Outer Wilds Will Sate Your Inner Adventurer

By Craig Pearson on June 24th, 2013 at 6:00 pm.

I’ll take clunky and interesting over smooth and dull any day (there are exceptions, of course: a smooth and dull gall bladder surgery would be nicer). I discovered Outer Wilds on a stroll though the Reddits earlier on today. It’s a space adventure game where the goal is to explore the solar system before the sun explodes. That timer reduces each game to about 20 minutes space wandering, but it also accelerates the motion of the system. Looking from the of the little planetoids out into space is like looking at the roof of a planetarium, watching as the sky speeds past.

On the first playthrough you’ll have to wander around the village and learn how to control the spaceship and your zero-g suit, before acquiring launch codes. There seems to be no save state, so each time you start you’ll still have to acquire the launch codes. It’s as annoying as having the craft’s y-axis bound to a joypad button, which makes no-sense whatsoever. Even with a joypad, the controls are a bit confusing.

But the strange control scheme doesn’t take away from the seamless space adventuring. All you really need is your curiosity, and it’s a wonderful feeling to have that sense of adventure confirmed by the game. I flew towards what I believed to be a space station, but what turned out to be twin planets with a roaring column of dust filling the void between the two. The rest can be discovered via the game’s map, and combining that with the auto-pilot is an easy way to see what this strange corner of the universe has to offer. This trailer has a pile of spoilers for a short game, it’ll also make you want to play it.

It’s an immensely charming experience. The download is here.


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  1. Dowr says:

    Graig is actually playing a game.

    Shocked, I truly am.

  2. Tei says:

    * wrong thread *

  3. Alex Beachum says:

    Hey, I’m the creative lead on Outer Wilds, and I just wanted to mention that the game does in fact track your progress between playthroughs (your ship computer fills up with places you’ve visited, and your character does remember the launch codes, so you only need to visit the observatory once). Thanks for the great writeup!

    • Craig Pearson says:

      Ah, cool. I didn’t have as much time with as I’d liked, so didn’t notice those finer details. That’s great, and you’ve made a really interesting game.

  4. realitysconcierge says:

    The concept reminds me of Majora’s Mask sort of!

    • Craig Pearson says:

      Me too, and if I wasn’t dead from Rezzed I’d have written that in the piece. I forgot.

      • realitysconcierge says:

        That is perfectly fine. I’m just glad to see your writing on the site again!

  5. demicanadian says:

    I was interested, until the X360 gamepad part.

  6. phelix says:

    How’s the flight model? Newtonian? If so, hardcore newtonian, like Orbiter, or softcore newtonian, like Kerbal Space Program? Star Wars physics? A wonderful blend of the two?

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Did you just call KSP “Softcore Newtonian”? Are you asking for a physicist’s fight? Huh? Big n-body guy are you? How about we compare physics computations over in the yard…

      Really, KSP is full Newtonian but only over 1 body of gravity, AFAIK. :)

      • Brun says:

        It’s Newtonian except that it uses “spheres of influence” approximations instead of actual n-body calculations (for obvious reasons) for the planetary interactions. In fact, someone did a simulation of the KSP solar system in Universe Sandbox and found that the system is unstable in its current configuration, so the Solar System in KSP wouldn’t even work if it used n-body calculations.

        • TechnicalBen says:

          Mainly true. Universe in a Sandbox may not be accurate enough though. Although I doubt the Devs have fine tuned the planets to be stable (too much work).

          Newtonian tends to apply to the player/character/craft first and the world second in gaming though. and in all honesty KSP is a game first, Orbiter a sim first.

    • Alex Beachum says:

      It’s pretty close to Newtonian with a few massive cheats.

      The player and ship are affected by gravity from every massive body (planetoids, moons, and the sun), but planets/moons are only affected by the Sun’s gravity (the Solar System’s too small for every planet to interact and keep a stable orbit).

      We also added a bit of angular drag to the ship/player for the sake of usability, but the flight model is otherwise pretty realistic.

  7. Wurstwaffel says:

    I think they should slap a toon shader on that

  8. Brun says:

    Reply fail.

  9. Quasar says:

    Is is literally beautiful. I don’t know why I’m the first person here to be saying this. I just want to explore it forever.

    • dE says:

      Let me second that.
      This is what space games could be about. Not space pew pews, not Ferengis waging war on X-cel Sheets. But genuine wonder and exploration.

  10. Alextended says:

    This is cool, but clearly amateur and janky (bad modeling, no roll controls, wonky gravity, etc). I’d buy a sequel or remake that fixes it up on a visual and mechanical level (think Super Mario Galaxy for the visuals of the planetoids and the way they combine multiple layers with different rules).

  11. Morcane says:

    I have Damocles flashbacks.

  12. LennyLeonardo says:

    Am I the only one who finds this terrifying? As well as lovely, I mean.

  13. mikmanner says:

    This game is really special, I love it

  14. Wedge says:

    Wow this is awesome. I was trying to land on the sand planet and when getting out my ship it got jolted somehow and flung me in my spacesuit into a superfast outward spiraling orbit where my oxygen never went down. I actually waited until the sun went nova and watched from my map view. Was impressed that it both expanded to where I had ended up, and did not kill me until it reached there (though I imagine it’s set to extend until you die, to keep you from just trying to run into the depths of space).

  15. Rici says:

    Anyone managed to land on the quantum moon? Sometimes when I get really lucky I manage to hit it near the edge and partially land on it. But I have the feeling it’s not the right way. After a while when I disembark it disappears.

  16. Bleiz says:

    I can’t play this. Causing me anxiety problems!
    I just got eaten by a freaking space fish and think something happened to my heart IRL.

    Fucking terrifying game.