About 16 or so hours in now and I think it’s real 8.5/10-type game, mostly in a good way.
The combat is basically a mash-up of Fallout 4 and Mass Effect, except it works a hell of a lot better than FO4, and is a lot more interesting. The Time Dilation feature is like VATS but way, way better and works better in the real-time game, and the companions only have one ability each (there are six to pick from, you bring two at once with you), but they work very well and you can sort of combo them off each other and stuff (because of the way the cooldowns reset). The main thing I didn’t initially quite get was that different body parts had different effects, some of which could only be triggered by certain weapons - for example if you have a sniper rifle, the head or upper chest (depending on the humanoid enemy) will trigger “Execute”, whereas the upper head or eyes will trigger “Blind” (if the shot doesn’t outright kill them). Execute is a ton of extra damage whereas Blind is er, blind, and so on. There are quite a lot of these and weapons do other stuff as well based on their damage type and what you’re shooting.
I do feel like Hard is slightly too easy, but unfortunately Supernova has too much fiddly stuff (I’d be okay with that but I’m not okay with it perma-killing companions - basically just forces you to solo, which is dull).
The dialogue is generally great and the characters believable, and the missions quite varied and just about nasty enough (sometimes) to give that sort of Fallout vibe.
But it does have one weird flaw, that being that it doesn’t take enough risks. Everything is well-executed, polished, pretty much bug-free (I found one bug so far, when I sniped the man I was trying to save in a frenzy of sniping, it didn’t fail the quest - though this did let me find out he owned a very fancy gun! I can’t think of any other launch CRPG with that few bugs, ever!), it plays well, it plays smooth, and just like a good experience. But, it doesn’t take risks. Like, your companions? Just a wee bit too subservient and keen to obey. They sass, but they don’t sass like Pillars or Mass Effect or DA or FO:NV companions (though they are closer to the latter). The factions just aren’t quite, like, nasty enough. Like, they are, when you read the logs and things, pretty evil and heartless, but like I was saying, it’s mostly in a fairly human way and it rings true, but it doesn’t ring loud. This is like a hard-to-explain criticism. But I think it’s why some reactions have been quite lukewarm, because it doesn’t like sort of shock you in the way even FO4, for all it’s sins, occasionally did. And with FO4 a lot of the shock was “This is shockingly shit and self-indulgent!”, like the 15-20 minute totally needless basically-cutscene “tragic” (snigger) backstory of a somewhat generic badguy who you spoke to for like two minutes before shooting in the face, which almost felt like a parody. Or their decision in FO4 to really triple-down on that 1950s Americana vibe, whereas TOW is content to sort of use that “beaux arts” vibe, but also has lot of more trad SF stuff going on (which works for believability, in some ways, but still). There’s also some stuff with the gameplay where the game is maybe a little too friendly to you - like you get too much ammo after the first planet, and basically never have to swap guns because of ammo ever again (which is a pity because that actually got you to try weapons). It’s like it’s trying not to offend you.
I think a lot of this stems from Obsidian not wanting to fuck up, and not wanting a bad reception for TOW. They’ve proven they can make a game which is polished, bug-free, and has good gameplay, on a very very low budget (was it single digit millions? I believe so - so that’s AA money and they’ve basically made an AAA game). So they played it safe in a way Pillars 2 and Tyranny both did not. This isn’t a trend for them - and I expect with Microsoft money, their next games will be bigger risk-takers, but it’s the biggest flaw the game has. I think people here will really enjoy the game, but it’s worthy of criticism for that, especially with the juxtaposition of Disco Elysium, which may be flawed (or not, depending on who you ask), but is definitely taking a lot of risks.
As an aside, I would fucking kill someone for an Alpha Protocol game made with this engine and these underlying mechanics. Alpha Protocol 2 (or a spiritual sequel) would fit so well into what they’ve done here.
Oh one other warning - chromatic aberration. This game uses it, intensely. It uses well, and consistently, and not as a cheap annoying effect, but it uses it A LOT. So if you really hate that, you may not love this. Or you may be okay because it’s clearly built into the visual design on a basic level, rather than a cheesy effect layered on top at the last moment (as it is in most games).
EDIT - On the plus side, it does have “low INT” dialogues, if that’s your sort of thing!