This article doesn’t contain any story spoilers for The Outer Worlds. My purpose for writing this was to: 1) provide players with evidence of how Supernova difficulty feels compared to normal/hard mode, and 2) review from a design perspective the positives and negatives of this mode.
The Outer Worlds was one of the most fun games I played all year! I enjoyed the twenty-three hours I spent exploring Halcyon so much that as soon as I beat the game on normal difficulty, I started a second run on Supernova difficulty, beating it just sever hours later.
However, experiencing the game this way felt odd to me. While my immersion definitely heightened in tense fire fights, the passive experience of exploring the galaxy was definitely diminished by changes that felt like handicaps to exploration than a vessel delivering a new experience to me.
So here I present to you nine of the most impactful memorizes I collected after defeating The Other Worlds on Supernova difficulty!
Combat felt like a dance between my opponents and me.
The main selling point of Hard and Supernova difficulty was that I wouldn’t be able to blast through every enemy with ease. Death was on the table every fight so knowing when to back off and stand my ground was crucial. Enemies are always in groups surrounding an important location or choke-point on the map which gives the player ample time to prepare. Getting the first shot in every fight which is always incredibly valuable. Unlocking skills that increase headshot damage, stealth strike damage and TTD strike power are a must. If the first shot kills, often times it’s possible to get another lethal shot on a scared enemy but after that, everyone will be aware of your location.
I started to develop subconscious flowcharts of how to handle these various situation and while I could never touch-of-death whole groups, I always felt like proper spacing and time management (for TTD recharging, reload speeds, ect…) enabled me to fight my way out of most any encounter.
Sometimes the best thing to do was run away and admit defeat. Other times, I would have a broken leg that kept me from sprinting away and no TTD. One instance left my movement crippled shortly after startling a pack of canids higher level than me. As they rushed towards my slowly backpedaling self, I had to land every shotgun blast at closest range possible on a gang of approaching canids. Properly spaced shots and reload times were my most powerful too and the fear of death, aka real-life time loss gave me more focus than any perception consumable. I fast traveled back after tearing down at least 10 canids, a changed gamer.
You can save at more places than your ship.
The description of Supernova difficulty said something like, ‘You can only save at your ship and auto saves are infrequent.’ If you’re like me, I had no idea what infrequent even meant and assumed it was a time based thing. Well, the autosaves actually occur when you enter/exit a settlement or ‘significant location’. In other words, walking through the door of a town saves your game.
This made me wonder why the game doesn’t just tell you this from the start? I wasted a lot of time walked back to my ship the first couple hours because of it. I’m don’t want to sound like I know better than the developers but couldn’t less jank save system for this mode be developed? Walking back and forth to a settlement is the equivalent of pressing F5 to quick save except it often takes literally 5 minutes. I grew more apt to play risky and accept repetition which was probably damning in the long run… but what can I say? The safe option was boring as shit!
Thankfully, the fluid gun play and abundance of ammo/healing products gave me plenty of options in the high-risk/high-reward scenarios. Save scumming wasn’t ever something I needed to do for a more optimized survival but that doesn’t mean I never flung myself in rage.
Companions were basically useless.
Boy were they! Feelings of Daikatana were rushing to me when Parvati — the first companion you get — died within moments of the simplest fight going down. In normal or hard mode, she returns to life when you defeated the enemies around but in Supernova she just dies… forever! It’s a shame this was included because companions are so much fun to take with you on quests. Their own personal journeys were all such wonderful stories but you wouldn’t ever know on Supernova because they’re all just horrible at staying alive!
Improving there gear and giving them orders didn’t make as much sense to me as just never using them. Why not invested in the solo bonus perks and accepted that I was going to be alone on my journey instead?
Needing to eat, drink and sleep didn’t add anything to my experience.
This ‘survival mode’ seemed quite half-baked and more so an excuse to justify the countless consumables in the game. Just about any will cure hungry a thirst can be quenched with most drinks besides alcohol. Sleeping though… ugh, it was always a pain when I needed to sleep. Sometimes you have to sleep for the zzZ’s, other times its to cure an ailment. No matter what, however, you basically have to accept that you’re probably going to have to stop everything you’re doing, fast travel to the ship, sleep, refill your hungry/thirst, then trek it to where ever you previously were. Another time sink.
Filtering the consumables that won’t leave you with a negative side effect isn’t built into the UI so be prepared to do a lot of reading and/or guessing. I tend to pick everything up until I’m at max weight so I can sell bulk off for bits so often times my consumables were three tabs deep. In the normal game, I sold every consumable that wasn’t Adreno (the health needle in slot one) but I didn’t want to read so. much. stuff. just to figure out what would be ‘optimal’ or not.
Should any of your meters go down, you’ll face adverse side effects that tear down stats by the tens of points. Worst of all, food and water feel like they go from normal to stage one threat levels in about 10 minutes real time. It’s not a big hassle to go into the menu and manually consume an item but I never felt ‘immersed’, only determined to reduce a detrimental debuff.
I still didn’t use most of the consumables.
Most consumables passively heal you give you a short stat boost but despite there being probably just under a hundred different items to collect, they all do a variation of 5 different things.
Aside from basic healing and the ‘survival’ mechanics mentioned above, the only time I dipped into my consumables was when I was a few points away from winning a stat check (hacking, persuation, ect…) Despite most of items giving me a boost for a minute, I only needed them for the 3 seconds before I returned to the stat check. In Supernova, adverse side effects tremendously effect you after these moment. If you drink alcohol to boost a speech check, you’ve got a hangover that lasts five in game minutes after the effects wear off.
I didn’t find any consumables that fixed ailments like a hangover, broken legs, or concussion and those are the only status effects I ever wanted to truly eliminate! I really think this consumable system needs an overhaul. I liked how weapons and armor can be broken down for repair parts. I wish I could have done something similar with my 30 bottles of liquor I only ever reluctantly use.
Only needing to upgrade stealth and dialogue let me progress quickly.
Thankfully, speech and stealth skill checks are the only ones you really need to invest points into early game. Weapons can be boosted with attachments and tinkering; both of which can be obtained just by looting and saving bits. This helped define money and EXP as two truly seperate currencies that I never worked in fear to acquire. Weapons get better through money and exploration and EXP helps with speech and exploration. This isn’t like other RPGs where your skills determine what weapons you’re locked to.
There also aren’t any story quests that demand you cross a certain skill check to progress. As long as I kept my eyes on the prize — defeating Supernova mode — I didn’t have to grind aside from some very early game ammo and bits collecting.
Stealth options became much more powerful.
Unless I was certain I could come out ahead, I avoided many fights with enemies. Especially not in the linear, indoor segments where first-shotting an enemy means 3 more are probably seconds away from getting right up in your face.
This was when I was most thankfully for always being able to duck into an air vent or unlocking paths with minimal combat. Saving ammo and consumable always felt more important than collecting loot and thankfully completing missions using any playstyle is the fastest, most consistent way of gaining EXP. For perspetive, I beat Supernova at level 20 in 7hrs but beat normal at level 27 in 23hr. Of course, the latter was my first playthrough so I took much more time exploring and headshotting.
Nothing changed about dialogue options.
I’m not too surprised by this but thought it was worth mentioning. Playing on Supernova doesn’t change any paths in the game. Characters are going to skill check you at set intervals and locks will always need the same level of lock pick skill no matter what difficulty you’re playing on.
I would rather have have a customizable difficulty experience.
In my opinion, all Supernova really did was make combat harder in a fun way and exploration harder in a boring way. Removing the ability to save anywhere, fast travel to locations on the map and (in my eyes) the companions too wasn’t so engaging that The Outer Worlds felt like a survival-game. Instead, just a wonderful exploration game that also makes me shove Borstwurst down my throat because do it.
I would much rather prefer to see a customizable difficulty menu that would let first time and long time players choose how they best want to experience the game. Personally, I would have explored longer and with more passion if I did it all on a single save than seperate my experience across multiple files.
If players want what I would consider to be the best experience with The Outer Worlds, I would recommend playing the game on Hard but maybe refrain from faster travelling everywhere and saving before every fight.
Of course, the core experience of The Outer Worlds is a ton of fun and I wouldn’t have done this Supernova playthrough if I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the game they made! Thank you, Obsidian for giving us the best mix of Fallout, Deus Ex and Mass Effect yet! As soon as DLC starts dropping and we can access all of those other planets on the map, you know I’ll be starting a third run of this game.