Though Outer Wilds is not the big space exploration game on the scene today, it is nonetheless an indie title of note that recently caught my attention. Released in early 2019, Outer Wilds has made a name for itself as the premier title from studio Mobius Digital, published by the narrative-centric indie publisher Annapurna Interactive. Outer Wilds is a spacefaring adventure that puts the player at the center of a mystery in a small solar system. With only twenty-two minutes until the sun explodes, the player is stuck in a repeated loop to discover what’s going on and why.
Outer Wilds walks an interesting line, at times I was enamored with the exploration and discovery, at others I was completely frustrated with the mechanics and lack of rewards. I would sometimes go multiple loops without finding anything of note to record in my ship’s log (the only thing that gets saved between loops). There were times I found myself putting the game down for days due to poor in-game time management options and a lack of meaningful advances. Some discoveries—necessary for advancement—I found completely by accident at a very specific time within a time loop. It made me wonder if I would have found said thing otherwise.
Outer Wilds is an odd paradox, it feels huge due to its nature as a space exploration game, but at the same time creates a coziness within its confines. Some places are mostly barren, while others have tons to explore, but at any point, you can equip your singalscope and listen to a fellow member of the Outer Wilds Venture play the theme song on their chosen instrument. So even after getting sucked into a black hole and getting thrown into deep space, you can find the music thousands of kilometers away and you’ll never feel alone.
It was difficult to decide how Outer Wilds made me feel as a whole. I don’t normally put a game down never to pick it back up, but there were moments where I considered doing just that. There were also times that I stayed up late into the night trying to discover more hidden messages from the Nomai. Though I found some frustrations with the game, when the credits rolled I was satisfied with the final message and many of the decisions that the developers over at Mobius Digital implemented. Outer Wilds takes many risks, and while some don’t pay off, the ones that do make this a venture worth taking. The game may not be perfect, but it is memorable. I recommend it to anyone who likes space travel and discovery sprinkled with a little charm. Just try not to get stuck in outer space too often.
Objective Assessment: 8/10
Bonus: +1 for unique storytelling method. +1 for satisfying space discoveries.
Penalties: -1 for wonky controls that don't ever feel great. -1 for poor waiting options. -1 for progression/reward imbalances.
Nerd Coefficient: 7/10
Posted by: Joe DelFranco - Fiction writer and lover of most things video games. On most days you can find him writing at his favorite spot in the little state of Rhode Island.