When it was announced that The Outer Worlds would let you assemble a squad of companions, few people knew exactly what to make of that information. After all, the popular narrative surrounding The Outer Worlds concerned its status as the spiritual sequel to Fallout: New Vegas. While there were companions in Fallout: New Vegas, their roles were somewhat…limited. They mostly served as an extra gun during combat and offered a little flavor from time to time.
According to The Outer Worlds senior designer Brian Heins, companions in The Outer Worlds are intended to be much more than that.
“Each companion has their own things that they are personally good at,” Heins says. “So you might have a companion who’s really good at lock picking, and if you aren’t, but you have that companion with you, they contribute their skills towards yours so you can now pick certain locks that you wouldn’t be able to achieve otherwise.”
We saw glimpses of this harmonious companion skill system in New Vegas, but The Outer Worlds goes much further with the idea than that game ever did. Heins even compares the skills of certain companions to equipping a particularly good piece of equipment.
Most importantly, each of your companions in the game boasts a distinct personality that may or may not blend well with your own or with the personalities of your other companions. That idea of contrarian companions who boast their own views feels much closer to the systems we saw in games like Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Honestly, the way that BioWare (and Obsidian, in the case of KOTOR 2) treated companions in those games does feel like a big inspiration for how they are treated in The Outer Worlds. Just as in those games, for instance, each companion has a story just waiting to be explored. During my own playthrough of the game, I even had a companion leave me after certain (entirely optional) events occurred that advanced their own story as well.
Even better, your choice of companions in your away team will affect how the world reacts to you and how certain sequences play out.
“Each companion has their own point of view on factions in the game, the career paths they’re going on, etc.” Heins says. “If they’re with you when you’re talking to various NPCs they’ll interject and give you their opinion in conversations.”
As anyone who fell in love with HK-47 in KOTOR knows, sometimes the best companions are ones that will test you, tease you, or even get you in trouble. It turns out that The Outer Worlds features companions that serve a similar role. Sometimes, your companions will even use their skills to straight-up troll you.
“So, you might have a companion who’s a really great liar, which is always fun when you’re having a conversation with them,” Heins says. “It’s like, ‘Are you just lying to me right now? I can’t tell.’”
While companions having a little fun with you in a private conversation is one thing, there are also times when the attitude of your companions can lead to some…unintended consequences if you’re not careful.
“One of my favorite companions in the game is a guy named Felix,” Heins says. “He’s almost like your hype man. So if you have him with you in your party, he may get excited and start egging on your enemies, trying to edge things towards a fight. It’s like ‘Whoa, Felix, calm down. Let’s talk our way through here without just getting in a fight.’”
Matthew Byrd is a staff writer for Den of Geek. He spends most of his days trying to pitch deep-dive analytical pieces about Killer Klowns From Outer Space to an increasingly perturbed series of editors. You can read more of his work here or find him on Twitter at @SilverTuna014.