See how disguises work in The Outer Worlds

Part of the fun of RPGs is that they're dress-up games. You can put on clothes, hats, and armor, and change your looks, hair, and makeup. But while dressing up is fun it's often just about looks—usually, putting on a certain outfit doesn't mean NPCs are fooled into thinking you're someone else.

That's why I was interested when I learned that disguises were an option in The Outer Worlds—and I got to try one out during a play session earlier this month. You can see the footage of me using a disguise on a mission above (also here on YouTube), and you can also watch a full damn hour of The Outer Worlds gameplay right here. I've also got tons of written impressions of the The Outer Worlds you can read here.

While I was exploring the city of Fallbrook on the planet Monarch in The Outer Worlds, I got to talking with Catherine Malin, proprietor of Malin's House of Hospitality. She's extremely likable but... well, not exactly hospitable. In fact, she's a bit of a crime boss, and after charming my way into her good graces she offered me a dirty job. She asked me to eliminate the owner of a nearby factory, a guy named Clive. She wanted to run the business herself.

She didn't care if I killed Clive or just drove him out of business by sabotaging his factory with falsified financial records or by poisoning his alien pigs, so long as he was gone. Malin made a few suggestions about how I might go about getting inside the factory, though. I could shoot my way in, or try to sneak in through the sewers, or just walk right in the front gate—disguised as a worker. That last one sounded good to me, and I acquired a disguise from a local merchant (though I had to lie to him to get it).

(Image credit: Obsidian Entertainment)

I was surprised to discover the disguise wasn't a factory worker outfit, but an ID cartridge. The description of the item reads:

"The Holographic Shroud developed by Phineas Welles uses the biometric information stored on a corporate identity cartridge to construct a crude holographic disguise. You cannot appear as a specific individual, but will pass as a corporate employee - from a distance."

With the cartridge in my inventory, I headed down the road to Clive's factory. The corporate guard stopped me at the gate, asking for a keycard I didn't have, but a quick lie convinced her it was my first day on the job and she gave me one. With my disguise and an ill-gotten keycard, I was now free to enter and roam around the factory, looking like I belonged there.

For a while, at least. With the disguise in effect, a meter appeared in my HUD, along with three pips (we'll get to those pips in a minute) and the meter drained whenever I was moving, signifying the hologram was getting closer and closer to losing power. And it drains quickly.

If someone spots you when the meter is drained, they'll challenge you with a speech check. As my meter was expiring I was close to a sentry bot, so I ducked through a door, which turned out to be a closet, which was then blocked by the bot (who was in turn blocked by my companions) meaning I was basically stuck. I had no choice but to explain myself as my meter died. Luckily, I was able to persuade the bot with the old robot paradox trick ("Everything I say is false") and it left me alone.

When you pass a speech check, your disguise meter refills to the top. However, you use up one of the three speech pips. In other words, you can be caught and challenged only three times before the disguise runs out completely and you have to take a different approach to infiltration.

(Image credit: Obsidian Entertainment)

If you're spotted with an empty meter and you try to avoid the interrogation—by running away, for example—this will make the nearby NPCs even more suspicious. Eventually they'll give up trying to get close enough to talk and they'll just turn 100% hostile. This happened to me, too, though I was close enough to Clive's elevator to reach his office before I was killed.

What happened to Clive? Well, it's in the video. I'm not sure if he's got a strong head for the factory business, but he certainly has a strong head for point-blank sniper rounds. 

I'm a little disappointed the disguises in The Outer Worlds aren't, you know, disguises. There's something satisfying about putting on actual clothing or a set of armor and really fooling people into thinking you're someone else. But this hologram system is fun, and it adds a ticking clock plus the chance to flex your dialogue skills, so I'm still looking forward to being a master of disguise when The Outer Worlds arrives this October.

Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring stories in RPGs so he can make up his own.