Review – Outer Wilds (PS4)

Outer Wilds from Mobius Games is an investigative space exploration game, set in a mythical galaxy. Being a huge fan of puzzle and investigative type games, this title immediately piqued my interest. It turns out that Outer Wilds is a completely different kind of game than I was expecting, but is that a bad thing? Let’s blast off and explore it more thoroughly.

You start off as an astronaut who awakens on the morning of their big launch into space. By speaking to the inhabitants of your camp, you learn that several other astronauts have already ventured off into the solar system in the hopes of discovering what mysteries it holds. The main mystery is that of the Nomai, an alien race that died out ages ago, but left many curious artifacts behind. Before long, the galaxy’s sun goes supernova and wipes out all life. Or so you think. You immediately awaken again at the exact same point in time as when the game first starts and continue the cycle every twenty-two in-game minutes. The only difference is you’ll retain all of the information you learned in previous cycles.

Outer Wilds

I put this poor ship through some seriously rough landings.

Besides some of the basic and vague information as to who certain people are around you and how to use your space suit, that’s about all you’re given to go off of. Outer Wilds provides no hand holding and instead relies on you exploring different planets to gain clues as to what has transpired and where to go next. In this way, it reminds me very much of Myst or Riven, two PC games from the 90’s that I was very fond of. There are no points of interest on your HUD to guide you, nor any glowing trails to follow. The only way to progress is to thoroughly explore everything and try to piece together clues.

Outer Wilds

Do you take requests?

Now in my case, properly exploring the galaxy and its various planets was easier said than done. This is the area where the game turned out to be much different than I was expecting. Outer Wilds utilizes a ton of space exploration with gravity, thrust, and orbital patterns playing a huge factor. I am admittedly terrible at flying games, so I had a challenging time getting through this game. That being said, I have to give Mobius Games credit for making the space exploration gameplay so realistic. My tough time was strictly user error and in no way reflects the remarkable work they created.

Outer Wilds also features an ingenious fluctuating time table for when you can access certain things. Because of the planets’ orbit, there are only specific times you can reach a few of them. There are also two planets that are very close together, that shift the sand covering one planet over to the other one right next to it. This means that you’ll only be able to investigate each of those planets at certain times. One of them you’ll need to explore once the sand has been removed so you can reach the deeper parts, but quickly before the sun goes supernova. The other you’ll need to look around immediately before the sand from the other planet floods the areas you need to access. It makes the way you explore your worlds much more strategic.

Outer Wilds

Meet the Twins.

Outer Wilds is a pretty good looking game, although some of the textures can be inconsistent, especially the sand. There are also plenty of times you’ll float around and bounce off a wall or rock, only to see through it to the rest of the area beyond before it corrects itself and becomes solid again. I also got stuck in a couple of these areas where I sort of fell partially into a wall. For the most part though, its graphics are decent, with lots of diversity found from planet to planet.

The sound design is very well done with some clever aspects to it. The soundtrack is very subtle and fits the exploration of space well. There is no voice acting at all, but the sounds of the ship and the ambient noises found within the worlds are very convincing. You have a device that you’ll use throughout your playthrough that scans for signals around the galaxy. This helps you get your bearings as well as discover new mysteries in each planet. I found this to be very creative and occasionally helpful.

Outer Wilds

Must go faster…

Outer Wilds is a very different game than I was expecting, but I am still so happy that I got to experience it. The lack of hand holding is refreshing and makes you feel more accomplished when you discover something new. Despite my own personal difficulty with the gameplay mechanics, I can still appreciate the dedication to realism Mobius Games provided. It is a fantastic open world space exploration game with compelling mysteries and a wonderfully unique premise. Fans of this type of game should not let it slip by.

 

Graphics: 7.0

While each of the planets have their own distinct look and feel, there are environmental glitches and irregular textures throughout.

Gameplay: 8.5

A first-person open world space exploration game with very realistic flying controls.

Sound: 9.0

The ambient noises are well done and there is a clever use of a tool that focuses on signals and frequencies found throughout the galaxy. The soundtrack fits each area nicely.

Fun Factor: 8.0

Outer Wilds provides little to no hand holding and I love it. Figuring out the intricacies of each planet is so much fun, even if it takes several attempts to do so with the time constraints.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Outer Wilds is available now on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Outer Wilds was provided by the publisher.