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Lunching In Space With IGF Winner Outer Wilds

Exploring the near reaches of space

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.

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