Murder on Eridanos

I just finished the second (and final, as I understand it) DLC for The Outer Worlds, and I have some thoughts. There are going to be some significant spoilers in here, so click away if you have not played it yet (and don’t like spoilers)

The Pros

Time of play

All in all, I thought this DLC added a decent amount of time to the game — your mileage may vary, but I thought it was good.

Environmental Design

The environments were gorgeous when needed, creepy when needed — all the things that make The Outer Worlds so enjoyable. I love that the designers put in rewards for looking up.

Writing

I’m a bit biased, because I really really really love the writing here. The writers at Obsidian capture humor and horror and the attendant absurdity really well. They introduced quite a few primary and secondary NPCs, and the dialogue was (as usual) spot on.

I also loved that the writers came up with character-specific responses (as they do) for the Companions depending on who is where: for example, Nyoka has some really good responses and barks in the Wilderness Exploration area, and Parvati has some in the Pilothouse, and I could not miss the opportunity to go find Black Hole Bertie with Felix in the party, so he could fanguy all over the place (and he did not disappoint). I did not take Ellie anywhere, except for during an attempt to talk with Dr. Goodnight, nor did I take SAM; I might do another run through just to see what they do.

Soundscape

I will tell you that every time Æthel touched foot on one of the bridges between the islands of the Eridanos complex and the creaking noise cooked off, I was like, SPRINT MODE ACTIVATED! (I may have a teensy fear of heights).

The Cons

Music

Murder on Eridanos reuses the music from the regular game. This is fine, and I understand why, and I think that Obsidian did a good job of matching up the music to the locations. But after being treated to a whole new set of music for Peril on Gorgon, I was looking forward to more of Justin Bell’s fantastic work.

The Parasites

I think I would have liked a more deliberate reaction to Sidney Moyano (the Orchards ticket-seller) and her “little passenger” from the Companions (provided the player has them), and I would have liked for the player to have had the opportunity to articulate a deliberate course of action. I think if I’d had the opportunity to write this, after encountering Sidney Moyano, the Companions would want to talk about it (or in the absence of the Companions, Buster — the name I’ve given to the Discrepancy Amplifier — would have beeped to indicate that it wants a good look at her), and the possible player responses would have been “attack” (triggering loss of reputation and of course all the Rizzo’s employees becoming aggressive), “this is intriguing, the worms are having an obvious effect, I’m going to roll with it for now until I’ve figured out what’s going on” or “this seems terribly wrong, but given that I can’t get them off them without violence, I’m going to hold off and figure out what’s going on first”. It just seemed odd that these people had these worms reamed into their necks and there was not much of a reaction in game (out of game, the player herself may or may not have articulated very loudly and with much invective).

Companion Dialogue

This only came out when talking with @damejudyhench (on Tumblr) and comparing our experiences. If you have finished your Companions’ personal quests, they will have various things to say about what’s going on on Eridanos depending on how far you’ve gotten with the main story line. If you haven’t, they won’t. So, for example, Max (whose quest I had completed) always had something to say that changed as I closed out major sub-quests of the main storyline, but Felix (whose quest I hadn’t done) only wanted to know if we were still going after Trask. I’d have liked there to have been an if/then statement and a variable storage in there: if the character’s quest is not done, deliver the MoE line, and mark that line as delivered, and then on subsequent chats, deliver the companion-quest ping. That way, you’re not missing out on all of this extra dialogue and the opportunity to experience the voices actors’ additional awesomeness.

Side Quests

This also came out when talking to djh: at least three of the MoE side quests were not very satisfying, because they didn’t seem to be related to anything that was going on. Note that for the purposes of this, I sided with Helen, so I didn’t have access to some of the other potential quests.

  1. The Pool Where Horror Dwelt. Okay, cool, you fix the pool (or don’t). I think it would have helped if the player had the opportunity to observe that the actual or potential fix to the pool problem (depending on whether or not you’d chosen to fix the pool) might suggest that there could be a chemical solution to the parasite problem — either at the conclusion of the pool quest, if you’ve met Sidney Moyano, or after you’ve finished interacting with Moyano (if you do the pool quest first).
  2. The Pteroray Trap. I’d have liked for Thelbert Wolcott to stated that he was inspired by the machinery for decontaminating the main distillery room in the distillery, and then have the trap be demonstrated after you help him complete it (if you choose to do so), and have it operate on the same principles as the equipment in the room in the distillery where the fight with the queen takes place. I had absolutely no way to know that that equipment was there other than running to get out of the line of fire (which, granted, I should have done) — it would have been nice to have had it set up, kind of the way the various alternate ways for dealing with the RAM were handled in the main game.
  3. Your Primal Heart. That was a funny scene, especially with Nyoka and Max in the party. This one made me actually go back and, for the first time ever, respect my character so that I could choose the “middle path” solution. I’d have liked to have been sent there by the main story, in the form of planted evidence (see below).
  4. The Two Rogues – I actually chose not to do this quest, and completely forgot to do it. So I’m not sure if it tied back into the main story or not, but the opportunity to discover more planted evidence would have been good here, I think, based on the fact that (I think) the quest involves “misappropriated goods”.

The Penthouse Stringboard

Honestly, I didn’t notice that it was updating. There wasn’t any indication or prompt for me to go look at it (in my PS4 version of the game). It was pretty cool, actually, and I’d have been mad to have finished this and then found out afterwards that it was a thing.

I would have liked for Felix (if recruited) to have said, “Hey boss! I updated the stringboard for you!” when it was updated, or for Buster (if Felix wasn’t recruited) to ping when you enter the Penthouse after an update and say something like “<beep beep beep> Investigation Link Chart updated!” with swirlies emanating from that room of the suite to draw you in.

Buster

I loved loved loved Buster. About halfway through the game, Buster’s use came to an end. That made me sad. I’d have liked for Buster to have been more integrated into later part of the investigation (and having Buster ping on the stringboard would have been a way to do this).

The Main Storyline

Murder mysteries are tricky. I think that Obsidian handled it fairly well overall, but there was a part right towards the end where the story came to a screeching halt to me: when it was time to name the killer to Ludovico. Why was it an issue? Because, through the way the story was being told, it was fairly clear to me that the main suspects were not the killer. So the game was asking me to name someone but I didn’t know who to name. I had two thoughts: 1) Dr. Goodnight, because she’s sassy and I love her and it would kill me to have her be the killer, but she’s also got an outfit on that conceals her entire face, head and neck, so I can’t see whether she’s carrying a parasite. And maybe she’s in cahoots with or even carrying the Queen, who might be sentient, and it might be the Queen’s plan to invade the whole colony via Spectrum Brown? or 2) Ludovico, because he’s the only major person not on the list, and “it’s the person no one talks about” and/or “it’s the person in charge of the investigation” whodunnit is a major trope in whodunnits. But up to that point I didn’t actually have any evidence that he was the culprit.

I spent a lot of time running around trying to figure out if I’d missed something. Finally, I said, “okay, well, even thought I still don’t know whodunnit, I’ll go try talking to Ludovico, maybe it’ll let me accuse him.” And sure enough, it did. But for me, the option to go talk to him was not my deliberate, confident decision. I made the decision because I didn’t have anything better to do. This was both unsatisfactory and also took me out of the story.

I think it would have been better if there had been more of an opportunity for you to decide that Ludovico was the culprit ahead of that moment. It first would have needed to establish why he was hiring you in the first place, since that seems like a dumb thing for a killer to do, and I feel that a little more work in this backstory to establish why he had to hire you is necessary. It’s clear that Rizzo’s is holding off the deployment of Spectrum Brown until they have an answer.

I think it would have worked that Rizzo’s required him to hire a third-party investigator because of his disastrous dealings with Sedrick — they don’t trust him to handle this on his own, as attention to detail is apparently not his forte. You could find this out in pieces, as you discover how he ended up ceding control to SLUG, you also find out that this is why Rizzo’s required him to hire a third-party investigator.

Speaking of SLUG: man, the fact that SLUG has that particular acronym and then had nothing to do with what Ludovico was doing really drove me up the wall. I was waiting the entire game to find out what this was about. I mean, sure, it set up for a funny statement on Sedrick’s part if/when you go and say goodbye to him, but if that was meant to be a misdirect (to try to get you to think that this was Sedrick’s idea), I don’t think it worked at all.

In my mind, Ludovico is counting on you to accuse the wrong person so that he can get his product rollout back on track — to this end, I’d have liked more misdirection on his part, such as planted evidence. This could possibly have been a part of “Your Primal Heart”, that makes you think “hey, this evidence was planted” and maybe get you to start suspecting Ludovico, we well as tying that side quest into the main story. Additionally, if there are interrogation questions for Ludovico that are possibilities when talking with/reporting to him, that might also help (especially if/when he gets all pissy about the questions, which could be on the lines of “where were you on the night of Helen’s murder?”, alibis that don’t check out, etc.).

In addition to this, I’d have liked for you to have a conversation with your companions prior to contacting Ludovico. For example, Felix (or one of the other companions) might have said, “Well, boss, it feels like the stringboard is missing something” and then one of your reaction options would be to notice the absence of Ludovico as a suspect there — or, in the absence of companions, Buster might have pinged on it and given you the option to add suspects (such as Ludovico). I think that if that had happened, my choice to call Ludovico and accuse someone (or be confident that my being able to accuse him was likely to be an option) would have been much more deliberate, and kept me in the story.

Now again, your mileage may vary. Perhaps you were onto Ludovico right on the beginning because of some other subtle dialogue clue that I completely missed (or just because).

Minor Quibble

On the PS4, the square button either activates doors/initiates a transition into another environment/triggers elevators or it brings a weapon to ready / holsters the weapon. In the original game, there’d be this disconcerting thing where you’d have your weapon holstered, then transition from one game area to the next, and when you appeared in the next area, you’d have the weapon at the ready (possibly sweeping NPCs). I seem to recall that there was an update to the main game in which this was fixed: if your weapon was holstered, it stayed holstered when you appeared in the next area. The Murder on Eridanos update seems to have undone it. Fortunately (or horrifyingly), the NPCs in Halycon don’t seem to be bothered by having weapons brandished in their faces.

Summary

So that’s my reaction to Murder on Eridanos. Again, the tricky part of this is that the writers & designers can’t take into account how differently the players (and their brains) will process and assimilate information, and it’s quite probable also that there was information in there that I missed or forgot. So your mileage may vary, and you may have had fewer (or no issues) about it, or completely different issues. With all that considered, though, while Murder on Eridanos didn’t affect me the same way that the main game did, or that Peril on Gorgon did, I think it was a very solid offering. I’m very much looking forward to The Outer Worlds 2!