Mobius Digital’s first flight into major game releases is one that, even a couple of years on, stands tall as a unique and bold exploration game. Basically, anyone who’s played this game can and likely will tell you, this is a near-impossible game to talk about. The game is so driven by the act of discovery, of even the smallest things, that even talking about its story or mechanics could easily constitute spoilers; as such, I’m going to have to tread very carefully whilst talking about this complex cosmic conundrum (this includes minimal discussion of the plot).
Outer Wilds involves the player navigating a time-loop in order to discover the secrets of an alien solar system and, perhaps, prevent calamity.
Within this simple setup, Outer Wilds gives players one of the most ambitious, unique and open tales of discovery that you can find anywhere.
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Live. Die. Read. (Gameplay)
Put simply, Outer Wilds is a physics-puzzle game with heavy exploration elements. It’s the kind of game where it gives you one big playground to roam around in, solving smaller puzzles to complete the greater big-picture puzzle that drives the narrative, think something like Majora’s Mask… but with spaceships. But how does this vague description of physics puzzles play out in the game? It primarily manifests in the traversal of this diorama-esque solar system. A huge portion of the game is spent bouncing around and across the various planets and using the moveset and tools provided to you to overcome each planet’s unique hazards and uncover the secrets they have in store for you. This is where the game really shines, the hand-crafted solar system always finds new ways to wow you, every crack and crevice of each planet hides some new wonder, and every new text log points you toward some new treasure to discover.
It’s not for everyone, though. The discovery of the game is largely rewarded with text, the recorded history of an ancient species that died long ago. This is how you discover most of the characters and how you find out what you need to know to progress in the game, and to certain players this does not match their motivations, which is a real shame. Especially when coupled with the other big sticking point of the game. It is a tough game at times, with all of the different locales and walls of text (literally) to get all the information you need from. And your handy ship’s log is a constantly invaluable tool for progression.
Beauty is in the echoes of the eye of the beholder (art)
In the previous section I mentioned that the game always finds new ways to wow you, and that is true of every new planet you find yourself on. From the forest-punk Timber Hearth your character calls home, to the tempest that is Giant’s Deep, the game constantly looks wonderful, and pulls it off on a shockingly grandiose scale. You really would be surprised how much you can fit inside these tiny worlds. And the game shows off it’s visual chops more and more as the game progresses, climaxing with a deeply affecting sequence that solidified this game’s greatness based purely on art and direction alone.
This profound level of artistic aptitude is backed up by a fantastic score that, just like the art design, weaves into the gameplay effortlessly, becoming a mechanic in-and-of itself. The constant melody of the Outer Wilds Ventures team helps you navigate the system, and the sound of the end of your loop getting closer elicits panic in a way that I can only compare to being spotted by a Guardian in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
More than just a pretty space (Echoes of the Eye)
On PC and console, the game now comes bundled in the ‘Archaeologist Edition’, which includes the DLC; Echoes of the Eye. I’m here to tell you now that this is a trick. This bundle may make you think you’re buying a full game and its single piece of DLC. In reality, you’re actually buying two fully fledged, complete games.
Echoes of the Eye may well be one of the best Pieces of expansion content ever released, over doubling the playing time for the game. It adds entirely new mechanics and subverts the expectations of how the game functions, setting up over 15-20 hours of gameplay in the original game in truly genius and mind-blowing ways. The music and sound-design also outdoes itself here, as it is needed more than ever to support a nearly entirely art-based experience (the walls of text from the main game have been somewhat modified in this addition).
Horror fans will be pleasantly surprised to also find a more scary turn of events than anything in the base game (which has its fair share of eerie and scary sections). All of these changes create an experience that feels truly and utterly alien to the rest of the game (which actually makes a lot of sense in context). This is a DLC that it’d be a crime to miss out on.
Outer Wilds, simply put, is nothing short of being one of the finest games to have released in recent memory. Not only being a totally unique and challenging (whilst fair) combat-free game, but being bundled now with the DLC (Echoes of the Eye), which doubles the play time of the game, acting closer to a fully-realised and satisfying sequel than a simple expansion. This is a game full of heart and smarts, and whilst some people will definitely be put off by the huge amount of reading involved, this interstellar trip is well worth getting stuck into the in-flight material.