Outer Wilds Review
Final Score: 10/10 Legendary
With so many games releasing every week, it is impossible to remember them all let alone play them all. Which is why I am glad I came across Outer Wilds. This game almost skipped by me, and what was odd was I don’t remember buying it or downloading it. It just showed up on my xbox one day, and I vaguely remembered something about it. I am so glad that my guardian xbox angel slipped this game onto my hard drive because this game not only is one of the best of the year, a GOTY contender, but it is simply one of the most fascinating games I’ve played recently.
Outer Wilds is one of those games that is difficult to discuss without spoilers, where I don’t want to even share the premise because every part of this game needs to be discovered on your own. So that being said, on Xbox at least it's free with GamePass, so don’t even bother finishing the rest of this. Try to the game and you will thank me later. If you can risk spoilers or have already tried the game, I can tell you the premise. Outer Wilds is Groundhog Day in Space. You wake up on a forest like alien (to us) planet, an astronaut of the local populace of aliens, tasked with getting the launch codes for your space ship. Shortly there after you are able to lift off and explore a miniature solar system. When I say miniature solar system I mean TINY. The planets are so small you can see the curve of the horizon when you stand on then. The entire solar system could fit inside a city. If I were to put the sun where my house is, the outermost planet would reach my workplace.
(Official Trailer - Xbox)
There’s an odd charm to this impossibly small solar system. From one planet you can visibly see the other planets, and you can watch in real time as they quickly orbit around the sun, taking on seconds or minutes to reach your destinations. As a self described space nerd, this miniature solar system is just super cool to look at. However, once you get past the design of the world, and suspend your disbelief, you arrive at the point of the game. The system is small for one reason. 22 minutes after you wake up, if you happen to look back at the sun you will notice something is wrong. The sun goes super nova and destroys the entire system! While the game gives you no clue until it happens, I happened to already know thanks to a spoiler description. I waited and sat in the forest planet looking up at the sun, and waited. The first time the background music intensified and the sun exploded, blinding you in a flash of light was just one of the coolest, somehow intimidating things I have ever seen. There is the over all sense of doom and beauty in the moment.
I can only imagine how odd it would feel if you didn’t know it was coming and randomly the game restarted. Ever time you die or the sun explodes the game has you wake up back in camp on the forest planet, and no one (well almost no one) remembers but you. The game gives you little direction on where to go or what to do, so it will appeal hardcore explorers, but theres enough clues on the various worlds to make it easier to figure out your objectives so that it doesn’t get boring.
Over the course of the game you are enticed to explore the various planets in the system, something that could have been very boring if there were all small bland sandy rocks. However, the creators of the game did an amazing job making each world unique and special. One world is a gas giant, with a huge ocean filled with dozens of tornadoes and “impenetrable” core. There a small ice comet, and the weirdest “planet” looks like a giant tree in space. It’s a vine that exists in a different dimension and is much much bigger inside than outside. There’s a planet with a black hole and at the center is an infinite book case and Matthew McConaughey is… wait sorry wrong Black Hole. I was impressed at the science of the game (as best as science could be at this ridiculous scale) as the Black Hole lead to a White Hole orbiting the sun. Even the physics is really cool. Motion really works like it does in outer space. It takes time to get the hang of flying your space ship, because unlike in many films, things keep going in space, and rockets cause acceleration not velocity. This means you have to forcibly slow down before approaching a planet not just taking your finger off the trigger. It takes timing and practice to not fly past a planet at hundreds of meters per second.
The physics and the design of the worlds are all really amazing, but another amazing part of this game is the art style. The art style is a perfect blend of realism and cartoon. The planets look real enough to resemble a solar system from a far, but the characters, creatures, and items on the world have a whimsical nature to them. I have to say the character designs and the world is just beautiful and a major point in this games favor. Even with the quirk of the time travel and repetition, this game is just fun to look at and explore. While some exploration games suffer from “big and empty” Outer Wilds is just tiny and beautiful.
Early in the game you will learn there is an “ancient civilization” because no good scifi story is without one, and there are the cause of various technologies, structures, and artifacts left behind. You will eventually find clues as to why the sun is exploding, why you are being thrown back in time every 22 minutes, and most importantly, how to survive it all. While much of the game is easy to do on your own, some parts of it are pretty counter intuitive and take much puzzle solving thought. Including most of all finishing the game is one of the most randomly specific series of events that took more tries than I care to admit and multiple youtube tutorials. However, this game is worth the endgame difficulties, especially since this is a time loop where you have endless tries.
Even for those who hate explorations games, or aren’t big indie games, I must say this game is a must try for everyone. I feel like I wont be the only outlet nominating Outer Wilds for some rewards. This game could win awards in Indie, Art, Design, or even be a GOTY contender I am sure. Without giving away more of its charm and story that I want people to experience for itself, I will end with my final decision that game deserves one 2019’s first 10/10. This game is legendary and worthy of your hard drive space.
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