[SPOILERS] so who's recently completed the game (post-GB GOTY thoughts)?

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mellotronrules

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[SPOILERS BELOW]

(happy 2020 yall!)

so i'm sure a bunch of us here in the gb community have finished (or will be finishing soon) Outer Wilds on account of this year's GOTY. i'm curious to hear what everyone's experience is relative to the effusive praise the GB staff gave the game.

for my part- i did find the game utterly remarkable. for something that occasionally reveals its seemingly limited budgetary scope, the clockwork mechanics of the solar system and the way the system adheres to a rudimentary reality is truly outstanding. my personal biggest moment was postulating that if i waited for the comet to be near the sun- maybe some of the ice would melt (and then sure enough, that's exactly what happens). also discovering the cause of the supernova (and how that affected my presumptions as to what was really going on)...if there's two things this game does masterfully they are 1) utilizing mechanics that support constant exploration, experimentation and wonder and 2) building a narrative that coalesces through the highly personal process of assembling clues that eventually all fit together. it's actually pretty god damned impressive once you remember this is the result of a dev team's intentional design (and the painstaking process it must have involved to ensure all this discovery and wonder feels organic, despite being the product of a specific intent).

i think where my personal experience deters from the GB staff a bit is with respect to the emotional resonance of the narrative and eventual ending. the tragic fate of the nomai (which arguably is where all the emotional tension in the game comes from) was well constructed and thoughtfully considered- but i dunno, i suppose i found the story slightly flat? that sounds harsher than i intend, because i did really enjoy it. there are tremendous moments of narrative significance, such as finding the nomai who perished in the comet or dark bramble.

i say flat not because it was poorly written, but rather its presentation- bits and pieces of dialogue and soliloquy as projected through my translator screen certainly created a sense of melancholy, but didn't get its hooks as deeply as i had hoped. it's probably a personal hangup, but i think i would have been more 'bought-in' if there was more complete character development and personal stakes (through roleplaying or otherwise). the ending was solid- but since the character investment is fairly limited, and the folksy-twee aesthetic of the main theme while effective had finite appeal for me- i was left with a slightly diminished impression relative to those that had it build to a triumphant crescendo.

i think i was hoping for an ending that was more abstract or open to interpretation (and less 'it's all about the journey'). something more like the 'annihilation' ending- which frankly has ruined a lot of sci-fi for me, but i recognize many hate that sort of thing and it's an unreasonable expectation for this game.

how did the rest of yall make out?

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Humanity

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I was singing praises for this game back when it released but no one was really listening. It feels nice to see it get it's dues. I do think what they've made, as a fresh studio full of young people new to the industry - is simply astounding.

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mellotronrules

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@humanity: 100% agreed. the game is bursting with ingenuity- to the extent that i'm really, really excited to see what mobius does next.

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goosemunch

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It's a phenomenal game, but yeah I'm with you that it didn't resonate with me as strongly as it did with GB staff (but to be fair I had very high expectations going in).

I was done interacting with Hearthians in the beginning hours of the game and spent the rest getting to know the Nomai, so when Hearthians showed up at the end, my reaction was "why are you here? I barely know you guys". It still felt impactful mostly thanks to the imagery and the music.

There are other minor quibbles, but if there's one big enough to mention here, it is how the quantum stuff works. Pseudo-science nonsense in fiction normally don't offend me, but this whole "undetermined until a conscious observer looks at it" thing is very much evocative of quantum mysticism that I put under the same bracket as homeopathy. I know that the developers (very intentionally) took liberties with physics and science for the sake of gameplay and they're (probably) not New Age nutcases, but it still felt weird whenever it happened in game.

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mellotronrules

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#5  Edited By mellotronrules

@goosemunch said:

I was done interacting with Hearthians in the beginning hours of the game and spent the rest getting to know the Nomai, so when Hearthians showed up at the end, my reaction was "why are you here? I barely know you guys". It still felt impactful mostly thanks to the imagery and the music.

yeah that's roughly my experience as well. they attempt to flesh out the characters with mannerisms and quirks- they even make a few attempts to evoke a sense of nostalgia such as when you return to the group photo in the observatory at the end. but ultimately when i hit those last few conversations i found myself saying "oh i guess i should be feeling something here."

@goosemunch said:

There are other minor quibbles, but if there's one big enough to mention here, it is how the quantum stuff works. Pseudo-science nonsense in fiction normally don't offend me, but this whole "undetermined until a conscious observer looks at it" thing is very much evocative of quantum mysticism that I put under the same bracket as homeopathy.

fair enough- admittedly i'm not very conversant with quantum (or its alleged mysticism- my knowledge goes about as far as the scientific community being justifiably perturbed by this movie). i suppose one could make the case that the game portrays some nomai as ascribing spirituality to 'the eye,' so maybe there's some intentional (or even unintentional) editorializing happening there. i actually thought the game would go a little farther with it's allusions toward the collision of belief vs. observation, and its affect on society. but then again, maybe the game's limited hinting at it wisely sidesteps a contentious issue.

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#6  Edited By goosemunch
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zaccheus

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I was making good progress in the game, but just now it crashed and corrupted my save data. I guess I could just start over and keep playing but there was like 20 things on the ship log and I don't rememer half of them. I guess I just leave it for few years and see if I forget enough to just replay the game from the beginning.

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mellotronrules

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#8  Edited By mellotronrules

@zaccheus: oof, i'm sorry you caught that bug- that would be totally derailing. are you on ps4? my game crashed more than i'd prefer (usually at the cycle reset), and every time i reloaded i was holding my breath.

in case anyone is interested, danny just posted a doc about the game... pretty fascinating stuff!

https://youtu.be/LbY0mBXKKT0

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inevpatoria

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#9  Edited By inevpatoria

Haven't finished it yet. I've poked a little bit at each of the primary planets without a major revelation and have spoken to all of the other travelers save Feldspar. (For what it's worth, I've been in the Dark Bramble, but the supernova wiped me out before I could finish navigating the space.)

I definitely think I'm one of those players who could use a little more nudging sometimes. When I hit a wall or a "There's more to explore here" prompt in the log, I tend to either dig my heels in and brute force it or drop everything with the hope that I'll stumble on something productive at another location. That has kind of worked so far. The Ash Twin ruins seem to give you the clue you need to make it past the Dark Bramble Anglerfish, and I suppose Feldspar has some insight on what you could do next. But a lot of this so far has been the story of me hitting something arcane and going "Huh, that's interesting" but not getting much further. I'm close to finding a guide and getting a couple of pointers to manufacture a little momentum. It's not really the game's problem, I admit. But it's still a source of tension between the promise of this game and the experience I find myself wanting to have.

For this reason, I wish there was an option or mechanic that stopped the supernova for exploration's sake. Listen, I get it, narratively. It's crucial for the story being told. But I like this gamespace and the flight mechanics and the environments so much that having to "start" the journey over and over feels more like work than it needs to.

Unrelated, but this game has my favorite soundtrack in years.

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@inevpatoria: wouldn't really say there's a "major," revelation. Pieces sort of just fit together into the lore and backstory of everything and you start to get a better understanding of the Nomai past and what's going on. Even figuring out what to do in the very end isn't so much "revelatory," because players with pieces of knowledge can gather an idea of what they're going to have to do before they know the entire process.

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mellotronrules

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I'm close to finding a guide and getting a couple of pointers to manufacture a little momentum. It's not really the game's problem, I admit. But it's still a source of tension between the promise of this game and the experience I find myself wanting to have.

feel free to ask for tips if you need them. it can be hard to find help without overdoing it, so don't be a stranger if you just want to be pointed in the right direction.

for what it's worth, i think most people eventually hit some kind of block with this game, and then (hopefully) they find a way over it. it's not something like Fez, where you fully see the problem or a code to be decrypted and surrender to the complexity- it's more like you know where Outer Wilds wants you to go, but something about the design is snagging you.

my version of that was with the fish- i wasn't quite 'getting' what their trigger was (and the game's dialogue mislead me a bit), so i kept slamming into that progression wall and they game even glitched out such that the fish would get stuck in the transition tunnels and block my path. but with enough experimentation i eventually figured out what the game was asking me to do. it was satisfying to figure it out, but not in a 'A HA!' kind of way- more like a 'thank fucking god, that could have been clearer.'

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inevpatoria

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I'll say one thing. Manually boarding the Sun Station has my vote for Worst Achievement of 2019.

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I had the same experience as Jeff, went in and spent hours and felt like I was missing something the entire time. Found the game frustrating and the actual movement awful, and gave up. Control and Fire Emblem were my GOTY

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#14  Edited By wollywoo

So, I have opinions on this game. So many opinions! But basically, they are

a) this is one of the best games I have ever played. It has easily secured a spot at least in my all-time top ten.

b) It is also very rough around the edges and needlessly frustrating in several places.

for a): The sheer creativity in this game is like almost no other game I can think of. Seeing each new location for the first time feels like a heart-wrenchingly momentous occasion of discovery and wonder. There are so many amazing moments I can think of.

- Dropping into the black hole in Brittle Hollow on accident only to find I was still alive... somewhere... and stumbling on White Hole Station. I thought I had dropped into another reality or something. Only on a second run did I realize I was just in another part of the same system, and that it was not too hard to warp back to where I had come from. Only later did I realize that all of the debris I saw near the White Hole actually came from Brittle Hollow!

- Everything about Giant's Deep. The first time seeing below the atmosphere layer was simply breathtaking and viscerally terrifying. Everything just seemed so huge and awe-inspiring. And then exploring the islands only to occasionally be rocketed all the way to space and back... incredible.

- Exploring Dark Bramble for the first time and getting eaten so suddenly nearly gave me a heart attack. I was *not* ready for jump scares in this kind of game.

- Realizing the trick to landing on the Quantum Moon and executing on it. Even if I at first had no clue what I needed to do there, it was a magnificent feeling.

I also loved everything about the story and the lore. I am usually not a big fan of the "recordings left conveniently scattered around various locations by dead guys" form of video game narrative, ala, say, Bioshock. But the way Outer Wilds handled it, each time you read a new writing you learned something interesting - and it all threaded together into a cohesive whole. By the end of the game, I had been able to put together a reasonable timeline of the Nomai's whole journey from beginning to end. When other games tried this kind of storytelling, I just lost interest because it was so disjointed.

I also really, really dig the *tone* of this game. For such a serious-seeming premise, the game does not take it self very seriously at all. It's not surprising that the goofy-looking four eyed Hearthians crack silly jokes, but it was surprising that the Nomai, despite seeming superficially very similar to every other Ancient Precursor Race in sci-fi, *also* cracked corny jokes half the time. They were like real people, not just all-important beings. That might feel off-putting (somebody here called it "twee", and it is definitely that) but I think it works. The light-hearted banter gave such a strong contrast to the awe-inspiring visuals. If the game took itself seriously all the time, it would get a bit wearying, and might take something away from those moments when things do take a darker turn.

Now, (b). This game was very frustrating for me at times. The first few hours were sheer wonder, as I explored each planet, but after a while I failed to make much progress. The problem is that there are a *lot* of red herrings and breadcrumb trails that go nowhere, intentionally or not:

- Early on I noticed that the Nomai mentioned that they should make sure there are no cracks in Ash Twin's core. So I spent a decent amount of time looking for those cracks and finding nothing. I tried to launch the ship from the gravity cannon on Ember Twin into the core, and this was a waste of time. It turns out the gravity cannons don't serve any purpose in terms of puzzles/story progression, as far as I know.

- It wasn't clear what the projection stones did, exactly, so I spent a fair amount of time carting them around and assuming they would be extremely important. I found the ember twin projection stone on the White Hole Station and searched all around ember twin for something to do with it... and when I finally found a slot to put it in, it did nothing. Because of course, all it does is project you to the place it indicates, and I was already there.

And here's the thing - I get that a game should be open enough for you to make mistakes. That's like real life. Fine. But in real life, clues are not given out in such an obviously game-like fashion. Outer Wilds usually obeys the rules of puzzle game design, with clear sign-posting. But other times it did not. When it broke this unspoken contract with the player - that seemingly obvious puzzle clues should indeed be puzzle clues - it wasted some of my time unnecessarily.

The game is also frustrating mechanically. I actually had no problem with the space exploration part as some did - when I accidentally rocketed myself right into the sun, I only laughed, since it was so easy to get back to where I was. But it gets frustrating when death is constantly used as a punishment for wrong puzzle-solving. The ghost matter did not need to be there at all, and the cactuses. The anglerfish were meant to be scary, so death is appropriate there, but it frustrating to still get eaten all the time after I already knew the trick to avoiding them, just because on an analog stick it's hard to push exactly x degrees from the center and no more. I don't mind dying in an action-oriented challenge, but constantly dying in the process of trying to solve puzzles was aggravating. The two don't mix well.

For example, I figured out early on that I needed to use the jellyfish to get to the center of Giant's Deep. I didn't need to read the clues from Dark Bramble to figure that out. But I tried several times to interact with the jellyfish, and every time I was electrocuted, and sometimes died in the attempt. So I spent a long time thinking there must be some special trick. I noticed the frozen jellyfish and spent a very long time trying to get into the ice so that I could somehow use the frozen jellyfish's corpse for this purpose. It turns out the solution is dumber: just abandon your ship and you can move into the jellies. But why? Nothing about the clues or narrative indicated that the ship would be vulnerable but my character wouldn't be. And why would I try something like that, since I'd presumably die in the attempt? Constantly killing your player in unexpected ways makes them not investigate certain things that might seem interesting to them otherwise. LucasArts figured that out in the 90's.

I got frustrated with the game and stopped playing it for about a month. Finally coming back to it, I succumbed and looked up some hints. And I'm glad I did, because I wouldn't have made much progress without it, at least not without needless frustration. Most of the time I had the right idea, but there was some unnecessary barrier that made me think I would not be able to execute on it. Not to mention the lack of quality-of-life options like fast-forwarding or slowing time, an on-screen clock, not indicating which writings you have read after dying and returning to them, etc.

Wow, that was an unnecessarily long rant. But all that is to say, these were issues that sometimes made this game frustrating, but only took away a little bit from the overall grandeur. Overall, this is still one of my all-time favorite games in terms of storytelling, environments, and puzzles. It comes as close as any game I can think of to the ideal of making narrative fundamentally inseparable from gameplay. And everyone should at least give it a shot.

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I really loved this game and think it's one of the best exploration-base puzzle games I've played but I will admit I had to use a guide a few times. It wasn't really so much that I looked up the solutions to puzzles though because I was able to figure most of that out by myself. Sometimes though I felt like I was just running into a wall trying different things and just wanted to make sure I wasn't just wasting my time.

Still, I definitely get the praise it's received.

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#16  Edited By sweetz

I got this on sale and just just finished it. I enjoyed it, but definitely thought it was a bit over hyped. That said, I tend to approach games from a more "mechanical" perspective; can't say I've ever really been into any game's story or lore.

Here's what I posted as a review on Steam:

It's basically Antichamber with a story. The whole point of the game is to slowly teach you a ruleset for interacting with a few elements in the game world with non-obvious mechanics, which you need to know how to use in order to essentially solve a single (multi-step) puzzle to end the game. You could finish the game in 15 minutes if you went in with the requisite knowledge. It is interesting as a concept that the only ability gained is your knowledge as a player, but I thought it ultimately felt a little thin and could have done with at least a little bit of more traditional video game progression of some flavor.

The game is based on a 22 minute long loop during which scripted events in the game world occur the same way every time. After 22 minutes the game resets and there are no real shortcuts to be unlocked. You may find a slightly more efficient path to get where you need to go, but you still must manually traverse there each time, leading to quite a lot of repetition in traveling to places until they are fully explored, which I found fairly annoying. The game does justify this loop (both in terms of gameplay and narrative), but I think they could have easily made it 30-40 minutes instead of 22 without detrimental effect. The current, relatively short time limit feels like it's there to force frequent repetition and pad out the average game completion time. Not a good reason.

The story is mostly in service to the gameplay. It's predominantly delivered via the literal writings on the wall of a precursor race that were on a big McGuffin chase, the purpose of which are simply to set the player on the same McGuffin chase. It's a engaging as a clue hunt, but I can't say the story is engaging by itself.

On the positive side, I do like the game's style and what they've done with relatively simply graphics. The ship log mechanic is absolutely essential and extremely well implemented; best implementation I've ever seen for this type of game in fact. As said, the clue hunt is engaging and clever...I just wish finding each clue wasn't preceded by so much repetition.

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