The Outer Worlds: The Work of a Revolution was Done with Two Hands

I didn’t do much with the character Felix in the Outer Worlds. He seemed like a bland buddy to help you out on your space western quest to fight the evil dystopia corporate Board in charge of the futuristic Halcyon colony. I much preferred Parvati, the can-do engineer, and Nyoka, the hard drinking, tough fighting survivalist.

At the end of most Obsidian games there is usually a slideshow that showcases the effect of the players choices. The following text came up for Felix.

“Life in Halcyon was sobering for Felix Millstone. The grand revolution he’d dreamed of never came. There was no great awakening for the colony, no celebrations in the streets. There was only the hard, desperate work of trying to repair a broken colony. Felix never had a head for numbers, but if there was labor to be done, he was there to help. Eventually, Felix realized that the work of a revolution was done with two hands.”

Nyoka and Parvati are at the center, Felix is to the left of Nyoka.

This slideshow made me do a 180 on Felix and if anything embodies a major theme of the “good” playthrough of the game.

Here are the major choices I made that constitute a “good” ending:

1. Installed Adelaide, leader of the Deserters in charge of the factory town of Edgewater

2. Convinced the rogue corporation MSI and the Iconoclasts to join together against the Board

3. Kept the Groundbreaker in good repair allowing them to continue to function independently from the Board

4. At all points curbed the power of the Board

By following this path the game told a story about Doing the Work. You’re probably reading that thinking “Duh this is a game about labor, about corporations, oppression, and a parody of corporate dystopia that bites very hard against our own time” and that’s absolutely a correct takeaway. However, there’s more to it. The Outer Worlds is about labor yes, but its also about the Work we have to do to keep society afloat in the face of structural and existential threats.

In the Halcyon colony the center cannot hold, mass starvation threatens the colony, Earth has gone silent and cannot be counted on for aid, and the elites of The Board realize they no longer need the lower classes to maintain their supremacy and luxury. In fact these elites want to ride out the starvation by hoarding supplies.

As is so often the case in stories, the pieces to save everything are there. In the Outer Worlds those pieces are people and the ties that bind them. Adelaide, leader of the Deserters who knows a thing or two about growing food, Sanjar leader of MSI knows how to use corporate processes for the advantage of all workers, Zora leader of the Iconoclasts who has the pragmatism to counter Sanjar’s natural inclination towards operating within power structures (Sanjar is basically center left, Zora is more far left but with a practical streak), Junlei of the Groundbreaker who along with Parvati have the mechanical know how to keep everything running, and finally Phineas Welles who never gave up trying to save the Halcyon colony from itself.

The ending based on these choices is hopeful, it says that Halcyon has a bright future, times will be hard, but people will weather them.

Right now, here on our Earth we face our own existential threats. There’s a feeling that we are on the path toward either dystopia and climate change threatens our very existence. Outer World’s sees the solution in people banding together to meet the challenges head on, its simple, but its a useful story to tell in an age of cynicism.

Outer Worlds is to be a space western. The player character (called The Stranger) rides in and to either save the colony or damn it to hell. These individualistic models for stories are older than written history, but they don’t have to be read individualistically. The Stranger could be anyone, the Stranger could be all of us, The Stranger can be the ties that bind us together, The Stranger is the cold hard truth that change is nigh and there’s a lot of Work to Be Done.

The work of a revolution is done with two hands (or with whatever you have) and we all should keep that message close in the times that come.