I know that one or the other suspects clickbait with a title like this. But hey, it’s in my twitter biothat I tell everyone about Outer Wilds at every opportune and inconvenient opportunity, so be prepared for stealth articles on my all-time favorite game. I think that excuses me!
At this point, due to the occasion, I would like to point out that you can still get Outer Wilds on Steam for only 12.49 euros until Thursday, which has changed my life. No wonder I want to talk or write about it all the time.
What makes Outer Wilds so special? It’s not that easy to explain without seeming a bit goofy with enthusiasm (too late, huh?). So maybe I’d better start the other way around with the contraindications to buying Outer Wilds. What about that?
Basically, there are three things you should know before making a purchase decision: 1. The game revolves around a time warp, which at 22 minutes can seem a bit tight. Overall though, the designers break down the game’s challenges into fairly well-tailored chunks and desEsports Extrasthe back and forth in this little model solar system in a way that gets you back where you were quickly. Or you just solve a few mysteries at the other end. What seems like time pressure is often only really one in places where the developers wanted you to lose your grip. However, there are a few things that you can only do during a certain time frame, and if that really annoys you, you should… give the game a try anyway.
2. You have to read Outer Wilds. As satisfying as exploring and discovering very tangible and vividly implemented space phenomena and mysteries is, as the goal and end of most “dungeons” (for lack of a better word) there are inscriptions to decipher that give you new clues as to why you are caught in this time warp – and maybe how to get out. Fortunately, this correspondence of a long-extinct alien race is well written, nothing is just “lore” to fill pages, almost everything has direct or indirect plot implications or is an indication of how to proceed, which is still mostly over spacewalking and navigating a hostile world.
3. Outer Wilds is quite convinced that discovery is more fun when you’ve found the way or the solution to a dilemma on your own. Ergo, there are no target markers that a quest log would set for you. You determine your way through this adventure all by yourself. So some might feel a bit lost. This does not mean that there are no clues and the game is directionless. Whenever you read an inscription and learned something new, your ship’s computer jots it down for reference and even puts it into context for you. You may even mark individual pieces of information and data points as targets to get at least an idea of where to learn something new about some aspect of the storyline.
Okay, 4. Obviously, some people are struggling with the spaceship and jetpack controls, which is fine given the ambitious physics model, but arguably part of the appeal. Because this species made it into space in spaceships made of wooden barrels. I loved that flying around the Outer Wilds solar system felt dangerous. In addition, I’ve already put up with completely different things for a game that dares something.
Understood? Then add a few short beats to it, which makes the game so exceptional that I churn out a level teaspoon of toothpaste every time someone tells me they have Outer Wilds on their list but have to first [ganz okayes, dahergelaufenes Allerweltsspiel bitte hier einfügen] gamble.
First off, Outer Wilds is an insanely impressive game purely technically (not graphically) and conceptually. A complete, albeit small, solar system orbiting its star in real-time, with gravitational and other forces in constant flux. And you in the middle. Rarely have I felt so small, although the pure game world is not worth mentioning by today’s open world standards.
Maybe it all seems so big because each and every one of the celestial bodies you visit is completely different and keeps its secrets hidden from you in its very own way. It’s not a game dictated by the mechanics that define your character or your loadout, but rather one whose world dictates what you can do. Do you understand what I mean? Whatever the antithesis of classic Zelda, where your hero and their talents are the custom key to whatever comes your way, this is Outer Wilds.
The only progression is in the knowledge you’ve accumulated, and every single discovery is open to you from the start if you just look in the right corner. It’s discovery in the literal sense, because you find the clues that will take you forward, and you’ll unearth many things through trial and error, a vague nose, and old Trekkie instincts. If only because you notice that a frozen asteroid makes suspicious cracking noises at a certain point on its elliptical orbit around the sun. Or that one of the most impressive natural phenomena on a planet, which I don’t want to define more closely for spoiler reasons, is not like the rest. It’s often subtle signals that the game sends, but which resourceful players decode nonetheless. If that’s not enough, you’ll eventually find an inscription that gives a more explicit clue.
And again: This world design! Outer Wilds thrives on the fact that you love films like Interstellar, that you get to the bottom of inexplicable events with scientific curiosity. It rarely happens that a game world changes so drastically within minutes and is even destroyed in part as you move through it, simply because many game engines are not designed for such a change in the playable spaces. Here, however, I witnessed my parked spaceship being blown out into the atmosphere by the mother of all hurricanes and gradually fell into a black hole on a planet floe while exploring an extinct city. My God! At a certain point, Outer Wilds even pushed me down a deep internet rabbit hole about quantum theory…
That is to say, almost every place and phenomenon here would have been worthy of a cool Star Trek episode, and that it always happens in real time before your eyes and often enough under your feet, rather than in a set-piece moment on the horizon, in Cutscenes or an audio log makes it extra special. I stood there stunned several times with my mouth open, happy and fulfilled to be able to witness something like this. To really be there. But in the end, the biggest bang is how coherently the story fits together into a big whole that not only managed to impress me deeply, but also moved and moved me to tears. All accompanied by one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard.
The DLC is just fantastic too. Even if it is a bit cumbersome to play in places and polarized a certain stealth sequence, it is also full of powerful, impressive ideas and adds an emotional component to the main game. In a double pack, the Outer Wilds Archaeologist Edition is called and costs just 19.79 euros on Steam.
And now I’ll stop repeating myself like a broken record and leave it to those who didn’t like the game so much to voice their (honestly appreciated criticism) in the comments like a broken record.
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