Sponsored by Rizzo's Spectrum Brown!
The Outer Worlds is turning into a noir murder mystery in the form of Murder on Eridanos next week. Ahead of the DLC’s release, Stevivor was able to trial an hour’s worth of the content alongside an interview with Tim Cain, Co-Game Director and Nitai Poddar, the expansion‘s Lead Narrative Designer.
Available following the “Radio Free Monarch” questline, Murder on Eridanos begins in the cockpit of the Unreliable, where ADA will play you Halcyon Helen’s latest Aetherwave drama. The broadcast really sets the tone of the DLC to follow, with the stunningly beautiful Helen gunned down in her prime in the middle of a black-and-white serial so cheesy you could almost dip a tomato into it and call it fondue.
As the Aetherwave began, I immediately found myself thinking of Captain Jean-Luc Picard as Dixon Hill in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s holodeck because of the overall aesthetic, but quickly shifted over to Star Trek: Voyager’s Chaotica holodeck narrative instead as dialogue continued.
“We — and whoever came up with those holodeck episodes — were probably thinking of the same thing,” Poddar, who also served as a Narrative Director (and Felix enthusiast) on The Outer World’s base game, told us.
“We probably had our eyes in the same direction. There is a campiness to the 1920s and 1930s: that era of noir detective. It’s going to have a mysterious death of someone important and shady characters with dubious motivations; twists and turns. And something goes horribly wrong midway. If it doesn’t have that, it’s not a noir.”
As it turns out, Halcyon Helen – otherwise known as Ruth Bellamy, otherwise known as the prime spokeswoman for Rizzo’s new Spectrum Brown (if it’s Brown, drink it down!) – not only died on the small screen. Ahead of the official release of Rizzo’s new… erm, drink… someone has seen fit to snuff her out (seeeee?). As you’d expect, it’s up to you and your crew to get to the bottom of things – and in time for Rizzo to keep to its marketing schedule, of course.
“We really liked the pulp quality of the base game; it meshed well with the mystery fiction that came out around the twenties and thirties,” Cain said.
“We really liked the idea of the player having to solve some mystery that was an offshoot to the main story. Now, the difficulty… is you could be playing any kind of player character, yet they had to figure out how to first get you involved in this murder mystery, and then make it something you could solve, whether you were a combat player or a dialogue player, or, as like I like to play, a very low intelligence player.
“I forgot my character was robophobic,” Cain continued, “and I went to go talk to the acting automechanical Burbage 3000, and all I did was scream. Luckily, I had a companion who stepped in and handled that conversation, but all of those things come together and really make it feel like the story was handcrafted for the character you have.”
Murder on Eridanos caters to ship captains large and small — or smart and stupid — and places an emphasis on replayability, all the while keeping to the charming (yet off-putting) corporate-dominated hijinks The Outer Worlds is known for. The Discrepancy Amplifier ties into this, a new tool used for investigation and dismemberment in almost equal measure and one no player can live without.
Taking up one of your weapon slots, the Discrepancy Amplifier is used to find and analyse clues useful to your investigation and can also be used as an energy weapon in a pinch. While it’s not sentient, it certainly has a voice – and more importantly, a personality — all its own.
“The Discrepancy Amplifier was us pushing the boundaries of what we know we could do,” Poddar explained. “We know we can have conversations. We know you can aim down a scope. We know that you can change the world a little bit if you aim down a scope, so we put those things together and we said, ‘we could probably make some kind of device that lets you see clues in the world, and then interact with those clues, using conversations’.”
“We knew we wanted clues in the world, but we didn’t want it to be like pixel hunting in scenes,” Cain added. “Someone had the brilliant idea of, ‘what if this clue-gathering device actually could talk?’
“It opens up the narrative designers to make a wonderful — and very funny — set of interactions you can have with that device. But it also lets you use your skills, because if you have good medical or engineering, you can actually interact with the device when it’s revealing a clue to learn additional things.”
Simply put, the Discrepancy Amplifier is “your own personal talking Watson or Alexa attached to a high-grade magnifying glass,” according to Poddar. “Necessity is the mother of invention, and we just needed some things in the game that didn’t exist, in order to make this a functioning mystery. And that was one of those.”
I can’t think of a better way to explain the device. You can use it and then put it away, left to your own conclusions, or you can interact with it on a far more personal level, working as a pair to deduce to your heart’s content. While the new tool is helpful, it’s not the be-all and end-all, Poddar revealed.
“There is a secret related to this mystery, that the discrepancy amplifier will not help you discover,” he explained. “You must use your own gumption and your own wits to find it.”
Your search for Ruth’s murderer — and other secrets like the three new science weapons Obsidian has inserted — will take you to Eridanos, Halcyon’s second Jovian gas giant and the home of Rizzo’s itself. Upon setting foot on the planet, you’ll be amazed by the towering spectacle that the Grand Colonial Hotel presents. It dwarves the other landmarks around you, including maintenance sheds and distilleries. Eridanos is a colourful, full of lots of places to explore and seemingly friendly locals.
“When we started working on this DLC, I was like, ‘we only got to look at [Rizzo’s] rundown corporate offices in Cascadia. Let’s have a full-on industrial plant here’,” Cain said of the new setting.
Eridanos has a seedy underbelly. Hotel employees are required to work hours so long they’re unable to stand by the end of their shifts without chemical assistance. The fields dotted around the distillery are wrought with danger; the poor souls who harvest the ingredients for Spectrum Brown wear slugs to keep a permanent smile on their faces despite the conditions they face. Whether those slugs were chosen to be worn or have somehow invaded the population? Well, that’s anyone’s guess.
Full of red herrings and a flexibility that lets characters play to their strengths, you can get to the bottom of this whodunit when Murder on Eridanos heads to The Outer Worlds on 18 March here in Australia. You can check out the first 30 minutes of gameplay below.
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