(Image credit: Windows Central)
"You've tried the best, now try the rest. Spacer's Choice!" In The Outer Worlds, the far-flung colonies of Halcyon are owned and managed by the Board, a grouping of insidious megacorporations invested in every walk of life. Of all the companies working together to maximize profits and exploit the colonists of Halcyon, Spacer's Choice is well known as the cheapest and most willing to cut corners.
There's irony in Private Division choosing to use the "Spacer's Choice" brand for its definitive edition of Obsidian Entertainment's The Outer Worlds. Despite the legitimate graphical improvements made in this version, The Outer Worlds Spacer's Choice Edition comes off as a blatant cash grab, skewing the tendencies of other first-party Xbox games to lock its upgrades behind a paywall — a wall that your save file can't cross, no matter how big a fan you are.
All the right upgrades
When The Outer Worlds was released in 2019, it was astoundingly easy to praise for its humorous writing, fleshed-out story and characters, and first-class worldbuilding. However, the game was never the most visually impressive, and Windows Central's The Outer Worlds review criticized it for its quality-of-life issues and poor AI NPCs. Nearly three-and-a-half years later, the game is finally enjoying a major upgrade in the form of the Spacer's Choice Edition.
Think of this as a "definitive edition" of the game, similar to The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Game of the Year Edition. It includes the base game and both DLC expansions (Peril on Gorgon and Murder on Eridanos) for a newly reduced retail price (USD $60). However, it also includes many improvements to the game's graphics, performance, and overall quality that are not coming to the original game. More on that later. For now, let's discuss what is better with this new version.
This is the current-gen upgrade for The Outer Worlds on Xbox Series X|S, PS5, and modern gaming PCs for all intents and purposes. No, I'm not talking about the game running at 60FPS on current-gen consoles after a random patch — this is a dramatic departure from the original from a visual perspective. Here's a quick summary of everything that's changed:
- Improved performance at up to 4K and 60FPS
- Comprehensive volumetric lighting
- Superior special effects and particle physics
- Enhanced environmental detail and increased asset density
- Improved open-world vistas
- Dynamic weather with additional variations
- More intelligent AI for companions and NPCs in combat
- More detailed character models and improved animations
- Increased level cap (up to Lv. 99)
The Outer Worlds arrived on the scene just over a year before the current generation of consoles began pushing the boundaries for performance and graphics in console games. Despite that, The Outer Worlds has languished with visuals that weren't particularly amazing even at launch. Finally, the game feels and looks awesome, with cartoonishly oversaturated visuals making every vista pop. The Outer Worlds still isn't going to win awards for its graphics, but the game genuinely looks fantastic in the Spacer's Choice Edition.
The massively improved visuals don't translate to worse performance, either. While the game still leans toward "clunky," and I did experience a handful of dropped frames, The Outer Worlds overall performs much better in the new version. This is especially true when considering load times, as The Outer Worlds isn't truly open world and features frequent load screens when traveling into towns and settlements. The Xbox Series X makes short work of these pauses, ensuring you're never too far detached from the action.
I also observed a general improvement in characters, which look and move more realistically. This also applies to facial animations; you're still likely to experience bouts of the uncanny valley, but it's a marked step up and adds to the sense that this is The Outer Worlds "all grown up." It hints at what we can expect from The Outer Worlds 2, a true next-gen sequel expected to be far more ambitious than its predecessor.
I will say that I did not notice a major improvement to AI, especially in combat, and the Spacer's Choice Edition does absolutely nothing for the lifeless NPCs outside of conversations or the oft-awkward menus and UI. Still, The Outer Worlds has never looked this good, with every environment bursting with detail and luster. It's unfortunate, then, that these current-gen upgrades will never be experienced by the majority of The Outer Worlds players.
All the wrong reasons
Viewed in a vacuum, Obsidian Entertainment and Private Division are delivering all the right upgrades to The Outer Worlds with the Spacer's Choice Edition, modernizing the game for newcomers and returning players alike. Of course, nothing in this industry exists in a vacuum, and "all the right upgrades" don't matter if they're here for all the wrong reasons.
The Outer Worlds Spacer's Choice Edition is considered an all-new, completely separate version of the game. That means all of the graphical, performance, and quality-of-life improvements contained within are not coming to the game's original version. You must buy the game (retailing for $60) if you want these enhancements. In this aspect, it almost feels like The Outer Worlds Remastered instead of a current-gen upgrade.
Additionally, there is absolutely no way to transfer any of your save information or progress from the original The Outer Worlds to the Spacer's Choice Edition. If you already played the game and wanted to return, either to finish it or to play the DLC expansions (the reason I was excited for the Spacer's Choice Edition), your only option is to begin anew with a fresh save.
If you love The Outer Worlds enough to upgrade to the newest version regardless, you'll need to own the original game and both DLC expansions to pay the discounted $10 for the Spacer's Choice Edition. I could justify charging for these extensive upgrades under different circumstances, but you'd still be giving up all your progress. Finally, this version of The Outer Worlds is not coming to Xbox or PC Game Pass — The original is sticking around, presumably as a more affordable alternative.
The Outer Worlds is not old enough to warrant a remaster — it's a modern game available on all the same platforms as the Spacer's Choice Edition. Instead of following the precedent set by other first-party Xbox games, Private Division opted to alienate returning players with no way to transfer to the superior version. It's also charging full price for what essentially amounts to a facelift (no matter how impressive) with minor quality-of-life enhancements.
On the other hand, the original version of The Outer Worlds has effectively been abandoned. The title has been notorious for rarely enjoying decent discounts and was still listed at its original retail price of $60 (or $80 for the Board-Approved Bundle with both DLC expansions included) even the day before the Spacer's Choice Edition was released.
The Spacer's Choice Edition is arriving as a superior product with better value (being $20 less than the previously cheapest way to obtain the game and its DLC). Still, there's no reasonable upgrade path for existing players — the best-case scenario means paying $10 to lose your progress. Everyone simply has to accept this, even those who may have recently bought The Outer Worlds without being aware that the Spacer's Choice Edition was on the way. It's unfortunate and frankly astounding how appropriate "Spacer's Choice Edition" is for this game.
It's not the best choice, it's Spacer's Choice
Spacer's Choice as a company only seeks to make more profits, even if it means making a worse product. In the case of The Outer Worlds Spacer's Choice Edition, making more profit appears to be its exact goal. Of course, this approach will backfire, as the game's most loyal players have the least reason to upgrade.
The sensible approach for publisher Private Division would have been releasing the current-gen improvements to all versions of The Outer Worlds while releasing the Spacer's Choice Edition as a more affordable, bundled entryway for players who have yet to explore Halcyon. At the very least, don't charge for visual upgrades if it also means asking players to start over.
Instead of eagerly returning to The Outer Worlds to play its DLC for the first time, I'm putting the game down, perhaps permanently. I have no desire to replay large swathes of the game to reach the DLC, nor do I feel any urge to purchase and play the expansions for the original and now vastly inferior version. Keeping The Outer Worlds full-price for so long to suddenly release a new full-price option in an effort to squeeze more money out of players isn't a good look — especially when your game literally centers around anti-capitalism narratives.
If you have never played The Outer Worlds before, the Spacer's Choice Edition is absolutely the best version of the game; it's not available through Xbox or PC Game Pass, though, which is a shame. If you have played The Outer Worlds and were waiting for a reason to revisit it... This isn't that. It's disappointing because The Outer Worlds really is one of the best Xbox games for RPG fans. Here's hoping that The Outer Worlds 2, which Xbox Game Studios itself will publish, actually stays true to its message and avoids the blunders made by The Outer Worlds Spacer's Choice Edition.
The Outer Worlds Spacer's Choice Edition is not included in Xbox Game Pass, but you can still play the original version without any issues and get discounts on its DLC expansions via Xbox and PC Game Pass.