13 votes

Please spoil Outer Wilds for me

Note: Outer Wilds, not The Outer Worlds.

If you do not want the game spoiled for you, please do not read any further into this topic.


I have given the game two honest tries, and I've stopped each time. I like what the game is offering, but I don't like playing it.

What I'm wanting isn't just a traditional "spoiler" -- I can look up the plot and lore and details and such -- I'm more wanting to know about the full experience of playing the game. People talk about this game with the same awe and cultishness with which people talk about The Witness (which I loved). I saw a few glimpses of something that in my time in the game (e.g. the Quantum Tower puzzle). I've read so many comments warning me to not learn about the game and people wishing that they could play it again for the first time, that I know there's definitely something more here.

Unfortunately, I'm not the player to discover that more.

Thus, I'm hoping someone here can take me on their journey through the Outer Wilds instead. Tell me about what the game was like for you, how it unfolds, and, most importantly, what is it that makes people talk about the game the way that they do.

26 comments

  1. [6]
    eladnarra
    (edited )
    Link
    My time has come! In seriousness, I'm sorry Outer Wilds didn't work for you - I really wish there was like... I dunno, a point and click version. I don't get motion sickness, but I struggled so...
    • Exemplary

    My time has come!

    In seriousness, I'm sorry Outer Wilds didn't work for you - I really wish there was like... I dunno, a point and click version. I don't get motion sickness, but I struggled so much with the controls, and another way to interact with the story would have been great.

    [I will note that if horror interests you, the DLC has basically no flying once you find the DLC location; you can set autopilot to take you there and look away from the screen as you travel. So that may be easier to watch in a let's play?]

    I started writing something about Outer Wilds a long time ago after I first finished the game with my partner. I just went back and added a conclusion for this thread, although I haven't yet incorporated the DLC properly. (I've deleted any mention of the DLC, in case you're interested in seeing it play out yourself.) If it's okay, I'll link to the Google doc directly; I might one day decide to post a finished version somewhere, or turn it into a video essay.

    It's called "Outer Wilds Made Me Cry." It mentions some lore and plot points, but the main focus is how Outer Wilds made me feel and the thematic elements that stuck out the most to me, which hopefully explains why Outer Wilds means so much to me.

    7 votes
    1. [2]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      Your writeup is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for with this thread! It's easy to find more straightforward descriptions of the plot and lore, but yours beautifully captured the...

      Your writeup is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for with this thread! It's easy to find more straightforward descriptions of the plot and lore, but yours beautifully captured the emotional, human experience of uncovering and processing those elements.

      Thank you for taking the time to write it and for your willingness to share something so personal with us!

      2 votes
      1. eladnarra
        Link Parent
        Thank you! I'm glad that it helped with finding resolution, and that it conveys the emotional aspects of Outer Wilds (at least the emotions that I came away with!).

        Thank you! I'm glad that it helped with finding resolution, and that it conveys the emotional aspects of Outer Wilds (at least the emotions that I came away with!).

        2 votes
    2. [3]
      Adys
      Link Parent
      You should post your write up here on tildes as a proper post imo!

      You should post your write up here on tildes as a proper post imo!

      2 votes
      1. [2]
        kfwyre
        Link Parent
        Seconded! That kind of writing about games (and about, well, everything) is something I would love to see more of here.

        Seconded! That kind of writing about games (and about, well, everything) is something I would love to see more of here.

        1 vote
        1. eladnarra
          Link Parent
          Thank you kfwyre and @Adys! I've been wanting a video project to work on, so I think I might turn it into a video essay (with transcript, of course). If I do, I'll be sure to share on here. :)

          Thank you kfwyre and @Adys! I've been wanting a video project to work on, so I think I might turn it into a video essay (with transcript, of course). If I do, I'll be sure to share on here. :)

          2 votes
  2. [2]
    kfwyre
    Link
    A huge thank you to everyone here! I watched the video @Autoxidation linked; followed @Protected's, @Bonooru's, and @fandegw's rundowns; and read your truly beautiful writeup @eladnarra. I'd...

    A huge thank you to everyone here! I watched the video @Autoxidation linked; followed @Protected's, @Bonooru's, and @fandegw's rundowns; and read your truly beautiful writeup @eladnarra. I'd played enough of the game to have a good amount of its building blocks in my hands, so everything shared here helped me to see what the game was wanting me to construct -- without having to actually do it myself.

    I now definitely see why people talk about the game with the reverence they do. The game is incredibly clever in both concept and design. Furthermore, just reading about how the game plays out was resonant for me, so I can only imagine how impactful it was to actually play through it.

    What I originally asked for was spoilers but what I really wanted was resolution, and y'all gave that to me. Thank you!

    6 votes
    1. Bonooru
      Link Parent
      I'm glad that we helped you find what you were looking for!

      I'm glad that we helped you find what you were looking for!

      2 votes
  3. [6]
    Adys
    Link
    I invite you to watch playframe’s playthrough. I thoroughly enjoyed it and he went quite deep into the lore. I never played the game. This is possibly the one time I regret not playing it but I...

    I invite you to watch playframe’s playthrough. I thoroughly enjoyed it and he went quite deep into the lore.

    I never played the game. This is possibly the one time I regret not playing it but I still massively enjoyed the playthrough.

    https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLvFQJa1XAXzyU52YIvG26lHSd-XDpERK8

    5 votes
    1. Adys
      Link Parent
      Also you can try the outer wilds expansion, it’s very self contained. Might give you a different experience there. It plays differently but has a lot of that same discovery and awe.

      Also you can try the outer wilds expansion, it’s very self contained. Might give you a different experience there. It plays differently but has a lot of that same discovery and awe.

      2 votes
    2. [4]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      The game mildly triggers my motion sickness in places (usually the zero-G sections, which makes relaunching each loop somewhat frustrating) and watching someone else play an FPS usually makes the...

      The game mildly triggers my motion sickness in places (usually the zero-G sections, which makes relaunching each loop somewhat frustrating) and watching someone else play an FPS usually makes the motion sickness response worse, unfortunately.

      2 votes
      1. Protected
        Link Parent
        MASSIVE spoilers and oversimplifications of Outer Wilds Stop reading if you've had enough. As an astroarchaeologist who for the first time EVER (in your society) is equiped with a translation...
        MASSIVE spoilers and oversimplifications of Outer Wilds Stop reading if you've had enough.

        As an astroarchaeologist who for the first time EVER (in your society) is equiped with a translation device, you investigate the ruins left by a previous civilization, the Nomai, in your solar system.

        At the beginning of your journey you witness an explosion above a distant planet, then something strange happens when you approach a statue in a museum and you get stuck in a 22 minute long time loop. At the end of the time loop the sun explodes, engulfing your solar system. Time repeats exactly on a cosmic scale and you must find a way out and onward. During your journey you will find ruined Nomai cities in the crumbling remains of the planets in your solar system and various ideas and plans they were bouncing around before mysteriously vanishing.

        The Nomai were explorers and migrants following the call of a mysterious signal. It originated from a location they called the Eye of the Universe. Their ships crashed and they were stranded in the solar system unwillingly. Their objective was to resume their journey, either by repairing and restoring power to one of their ships or traveling to the Eye through other means. Unfortunately their remaining functioning ship is trapped, guarded by an extremely deadly species of aliens.

        Your task is difficult because everything is out to kill you. Whole pieces of planets fall into black holes. A comet yanks you away from planetary gravity wells. Massive storms throw islands at you. Invisible radiation fields and floods of sand will kill you deceptively fast. You must remember every little thing you learn and reproduce detailed notes on your ship's computer.

        Eventually you discover that it's not just your solar system that's crumbling. The entire universe is running out of time, the last stars winking out of existence. Your time loop only exists because your sun going naturally nova triggered a dormant Nomai experiment they left behind.

        At some point you notice there's a planet in your solar system that's not always there - the quantum moon. It hops around, disappears if you're not looking at it, vanishes if you try to reach it. You find information on how the Nomai experimented with the quantum moon. You learn their hypothesis of how it is capable of traveling to the Eye. You meet the last Nomai, a living legend whose youthful writings were among those you read in some of the ruins.

        Finally you have learned it all. You have discovered the location of the vault hosting the device that's keeping you trapped in time, but safe from annihilation. You know where the final ship is, and how to make it go, you know where to send it, what to do. Time to disengage the device. The clock is ticking. The sun is about to explode, and this time you won't get a do over. You must now navigate your rocket to the Nomai spaceship, using what you learned to reach the correct destination and avoid its very dangerous and tireless guardians. If you succeed, you might reach the Eye of the Universe and...

        3 votes
      2. [2]
        Adys
        Link Parent
        Give it a shot? If it triggers it you can stop. One big difference is that when watching on YouTube you can watch off your small screen phone or off a tv which is much farther away from you....

        Give it a shot? If it triggers it you can stop.

        One big difference is that when watching on YouTube you can watch off your small screen phone or off a tv which is much farther away from you. Motion sickness might be extremely different in the different formats. Are you replicating this everywhere?

        2 votes
        1. kfwyre
          Link Parent
          90% of my motion sickness issues are fixed by adjusting FOV and disabling headbob. A comfortable horizontal FOV for me (105-110) is considerably higher than most games tend to default to (70-90)....

          90% of my motion sickness issues are fixed by adjusting FOV and disabling headbob. A comfortable horizontal FOV for me (105-110) is considerably higher than most games tend to default to (70-90).

          It also tends to happen when there’s a misalignment of input to screen response. Aggressive mouse acceleration, unexpected camera movements (such as first-person cutscenes), and screen shake can all trigger it. The zero-G sequences in Outer Wilds were a challenge, as were times where gravity would subtly change (like when jumping on the surface of a planet), or when I'd get tornado launched, or when I'd walk on walls with gravity crystals, etc.

          There are also some times that I can’t seem to figure out what’s causing it. I played hundreds of hours of Overwatch without once feeling ill -- and that was a fast-paced game where my vision darted all over the place -- but Half-Life 2 made me nauseous repeatedly (even after fixing its ridiculously low default FOV). Sometimes I just have to drop a game because it never resolves, but some games never are an issue in the first place. It's kind of a roll of the dice.

          As for your recommendation, smaller screens do help. I was playing Outer Wilds on my Deck for my second attempt and made it much farther than my first go around. On my first attempt I played it on my large TV, which made its impact worse.

          Watching someone else play is often difficult, as when I'm not in control of the camera, every movement is "unexpected". Also, many people have their FOVs set a lot lower than my comfort level.

          Ultimately though, even outside of my own issues, I'm not particularly interested in watching a full playthrough. I put about 6 hours into the game already, and simply wanted intellectual closure on the game. This thread gave me that, so I'm happy to move on from it. I still think it's a great game and now understand why people give it the reverence that they do.

          4 votes
  4. teaearlgraycold
    (edited )
    Link
    Just commenting to say I’m in the same position as you. I played Outer Wilds for maybe 10 hours. I really like the vibes of the game. The music is great and suggesting that I stop and roast...

    Just commenting to say I’m in the same position as you. I played Outer Wilds for maybe 10 hours. I really like the vibes of the game. The music is great and suggesting that I stop and roast marshmallows every 22 minutes is genius.

    But I do not like learning about fake worlds. I played enough to get an understanding of where the creators of the game wanted to take me, but had no motivation to see what that was. I’m the type to shelve a novel after 50 pages of exposition. I feel robbed of my time knowing that my efforts of discovery won’t be rewarded with knowledge on the one true graph of facts.

    I think video games as a medium suffer from the effort required to make them. I would have finished Outer Wilds if it was a shorter game, but once you’ve spent years getting your infrastructure in place you must feel like you should at least build a mystery of consequential size. And for the price you need to charge customers you better give them their money’s worth.

    I’m reminded of an old guide to King’s Quest I read when I played through it a few years ago. The author of the guide said that Sierra felt players deserved a lot of play time for their money. And so King’s Quest would take an average, unassisted gamer weeks of trying different object/action combinations to complete. But what resulted is, at least by modern standards, an incredibly obtuse and frustrating game. There are critical points to the game that must have required methodical clicking of every pixel on the screen for some back in the day.

    Outer Wilds is incomparably better crafted than King’s Quest. But I think we’re still in the age of building games bigger than they need to be to give players their money’s worth. That’s the wrong approach to craftsmanship. Something is perfect once there is nothing left that can be removed.

    5 votes
  5. [7]
    Bonooru
    Link
    It is the quintessential metroid-brainia and the reason that people get as excited about it as they do is that it has a story structure that hasn't seen very many examples. Designing a good...

    It is the quintessential metroid-brainia and the reason that people get as excited about it as they do is that it has a story structure that hasn't seen very many examples. Designing a good mystery is hard. Designing a non-linear mystery is very hard. Designing one that is both isn't something that I've seen done before. That's why people are so excited about it. Basically, this game is an interactive mystery novel, and like all mysteries, rereading (or replaying in this case) can never be the same experience because you already know whodunit.

    The true magic of the game is that it is a tangle of interconnected threads that all knot together and you can pull on any of them to make progress with the others. Once you know what's happening, you know and you can't unknow it. That's what makes it an impressive feat of writing, an impressive step in games as an artistic medium, impossible to truly replay, and what all the fuss is about.


    That all being said, I didn't mention the real plot of the game (it's been a few years since I've played and I don't trust my memory to be good enough for what you're hoping for). It sounds like you own the game, maybe try playing it with a friend in real time? I did that with my SO for The Witness and found that helped a TON for keeping me from getting frustrated with the puzzles. Alternatively, I'd guess there are some good let's plays of the game which might preserve some of the magic.

    4 votes
    1. [6]
      CALICO
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      I don't intend to hijack this thread, but... What are some other (modern) games like this? I've been itching for a while now to play something that might—possibly—give me some of the...

      Basically, this game is an interactive mystery novel

      I don't intend to hijack this thread, but...

      What are some other (modern) games like this?

      I've been itching for a while now to play something that might—possibly—give me some of the difficult-to-describe feelings that playing Myst and Riven did back in the 90s.
      Ideally 3D, but not specifically a point-and-click like Myst. Minimal combat, or preferably none at all.

      I have been combing through reddit threads looking for potentials, but everyone seems to mean different things by words like: adventure game; otherwordly; surreal; mysterious; casual; dream-like; puzzles; etc.

      The vibe I'm looking for might just be ineffable, but Outer Wilds stuck out to me as a potential—though I haven't tried it yet to confirm.
      Subnautica was another suggestion that had stuck out. But after trying, it's not quite what I was hoping for. Though I will play more of it.

      Any ideas?

      (I'm aware Cyan, Inc is still active, and released Obduction relatively recently. But I haven't tried that yet either, and it would be nice if I could get what I'm looking for from other devs as well)

      2 votes
      1. Protected
        Link Parent
        Obduction isn't that recent anymore, Firmament is coming up next! Outer Wilds is definitely a mystlike. Have you tried Quern yet?

        Obduction isn't that recent anymore, Firmament is coming up next!

        Outer Wilds is definitely a mystlike.

        Have you tried Quern yet?

        2 votes
      2. Bonooru
        Link Parent
        I haven't ever properly played Myst. My family had a copy, but I wasn't the right age to get grabbed by it. I mostly remember clicking around the initial island and occasionally popping in to see...

        I haven't ever properly played Myst. My family had a copy, but I wasn't the right age to get grabbed by it. I mostly remember clicking around the initial island and occasionally popping in to see some other location. That being said, I have heard some of the discourse around the game and my understanding is that it is a game of riddles more than puzzles. As I explained earlier, I think Outer Wilds is a game of mysteries.

        Running down your remaining list of attributes (since I've already talked about mysteries vs puzzles). I think the adventure and action-adventure genres have been very mashed together at this point, but I suspect that it ticks the adventure box in the same way that Myst does. I don't think that Outer Wilds is otherworldly, surreal, or dream-like. It's fairly grounded in standard sci-fi tropes. From the very beginning, we learn that physics is close to Earth's but not quite the same in the museum on the starting planet and then start the time loop.

        Subnautica usually gets suggested as a similar game to Outer Wilds because it is also difficult to play a second time. In its case, one of the primary difficulties is navigating the underwater landscape and not knowing what the map holds. Discovering new fantastical biomes invokes a different kind of wonder when you're already expecting to find something. Genre-wise, I'd say that Subnautica is a survival game with a mystery plot to provide reasons to explore the map and enough horror elements to help you remember there's always a bigger fish.

        2 votes
      3. [2]
        kfwyre
        Link Parent
        Hijack away! @Protected mentioned Quern, which is truly excellent. I don't know if it hits that ineffable quality you want, but in terms of a Myst-alike, it's sublime (I actually like it far...

        Hijack away!

        @Protected mentioned Quern, which is truly excellent. I don't know if it hits that ineffable quality you want, but in terms of a Myst-alike, it's sublime (I actually like it far better).

        I'll also throw out The Talos Principle. I won't say too much about it because, like other games mentioned in these kind of topics, I think it's best to go in without too much foreknowledge, but I put it up with Quern and The Witness in the category of "first-person puzzlers that find a way to be satisfying beyond what you expect of them". Outer Wilds fits into that too, if you swap out "puzzler" for "adventure".

        2 votes
        1. kfwyre
          Link Parent
          I hope this doesn't come across as too spammy, but since we were talking about it: if anyone here is interested in Quern, it just showed up in the $10 tier of a new adventure game Humble Bundle.

          I hope this doesn't come across as too spammy, but since we were talking about it: if anyone here is interested in Quern, it just showed up in the $10 tier of a new adventure game Humble Bundle.

          1 vote
      4. rogue_cricket
        Link Parent
        Every now and then I see this asked, and my recommendation each time is: Heaven's Vault, a nonlinear adventure/story game where the main mechanic is translating a dead language with your robot...

        Every now and then I see this asked, and my recommendation each time is:

        1. Heaven's Vault, a nonlinear adventure/story game where the main mechanic is translating a dead language with your robot companion. There are many paths, but they are so natural that after my first playthrough of the game I was truly shocked at how differently things could have gone when I started looking up more content for it.
        2. Return of the Obra Dinn, a "deductive mystery" game that I found incredibly engaging. The game is confined to a single boat, very much unlike Outer Wilds, and it really just has the one mechanic / puzzle, but that one mechanic is super, super good.

        Another nonlinear mystery game I played through is Paradise Killer, although some parts of it are a bit rough and it's incredibly bizarre. I wasn't a huge fan, but I have a friend who loves it so it definitely appeals to a certain kind of person - and I would 100% describe it as "surreal", for what it's worth.

        None of them have any combat.

        1 vote
  6. Autoxidation
    Link
    If you can stomach the limited scenes of gameplay, this is the best summary and spoiler of Outer Wilds I have seen. You can probably get most of it just by listening to it, if need be.

    If you can stomach the limited scenes of gameplay, this is the best summary and spoiler of Outer Wilds I have seen. You can probably get most of it just by listening to it, if need be.

    3 votes
  7. [2]
    fandegw
    Link
    I've read the comments here and your description, and feels like everyone is talking about the puzzle/story part of the game. Your comparison to The Witness also feels like you put your...

    I've read the comments here and your description, and feels like everyone is talking about the puzzle/story part of the game.
    Your comparison to The Witness also feels like you put your expectation on a puzzle game experience and analyzed it as such.

    I am part of the people that would recommend Outer Wilds to anyone and without reading too much about it. Also would have liked to be able to re-experience it for the first time.

    But it's not tied to neither the story nor the puzzle part, it's all about the way you discover the world itself and the way the game will push you to try to access part of it through fear/tension inducing ways.

    You were asking for our experience of it that makes it clicks with us, so here is a bit of what made me click with the game:
    I take my small spacecraft and I see the green foggy planet, and I want to try to go into it like trying to go into the Jupiter atmosphere.
    While approaching closer and closer to it, the fear of what is inside it is growing inside me. My spacecraft begin to enter the foggy part and for a moment I see nothing. I am expecting to have the spacecraft bump into some sort of ground at some point, but I finally pass through the fog and realize the planet is some kind of sea with tornado maintaining the outer layer of fog.
    So I feel in control again and manage to find an islet on which to land.
    I manage to understand through bits of story that there is more important knowledge to find in the center of the planet. So I take my spacecraft again and with my fear of what is under the surface of the water growing (I am quite fearful of any deep sea, so maybe it helps), I try to go through the water to go to the center. Each time I try, some kind of current push me back onto the surface.
    Through small hints while reading other bits of story I understand there is tornadoes that go in a different way than the majority and make you go through the flow protecting the center of the planet, and so restart my anticipation of going under the surface while finding the correct tornado, etc...

    And the whole game is filled with moments like this where your fear of the elements and the unknown beyond them is put to the test.
    There is no cheap or usual way a game induce you into these feelings.
    You are not facing some invincible enemy or you are not managing resources to survive, its just a world that you want to understand/explore its interesting part, and it still manage to make you fearful or tense while doing so.

    3 votes
    1. kfwyre
      Link Parent
      I appreciate you talking about the fear and tension of the game, because that was actually one of the things that turned me off of it. I was incredibly anxious playing through the game constantly...

      I appreciate you talking about the fear and tension of the game, because that was actually one of the things that turned me off of it. I was incredibly anxious playing through the game constantly (which was not enjoyable), and it wasn't until your comment that I really thought about how that was intended, rather than just on me.

      The game feels homey, warm, and inviting. Calm and cozy. Timber Hearth, the music, even the graphics don't communicate "horror". But then I'm on Brittle Hollow, staring down at a black hole as the place is crumbling around me and I'm attempting to make clumsy jetpack jumps to not fall in. It's mildly terrifying -- both on an individual scale (my character could fall) and a cosmic scale (my character could fall into a black hole). But then Riebeck's there -- just chilling, playing their banjo -- and I feel silly for being afraid?

      But then I genuinely do fall into the black hole, and find myself adrift in (what I believe to be) empty space. Horrific. But then finding the White Hole Station resolved that horror and almost made me feel silly for being afraid in the first place again?

      The whole game is filled with moments like this, which you identified, and it wasn't until I read your comment and explored the remainder of the game through the other stuff linked here that I realized that triggering and pushing past anxiety is genuinely part of the experience and not just a product of my personally overactive anxiety.

      2 votes
  8. vegai
    Link
    Well, I'll throw my contrarian voice into this. I started as being intrigued of the game, then coming close to loving it and after several failed attempts to solve a certain place ended up hating...

    Well, I'll throw my contrarian voice into this.

    I started as being intrigued of the game, then coming close to loving it and after several failed attempts to solve a certain place ended up hating it. I don't think I can go back to it.

    But I can see how it's a good game, and am not surprised at all that so many people like it so much. The story is fascinating, the mechanics rather clever and the ambience and world-building are great.

    I've had similar experience with some other Annapurna games like Flower and Journey. They obviously a creative and talented bunch, but just not my genre.

    3 votes