The ability to choose is a powerful tool in any RPG. Selecting your character’s gear, traits, and dialogue options create a unique campaign that is exclusive to the player. The Outer Worlds is the latest in this genre, and while its story and choices are infinitely entertaining, physical accessibility missteps translate to an awkward, inaccessible mess.
Developed by Obsidian Entertainment and published by Private Division and Take-Two Interactive, The Outer Worlds tasks individuals with saving passengers aboard a colony ship, while simultaneously discovering the peculiar nature of varying mega corporations. In traditional Obsidian fashion, The Outer Worlds features an incredible story with hilarious dialogue options. My favorite quest depicted a runaway who so desperately wanted to become a marauder chief yet could only do so by giving away narcotics.
From an accessibility standpoint, The Outer Worlds is an enigma. For starters, the game allows players to customize controls, but prohibits changing six keys that correspond to different menus. This feature can be avoided by simply pressing ‘Tab’ and navigating to the menu of your choice. Yet, for disabled individuals that cannot press ‘Tab,’ ‘I,’ ‘K,’ ‘J,’ ‘Comma,’ or ‘M,’ they will never be able to access the menu system.
Unfortunately, the menu conundrum does not stop there. As an Obsidian Entertainment game, The Outer Worlds requires extensive menu usage. Equipping gear, leveling characters, perusing through your journal, and accessing shops and workbenches are integral aspects of this RPG. If a disabled player is fortunate enough to access the menu system, they will surely struggle with its navigation. Much like the six fixed inputs, players are unable to customize specific key functions within each menu. For example, ‘E’ is utilized as an action key in the overworld, and players are free to switch its use. Within menus, ‘E’ is permanently bound, meaning players with limited mobility will consistently require outside assistance. Furthermore, players must press the ‘Escape’ key in order to leave the menu system, a feature which consistently tired me out throughout my playthrough.
The Outer Worlds attempts to redeem itself through the capability to toggle certain abilities, yet once again fails to provide adequate accessibility options. Sprinting and crouching are in a permanent toggled state, which is beneficial for individuals like me. However, players must hold the aim and Tactical Time Dilation (TTD) keys. As a result, my sessions were severely limited due to physical exhaustion. While companions can assist in fights, I often found my comrades continuously dying, forcing me to hold the aim button for an egregious period.
The Outer Worlds is successful as an RPG, but disastrous as an accessible game. Its Fallout-like mechanics are immensely entertaining. Yet, its lack of accessible options prevents disabled players from immersing themselves into the rich story. Fights quickly become a chore, and menu navigation transitions into a battle of physical limitations. For a game that encourages players to choose, it’s baffling as to why disabled players are unable to choose options which best suit their disability.