Outer Wilds

released on May 28, 2019

Outer Wilds is a critically-acclaimed and award-winning open world mystery about a solar system trapped in an endless time loop. The newest member of the space program in a small village on the planet Timber Hearth, the player navigates a space shuttle and travels across their solar system to get to the bottom of its mysteries by exploring the cosmos and gathering the knowledge hidden within each of the system's planets, left behind by another civilization in the distant past.

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This game plays on your innate sense of awe and wonder of the past, and does so fantastically, drip feeding you parts of the story you play in whatever order you like. Narratively and aesthetically beautiful with an emotional ending. An experience I will never forget. This game was an adventure every step of the way.

This is kind of embarrassing to write but I could not finish this game. I realized that I was not enjoying the experience. I found it aimless and tedious drifting around the galaxy with no idea where to go. I couldn't tell if I was making any progress at all, which made me feel like I was just spinning my wheels playing the game. And yet I'm giving it a high score here independent of my feelings on actually playing it because I've gone and watched a bunch of playthroughs of the game and videos of the game to try and understand why people like it so much. I think I get it. I think the game was really not for me, but I really like how cleverly the story and the secrets of the universe are tied into a web of connections and revelations. I like how you can solve the puzzles in pretty much any order, I like the emotional beats even if they didn't hit me as hard as they hit other people. You can disregard this review for how strange it is but I liked Outer Wilds better when I didn't play it. My style of play wasn't suited for it but I can see it is a well-made game. Because the experience didn't click for me, that's why I'm reducing the score.

Over the entire span of 2022, I have been playing Outer Wilds in small bites, only now to finally come back to it after a long hiatus and finally beat it and uh... yeah. It's kind of a masterpiece.
I mean it. This is one of those games where you hear nothing but the most high praise surrounding it. A lot of times, that can damage the experience for newcomers. After all, high expectations and excitement can lead to high disappointment. But this is, sincerely, one of those games where I was not let down at all.
I could tell you in multiple paragraphs how this game is one of the most immersive experiences I've ever had in gaming, or how exploration is immensely satisfying, or how the game's freedom allows for everyone to have their own personal journey through this game and so on and so forth... but much better people have explained those things in detail alongside just the whole game's design and philosophies.
But let me say this, and I think this is truly the crux of why this game is such a masterpiece to me. Every time you play a game, the most you can hope for is that it has that one "moment." That point in your playthrough that you'll look back on even after you're done and say, "that was a great game." A whole heap of games can never craft that moment, and to achieve it even once is a sign of skill and vision.
Outer Wilds, however, is a game filled to the brim with those defined moments and they're all the more impactful, and emotional, because it's all there for you to find as soon you take off on your ship. It's a self-driven experience where every step and observation is a moment that is as equally crafted on the game's part as it is by yourself.
Essays could be written on what makes this game work, but it's the heart, the feeling, of Outer Wilds that makes it such an unforgettable, nigh almost flawless, experience.

Dropped about half way through because of frustrating controls, design and the dumb reset timer.
The way the solar system works in real time is incredible to see.
Controls are really bad.
Level design is frustrating.
You are on a timer all the time.
You can go anywhere. Will the story still make sense? no.
The journal doesn't work as good as it could.
I went the wrong way or assumed there is nothing more to see when there was like a dozen times just because of bad level design.
Died and had to start over because of controls another dozen times.
The dialogue is quite bad, also no voice acting.
You only get a planet "map" while you're on foot for some reason, so you have no idea where you are while in the ship, so you want to move faster to tell where you are and get to places and then you get punished and die for that.
If I had the patience for all of that I would probably see the ending and it might even be worth it, but I don't.

Just WOW, can't talk about it without spoiling since the game is all about exploration and discovery. An amazing experience.