IMPRESSIONS: Outer Wilds

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

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Outer Wilds | oprainfall
Title Outer Wilds
Developer Mobius Digital Games
Publisher Mobius Digital Games
Release Date TBA
Genre Simulation
Platform PC
Age Rating N/A
Official Website

The universe is an extremely strange and mysterious place, full of things that are difficult if not impossible for us mortals to understand. Luckily, you’re only sort of mortal when you explore this idea in the rather strange simulation game, Outer Wilds.

Outer Wilds | Mysterious StatueThe game begins as you prepare to lift off from your home planet for the first time. After a little practice in a zero gravity environment, you head over to the local museum to get your ship’s launch codes… and something very odd happens. A statue head that one of your comrades dug up turns to look directly at you, shining with a bright light and replaying everything that’s happened so far in your mind. Of course, if you mention that this happened during dialogue, everyone will think you’re crazy, so you’re better off just heading to the ship and making liftoff.

Outer Wilds | Campfire

Plus, you can roast marshmallows.

The controls for the spaceship and for your suit’s jetpack — which are pretty similar to each other — feel pretty clunky and weird at first, even when using a controller. Once you get used to them, though, you have free reign to explore around seven different planets, all vastly different from each other. One is made entirely of sand, which is slowly flowing to its sister planet like an hourglass. Another is made up entirely of huge black brambles and houses unknown dangers.

More likely than not, something out there will kill you. If not, your galaxy’s sun will explode after a couple of days (around 20 minutes in real time), killing you anyway. When you do die, you’ll see the statue head again, quickly rewinding through the previous events. You’ll appear back at the game’s opening screen on the first night, looking up at the stars, but your character still remembers the ship launch codes. There’s also a log on your ship that holds any information you’ve picked up, either from other astronauts or secret writings found on the planets. All of this seems to work together to point to a much bigger mystery, which is apparently the goal of the game. (I stay vague so as not to spoil too much.)

Outer Wilds | Home PlanetObviously, this idea of a catastrophic event at the end of a time loop reminds us of The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Do I call that a fair comparison? Well, yes and no. Outer Wilds is sort of like a Majora’s Mask in which all combat is taken out of the game, as is the mechanic of keeping obtained items. You are simply exploring and discovering the secrets of each of the different planets, and the only thing you can take with you is information. There are some planets that shift slightly through each cycle, requiring you to visit a certain place at a certain time. Sometimes you won’t know that unless you discover something on a different planet. However, I don’t think there’s a particular order that’s right to visit them — they give you the pieces of a puzzle, not the steps on a trail.

Outer Wilds | MuseumMy only real complaint, at least with the current version, is that the mouse-and-keyboard controls are almost impossible to do well with. Also, if you feel you’re done with a current run, you can’t just turn back to the beginning at will — you have to die somehow. When you’re off in the dark reaches of space, this can actually be harder than it sounds. There have been times when I flew right into the sun to start afresh. However, this appears to be a pretty early build, and I’m sure that Mobius Digital will tweak these aspects.

Again, I’d love to say more about this, but, honestly, even mentioning the part where the statue suddenly looks at you feels like a spoiler, considering how weird it seemed when it happened to me. The game doesn’t really have a lot of mechanics, just a lot of places to go, and it would be an injustice for me to say too much about those places here. I think you’ll be much better off if you just wait for the full game to release. You’ll want to see this for yourself.

About Phil Schipper

Phil N. Schipper joined the Operation Rainfall staff to review Android games, but soon fell in love with writing news articles and Games of the Past. His dream is to make a living writing sci-fi and fantasy novels, which is why he leads the Obscure Authors Alliance in his free time. Still, even in his stories, which usually involve insane people, video games are one of his strongest influences. He describes himself as "a Mr. Nice Guy with a horrible, horrible dark side."