Lunching In Space With IGF Winner Outer Wilds

The view from the moon

After catching up with the 2015 IGF winners news I spent my lunchtime playing the downloadable build of Outer Wilds from the official website. It’s the alpha build so I’m not sure how it would measure up to a current build but it’s been one of those lovely unexpected discoveries and almost made me forget my sandwich.

At first you’re deposited on a strange and tiny planet gazing up at the night sky. The camera pans down and there’s a tiny rocket awaiting launch codes. I hustled up towards the nearby observatory but accidentally ended up at a training area with a zero gravity cave which taught me the basics of ship repair and navigation in space.

The observatory itself was more of a museum with lots of little wall texts to read and objects with which to interact. I confess I didn’t spend a lot of time there but did get sidetracked by a giant tooth billed as from and angler fish.

Launch codes in hand I headed to my module, ignored some ominous warnings about things “changing” in the local solar system, and steered (gracelessly) out of the planet’s atmosphere. I love that moment in space exploration games where you leave a planet’s atmosphere and the whole black sparkly cape of space spreads over your field of view.

The museum's interpretation of a supernova

This game sets you up to explore your home solar system so the chunk of space I was presented with felt manageable. A few planets were visible so I tottered towards the nearest one and attempted a landing. Alas it was a water planet so the landing was more of a splashdown. The surface bristled with waterspouts, zipping along and whirling anything in their path upwards. I headed below the surface and tried to chase jellyfish but couldn’t work out my navigation system well enough to sink reliably.

“I’ll come back,” was the plan and I bobbed off to try and relocate my ship. It was zooming heavenward in one of those waterspouts. After a game of chase I managed to clamber back into my vessel and bumbled back into space where I more or less immediately smashed into the surface of another celestial body.

This one was more like a gigantic space geode. I floated through a crack in the side and found shards of crystal stretching out from the walls. I tried to walk on them but I’ve still not got the hand of my suit so I waddled and accelerated my way back onto the surface and fixed up my ship.

Crystal caverns in space

Then I tried to land on the surface of the sun.

Yeah, I have no idea why either. I just thought I’d check how the technology of my ship was supposed to work – perhaps it was heatproof? Perhaps I could swim about in a swirling mass of hot plasma.

Suffice to say that didn’t happen. What did happen, though, is I was deposited back on my home planet with the memory of the launch codes in my brain and ready to head out again (I explored a giant bramble and things were even briefer and more deadly this time). I’d say there’s a touch of Majora’s Mask in the looping of time back to that initial launch point, although perhaps that’s also because I spend a lot of time with the moon threatening to crash into me in that game.

From reading the dev blog I know there’s a central mystery they’re working on and I’ve already encountered a number of planets and ideas I want to explore further. An official release date is yet to be announced (there doesn’t even seem to be a vague release ballpark at the moment) but I’ve added it to my TELL ME MORE, RSS FEED READER pile and Twitter tells me I’m not alone.


  1. Noc says:

    Question for anyone else who’s been mucking around with the Alpha build (POSSIBLE SPOILERS?):

    Do the weird anomalies (at the core of Brittle Hollow and near the Nomad’s aphelion) periodically release waves of energy that kill you? I’ve been killed by some sort of explosion near each of them, but I can’t tell if it’s them or if I’ve just been unlucky with asteroid impacts or something.

    • EsKa says:

      I’ve played the alpha quite a lot, and strongly suggest anyone with a passing interested in purely exploration based games to do so.

      And, yup, this is full SPOILER territory:

      My last play-through was a few months ago so my memory may be failing a bit. That said, yes sort of, the universe is about to end and you’ll die after a while no matter what you do. There’s anomalies and hidden structures hidden in several planets that seem to cause the sun to explode.

      You can interact with some of them, some are only accessible for a brief amount of time (underground city in the sandy planet) , but I don’t think you can prevent the event from happening in the alpha.


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    Bluerps says:

    I remember playing this when it was on Live Free, Play Hard. I loved exploring the solar system, and how mysterious everything was. I was terrified of the jellyfish though.

    Also, Ms Warr, from what you wrote here, it’s possible that you missed one central feature of the solar system by dying prematurely. (SPOILER: The sun explodes after 20(?) minutes.)

  3. Hex says:

    The hipster instinct to insert things like “astronaut plays banjo in front of campfire” really interferes with my appreciation for their games.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      Really wish people would stop acting like “hipster” means “anything I don’t like.”

  4. Wedge says:

    So is the version posted right now any different from the one that was up years ago? I thought this was just a little demo for fun back then, I’m excited to know it’s apparently going to end up as a complete game now I guess?

    • Askis says:

      No it’s not, they’ve been developing the game further but haven’t released any public builds since the 1.2 Alpha in 2013…