Obsidian Entertainment is a studio known for two things: sequels and innovative game design, as seen in some of their most popular games Fallout: New Vegas, Knights of the Old Republic II, and Neverwinter Nights 2. The studio’s newest game The Outer Worlds is an entirely new creation, but it still retains the freedom of choice that’s found in Obsidian RPGs. A recent interview with senior designer Brian Heins reveals that players will be able to kill every NPC in the game.
Most open-world games employ what are called Essential NPCs – plot-necessary characters that you cannot kill until their relevance in the game’s story is over. Of course, in games that are equally about players’ choices and killing enemies that you don’t like, this causes many players to feel like the game is forcing them to make certain decisions that their character would not make. There have been many attempts to circumvent this, with varying degrees of success. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind solved the essential NPCs problem by allowing the player to kill anyone, then surprising them with a pop-up that kindly informed them that they doomed the world whenever they killed an NPC that was part of the main quest.
Obsidian’s hit game Fallout: New Vegas, on the other hand, painstakingly crafted a quest system that allowed the player to kill every NPC that they had physical access to and still complete the main quest, and it seems like The Outer Worlds is doing the same. Heins said that not every quest will be completable if you go on your mass murder rampage, but you will be able to finish the game. He also said that there will often be other ways to get the information that you were supposed to get from whatever plot-critical NPC you just murdered and that the designers “try not to fail quests based on players doing the things we allow them to do.”
Player choice influences the game in other ways as well, so the world isn't only affected by just killing NPC's. Almost every conversation in the game is filled with dialogue choices, including the ability to use your charisma stats to lie. Players choice also makes the difference in gameplay. At one point, you can charge into an enemy facility guns blazing, use stealth to sneak in the back, steal a guard’s uniform and bluff your way in, or sabotage the enemy’s machinery.
It’s much harder to make a game that incorporates player choice in the way that The Outer Worlds does, but the game will be better for it. This level of player choice is rare in RPGs these days, and it lets players have greater freedom to choose their own playstyle and play in a more realistic world.