Outer Wilds is a Phenomenal Piece of Art

WARNING: Spoilers!

During our extended weekend, my brother and I found an unused gift card in our room and went on a journey to find a good game for under 25 dollars. If you couldn’t already tell by the title, we found out what game we were going to buy. When we first booted up the game we didn’t know what to expect. All that we heard of the game was that it was like Subnautica in space. After playing it for a few days, my brother and I were very pleased with the game and see it as one of the best indie games out there. 

One of the adorable Hearthians.

To start off, the story is very lore heavy and expands the more you explore. You play as an unnamed Hearthian, aliens native to an Earthlike planet called Timber Hearth. You are the next Hearthian to be sent to traverse the planets and find out more about aliens who existed before the Hearthians, known as the Nomai. After you reach the observatory and gain the launch code to go up into space, an ancient Nomai statue will turn to you and open its eyes. You then may proceed on your way and travel to the other planets. Upon dying, you wake up at the start of the day, but retaining all the information that you gathered before you die. At this point, the player character finds out that they are trapped in a time loop, and every 22 minutes after a specific event, they get sent back to the beginning of the day. I don’t want to spoil anything more just know that talking to other Hearthians and reading texts build to a very deep lore, and all the info that you’ve gathered is stored on a computer on your ship. 

The black and white image on the right is a photo taken by the probe. The green in the image is ghost matter.

The game controls well. It’s just that the mechanics take a little getting used to. You have your ship, a space suit, the signalscope (a device which tracks sound signals across the universe), a machine that translates Nomai text, and a camera probe that can be used to locate ghost matter (a deadly substance that instantly kills) at your disposal. The spaceship and space suit are a little difficult to control at first. Because all of the planets have different gravity and space has none, you could easily miscalculate how much thrust you need and either end up crashing, hurtling through space, or crashing into the sun. The signalscope is useful because it helps you find the other Hearthian astronauts as well as other strange signals. The translator does what it says it does. It translates text. The issue is that you can be too close, or too far, and sometimes the on screen prompt for the translator doesn’t come up when I’m obviously in translating distance. The probe doesn’t really have any issues. It’s easy to use and comes in handy a fair amount. 

The Hourglass Twins

Dark Bramble

In terms of world design, everything is phenomenal. Each world feels unique and alive in their own way. There are 6 major worlds within the game. The Hourglass Twins, Timber Hearth, Brittle Hallow, Giant’s Deep, and Dark Bramble. The Hourglass Twins are two planets who operate as an hourglass. One planet is completely covered with sand while the other is not. Over time, sand falls from one to the other, allowing you to explore more of one and less of the latter. Timber Hearth is your generic earth-like planet. It has the least to explore but there is still some stuff here and there. You can also explore the moon of Timber Hearth, but there is even less there.  Brittle Hallow has the most going on. It has multiple Nomai cities and facilities throughout, and even has a black hole as the core. Over time, a molten moon will rotate the planet and launch asteroids towards the planet. These asteroids can actually knock off pieces of the planet, and cause them to fall into the black hole. Next up is Giant’s Deep. This planet freaked me out because it is one of my biggest fears: The deep ocean. The entire planet is nothing but ocean and when you submerge yourself underwater, the ocean looks pitch black. There are tornadoes in the world that can knock you, as well as the world’s islands, into space. There is one tornado that can actually knock you so deep into the ocean that you approach the world’s core. Last, but not least, is Dark Bramble. Dark Bramble is a collection of seeds that create a sort of infinite expanse of seeds and fog. There isn’t much I can say about Dark Bramble without giving away massive spoiler, just expect to die a fair amount.

The music in the game is a mix, ranging from amazing to just okay, and the songs fit the tone of their respective area. Most of the music has a country tone and gives off road trip vibes. Timber Hearth’s theme is very mellow and could work as a lullaby. Dark Brambles music is ominous and spooky, bringing a chill down the player’s spine. It’s a shame that most of the songs don’t share the country-ish, light hearted tone like the theme song, because otherwise this would be one of my favorite video game soundtracks. 

There is so much to talk about when it comes to Outer Wilds, that I can’t fit it all in a review. The game is beautiful and may be one of my favorite indie games as well as one of my favorite games altogether. If were to give this game a rating, I would give it a 9.5 out of 10. The game is utterly beautiful and a great example of video games as a form of interactive art. I recommend this to any gamer, casual or not.