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The Outer Worlds: Murder on Eridanos (PC)

By Paul Broussard 19th Apr 2021 | 2,078 views 

Dead on arrival.

A year and a half after the release of the excellent Outer Worlds and the game’s second DLC has arrived. Murder on Eridanos acts as a self-contained story, forcing the player to grapple with the role of investigator on a new planet with entirely new characters. But how well does Obsidian’s second attempt to translate its trademark writing and decision-making gameplay into a DLC format work? Regrettably, about as well as our murder victim’s last day went.
The setting is a drink and candy production plant called Rizzo’s on the titular planet of Eridanos. After once again being mistaken for the person who previously owned your current ship, the player character is called in to serve as an investigator for the murder of a movie icon on company premises. Unsurprisingly, the murder is a much more complicated business than initially appears, and thus the protagonist gets caught up in the crossfires of various rivalries and schemes surrounding both Rizzo’s and the movie business.

Gameplay largely revolves around interviewing potential suspects and investigating scenes of interest. Players are essentially given a checklist of people to talk to, and you’ll slowly start to put together the pieces of what happened by doing so. That said, the actual act of interrogating is pretty shallow and basically just boils down to clicking all of the possible speech options. Even passing the various speech checks doesn’t seem to impact the story in any significant way; the game usually just comes up with some justification to give you the information you would have gotten otherwise.
Investigating scenes is somehow even less engaging. At the start, the protagonist is given a piece of equipment that might as well just be called the “plot device 9000,” which will alert the player when there’s a story important location nearby to examine. The player then points the machine at the intended location, presses a button, and some info gets dumped on them. There’s no skill or challenge to any of it.

 Perhaps most galling, though, is that very little of what the player does matters at all. A game (or in this case, expansion) focused on solving a murder should, in theory, let the player do just that, and yet Murder on Eridanos takes the complete opposite approach. Talking to suspects, investigating crime scenes - none of it winds up mattering because the game ultimately removes the agency from your choice at the end. Regardless of who you wind up eventually accusing, the exact same scenario will play out, and the actual murderer will be revealed just the same.
And this perhaps underlies Murder on Eridanos’ biggest shortcoming; despite being DLC for Outer Worlds, a game that was largely focused on forcing the player to make difficult, morally ambiguous decisions that heavily impacted the plot and the livelihoods of the people around them, it’s deathly afraid to let the player make any of those decisions here. You can spend 80% of the DLC’s runtime skipping through dialogue and sprinting from one point to the next and the murder will still be resolved the same way every time.

Even the one major choice the player is allowed to make at the end is pretty weak and about as easy a choice to make as imaginable. Without wishing to spoil things, the game might as well just ask you “would you like to be a decent human being, or a completely miserable person who probably spends their days torturing kittens and foreclosing orphanages?” There’s no ethical quandary here, no tough decision(s) to make, and that makes this DLC bizarrely out of place for an Obsidian product.

Another sizable disappointment is that there's very little room for role playing in what is ostensibly a DLC for a role playing game. The vast majority of the skill checks feel like they were designed for players about 2/3rds of the way through the base game and haven't been changed to reflect the amount of experience gained from the prior DLC. In brief, you can pretty much pass basically any check as long as you haven't completely ignored it, and an RPG where you can easily excel at everything is hardly an RPG at all.

The saving grace is the writing, which is still rock solid. The various murder suspects are all engaging and interesting to talk to, and even if your choice on which one to accuse winds up being utterly meaningless, the game does a good job of stringing you along and really making you question who could have possibly done it. They’re all fairly nuanced and simultaneously both easy to hate and feel sorry for; they're usually stuck in undesirable positions but also making questionable decisions themselves.

Does the story itself manage to justify a purchase? Definitely not at the DLC’s $15 asking price. If you really enjoy Obsidian's writing independent of tough choices and you just desperately need more of it, then it might be worth your while if it goes on sale. For everyone else, however, this is a pretty safe pass. Somehow, Obsidian managed to create DLC for its decision-based RPG that contains only one meaningful decision and virtually no character specialization, so what we're left with is a watered-down first person shooter add-on that's a letdown on every front.

VGChartz Verdict


This review is based on a digital copy of The Outer Worlds: Murder on Eridanos for the PC

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