‘Outer Wilds’ Is a Captivating Sci-Fi Mystery About the End of the World

I drift in the space between the twin worlds, Ash and Ember, counting the minutes and watching as sand falls. The two planets, locked in a combative binary orbit, are a celestial hourglass: The seemingly endless desert of Ash is sieved away by gravity, spread over the cracked red crust and deep crevices of Ember.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/mb8p7y/outer-wilds-is-a-captivating-sci-fi-mystery-about-the-end-of-the-world
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Beautifully written review Austin, thank you. Really looking forward to experiencing it.

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As I read the opening paragraph, I heard music in my head.

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I just played this for about 3 hours tonight. I love this type of open-ended, but still focused exploration game loop that it has going. I’m still just scratching the surface of the mysteries at play here, but it really does seem like they’ve got something special here. This also seems like a game that I’d want to know as little about as possible going in, as the sense of discovery is kind of the entire hook. Looking forward to diving further into this over the next week!

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If I had a Agoraphobia esque reaction to No Mans Sky gameplay what are the chances of the same happening with this?

I played an early access version of this game some time ago, and loved it then, even in its incomplete state. I’d forgotten about it until now. Thank you for reminding me to pick up this game!

I got so excited when I saw this pop up on Game Pass! Hadn’t followed the game closely but the glowing reviews have me looking forward to checking it out this weekend.

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You know that part early on in Subnautica where you get a radio message that tells you to be in a specific place in 20 minutes? Then you get there and you’re left asking, "What the Hell is happening?!"

Well, I’m about four cycles (that count) into Outer Wilds, and every new place I’ve gone to has left me with that exact reaction. I’m usually not that precious when it comes to spoilers, but this is one of those games that’s an absolute joy to be surprised by. I’d definitely recommend folks try to go in as blind as possible.

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I played just enough to make it to the planet with the black hole at its centre. After falling off a piece of land I started falling towards the black hole and I immediately felt so uncomfortable that I had to pause and quit.

Usually it’s sea monsters that kick up my megalophobia but seems like space works too. Might need to play this one from the safety of my couch across the room.

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So like, this is The Witness meets Super Mario Galaxy, is that it?

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Me, too!

I had my share of fun with No Man’s Sky, and I always want to like more freeform exploration games, but I only ever make it a handful of hours into any particular one.

This game has been nearly perfect in that regard. It provides a bunch of freedom in letting me explore how and what I want and figure things out, but it also provides a pretty clear set of objectives pretty quickly (I suppose, as long as you find the right clues–I can imagine a scenario where someone doesn’t really find those things and spends a few hours pretty lost). The game leads the player just the perfect amount for me.

I haven’t played a game that has captured my attention this much in quite a while.

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Extremely high, I would say. No Man’s Sky has nothing compared to some of the stuff in this game. We’re talking caverns literally filling up with sand while you’re in them, walking on precarious ledges about infinite voids, wild swings of gravity with one misstep sending you hurtling into space.

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More Subnautica than The Witness if you wanted to make that sort of comparison. And the Mario Galaxy stuff really goes only as far as some of the smaller areas you can land on. Really, the pitch would be along the lines of “a more forgiving Subnautica, but in SPACE and also is an immersive sim that’s almost entirely about exploration.”

(Keep in mind though that this is a very reductive description; where this game really shines is from its idiosyncrasies w/r/t writing and world design.)

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Mild SPOILERS for the first hour, but I love how every character plays an instrument, and how you use the Signalscope to track down other astronauts via their music. It adds a level of whimsy and character to the world, the diegetic sound adds to immersion and worldbuilding, and for any players struggling with the open-ended structure of the game it provides a really natural starting goal on each planet without adding a question mark onto a map. It’s a perfect blend of aesthetic, worldbuilding, and utility.

Anyway, this game is really good. I’d love a Spoiler-full discussion thread on it in a few weeks, maybe even a spoiler-cast after more staff has played it (and after E3 stuff has wound down).

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I’ve had great success playing from the couch on my IPad steamlinked to my PC. Cause I just encounter the space fish mentioned in the review and fuuuuuuuuck those.

[Spoiler re: AnonymousWalrus’s comment above]

After finding out about the harmonica signal, one of the first things I did was go into the Dark Bramble. And immediately after seeing what the glowy thing was, I went through all five stages of grief in less than a minute, ending with me saying: “Well, I guess I’ll just die” to myself. Pretty sure I’ll just explore every other possible thing before summoning the courage to go back.

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Holy shit, I love this game. I have fallen into that black hole so many times. And the last time I did I realized that’s where all the chunks of the planet were ending up I was like OH MY GOD WHAT IS THIS GAME. Can’t wait to see what’s next.

EDIT: I’ve seen a lot more since I wrote this…I am in awe of this game.

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As of yet this is the best indie of 2019 for me. I just love that each planet has their own interlocking systems that you have to learn and adapt to, nothing’s ever illogical or feels unnatural and the lore you uncover is both worldbuilding and hintbook depending on where you look at it. The look and feel of the worlds also reminded me of Myst at times, but painted with a childlike imaginative brush.

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I was just thinking last night that this game feels like a Myst series game, but in space, and with more modern design sensibilities. I love it so much, and didn’t realize how much I’ve been craving a game like this.

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I started playing today and I’m wonderfully head over heels for this game. I adore the music and moods, the aesthetic, the rickety devices, the character interactions… and the ration tins of marshmallows. I’m taking the day off tomorrow and this game figures heavily in my plans.

editing rather than posting new I just had this remarkable moment exploring Giant’s Deep and trying to understand the mechanic between the cyclones and floor panels. There I am, trudging around, when I get a message “hull integrity breach” on my HUD, and in the same moment I have to think, “uh-oh, I’d better get down there,” my ship goes careening past me in the grip of a cyclone, tumbling end over end and breaking up. I sigh, but I’m not upset because in a few minutes everything will start over. It’s noteworthy how calm I can be in the face of recurrent doom in this game.

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