It was the 2018 Game Awards when the trailer for The Outer Worlds was first revealed. Obsidian Entertainment made a lasting impression on the audience with their tongue-in-cheek reveal, where they introduced themselves as the “original creators of Fallout” and the “developers of Fallout: New Vegas.” After the first game’s successful Game Pass debut following the acquisition of Obsidian by Microsoft, it should be no surprise that the follow-up, The Outer Worlds 2, is on the way. With its announcement at E3 2021, now is a great time for us to catch up with Obsidian’s retro sci-fi story and characters.
Welcome to Halcyon
The Outer Worlds takes place in the distant future of 2355. In this alternate timeline, United States President William McKinley was never assassinated in 1901, so Theodore Roosevelt never succeeded him. Large business trusts were never broken up and the infamous robber barons grew richer, leading to a hyper-corporate society ruled by the corporate elite.
This is especially prevalent in the sci-fi universe of The Outer Worlds, where human life is controlled by these mega-corporations and the owner of the Halcyon system is the Halcyon Holdings Corporate Board. The Board is the ruling class of the Halcyon System and is terraforming every planet in it to achieve their utopian vision, for better or worse. They enforce the law on every planet with a Halcyon corporate presence with the company Universal Defense Logistics acting as their military. This makes the original colony ship the Groundbreaker the only place outside their jurisdiction, even if the Board has the means to enforce control over it.
The Halcyon Holdings Corporate Board is the chief antagonist of The Outer Worlds. Made up of the ten CEOs that represent the Halcyon Holdings Corporation’s founding members, they are led by the enigmatic chairman Charles Rockwell, CEO of Universal Defense Logistics, and enforce the law on the worlds that they own. The face of this interstellar security force is led by Adjutant Sophia Akande and the arrest of Phineas Welles is at the top of her list.
At some point before the story, the Board found a defunct colony freighter at the far edges of the system which caused a panic among the members. This ship was 25 years late at this point and people who have been in suspended animation for longer than intended suffer complications when you attempt to awaken them, which swayed the Board from reviving the hibernating colonists who had been left adrift for nearly one-hundred years. Instead, it was decided that the UDL-002 “the Hope” would be placed into the orbit of the ice planet Typhon, where its inhabitants would be forever forgotten. This prevented a public uproar, as the Hope was supposed to arrive in Halcyon alongside the UDL-001 “Groundbreaker.”
The Outer Worlds Crew
The player is one such colonist on the Hope, waiting to be awakened from hibernation.
Aboard the dormant colony ship, the fugitive scientist Phineas Welles searches for help. Things begin to change for him when he enters a room with a vast holding of colonists stuck in cryogenic stasis aboard the ship and decides to take the players’ pod aboard his ship. After a daring escape from the forces of the Board, he revives the player and explains his intention to save the colonists before dropping you off on the nearby world of Terra 2 to meet with his contact. Unfortunately for the contact, the landing proves to be a fatal one as your pod smashes on top of the smuggler. Fortunately for the player, his ship is theirs for the taking with the help of the wisecracking A.I., Ada.
The first potential party members are found by exploring Terra 2’s Emerald Vale. The naive mechanic Parvati Holcomb is a well-meaning but shy girl with a knack for machines and a big heart, who leads you to Vicar Max after finding out the problems in the Emerald Vale. Max DeSoto is a Vicar of scientism, the religion of the Halcyon system, and uses his time and skills to help those facing a crisis of faith. While he represents piety as a Vicar, Max himself is quick to show that he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty if the need arises. There’s also a defunct Sanitation and Maintenance automation on the ship of the crushed contact, which has been modified with acid blasters instead of cleaning tools. If the player can figure out how to fix it up, it’ll follow them as a companion known as SAM.
The Halcyon System has plenty of wacky characters and picking up various crewmates from across the stars is easy, especially on the colony ship Groundbreaker. On the ship, the player meets up with the rebellious rascal Felix Millstone while he’s in the middle of an argument with his foreman. Though he won’t join the quest upon meeting him, once he gets a load of the ship the player drives he’ll change his mind. The mercenary Ellie Fenhill can also be found here and will join up after the player helps her square off a debt. Instead of paying cash, she’ll offer you her services and join the crew.
The final member of your team is found on the savage planet of Monarch, where you’ll find the big game hunter Nyoka Ramnarim-Wentworth III. When the player finds her in a drunken stupor at the bar in Stellar Bay, she’s going to need some Passion Pills to sober her up before she’ll join the quest. Each of your companions will interact with one another while on the ship and missions, all of then with their own stories to tell. This eventually leads to them asking for your help with a personal mission, except for SAM.
The Outer Worlds Story Recap
The fugitive scientist Phineas Welles has awakened the player from their 70-year slumber by creating a new chemical cocktail that prevents the worst possible side effect of prolonged stasis: explosive cell death (it’s really more of a liquefaction, actually). While successfully revived, the player unfortunately has the last dose of the cocktail within them and Phineas is quick to charge them with finding more of it. With little choice but to listen to the request, Phineas shoots the freshly-unsuspended colonist from his hollowed-out asteroid hideout to the nearby planet of Terra 2.
Terra 2 is where the player will take their first steps into this strange universe. After an introduction to the well-known Spacer’s Choice corporation, the player will find the contacts’ abandoned ship, the Unreliable. The Autonomous Digital Astrogater, or ADA, will let the player know their new ship is damaged and requires a replacement power regulator to get up and running. After giving the player the coordinates to the closest settlement, they’ll be able to make their way to the nearby corporate town of Edgewater.
The town has certainly seen better days, and after familiarizing themselves with the inhabitants, the player will find themselves at the Saltuna Cannery, the heart of Edgewater. There, the player will stumble into a conversation between planetary supervisor Reed Tobson and the mechanic Parvati, who are discussing a problem with the machinery. She explains to her boss that the reason for the problems in the machine is the byproduct he is adding to the saltuna, as it doesn’t fit in the can the same way. This is where Parvati joins the party at the behest of her boss and after explaining your problem to him, he offers a solution. There’s an extra power regulator at the botanical labs and all the player needs to do to take it is divert its power to Edgewater.
The problem is, a woman by the name of Adelaide McDevitt has led a group of people away from the town after an outbreak of a disease known as the “plague” broke out there. She blames the diet, as Tobson has added ingredients such as wood chips to their food due to a shortage of actual saltuna. After the plague claimed her son while Reed sat idle, she abandoned the town alongside several others to create a new society in the old labs. While there, she managed to grow crops to feed fresh food to those who left with her and create a pleasant community for those around her. This feat was previously thought impossible due to sour soil on the planet, instilling great faith in her abilities. While she makes a sweet first impression, she has no love for Tobson or Edgewater and encourages you to divert the town’s power fully to the lab to break the town and force them to her side.
The genuinely incompetent actions of Reed Tobson aren’t done out of malice, but what he sees as a necessity. He sees his problems as “facts of life” and is worried about the deserters in the lab, not wanting you to resort to violence. He sees his employees as his family, as Spacer’s Choice teaches him, and cares about them. Adelaide, however, is willing to resort to shutting off the power of a sick populace and forcing them to travel a sizable distance to get to her community. Parvati rightly identifies the problem as a moral dilemma and asks the player to visit Vicar Max for guidance, as he is the spiritual council in town. If the player helps him obtain a book he’s looking for, he’ll become frustrated upon receiving it because it’s written in French. When you say you’ll be going off-world, he’ll jump at the opportunity to join the crew.
Whatever decision the player makes, they can get the power regulator and be able to get off-world. When that happens, Phineas will contact them and direct them to Gladys Culkelly, a black marketeer on the free colony ship, the Groundbreaker. The player need to get to Monarch, a world the Board has banned travel to because Phineas bought some information and the seller hasn’t come through. Upon landing on the Groundbreaker, the player’ ship will be impounded by the Board representative on the colony vessel. This issue must be addressed if the player is to get off the Groundbreaker and on to Monarch. It’s also here where the player meetsl meet Ellie Fenhill and Felix Millstone.
The player will need to speak to Udom Bedford, the Board’s representative on the free ship. They’ll discover that he’s after information on Phineas Welles and that the former captain of the Unreliable is a friend of his, routinely impounding the ship to chat with him. After explaining what happened, he’ll let the player go and release the ship. If the player wishes, they can turn in Phineas’ location to Udom.
Once the player gets to Monarch, they learn that the Board has declared it a hazardous work environment due to the savage wildlife surrounding the town. Phineas’ contact is trapped in a radio tower outside of town and the path that is dangerous, making a guide necessary. The best guide through Monarchs’ jungles is the local big game hunter Nyoka, who frequents Monarchs’ bars. Once the player is informed of her pathfinding skills, they’ll be able to recruit the ex-mercenary and make their way through the wilderness toward Devil’s Peak Radio Tower. After fighting your way through, the player will find the information broker that they’re looking for.
It turns out this unknown person is an acquaintance of Nyoka’s, a man named Hiram Blythe who goes by the moniker The Broker when talking business. He’ll tell the player that to get the information to Phineas, he needs the radio network cleared out since Monarch Stellar Industries had staff leave the town after being abandoned and cut off by the Board. The faction that split away from MSI calls themselves The Iconoclasts, led by idealogue Graham Bryant and his written teachings of “Philosophism.” Meanwhile, MSI CEO Sanjar Nandi has found a legal loophole to get his corporation back into the good graces of the Board.
Sanjar needs the player to get the Iconoclasts off the radio frequency and find proof of another company illegally doing business on the planet. If the evidence is found, he can present it to the Board using the appropriate channels and regain his spot to give the player a powerful ally in the corporate world. Meanwhile, Graham believes he would be able to reach more people with pamphlets. The player can help Graham get a printing press online to help him spread his word across the system another way, freeing up the radio waves. However, when a crashed UDL gunship is found on Monarch, both factions will enlist the help of the player to retrieve the valuable weaponry inside. Once the player has the gear, they’ll have to pick a side. Thankfully, Hiram will transmit the data to Phineas regardless of the outcome.
With Hiram’s information, Phineas learns he needs a chemical called dimethyl sulfoxide, which has been ordered in vast quantities by one Minister Aloysius Clarke in the high society of Byzantium. To Phineas, this proves that the Board knows what’s going on and has plans of their own for the Hope. Even though special clearance is needed to land there, Phineas reveals he’s able to give the player this clearance and get you into Byzantium. In the city he has a contact, who will meet the player upon their landing. She’ll explain the situation and how to get into Minister Clarke’s estate, but not before making it clear that the Board has eyes everywhere in this city.
Once the player has found a way to get close to the Minister, they’ll be able to speak with him and learn that he hasn’t ordered any of the chemical Phineas needs, but sees it as proof that there have been illegal transactions happening under his name. Chairman Rockwell, leader of the Board, has long been suspected of ill dealings after he placed the minister under house arrest years ago, which proves his guilt to Clarke. He’ll tell the player that Rockwell will be at the HHC headquarters in the Acropolis district, where the most important corporate facilities are. Only Board employees are allowed in, however, with checkpoints to get inside heavily guarded. After finding a discreet way into the district, the player can use Clarke’s clearance to his former office in the HHC building to get in. Clarke’s ultimate goal is to get Earth involved directly with the dealings in the Halcyon system in order to stop Rockwell’s plan, whatever it may be.
Once inside, the player needs to download the rough cut of Rockwell’s next colony-wide speech, where the chairman reveals a shocking truth. Supplies in Halcyon are depleting quickly and will soon lead to starvation and death. Thankfully, Rockwell has devised a solution to this problem, which he dubs the “Lifetime Employment Program.” This program will see the inhabitants of Halcyon frozen in cryo-stasis to cut back on supplies while a solution is being worked on and unfreeze them as supplies become readily available again.
The shocking revelations behind this plan are twofold. The first atrocity is that Rockwell needed to perform tests on human subjects, which killed many during the process. The second abominable truth is that to achieve stable stasis for the current denizens of Halcyon, the chairman aims to eject all of the currently hibernating denizens of the UDL-002 “Hope” colony ship to make room for them. After learning that the Halcyon system has suffered a cruel fate at the hands of Rockwell’s madness, the player begins the hunt for the dimethyl sulfoxide. They’ll eventually find the room with the chemical, along with the experiments being used to perfect Rockwell’s plan. Here, the player has to choose whether to transfer all of the dimethyl sulfoxide for Phineas, or only take 24% of it. If all of it is drained, the human test subjects will be killed. Whatever the outcome, Phineas needs the chemical.
Upon arrival, the player gets a call from one Sophia Akande, the Adjutant of Halcyon’s security force and the leader of the hunt for Phineas Welles. If you haven’t spoken with her before, she’ll reveal that she’s been watching the player since Emerald Vale and comments on how you handled the situation at Edgewater. She knows the player is in contact with Phineas and she wants your help to bring him to justice, as she believes him to be an obsessive madman whose experiments jeopardize the entire system. She’ll give the player a tracking signal to stick to the Phineas’ communications terminal at his hideout.
After meeting up with Phineas, he’ll explain his plan to free the hibernating denizens of the Hope. The player needs to use the Unreliable to jump-start the skip drive on the Hope, then skip jump it across the system. A skip jump is meant for incredibly long distances, and a jump within the same system can cause incredible damage to the vessel performing it. He also suggests the player use the tracking frequency given to them by Sophia Akande but wants them to send it corrupted. This will give him time to set up defenses and give the player the time to successfully skip jump the Hope to his lab near Terra 2. Whether or not the player chooses to corrupt the data, they’ll have to make their way to the Hope and get it to where it needs to go.
Once the player gets to the skip drive and charges it up with the power from the Unreliable, they’ll be met with the most important choice in the game. If the player is loyal to Phineas, they’ll skip the Hope to Terra 2. If the player wants to turn him in and has decided to side with the Board, they’ll send the colony ship to planet Tartarus, home to the maximum-security prison “The Labyrinth.”
The Outer Worlds Endings
The fate of the Halcyon system and its inhabitants are in the hands of the player. There are two ways this can play out, with the experience on Tartarus changing depending on whether you remained loyal to Phineas or sided with the Board.
Saving the Hope
At Terra 2, you’ll receive an urgent message from Phineas when you land. The Board has found him and are knocking down his door. The transmission will end with an explosion to muffle his cries before cutting off. From here, ADA advises the player to go check on Phineas and upon arrival at his lab, the player is greeted with the Board’s armed security forces. In Phineas’ personal lab, the player learns the shocking truth behind his revival cocktail. The player is the most successful result of Phineas’ own experiments, which used the colonists of the Hope as test subjects. His journals log the process of the revival trials and their grisly results, all while serving as a scientist on Byzantium. This is the reason he’s a wanted criminal and branded a terrorist by the Board. With this information in tow, the crew steel themselves for the battle on Tartarus, where unauthorized landings are met with annihilation.
After fighting through the corporate army, the player encounters Chairman Rockwell himself setting up a studio for his latest speech. He intends to show Phineas as an example of a reformed man who turned his life around after they beat him into submission behind closed doors for his secret formula. The player can handle Rockwell in any number of ways, but the real battle lies in the room beyond. Sophia Akande has armed the automechanical Warden, along with an army of backup automatons to stop you in your tracks. After a final call with her, the player storms through the robot army, busts into her room and guns her down. You’ll then release Phineas, who is grateful for the effort to free him, but bears dire news.
Earth has gone dark. The last ship sent back lost contact with Halcyon and there haven’t been any communications from the planet itself in three years. This means the people of the Halcyon system are on their own in the universe, as Earth’s fate is unknown. There may have even been a sort of calamity, making further contact impossible. With this news, Phineas and the player move to awaken the colonists of the Hope, who are said to be some of the best and brightest from Earth.
Leading the Board
If the player chose the opposite scenario and sided with Akande, the situation plays out a bit differently. Skipping the Hope to Tartarus directly will result in Phineas starting a prison riot and releasing every inmate in the Labyrinth. While Phineas can be talked into surrendering, he’s still taken Sophia Akande hostage and is holding her in the same place she would have held him. He’ll see the player as a traitor to the Hopes’ hibernating colonists and claim that what he’s doing is justified because he’s chosen to “fight back.” Freeing Akande doesn’t change the situation with Earth, and Halcyon still needs to be rebuilt, but the remaining resources of the Board can be used to help, such as the Lifetime Employment Program.
In addition to the main ending, you’ll be treated to a slideshow that touches on the entire adventure and the fate of the Unreliable’s crew. Halcyon’s fate is directly influenced by the players’ choices and the factions they’ve influenced, as those who were left in power will inevitably take charge.
What Do We Know About The Outer Worlds 2?
Separated from Earth with an ending driven by player choice, it’s tough to know where The Outer Worlds 2 will pick up. The tongue-in-cheek reveal proved to be a spoof on reveal trailers, riffing on common tropes such as slow-motion action shots and a silhouette character, whose design is “unfinished.” The trailer even claims they aren’t done with nearly any aspect of the game, including the story. Whatever the case, we’ll be sitting tight for a release date and any more information we can get from Obsidian’s latest entry in their new RPG franchise.
The Outer Worlds is available now for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch.
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