(WBRE/WYOU) — Every once in a while a game comes along that has the ability to set itself aside from others in its genre and push the boundaries of what was previously thought games like it could achieve. Games like this stick in our minds and affect us well after we finished them. They keep us coming back again and again because the experience was so unique that others have a hard time mimicking it. I believe Outer Wilds to be one of these games.
Outer Wilds is an exploration game developed by Mobius Digital and published by Annapurna Interactive. In it, you are an alien about to go on his first space expedition in a rinky-dink spaceship that looks like it’s being held together by duct tape and hope. Once you launch, however, your misgivings about the ship fade away as you’re greeted by a solar system ripe for exploration.
Outer Wilds is a game where the less you know about it going in the better. From a planet almost completely underwater, to the surface of a comet flying through the solar system, the amount of things to explore and discover is quite vast. There is very little guidance in the game after you leave your planet. It’s up to you to explore and discover pieces that come together to give you an idea of what’s going on.
After roughly 20 minutes of exploration, something happens that causes you to revert back to the moment you launched your ship. This sets up the main objective of discovering what exactly is happening in your system, and how can you prevent it. There are hints and clues scattered around to nudge you in the right direction, but the game relies heavily on the player’s own curiosity to piece the plot together.
The music, composed by Andrew Prahlow, is simply astounding. The music shifts and changes depending on what/where you’re at and what’s going on around you. One song, aptly named “End Times”, that you hear just before a loop ends, creates a wonderful sense of sadness and apprehension.
Visually, the game looks beautiful. Each object you explore in the solar system has a unique style to it, feeling visually distinct from the last. The version I played on the Xbox One had some frame rate inconsistencies at certain points (usually when there was a lot going on), but nothing bad enough to detract from the overall experience. I would imagine, though I can’t confirm, that these issues would not be present on any decent PC running the game.
It’s hard for me to not recommend this game to anyone with an affinity for exploration and discovery. There were times where I laughed as I accidentally flung myself into space after misjudging a gap, and there were times I was consumed by anxiety as I crept into a dark cavern, but all the while I was driven on by my desire to see and learn more about the amazing world this game created.
Outer Wilds is what you make of it. If you like to be set loose in a game world to discover things on your own and figure out mysteries for yourself with minimal guidance, then you will love this game. If you like a little more structure to your experiences and a more straightforward story, then maybe think twice before picking this one up.
As stated before, a good work of art sticks with you well after the experience has passed. Outer Wilds is a game that has dominated my thoughts even after completion. I spent time during and after wondering about mysteries that I have yet to solve, and what other ones might await me. Even if the game doesn’t end up answering all of them (it would be very impressive if it did) the journey of discovery is worth the price of admission alone.
Outer Wilds is currently available on Xbox One and PC through the Epic Game store for $24.99. A review copy was not supplied for this review.