The Outer Worlds certainly hit it big last year managing to top a lot of game of the year lists throughout the internet. And with good reason, thanks to Obsidian Entertainment’s knack for creating incredible game worlds that serve meaningful decisions for you to partake in. The universe of their newest game was no different, even if for me it stuck a little too close to Obsidian’s previous hit’s mindset of humor mixed in with grim realities, the modern classic Fallout: New Vegas. For the limited time that I spent playing the game’s original release on Game Pass PC last year, it proved to be a lot of the same fun that I had with most of Bethesda’s recent first-person Fallout and The Elder Scrolls games.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to continue my intergalactic adventure back in 2019 for various reasons, mostly due to being too busy with review work to justify keeping an extra active subscription to a videogame service. And since then so much stuff has come out that I wanted to play that even when I did have a chance to jump back in, I never did because something else ended up catching my eye. So when the opportunity to play another version of The Outer Worlds popped up, I grabbed it, no questions asked.
What has to be stated before talking about any details of this port of The Outer Worlds on the Switch is the sheer absurdity of simply fitting a game of this caliber into Nintendo’s handheld/tabletop combo of a console. The disparity between processing power is obvious between the Switch and a fairly dated computer already, let alone the current console competition, so there was no doubt in my mind that this port would be inferior technically without even laying my eyes or ears on it. In the past, I’ve gotten the chance to play and review other similar downgrades to the Switch, like The Witcher 3 and Doom 2016, so my expectations were already tempered to begin with.
Those games were totally playable the way they were most definitely, but in direct comparison to any other version they obviously show their limitations. With that in mind, you have to imagine just who the target is for these ports: obviously people who don’t own any other gaming machine than a Switch, or whose PC just isn’t capable of running such decently demanding titles. There’s also the subset of people who want to have games like these on the go, which is most certainly a worthwhile reason to play them, surely.
With that out of the way, we can talk about how the Switch version of The Outer Worlds shapes up. It’s evidently an inferior version of the game in just about every technical regard, most notably in the visual front, which obviously has gotten the most significant downgrade. There’s no escaping the fact that this is the blurriest, blandest looking of all the ports, even losing out to the PC version on low settings. Characters don’t look nearly as expressive as their superior versions’ counterparts, and environments suffer not only from washed out textures, but also with lots of pop-in from not at all distant vistas, along with a general stillness that really makes the world feel much draber than the colorful and lively ones from the version that I played last year.
Load times are also problematic, especially when first loading into the game off of the Switch main menu, but also during transitions when entering buildings and exiting back out to the world. Thankfully, all the text in the game can be scaled up via the options menu, so even while playing the game in handheld mode, it’s fairly readable, something that’s a constant issue with many a game released for the Switch. Menu navigation is quick enough and doesn’t get in the way of engaging with the inevitable encumbrance dance that’s typical of open-world grabby games of its ilk. All in all, for as limited in presentation as The Other Worlds is on the Switch, it’s still very much playable.
As my incredibly eloquent British colleague Gareth made an excellent point in his review of the PC version last year, that for as close to the formula that this game might thread throughout its run, it’s still a great time. And if you haven’t played it before and lack the means to play anywhere other than the Switch, this version is perfectly fine for experiencing the incredible amount of quality writing that it contains, be it through the game’s satirical approach to uncontrolled capitalism in the far future, or the crazy situations you can get into playing as a purely stupid intelligence-wise character build.
But perhaps the best part about The Outer Worlds is that there’s no wrong way of playing it. Obsidian even went as far as programming the game to account for you killing all the NPCs, which is something that even Bethesda has shied away from. That in a way works as one of the reasons that The Outer Worlds is considerably shorter than other games like it, resulting in a more contained adventure that’s meant to be played more than once in order to experiment with varied approaches in order to get different outcomes to the story. It’s an impressive achievement.
Even on a limited console such as the Switch, the scope of The Outer Worlds isn’t lost. There’s no ifs ands or buts about it: it’s a way less attractive port of an otherwise gorgeous game, but even so the very core of what made the game such a hit last year is still present for you to experience if you come into it with the right mindset and controlled expectations. Warts and blemishes aside, it’s just crazy to be able to play a game like this in such a manner, and for as problematic as this ambitious port is, it’s a wonder it even exists, let alone work at all, making it worth at least checking out.