I picked up Outer Wilds again now that the Echoes of the Eye expansion dropped, and finally finished the endgame. (No spoilers since the game is all about discovery. I’ll just say that it involved revisiting one of my least favorite mechanics in order to get to it, which is why I set it aside for so long).
The ending is a perfect, bittersweet coda to the story you uncover over the course of the game.
It’s a space exploration game that starts in a forest next to a campfire. The first thing you can do is toast a marshmallow. (You can do the same at campsites on all the planets.)
You explore the other planets in your tiny solar system using a ship made of plywood and sheet metal, with duct-tape repairs. The system is trapped in a time loop, and you need to figure out why, and what happened to the ancient aliens who visited the system eons ago and died out, leaving only ruins.
Each planet is wildly different – one’s a hollow shell around a small black hole, one’s an ocean world with constant storms, one’s a rocky world with a deep equatorial canyon that shares an orbit with a world covered in sand, one’s been shattered into pieces by a giant space-capable bramble. Events during the loop change the environments too, blocking some areas and revealing others.
Vs No Man’s Sky
In a sense, Outer Wilds is the opposite of No Man’s Sky.
- One’s a tiny cluster of carefully-crafted worlds, each unique, each requiring different ways of exploring.
- The other is an infinite galaxy of auto-generated worlds, but when it comes down to it, the differences are mostly in the aesthetics and labels. A high-radiation world and a high-temperature world don’t really differ except in which resource you use to recharge your shielding.
I mean, I like No Man’s Sky, I’ve got something like 180 hours on it since I finally picked it up this spring, but a lot of the game play is the same thing you’ve done before a zillion times, just dressed up differently and with better equipment or more inventory slots as you go along.
I’m listening to the soundtrack now. Most space games don’t use banjos and harmonicas as key instruments, but each astronaut in the game also plays music on a different instrument while sitting by their own campfire, each on a different planet. Though I’m not sure how the ocean one stays lit.
So here’s a toast(ed marshmallow) to the travellers from Timber Hearth.
Next goal: figuring out how to get to the new planet in the expansion!