Outer Wilds

I recently bought PS5, so I asked my gamer colleague for some recommendations. Among a few that mentioned was Outer Wilds. I’ve heard that one before. A unique, space-exploring game made by a small independent studio. This is it.

Wow, what a world they created. Creatures. Colors. Names. All those elements together create this somewhat nostalgic, peaceful, cute world that you just enjoy exploring. That’s the game, really. I wonder how much of that is intentionally designed, vs how much of it is just the expression of who the maker is. I’m involved in some creative activities myself, and it is my impression that a single person has only so much creative “breadth”; In other words, two works of art from the same author almost always have something in common.

And despite how small the world is, it packs so much stories. Almost everywhere you go, you run into something. You visit enough places, you start collect enough pieces of the story, and they start to come together. I loved it.

That said, the control mechanism was just plain incompatible with me. No matter how I tweak the setting, I can’t make the Y-axis operate the way I want. This resulted in me looking/moving upward when I wanted to do the opposite, leading to many unnecessary deaths. What could have been a joy of moving around in zero gravity space turned into a frustrating exercise.

When it comes to a space exploration game, my all time favorite is Kerbal Space Program. Everything I know about orbital physics, rocket science, and how you maneuver in space from one orbit to another, I learned from KSP. This process of learning just hooked me. The knowledge made me appreciate the challenges of real world space explorations, and why they do things the way they do them. Outer Wilds didn’t have that kind of learning.

In the game, you follow the footsteps of the ancient spacefaring civilization who used to live in this solar system. Sounds science fiction, right? I love science fiction, but this game was more of a fantasy than science fiction for me, in the sense that I didn’t feel enough respect to the real world physics. It didn’t feel “conceivable”, if that makes any sense. Take “quantum”, for example. The game features a number of quantum something, but really there’s nothing to do with quantum physics/behaviours of the real world. They are just named so because … they are cool? That the world is delivarely made small, which makes sense, might be another contributing factor.

All in all, it was a wonderful game. Acceptable amount of time commitment. A game I can recommend to other people. But on the internet, I see a number of people writing much, much deeper praise for this game. Clearly, the game moved some people very deeply. I didn’t get that. And that made me a little sad.

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