I'm writing brief thoughts on the games I played this year and ended up with this small piece on Outer Wilds that I figured I should post as a blog.
This game is not for me. But at the same time, it’s one of the most inventive and harrowing experiences I’ve played all year. Let me explain.
You open your eyes. You see a night sky dominated by a bright, full moon. Before you go to sit up, you notice an object shoot across your vision. The object, silent and peculiar, bursts like a firework across space as if in a crash. Yet a moment later, the object shoots away, even faster than before, exiting your view.
This is the world you’re introduced to in Outer Wilds. One filled with mystery and curiosity.
As you explore your hometown to the tune of twangy, hopeful, yet at the same time, somber, string music, you realize the ground you traverse is only a stepping stone. You are destined for greater things; You will become one of a few explorers to escape your planet’s pull - to venture out to the rest of the solar system and, hopefully, unlock it’s mysteries.
As a child, I looked out to the stars and my imagination ran wild. What if we could travel to every point in the night sky? What if every system out there is brimming with things we cannot imagine, things to discover? Outer Wilds is a game that - to a smaller scale - fulfills that fantasy. It is a game that gives you the terrifying feeling of unknown expeditions at a cosmic scale.
Strong winds push and pull at your craft making hasty landfall on an ocean planet of pure chaos. Giant spires of air and water reign over the world, tossing what little earth there is to the literal wind. You must traverse this inhabitable monster quickly or be consumed by it. Inevitably, it does swallow you. Then your final memories flash before you and it all goes dark. But did the planet itself take you or something else entirely?
This is where my awe for the game butts up with my enjoyment of play. You see, I love exploring worlds in games, but at my own pace. Without spoiling too much: In Outer Wilds you are always playing under the duress of a ticking time bomb of sorts. And I know why it is necessary - The impressive clockwork-like nature of the game wouldn’t work without it.
I wish I could enjoy it more, I really do.
You wake again by the fire, and notice the flying object dart across, once more into the void…