By Michael Fontanini / October 17th, 2019
|Title||Out There: Ω The Alliance|
|Release Date||April 8th, 2019|
|Genre||Adventure, Indie, Strategy|
|Age Rating||ESRB: E10+|
In Out There: Ω The Alliance, you are an astronaut aboard a ship called the Nomad, as it follows a route between Earth and Ganymede. Ganymede is one of Jupiter’s moons, and the biggest one in the solar system. Unfortunately, when you awaken from your cryonic slumber, you find that something has gone terribly wrong. You are not in orbit around Ganymede, nor are you even in the solar system! It’s just you and your ship, alone somewhere among the stars, somewhere “out there”. You’ll need to travel from star system to star system, gathering fuel, oxygen, and repair materials along the way. Can you survive long enough to solve some of these mysteries, or will space take your life and recycle your body back into star dust?
Out There: Ω The Alliance is an indie, space exploration game with rogue-like elements. In that way, it is similar to FTL (Faster Than Light), except that the two games are very different. Both titles make heavy use of the random number generator (RNG), so much so that it will be the bane of your existence. Unlike in FTL, the RNG in Out There generally doesn’t have the power to outright end your game, but bad luck can add up very quickly to end you. Each time you travel to a new star system, you are presented with a small randomly selected bit of story text. It is presented as a log entry written by you. It sometimes gives you choices of how to respond to an event that has happened to you. Your choice can result in nothing, a boon in the form of gained resources, or a setback such as damaged ship equipment or lost resources.
Your main task is to gather resources to stay alive. Your ship has three vital stats that must be maintained or it’s game over. Fuel is needed since running out will leave you stranded, causing a message saying you’re going back into stasis and then the game ends. Oxygen is needed if you want to keep breathing. Lastly, your hull integrity is the only thing standing between you and the vacuum of space. If any of these stats reach zero and you can’t replenish it, then it’s game over. This means you will have to start another run from scratch in a new randomly generated galaxy. If you try to fly to a star system and don’t have enough fuel in your tank to reach it, you’ll get a game over even if there is more fuel sitting in your inventory. This is a very strange design oversight.
Initially, you only have the Nomad as your starter ship. There are 12 other ships to unlock, many of which are locked behind the multiple endings. Out There: Ω The Alliance on Nintendo Switch has 3 new ships, one of which is the gunship of renowned bounty hunter, Samus Aran (of Metroid fame). Sadly, I still haven’t found her ship myself. A few of the ships can be unlocked by finding an abandoned instance of them in a star system. When you encounter an abandoned ship, you can look in its inventory and take items out. You can also move items from your ship to the abandoned one. Best of all, you can take over the abandoned ship and leave your old one behind if you want. Each ship has three ratings as seen above, and they determine how efficiently the ship uses fuel and oxygen, as well as how resistant its hull is to damage. The number of slots in the ship also varies between ships. Each slot can be used to store a stack of material, or be occupied by a piece of technology installed on the ship. The smallest ship has only three slots, making it super useless, while the largest has 21 slots.
Star systems come in a number of types, from yellow and red dwarfs, to giants, to neutron stars and black holes. The type affects what sorts of planets you may find inside. Garden planets are generally found around yellow and red dwarf stars. These Earth-like worlds feature life forms that you can interact with if you wish. They speak an alien language, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Planets can also be mined (if your ship has a drill installed), to obtain various elements like iron, copper, and more. Different ships may require different elements for repairs, and they are also used for building new technologies on your ship as you learn them. These can be handy dandy upgrades to your existing systems, or crazy new technologies that can do stuff like terraforming a barren, rocky planet or turning a star into a black hole. You won’t find them that much though, as technologies are fairly rare and everything in the Out There: Ω The Alliance is random. Even the galaxy is randomly generated in each new game.
As you progress on your journey, you will sometimes discover new technologies that you can then install on your ship if you have the needed resources. However, some events can cause technologies to be erased from your ship’s data banks, meaning you can no longer build that technology on your ship. Technologies can be gained from certain random events depending on how you respond to them, or from alien encounters on garden planets. Installed technology modules can be damaged by random events as well. The most common things to break will be your drill when mining planets, or your probe when mining gas giants for fuel. However, technology modules are not the only things that can be damaged. The inventory slots themselves can also be damaged, though this is rare. They will need to be repaired to be useable again, and the materials needed to fix it depends on which ship you have.
Alien encounters on garden planets involve a language system, where the vocabulary is randomly generated at the start of each game. All intelligent life forms speak this same alien language in the game. You’ll want to land on every garden planet, and choose to encounter alien life to learn new words. Each alien encounter will result in you learning one or more alien words. Sometimes you’ll need to skip stuff like this if you’re low on fuel, though. As you learn more alien words, you’ll slowly be able to understand more of what they say. Words you don’t know will just show as gibberish in alien dialog, as shown in the image below. Unfortunately, death means you lose this knowledge and have to start learning the alien language all over in your next run. There is a technology that can let you respawn once, but I’ve never had access to it yet. Aliens may also give you a piece of Omega, a very special element you’ll want to have around in emergencies. One piece of it can be used to refill any one of your ship’s three vital stats by 25 points. It can also be used to repair things if you lack the materials normally needed for the repair in question. Of course, this element is relatively rare, so it’s best to save it until you really need it.
You’ll see the star map screen a lot, as it is how you navigate through the galaxy. You can move the camera around a bit, but not beyond the range of your telescope. Star systems that appear as a larger white star icon are home to things like giant stars or black holes. You may notice a red arrow in the lower-right of the screenshot below. That is pointing to the location you need to get to for one of the endings. There are five different endings, but they are not shown at first. You’ll encounter cut scenes on occasion during your adventure, and when they complete one of these arrows appears on your star map screen. From then on, it is always there letting you know which way that objective is. Some of the ending quests require you to do more than just reach a certain star system. For example, one of them requires you to have some humans in stasis in your storage. You’ll get that quest when finding a special abandoned ship with a bunch of people in stasis on it. If you have a dark soul, you can discard a stack of people in stasis from your inventory to get an achievement, throwing them out into the cold void of space. There is one issue on this star map screen, though. Sometimes the cursor refuses to go to a certain star system for no apparent reason, even though it is well within my range. This can be a little annoying, though it just forces you to move the cursor to the desired system by a different path.
Out There: Ω The Alliance has gameplay that is pretty simple to get into, but not so easy to master. Your strategic moves can be easily crushed by the random number generator when it decides to be a jerk. However, your demise will usually come as a result of multiple strokes of bad luck. For example, you may end up having to go through multiple consecutive star systems that all have no gas giants, and thus nowhere to refuel. So you may slowly run out and get stranded. It is possible to get fuel from stars, but this requires a special technology to do. This is another tech that I have not seen come up in the game yet. It does have two difficulty modes (normal and easy). Just be ready to die plenty either way, as most of your runs will end in death! There is a tutorial option when starting a new game, as well as two other options. One option makes it so you have chances to find your own abandoned ships from previous runs. They will still contain whatever was in your inventory when you met your demise. This makes them potentially nice resource caches to stumble upon in your travels, and may even save your life in some cases. The last option when starting a new game makes visited star systems turn into black holes after you leave to increase difficulty.
There is one other issue in the game involving mining for elements or fuel. When you’ve done a mining operation, you are shown the contents of the drill or probe (depending on whether you were mining for elements or fuel) and its contents. You can transfer the desired materials into your ship inventory. However, the annoying part is that you cannot use things in your inventory on this screen. The problem comes if your inventory happens to be too full, and you want to use a bit of something to refill one of your three vital stats in order to make some room. You simply can’t. As a result, you need to clean house in your inventory before you mine to avoid mining for no reason, as this uses fuel. Fuel can be a pain sometimes, because a number of things use it. Flying between star systems, landing on and leaving planets, and mining all do. You’ll want to always keep the closest eye on your fuel level and oxygen level, as they are more likely to kill you than hull integrity.
Out There: Ω The Alliance uses a relatively small pool of sound effects, but they are nicely done. The music adds most of the atmosphere, and drives home the feeling of being lost alone in space. There is not music playing all the time, though. Sometimes you’re just surrounded by the silent solitude of space.
Overall, Out There: Ω The Alliance can be a fun little exploration game, though it is at times overbearing. The latter will be especially true for players new to the genre. The game started life as a mobile title (Out There: Chronicles), and later got a PC version that can be found on Steam (Out There: Ω Edition). The new Switch version is the definitive version, with three new ships and some new bits of random story text added in. Survival is not easy as you drift through space. You are pretty much at the mercy of the random number generator. I’ve spent more than 10 hours flying through randomly generated galaxies and reached one ending so far. I’ve been close to getting another one several times, but my luck keeps running out a bit too soon. The rest of my journeys saw me die much sooner. Out There: Ω The Alliance is available on the Nintendo Switch eShop for $14.99. Can you survive the perils of space, or does death await you in the next star system?
Review copy provided by publisher.
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