quantum ungulations
August 19, 2019 11:58 PM   Subscribe

The mysteries of space can be tragically unreachable for all but a select few. While you may not meet the requirements to be counted among their number, that's no reason to fret: if you have a compatible computer, an Xbox, or the ability to wait for the game to appear on other platforms, you can just play Outer Wilds instead. Originally discussed here in 2015, several critics agree that you should probably play the game before learning too much about it, so consider whether you'd like to watch the trailer or try it yourself before clicking through.

Outer Wilds casts you as a fledgling alien astronaut/archaeologist in a disproportionately fascinating star system. You're free to set your own goals and explore as you'd like, but don't confuse this for a survival game like No Man's Sky: here, there are no tools to construct, no abilities to level-up, and no upgrades to unlock. The only factors limiting your exploration are the laws of physics, the sturdiness of your body, and your own understanding of the worlds around you. Armed with complete knowledge of the game and its secrets, you could bring the narrative to a successful conclusion in less than half an hour, but most players will spend 15 to 25 hours investigating all of its mysteries.

Initially crowdfunded through Fig, Outer Wilds earned the ire of a number of its supporters when it was announced in May that it was becoming an Epic Store exclusive with additional platforms to follow, meaning that the promised Steam keys would not be available until some time after the initial game release. (Furthermore, the Epic Store has itself become controversial, though that's a conversation for another thread.)

Despite that sour preliminary note, the critical reception has been (almost) superlative in the wake of the game's launch. In the words of YouTube user Cohh, "...[i]t's really pretty great. I'm not saying much more than this because I really would like you to experience this yourself. The entire journey, beginning to end, is really pretty awesome."

(Thread title shameless stolen from OneSecondBefore's topic on selectbutton.net.)
posted by jsnlxndrlv (20 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Also note that the game has been getting actively patched; the latest such update earlier this month revised one of the most poorly-cued mysteries at the center of the game to make it less frustrating to investigate, adding new art and updated text in several different locations. They've also included an option to sleep at campfires, in an attempt to address complaints from some players who disliked how much waiting certain astral events made necessary.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 12:07 AM on August 20, 2019

Ungulations, you say? Is Jeff Minter involved?
posted by acb at 2:36 AM on August 20, 2019 [5 favorites]

I've only played an hour or two, and it does seem rather nice so far. Not awfully taken with the character controls, so hopefully those will get tweaked.
posted by pipeski at 3:17 AM on August 20, 2019

I think I've put around 15 hours into this game so far, and really loving it. I didn't have the chance to play for a few weeks now, so I'm afraid some of the evolving backstory information has disappeared from my memory, but I hope to jump in again soon.

And I agree that it's best to know as little as possible about the game (I knew less than is written in this post) because the sense of wonder and discovery was unlike anything I've played this year.
posted by bigendian at 4:12 AM on August 20, 2019

I are intrigued!
posted by Homemade Interossiter at 5:53 AM on August 20, 2019

I've not completed it yet but Outer Wilds is an absolute all-time favourite and new classic. It's masterfully designed from every aspect. (A very smart coder & gamer friend of mine had put several hours into and stated "I think it might be genius". Meaning literally genius rather than hyperbolic praise.)

It's a shockingly compelling mystery that manages to walk the perfect line of being mysterious enough that you don't know what's going on and want to know more without feeling frustrating or deliberately obtuse.

It also taps into what I love most about games; exploration and discovery and both are executed near-perfectly with a ridiculous amount of freedom that always feels more rewarding than overwhelming. It's meticulously designed in a way that is invisible so the discovery always feels like it is something you did rather than something the design forced in front of you.

The reason I haven't finished it yet, however, is because it's also one of the most terrifying games I've ever played. Just viscerally upsetting. I've had my stomach drop multiple times during gameplay and my heart races every time I'm away from my ship and exposed to the elements, often on the surface of a small spinning planet. The biggest fear I have in life is the idea of becoming untethered and floating off into endless space. And Outer Wilds does this over and over again without it ever feeling safe or becoming easier through repetition. And it's not cheap either: there's not been a single jump scare or "gotcha" moment.

I just hope it sticks the landing on the story (and I have the nerves to get there) but even if it doesn't, I can't recommend it enough.
posted by slimepuppy at 5:55 AM on August 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Absolutely game of the year for me. The story is incredibly refreshing - it's amazing how they were able to keep the writing compelling and mysterious while also staying so pure and wholehearted. There's not a mean bone in this game's body.

Everything about the game combines to create this joyous atmosphere that is simultaneously lonely and terrifying. And it's so difficult to talk about the game without giving too much away! I guess what I will gush about is the setting and environment. The design of the universe is just so unique and so, so good. You come from a planet rich in wood and not much else, so of course your spaceship looks like a log cabin with a firecracker strapped to it! There's a marshmallow roasting mechanic! The sound of eating the marshmallow and your reaction subtly changes if you burn it!

I personally loved the ending. I don't even want to talk about my emotional response to it for fear of giving something away. I will say... it's a real celebration of life in a lot of ways. And it's so unique, and executed so incredibly well, I really can't say enough good things about it.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:48 AM on August 20, 2019

I dedicated a weekend to this game when it came to out, and damn. It's wonderful, and shouldn't be missed. Or spoiled. The mystery really is good to go into blind, and the slow way you solve it bit by bit as you has a great rhythm to it. I hope this team gets to make whatever they want for their next game, and I've got high hopes. There's crazy talent behind this game. But I don't think I'll ever forget the weird, charming, puzzle-box gem of Outer wilds' solar system.
posted by Rinku at 7:50 AM on August 20, 2019

Ok you've convinced me. I haven't played a video game since Zork but would like to get an idea why my beloved littles love gaming; this seems like it might be a way. I would use my Windows 10 PC. Would I need a controller?
posted by evilmomlady at 8:02 AM on August 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

This looked good when I saw the preview come up in the PSN store. Taking the advice of others, I'll tune out until it's available for my system, but I'm definitely looking forward to it.

Presently slowly working my way through ghost/non-lethal/hard Death of the Outsider, then I'll probably head back to the updated No Man's Sky for a while. Might be 2020 before I'm ready.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:03 AM on August 20, 2019

I see the "linux" tag on this post, but from all indications, the epic store exclusive means it's not on Linux at the moment. Please correct me if I'm wrong, this looks like something I would like.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 8:07 AM on August 20, 2019 [3 favorites]

evilmomlady, I would recommend having a controller, yes. I had an old wobbly Xbox 360 controller lying around that worked perfectly for this game and really matched the "rediscovered technology" aesthetic of the Outer Wilds Ventures expedition equipment. You may be able to find such a controller for pretty cheap at a secondhand game store like Vintage Stock or CD Tradepost.

the antecedent of that pronoun, it looks like the timed exclusivity of the Epic acquisition has caught me unawares again. I copied most of the tags from the earlier MetaFilter post about the game, completely forgetting that this predated the move. If it's any consolation, most Epic exclusives seem to maintain that status for only six months, so you may be able to play this before the end of the year, if that pattern holds true here as well, but I must nonetheless apologize for getting your hopes up, as I didn't consider that the Epic Store might just not be compatible with Linux whatsoever.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 8:22 AM on August 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

From what I've read, a very few people have succeed in getting the epic store to run under wine/playonlinux, but most people are not having success. This is too bad/just as well, because there's another epic exclusive game I'd like to try, "satisfactory"... which looks like it would be a major time-suck if it hooked me.
posted by the antecedent of that pronoun at 8:35 AM on August 20, 2019

yay! I've been playing this and I love it. One of the things i'm very good at in video games is accidentally doing something really advanced early on, but I love it. I found several things in the game that were big reveals, but with no context, and it makes the mystery very exciting. The controls are perfect, which i imagine it was hard to suss out. It took a while to understand navigating in 3 directions, it was an enjoyable challenge! I didn't use any of the auto controls on the ship until I could manually chase, approach, and land on a planet by myself. The gravity of the small planets is very fun to play with.
posted by FirstMateKate at 9:03 AM on August 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thanks for posting this. I bought the game on release, but had to abandon it because the weird field-of-view was making me sick. Thanks to your post, I looked into the game again and discovered the latest update has an FOV slider. That's helped immensely.

If anyone else was getting motion sickness from the game, now is a good time to try it again.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 9:13 AM on August 20, 2019

Ungulations, you say? Is Jeff Minter involved?

"Hey buddy, you wanna buy a hoofed mammal?"
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:33 AM on August 20, 2019

This actually feels like the opposite of a Minter game, IMO. But three-eyed space goats are totally plausible in his oeuvre.

And FirstMateKate, I'm glad to hear that you found the controls so excellent! After finishing the game myself, I wanted to share it with others, but circumstances are such that the folks I would share it with aren't somewhere they can play right now. So, I turned to the vicarious thrill of the YouTube Let's Play, and I was astonished to see how many players really struggled with spaceflight. It's just not intuitive to car-driving humans that spacecraft have no breaks and effectively no top speed and that their maximum acceleration and deceleration rates are the same. It takes some getting used to!
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 9:49 AM on August 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the biggest hump for me was the inertia in space. It's not at all like a car, which when you think about it is only 1-directional (forward and -forward). You don't constantly press the accelerator. And then there's the whole bit about them moving in an arc, the gravity of other planets (i crashed multiple times into timber hearth while trying to launch but taking too long to figure out where I wanted to go).

I haven't finished the game yet but I've done so much. I took a break for a while because I started getting stuck.
posted by FirstMateKate at 10:08 AM on August 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

A while ago I lamented how Cyan's adventure games (Myst, Riven, even the kids games like Cosmic Osmo) were unfortunate dead ends in gaming - that is, no other game really advanced past what they achieved in the 1990s. Riven in particular is this insane anthropology mystery theme park that was incredibly fascinating and fun - a concept that few if any games capitalized on despite Cyan's success. True adventure games were essentially dead for 15 years and have only started to return the past 5 or so years.

Outer Wilds is not just Riven MK. II, it's a natural evolution. I think for many people this is the dream game -- a massive interactive mystery-box universe for you to explore, learn about, and "solve". Even after I finished the game, its narrative has stuck with me. It's quite poignant despite being about solving mysteries in an unfathomable, uncaring universe.

It has been an incredible year for "indie" games. Outer Wilds, Baba is You, and Hypnospace Outlaw (the latter deserves its own post, especially in context of metafilter being a relic of the early 2000s internet) are some of the best experiences I've had in gaming. Not too say the past few years have been bad, independent gaming has gotten progressively stronger these past 5 or so years. A lot of potential that was seeded in the early 2010s is now coming to fruition, it's very exciting.
posted by bittermensch at 4:29 PM on August 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

A quantum ungulate neither tref, Star-K nor pareve provocatively undulated across the nekkid singularity.
posted by y2karl at 12:26 AM on August 22, 2019

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