|The Outer Worlds character|
Parvati Holcomb, as she appears in The Outer Worlds
|First appearance||The Outer Worlds (2019)|
|Voiced by||Ashly Burch|
Parvati Holcomb is a character in the 2019 video game The Outer Worlds. She was initially conceived by Chris L'Etoile for Obsidian before duties were taken over by Kate Dollarhyde. She is voiced by Ashly Burch, who was chosen for the role after she auditioned and was picked by Dollarhyde for how well she evoked the character. She was originally designed to be asexual by L'Etoile, while Dollarhyde expanded upon this with her own experiences as an asexual person.
Concept and creation
Parvati Holcomb is an engineer and one of the Companions that can join players on their quest. She is described as "a very sweet, naive person" by senior narrative designer Megan Starks. She also notes Parvati's personality contrasts with fellow Companion Ellie; where Parvati wants to help people, Ellie is more about herself. She was conceived by writer Chris L'Etoile for the 2019 role-playing game The Outer Worlds, created by Obsidian Entertainment, who later left development of the game. He drew inspiration from the character Kaylee Frye from the television series Firefly, and was also the favorite character for Obsidian staff due to her being "so likeable" and having a "very strong moral center." He aimed for her to be an "empathetic moral center" for the main cast, and wrote her to be "a little more naive, but very sweet" and caring. When L'Etoile left, the duties for designing her were given to narrative designer Kate Dollarhyde, who was given an unusual amount of detail in a "very long concept" document, including dialogue for her. It was also unusual to have multiple writers be in charge of a Companion as what happened here.
Parvati is asexual (also called "ace"), a detail given to her by L'Etoile. Dollarhyde, who is also ace, gave Parvati a more "personal voice." Dollarhyde described feeling "lucky" that she was able to "inherit" the writing duties for this character due to this. One of her lines, where Parvati talks about how others treat her as a robot, mirrors Dollarhyde's own experiences. Both Parvati and Dollarhyde are bi, and she similarly puts herself into the writing by making Parvati similarly apprehensive about speaking to the person she likes. When writing the romantic elements of Parvati's story, Dollarhyde approached this with the perspective of a friend giving advice and "facilitating good experiences" to those they care about. The details of Dollarhyde's sexuality became more widely known as a result of interviews due to Parvati (and by extension Holcomb's) popularity, which she outed herself during. When Parvati reveals her asexuality to the player, Dollarhyde intentionally prevented players from having the option to behave bigoted towards Parvati. Dollarhyde explains that this is because she did not want players who related to Parvati to have the "rug [pulled] out from under them." Parvati was chosen to be introduced to the player early on due to her being a "unique case of a character." Dollarhyde cited how the other Companion characters were more "worldly" than her, and thus Parvati is able to act as the "voice of surprise and delight and horror" for the player as they both see what the world is like, neither being very familiar with it. Other people involved in the creation of Parvati include concept artist Hannah Kennedy who helped design her model, and quality assurance tester Ariana Tavantzis who provided "a lot of" feedback.
Parvati is voiced by Ashly Burch, who was given the role years after the character was first conceived due to how Obsidian handles the process. As such, Dollarhyde had to work with either no spoken dialogue or dialogue spoken by a robot while writing, which she found to be an obstacle due to not being able to properly hear her writing out loud by a person. When casting began, Dollarhyde was involved in the process. She was shown an audition for Parvati by Burch, and felt she did the role the way Dollarhyde imagined Parvati sounded. When discussing what she saw in Parvati, Burch explained that it was her ability to find "beauty and wonder in a bleak world" that stood out to her.
Parvati appeared in the 2019 video game The Outer Worlds, aiding the player-character in their quest. She is first encountered being berated by the Mayor of the town of Edgewater, Reed Tobson. The player-character comes to him seeking a power generator for their new ship. In their quest to obtain one, players may take Parvati along to help, and may then choose whether to bring them on their spaceship after the quest is completed. Throughout this, Parvati acts as a moral compass for the player-character and helps with engineering tasks among other things. When they board the ship the Groundbreaker, Parvati wishes to meet with the leader of the ship and fellow engineer Junlei Tennyson, expressing admiration for her technical skills. When they meet, Junlei takes a liking to her and appears flirtatious, something which appears to be mutual for Parvati. Over time, Parvati begins to confide to the player-character their feelings for Junlei, as well as their anxieties relating to intimacy. She eventually reveals herself to be asexual, and clarifies that she is afraid to confess her feelings to Junlei due to past negative reactions to her lack of a desire for physical intimacy. The player-character helps motivate her in a discussion they have over drinks, and she eventually tells Junlei how she feels, which Junlei reciprocates. Parvati wishes to take Junlei on a date in her ship, and asks the player-character to help her find foods that Junlei talked about enjoying when she was young, as well as helping her get cleaned up and dressed up nicely. Once these steps are all complete, Parvati goes on her date, and the two become partners.
Parvati has received generally positive reception and has become a fan favorite. Jonathan Logan of RPGFan called her one of the "most adorable characters" he has seen, citing her "wide-eyed wonder" as part of his enjoyment of her. Alan Torres of Digital Trends felt she made a "strong impression," while Matt Sainsbury of Digitally Downloaded said he "loved" her. Charlie Hall of Polygon called her the "biggest thing since Ikumi Nakamura," who was regarded as the "most genuine person of E3 2019." She was later ranked among the best video game characters of the 2010s by Polygon staff, with Hall praising her "painfully genuine" personality, her quest line, and Ashly Burch's performance. Hirun Cryer of USgamer called her the best character in The Outer Worlds, saying that the designation was obvious. He called her "easily likeable" and her willingness to challenge the choices of the player. He further noted her as the most "well-balanced" character in the cast and that she is what got him "hooked" on the game. Fellow USgamer writer Mike Williams felt she started out as "vanilla," she began to be more fleshed out as the game went along. He also noted that her shyness made him behave nicer in the game. Dollarhyde also received an outpouring of support for her work on Parvati. Alex Avard of GamesRadar called her "adorably naive" while praising the relationship between her and the player-character as "believable." Also writing for GamesRadar, Heather Wald expressed disappointment that she could not romance Parvati, citing Parvati's her "caring personality" and awkwardness as the qualities that attracted her to her. She eventually grew to appreciate her status as a "friend and supporter" of Parvati in her own romantic pursuits. Jess Lee of Digital Spy praised her as the best Companion character in the game, calling her arc "wholesome" while expressing disappointment that her voice actress was not Asian.
Parvati's sexuality has led to her being well-received, both by players and critics. Peter Morics of Screen Rant called her a "champion for marginalized players" as well as the "clear favorite" of the cast, the former due to her asexuality and bisexuality. He noted that this is a rare combination to see represented. He added that the way it's presented is also nice, due to not feeling strange or like a "big twist." He also praised her for her "shyness and optimistic enthusiasm," which he found "endearing." Patrick Klepek for Vice regarded her as the standout character in The Outer Worlds and one of the best of 2019, noting that she has received a fan following in part because of her status as an asexual and bisexual person. He praised her writer and voice actor for helping make her feel "real." Gita Jackson of Kotaku described her story as an "examination" of both the difficulties for certain people to fit into society as well as a "touching queer love story."
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