Outer Wilds // Critical Play: Mysteries

This week I played Outer Wilds, developed by Mobius Digital and published by Annapurna Interactive, on PC. The game creates an enthralling and mysterious atmosphere, appropriate for, I’d say, ages 8 and up. The characters are wholesome and the game isn’t inappropriate, however I think this is a game for people who already play a lot of games, as inexperienced players would get lost. The character uses its game mechanics, worldbuilding, and goal misdirection to create an engaging mystery in a fascinating world (or solar system). At its core, the game uses simple environmental tools, character dialogue, and free exploration to offer a unique experience. The main hook that gets the player invested in the game is the mystery of the time loop, the ancient species, and the planets in the solar system. This gets the player motivated to interact with the puzzles and inhabitants of these worlds. The game delivers on Fantasy because of its fantastical and detailed world, Narrative because of its mysterious and engaging story, Challenge because of the tricky puzzles and mystery-solving, Discovery because of its wide variety of mysterious things to find, and Submission because the world feels cozy and the game is immersive. The game definitely meets its goals because of its pattern of setting player expectations (we are going to space just for funsies) and subverting them (sike, the sun explodes) and its masterful environmental storytelling. Perhaps the biggest ‘wow’ moment I had when playing the game was landing on Giant’s Deep for the first time and being legitimately scared by the massive tornadoes in the world. The game does a great job of making you feel like you are alone in a hostile world, even though it doesn’t actually kill you very often or easily; I’ve never had an experience quite like that. The biggest fail I had was exiting the ship on Giant’s Deep for the first time and suffocating because I didn’t realize aliens needed space suits, especially on a planet which literally has an atmosphere like there are trees there but whatever I’m not mad. If I had to change anything I would either add voice acting or make the very first part of the game, where the player goes up to the observatory, quicker/more obvious. I almost lost patience and gave up because I didn’t know how to get to the observatory and I didn’t feel like walking around this planet, I wanted to go to space.

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