will adjust. Despise a certain party member? Send them packing. That’s the best thing about a real RPG: it’s your story, so play it however the hell you want.

Matt Dixon

Matt Dixon

Contributor

He prefers to play RPGs, but also enjoys strategy games and the latest AAA titles. When he’s not glued to a screen, he can usually be found painting Warhammer 40K models or trying out the latest board game. Occasionally, Matt’s wife makes him leave the house to travel the world.

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