The Outer Worlds’ The Peril on Gorgon DLC doesn't waste your time despite questionable plot devices
The Peril on Gorgon follows the design philosophy of The Outer Worlds and doesn’t waste your time. It’s short and sweet, though some folks may balk at the $15 price tag for a piece of content you can complete in a few nights. But if you’re RPG-hungry in a pandemic year that has seen both Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines 2 and Cyberpunk 2077 pushed back, this is a good option.
The DLC starts off in a comedic, macabre manner, with a dismembered arm holding a phonograph. The arm belongs to another freelancer who was friends with the former owner of The Unreliable and got killed working on a case on Gorgon, an asteroid left to scavengers and marauders years ago. It’s also the home of dark secrets, and learning the truth helps flesh out the setting of The Outer Worlds.
You’ll run across snazzy new science weapons, pick up some new perks, and explore a new area. There are also higher-level versions of the basic weapons you’ve come to know and love/murder with. The Gorgon asteroid area is smaller than Terra 2 or Monarch, but it’s intensely colorful, utilizing a “Fallout on acid” aesthetic.
Developers at Obsidian use a technique I call “fauxpen world.” Gorgon centralizes several key areas and puts some interesting geography and side quests in between them. The map consists of canyons, buttes, and caves, which serves to channel and guide player exploration. It’s not a truly open world, like Ghost of Tsushima or Far Cry, but it feels open enough that you don’t feel like the devs are leading you around by the nose.
And unlike those games, since the areas are smaller, you never feel like the devs added a bunch of busywork to waste your time. The Outer Worlds and The Peril on Gorgon refuse to subject you to death by a thousand icons and is better for it.
You also return to places like Byzantium and Groundbreaker, but to new areas, featuring the sort of underground labs you’ve come to expect, as well as a canid dog show that you definitely haven’t.
Obsidian also made a point of bringing back all the old companion voice actors and giving them all sorts of little quips and opinions that they share throughout your journey. Bring your favorites along and watch their reactions. It’s good stuff.
TPoG has a few weird bugs, but it’s nothing that will destroy your enjoyment. Some of them are kind of funny. The game makes a point of telling you that the marauder known as Charles From Accounting is a dangerous lunatic who should be avoided. When you run across him, he mostly stares at the wall while you repeatedly shoot him in his giant Spacer’s Choice helmet head. Not gonna lie, I lol-ed.
TPoG is a fun time, and if you’re okay with slightly less content than you might normally expect for $15, The Peril on Gorgon delivers.
The plot, and the problems with it
Like most RPG expansions, the bulk of The Peril on Gorgon is the plot and its relation to the core plot of The Outer Worlds.
Spoilers beyond this point.
I have one core issue with The Peril on Gorgon, and it’s the same issue that I had with The Outer Worlds in general. Whether you’re playing a complete jerk or the savior of Halcyon, you’re going to kill a LOT of people. If you’re playing a jerk, mass murder is in character. If you’re playing anyone with even a shred of conscience, the ludonarrative dissonance is tremendous. This happens again in TPoG, and it undermines what feels like the canonically “best” ending.
In TPoG, heiress Wilhelmina Ambrose tasks you with finding the journal that belonged to her dead mother, Olivia Ambrose, a scientist who worked for Spacer’s Choice. During your investigation, you realize that Olivia Ambrose was one of the creators of Adrena-Time, the meth-like chemical booster that you can buy throughout Halcyon.
Spacer’s Choice was trying to make a productivity super drug, but instead, Adrena-Time addicted people, drove them insane, and finally turned them into marauders. Every marauder that you encountered in Halcyon was an Adrena-Time addict gone horribly wrong. Spacer’s Choice used human experimentation to try to perfect Adrena-Time and killed hundreds of test subjects in the process.
Leaving aside the fact that this plot is lifted from the film Serenity, the game expects me to be utterly horrified by this discovery, but I’m too numb from everything else in this game.
This is pretty evil, but this is also a game that asks you to commit genocide against the residents of Edgewater - people you met and care about. The faceless test subjects of Gorgon barely register in comparison. We get it: life is cheap in Halcyon. But you can’t throw unremitting hypercapitalist horror at us, while making jokes about it, and expect it to make much impact. Maybe if this was part of the core game it would’ve functioned better as a horrific revelation.
At the climax of the DLC, you find out that Olivia Ambrose is still alive. Wilhelmina wants you to reactivate the Adrena-Time reactor so she can perfect the formula and clean up her family name. Olivia wants you to destroy the reactor.
In the “best” ending, you murder your way through Wilhelmina’s guards, talk her down, then murder your way through Olivia’s guards, then talk her down, convincing them to reconcile, work together, and find a cure for the marauders. There’s a scene that’s meant to be warm and fuzzy, where mother and daughter repair their relationship. “I have my family back!” It’s meant to be sweet, and in a way, it is.
It’s a shame that this reconciliation is built on a giant pile of dead bodies. You actually kill twice as many people in the “best” ending because you have to shoot your way through both women’s guards (unless you’re very good at stealth) in order to get into a conversation with them. Olivia’s guards are company tossball team players who were laid off! They aren’t bloodthirsty mercs - they’re desperate people in a lousy situation.
It messes up what should’ve been a very sweet ending, and it’s never acknowledged. It feels even weirder given that the game allows you the chance to bluff your way past a set of guards in an earlier encounter.
Unlike a traditional action FPS, The Outer Worlds wants to have a moral center in its narrative. Corporations engage in human testing that kills their subjects. The Board ruthlessly liquidates entire settlements. The colony runs on a religion that justifies working yourself to death as ethical.
There are good guys and bad guys in Halcyon, and the game asks you to pick a side. It’s the story of a socialist (or capitalist, depending on how you play) superman, a one (wo)man vanguard party or Randian prime mover. It’s trying to be a moral universe in a way that, say, Apex Legends is not.
But it doesn’t care if you kill a whole lot of people along the way. Most of the folks you kill are nameless and faceless - they wear combat helmets that never come off. They’re numbers. Expendable. Kind of like the test subjects on Gorgon. Who’s the bad guy again? You, I guess. The game never questions you about your triple-digit body count.
You can make a high body count action RPG or you can centralize morality in your storytelling. You can’t do both. Despite all of that, it’s a fun little piece of DLC, and even I, a relentless overthinker, enjoyed it.