The Outer Wilds Review
The Outer Wilds has gone a long way since its initial 2019 release date. This indie exploration adventure published by Annapurna Interactive and developed by Mobius Digital has more than once appeared in different “Game of the Year” lists, including its well-received expansion released last year.
The premise of the game is quite simple, your character is the newest recruit of the Timberhearth Space Program, and your objective is to discover and solve the different mysteries of your solar system. Due to a mysterious incident, you find yourself trapped in an endless time loop where you keep repeating the same day until the eventual moment when your solar system’s Sun goes supernova.
Pretty interesting, yeah?
I’ve wondered what the hype for the game has been in the last few years. Visually, it doesn’t look too special, and in terms of time-loop games, there are a few roguelites that have been groundbreaking and others that fell short. What sets The Outer Wilds apart from the rest of the pack? Quite a lot actually.
Timberhearth, we have a problem
The Outer Wilds, as mentioned earlier, follows a simple gameplay loop of about 20 minutes of in-game time for you to explore your known solar system until the moment your sun goes supernova without much explanation. That explanation, which we’ll leave you to discover on your own, is going to be a wild ride in more ways than one.
It is primarily an exploration game, as there are planets to explore and dangers afoot. If you’re expecting something action-packed, we’re here to tell you that it’s not that type of game. Even without the balls-to-the-wall action, that doesn’t mean that it is devoid of excitement, as there are numerous ways that you can put yourself in strange predicaments and even pulse-pounding sequences where you’ll have to escape.
Starting out will be difficult because the game doesn’t give you much to go on, leaving the first few hours to actually figure things out. In a way, starting out in Timberhearth is some sort of tutorial mission in itself; how you want to play it is up to you.
One thing that doesn’t change, however, is the soundtrack, which continues to get better. There are themes that inspire you to keep exploring and other themes that inspire some dread, especially when exploring terrifying areas that you were probably unsure about.
Due to the nature of the game, it could take a few turns before you actually get a feel for what’s going on. I really had to admire how much the developer has put into the design of each of the available planets to explore. Unlike many space exploration games where most planets are uniform, there are different ways each planet comes to life in The Outer Wilds.
For starters, each planet has its own unique surface and gravity in The Outer Wilds. While the default planet would always be Timberhearth, there are water-based planets, a bramble-like planet, a planet that’s made completely of sand, and another planet on the brink of being destroyed by its satellite that lobs lava meteors at it every ten seconds.
In simpler terms, what this means is that you would have to learn how to maneuver your spaceship in order to master how to land safely on each planet. This goes for your suit as well – Jump too hard, and you may find yourself jumping into space or onto a satellite or another planet nearby. In other planets where the gravity is dense, you’d have to find a way to actually use your jetpack to scale mountains or even get back to your spaceship in one piece. Just moving is an adventure with The Outer Wilds.
The truth is out there
There’s really no one way to master The Outer Wilds, but there’s something that you will be working towards and that’s solving the mystery of your Sun going supernova. To do that, you will have to navigate to every single planet and solve the riddles and artifacts left behind by the extinct civilizations that came before you using the many tools at your disposal.
Though they may be basic, your tools are enough to get you what you need and more. Your Signalscope can detect unique sounds that determine places of interest, and your Scout Launcher grants you a second set of eyes and allows you to recon a potentially dangerous place. You also have a translator that allows you to read through the text left behind, which is saved miraculously by your ship’s computer, unaffected by the time displacement caused by your time loop.
There will come a point, after many loops, where you think you’ve figured it out, but there are mysteries on top of mysteries that motivate you to explore some more. That was the Eureka moment that got me believing in what The Outer Wilds has to offer. After you’ve dropped a good 20 or so hours on it, you also have to take into consideration that there is still the Echoes of the Eye DLC that turns the current mysteries you’ve solved on their head.
This rabbit hole you’ve just explored knows no bounds…
What We Liked:
- Unique planets to explore, each with its own gravity and characteristics.
- Tons of mysteries to solve.
- Awe-inspiring soundtrack.
What We Didn’t Like:
- Really frustrating first few hours as you have to figure everything out yourself.
Verdict: Buy It!
The Outer Wilds is an existential journey that rewards you as much as the effort that you’ve invested. There are countless mysteries to solve and planets to explore in each twenty-minute loop that transpires. While I would say you would have to wait for the Eureka moment to drop, when it does, I guarantee that you’ll be hooked and won’t stop until you’ve satisfied your curiosity and more.
It’s amazing how much love and effort were given by Mobius Digital to make this space exploration game a reality. Each planet is unique, and every strategy used to explore it or even keep yourself alive becomes its own unique adventure. The Outer Wilds will frustrate you, but will also reward you with such catharsis when you’ve solved it.
If you still haven’t found what makes The Outer Wilds great for you, keep at it and it’ll drop, it might not be this moment, but it will be the moment.
*The Outer Wilds is now available for the PS5 and Xbox Series X through retail and Xbox Game Pass.