Outer Wilds is… hard to describe, it’s not exactly a platformer, not exactly an adventure game and walking simulator doesn’t do it justice. It’s difficult to place the game in a preexisting genre, The most accurate label might be exploration, as you’re dropped into a unique solar system, given a rickety little spaceship held together with wood and tape and asked too… explore.
I say asked because the game doesn’t really tell you what to do, instead it does a fantastic job of enticing you into exploring with its exotic visuals and collectible notes. From the moment I first saw the night sky, I was left with questions that needed answers. What was that large explosion I just witnessed? Where did that strange object leaving the explosion go? Can I travel to the massive, green planet both objects were just orbiting?
The intrigue deepens as I moved through the tutorial settlement, you play as a reptilian race with four eyes and an adventurous nature, they introduce you to the mechanics of the game and the Nomai, a mysterious goat like race that vanished thousands of years ago and who settlements are found throughout the system, some of their advanced technology has even been adapted for use in your ship.
So, armed with questions and a ship that’s passed every safety inspection (well most of them) you set out into this wild system looking for answers.
Get out there & explore Outer Wilds
The visuals are simplistic and cartoony which work great for this type of game, with a diverse use of color as well as light and shadow. From the barren clay reds of ember twin, to the swampy greens and browns of dark bramble, every planet has its own color palette, coupled with this is the shifting “daylight” on the surface, the whole solar system moves rather quickly and the day-night cycles take mere minutes to complete. You’ll often find yourself glancing upwards as something passes between you and the sun.
Platforming, Puzzles, and planetary flight plans, this is the bread and butter of outer wilds. Each planet has its own unique dangers such as gravity, topography, plants and… fish (don’t ask) I spent a lot of time dodging threats while searching for a clear path to the next ruin or cave to explore.
One of the early obstacles I had to overcome was exploring brittle hollow, a hollow planet made almost entirely out of geode rock, the planet itself is falling apart by the time you arrive, meaning most of the pathways are barely traversable and over time it only gets worse. Most of my time was spent unraveling the mystery of the solar system, finding text left behind by the Nomai and searching for lost colleges from the starting settlement who have been exploring the other planets in the system.
Yet another area where the game shines, the game boasts over 25 tracks, campfire-style tunes and epic violin featuring guitars, banjo’s, drums, harmonica and flute, each planet practically has its own song but they hum away in the background as you explore. The game incorporates the music into gameplay extremely well, I became well acquainted with one song in particular as it’s tied to a repeating event within the solar system. Please feel free to check out the music on soundcloud and support the artist for his amazing work
Back in 2013 Outer Wilds was Alex Beachum’s master’s thesis, his aim was to capture the “spirit of space exploration” portrayed in movies such as Apollo 13 and 2001: A Space Odyssey. for the next few year’s he and a small team built an early build of the project before gaining the attention of Mobius Digital who hired the entire team and started work towards a full development commercial release.
Mobius Digital have done a phenomenal job taking the early vision of the game and polishing it to professional perfection.
There’s a whole lot more to the game I’d love to talk about but let’s avoid spoilers, This is a game that should be experienced for itself. A unique and thrilling single player title that proves creativity and real innovation in games is still alive and well.