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Take It Easy Mode: The Outer Worlds on the Nintendo Switch
Take It Easy Mode is a bi-weekly column on the unsung hero of video games, the Easy setting, for casual and new gamers, parents, and people who generally find higher difficulty modes frustrating.
I'm an unashamed, unapologetic fan of the Mass Effect trilogy. It's what got me back into gaming after a years-long hiatus because video games were just irritating for a while. I'm not saying Mass Effect wasn't hard (I'd rather fight off a whole horde of virtual bad guys than ever have to drive the Mako again), but the story was good enough to capture me and inspire me to slog through some of the hardest battles.
It was the first time that I'd experienced a video game story being compelling enough to make me fight through things that were way beyond my skill level — that is, until they introduced a Story Mode in Mass Effect 3. I've been looking to replicate that experience ever since (at least, until EA finally releases that rumored remaster we've all been waiting for). I've found it in some other games, to be sure, but never in one that's a sci-fi epic. That's why I was so curious about The Outer Worlds when it came out last year.
The Outer Worlds is set in a faraway solar system called Halcyon that's been colonized by Earth's corporations. They run the show, and they consider the people who live on the planets and work for them as company property (yes, it's exactly as bad as it sounds). You are a colonist on a lost colony ship from Earth that's been drifting for decades and are awakened by a scientist who wants to fix Halcyon's myriad problems; he's hoping you're the key.
That story was enough to make me intrigued to buy the game and play it on the PS4 when it first released. It's a first-person shooter, which is most certainly not my jam, but setting the difficulty on Story Mode made it absolutely playable. I really enjoyed that first run-through of the game, as well as the way narrative choices genuinely made a difference in the outcome. (I'm on pins and needles waiting for the promised DLC from Obsidian.) It's the quest-based, choice-driven RPG so many of us love. And you even get companions on your journey! If you don't absolutely adore Parvati, then I don't know what to tell you.
But The Outer Worlds made the jump to the Nintendo Switch earlier this year, which made me even more intrigued to do a replay. After all, I think the Switch is a console that's perfectly suited to casual and Easy Mode gamers. But the reason we don't see a lot of cross-platform games on the Switch is that it's severely underpowered compared to the PS4 and Xbox One. Any studio porting a game to the Switch would have to make serious cuts to make it playable, and even then “playable” can be a relative term. If it's super laggy, or the voice acting is removed for performance considerations, I'm not really interested.
That's why I decided to purchase and re-play the game on the Nintendo Switch. My strategy recommendations for the game are applicable across platforms, but I wanted to focus specifically on the handheld experience because there aren't a lot of games like this currently available for the Switch.
Of course, you'll want to choose the lowest difficulty setting, Story Mode, which is for people who “enjoy story more than combat” (hello, it me). When designing your character, make sure you pay special attention to the attributes you're giving them. Usually, when I'm going through this kind of a process in a first-person shooter, I amp up my character's strength as possible — it's the only way I can (barely) survive the game.
But in this case, one cool thing about The Outer Worlds is that you can actually avoid a decent amount of in-game combat by talking your way out of a situation. As a result, I actually recommend dialing up your Charm, Intelligence, and Perception. Give an additional point to Strength if you can, just so you have a little extra weight for inventory (the management system in this game is, unfortunately, a bit frustrating). It's also important to note that while you can add individual points to Persuade as you level up, you can't to Intelligence and Perception, so you may want to give preference to those.
As far as your skills, add points to your dialog options. I usually throw a couple of points to Leadership and Stealth as well, because if I'm out and about in the world, being able to sneak past an enemy is key. Tech is also useful, though Companions can help boost those abilities. You can re-spec these skills on your ship, it's important to note, so this part isn't set in stone.
When it comes to choosing your job, focus on the benefits they provide. It doesn't matter at all what you pick, except for how they boost your stats. I chose Cashier for this last playthrough because it gave me a +1 boost to Persuade. Once you're playing and leveling up, you get to choose "Perks" for your character. I recommend focusing on improving Tactical Time Dilation — this is a limited ability that allows you to slow down time in order to fight more effectively. If you're really bad at first-person shooters and/or you get overwhelmed easily (both me), it's incredibly useful to be able to slow down the battle so you have a few extra seconds to think.
I have to say, I was actually really impressed as to how the game played on the Switch compared to the PS4. It looks incredible on the screen, given the Switch's limited capabilities. Yes, there is, of course, less detail in the environments (which are pretty stunning) and character faces if you play on handheld mode — that's to be expected. But honestly, that's the only tradeoff as far as I could tell. They dialed down the quality of the visuals (but they are definitely not BAD, just not as spectacular) in order to make it work. The voice acting is all the same, and the gameplay is very smooth. Unless you're particular about graphics (which if you are, that's totally fine — but you probably wouldn't want to play a game like this on the Switch anyways), I think it's a pretty amazing experience.
If you're hankering for a sci-fi adventure with a good story, fun companions, and great adventure, The Outer Worlds is an excellent game to pick up. It's not super long, probably around 25 hours, and even though the story may feel a little too real at times, all in all, it's a really nice escape.