How To Enjoy Outer Wilds

05.03.2023 0 By admin

Hello there, before today’s presentation where I will get weirdly emotional about Outer Wilds, I’d first like to talk to you about something else that I get weirdly emotional about… food.

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I told you I get weirdly emotional about this.

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Thanks again to Hello Fresh for sponsoring, with that said, let’s start the show.

Music: Outer Wilds OST – The Museum There’s this ledge early in Hollow Knight that you can’t quite reach.

Because this is a metroidvania and there are plenty of other places to go, most players move on and later return with the mothwing cloak which gives you a midair dash and makes this area accessible.

But if you have the knowledge that attacking an enemy from above gives you a little bounce and the creativity to lure this guy into the gap, you can just- (Boom) which gives you access to this area of the map before you get the mothwing cloak.

Imagine a version of Hollow Knight that never gives you the dash but instead… to get past this part, hides clues across the map that teach you how to do this little trick… if you’re a new player, technically you can do this from the start of the the game… the only thing stopping you would be that you initially don’t know you can… This is how Outer Wilds works.

Music: Lex Villena – Dissonance My experience with the game that a great many people really wanted me to play can best be summed up as… ignorantly trying to put a left shoe on my right foot but then later being told that I was doing it wrong… that’s a hat.

But I like hats, and I liked this game quite a bit.

It was not however what I would call a smooth seamless journey into an instant classic.

I struggled to enjoy this game.

You see, while not a metroidvania, this is a game built on the premise of exploration and set in a boundless solar system.

And when you have that setup, when a game communicates to the player, hey, you can always come back to this later, look around for a bit, you expect that by doing so, you’ll eventually find a key, a new item or ability that allows you to come back here and continue, a mothwing cloak.

Outer Wilds however… does not exactly do this.

There are no unlockable abilities, there are no keys, there are no area opening switches , what it does offer however, is… knowledge.

Instead of giving you a midair dash, it gives you ancient alien monoliths containing… speedrun strats.

Hey did you know you can bounce off the mosquito to skip a lot of greenpath? Nah man, use vengeful spirit, it’s faster.

Also if the humans delay Silksong much longer I’m blowing up earth fr.

Music: Helynt and DJ Cutman – Outer Wilds Lofi Cover And I don’t want to make it seem like I didn’t fancy Outer Wilds or that the way it hides its secrets is a bad thing.

On the contrary, I think it’s inspired… risky, yet powerful once you understand that it’s been this simple the whole time.

It hides answers right in front of you and I absolutely adored the payoff.

It not only captured my imagination, it made my imagination fall in love with it which transformed the game from a disgusting beast into a handsome hunk of a man.

I wrote this as a joke, but this is a shockingly accurate metaphor for my time with Outer Wilds.

Not a day has passed since I finished it that I don’t think about it for at least a moment in passing.

It is all of the thrill of Interstellar’s docking scene melded with the sorrow of the sun fading over the horizon on the last day of summer vacation.

It is all of the soul rattling terror the human mind experiences when confronted with the vastness of space paradoxically contained within the intimacy of roasting marshmallows around a campfire with friends.

There were multiple times during my playthrough that I genuinely felt my heart beating out of my chest simply from anticipation to learn something about this fictional place.

Outer Wilds is a mystery, a game your friends want to shout about from the rooftops but only whisper so as to not ruin the experience.

And because this game is treated with so much veneration,it’s no surprise that a cascade of you have recommended this game to me over the years.

But something I just couldn’t ignore were comments not like this… but like this… Music: Appeal To Heaven (Lex Villena Remix) folks claiming that they tried it and just didn’t get it.

It didn’t click for them and they dropped it at some point.

And again, I love hats…, but I was there too.

Quite a bit.

I wasted time, I followed empty leads, I ran around in circles, I didn’t understand clues.

Outer Wilds breaks a lot of gaming conventions and because of that, it’s genuinely one of a kind, but with those broken conventions come broken interactions, puzzles and obstacles that feel… off for people who are used to the modern video game formula and vocabulary.

If you play a ton of games, it’s hard not to feel like Outer Wilds steps on its own dick, everyone says it’s wonderful, but don’t ask too many questions, just play it.

Go in blind and be patient, which is exactly what you don’t want to hear if you’re losing your patience.

And because of this, I almost dropped the game.

But I didn’t… and it’s easily one of the titles I am most grateful I rolled credits on.

Music: Mewmore – Jubilife City (Snivys Remix) ~ Pokémon Diamond & Pearl // Snivys So what I would like to do today is take you through my journey with this game, explore why for myself and maybe for others it felt so… odd at times, and how eventually… I began to actually enjoy Outer Wilds… I might even say treasure it.

I will do my absolute best to tiptoe around spoilers and in fact, the examples today will be as early game and nonspecific as I can possibly make them.

Since you can go kind of anywhere when the game starts, early game is a bit subjective, but I just mean, the BIG BOY spoilers will be well tucked away.

So if you haven’t played or finished it, this is safe to watch and may make your time with the game a little less awkward.

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Oh and no I haven’t played the DLC yet, but I plan to in the future when I really find myself missing this game.

All that said, without further adieu, let’s talk about wha- Music: Outer WIlds OST – Timber Hearth Outer Wilds is strikingly good at creating questions.

And it’s because of this, instead of giving you an extrinsic goal at the start of the game, the developers lean on those questions and ask you to come up with a goal.

The only mandatory conversation at the beginning to launch into space is with Hornfels, who gives you the launch codes.

Initially, the team at Mobius were going to have him be a resource, someone you could ask to find out what to do next.

What made it into the final game was conversely, not an answer, but a question: What’s your plan once you’re in space? When I first met Hornfels and saw that there were some options to choose from, I sort of figured, okay, they’re giving me ideas but the goal is up to me.

I’m supposed to follow my own curiosity rather than chase down a checklist or an achievement or a Ganon.

This game, I realized, is much more subtle than that… the only thing I’m hunting for is answers to questions that I have… answers to questions about the solar system, about the ancient alien race that lived here first, answers about why every time I die, I (GASP).

Outer Wilds did a great job of telling me, hey, this is your story.

The narrative goes as you go, and I was at peace with that.

I blasted off into space and after a lot of Jalen Hurtsing the controls, I finally landed on some planets, looked around, stumbled on some ruins, looked for ways to unlock new areas but instead found quite a bit of Lore… Let’s uh.

Let’s go ahead and pause it right there.

Music: Xenoblade Chronicles OST – Satorl Marsh Usually when you read a document or a mural in a game, it’s flavor text.

Worldbuilding in the form of the written word abounds in many titles.

Some people eat it up, some people avoid it like pineapples on pizza.

But much like metroidvanias and open world games have taught us that we often need to go searching for an ability or a key or a story beat and come back when we’re stuck, tons of games have taught us that reading means lore .

Text is auxiliary, if it’s not in a tutorial, part of a diagram or map, on screen at a critical moment, adjectives in paper mario, highlighted in dialogue, or slammed in your face, it’s nonessential.

We’ve been conditioned by games to think that found text is most often… to add to the worldbuilding.

It is quite simply, skippable.

But once again, Outer Wilds does something very unconventional and makes its found text extremely important to progression.

Okay haha… you see why I paused.

Music: Outer Wilds OST – Nomai Ruins And unfortunately, it did take me quite awhile to realize that this.

Right here, was not just to season the galaxy with flavor, it was there to help me advance the game.

These are always your mothwing cloak… and I do mean always.

Kelsey Beacham, the head writer for the game, made it clear at a GDC that every single piece of found writing in Outer WIlds communicates a clue, with the exception of 2-3 instances… meaning, if you find text, it is important.

They can’t afford to set the precedent that these passages are just flavor text, so every chalkboard contains something that will point you toward the finish line… Will it also contain lore or story bits? Probably, which is why many players, like myself, may initially read a line or two and assume it’s not necessary to progression.

It wasn’t until one passage in particular that… this changed for me… There are vast stretches in Outer Wilds where there is no background music.

All you hear are the echoes of a living breathing galaxy, rocks crumbling in the distance, sand filling deep dark caverns, water cascading in the mountains.

But reading especially important passages is often complimented by a few subtle melancholy notes of the piano… Once I finally found a glyph that was scored like this, I realized that this is the language the game speaks, this passage wasn’t just Dollar General video game lore, it was a whisper from the past… guiding me to the truth.

Moments like these take your natural curiosity for the universe of outer wilds and slowly trickle gasoline on it.

It makes worldbuilding and a clue feel like a long lost secret that you have uncovered of your own volition.

I began to realize that instead of the game telling me what to do, it was quietly nudging me toward what I might find profound.

And it did so by making every discovery important.

Every clue led me somewhere, every piece of knowledge recontextualized something else I had gotten stuck at.

And as I found myself waking up next to that original campfire over and over, I realized that the only thing changing was… me.

Music: Shooting Star Summit Reorchestrated – MusicalWolfe I was better understanding how to progress simply because of what I had learned, not because of what my character could do now.

And there is certainly a beauty in that… but because of this, for many of us, I think we often feel like we’re not progressing… Like a lot of time has passed but… we still have nothing to show for it, I had nothing to show for it… no levels, no items, no traditional video game indicators of growth.

It’s… uncomfortable to realize you’ve been playing this game for 10 hours and think… have I made any progress? And of course I had; new areas, new knowledge, new answers… But this loop still brings you to the same starting point… physically I was no closer and no further away from cracking this cosmic mystery.

I had a lot of moments where I felt like Nic Cage’s dad in National Treasure.

Were there some truly mind bending discoveries? Yes, but oftentimes I found myself being enthralled by what I’d learned, taking that knowledge and trying something, only for it to just not work or lead me to ANOTHER dead end… which left me with the original clue and just thinking… okay… so what? What does it matter? What do I do with this? In a zelda dungeon, you might see a spot you can’t get past, you get the dungeon’s item, and then you come back and… use that item.

Generally it’s pretty straightforward and you’re rewarded for remembering where to go and for navigating back there safely.

Never have I ever gotten a hookshot and gone, what could this mean…? Music: Perfect Dark OST – Training But, as I know now, in Outer Wilds, sometimes the clue you have is either incomplete without another clue or it’s useless unless you can make an inference based on that clue and what you already know about a planet… I’ll give you a great example, here is a cavern I frequented quite often.

I know I have to get through the sandfall to check out this lab I read about.

But every time I try to fly through it, I get knocked down into cacti which punctures my suit.

There was no brute forcing this.

I’ve been taught to come back to this later by pretty much every exploration game I’ve played, so I figured okay, there’s another clue out there somewhere or another entrance I’ll read about.

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There never was.

It was only when I later realized I could use the threat of rising sand in the caverns to my advantage and time it just right that I was able to walk over the cacti… Knowledge isn’t the only thing you need to progress, sometimes it’s a creative application of that knowledge… much more creative than, hey use the thing you just got.

But unfortunately because I was never sure if there was another clue or if I was just not seeing the solution, the game often led me to just try stuff… sometimes wasting hours on silly runs that just went nowhere or brute forcing my way to this campfire because I had no clue how to get past ghost matter-OH MY GOD can we talk about ghost matter? Music: Melty Blood Actress Again OST – Uncommon Sense Ghost matter is the reason I have anxiety, it’s the reason I can’t sleep at night, and it’s the reason I felt like this game was making me open up 50 tabs just to close one.

2 of those statements are hyperbole, but the reason I can’t sleep at night is because sooo many times early in my journey through the titular solar system, I was met with ghost matter.

And as far I could tell from personal experimentation, it spelled death and let me tell you, my sample size was massive.

I wasn’t finding any alien clues that spelled out how to get past this stuff and in fact, I never did.

I asked Slate at the initial campfire about it and all they told me was to use my scout because it could detect it… I took this as an insult, I CAN DETECT IT DIPSHIT, IT’S RIGHT THERE, I CAN SEE IT.

Music: FFX OST – Wandering Flame This was not a bright moment for me in this game… because… this right here, these little crystals are not ghost matter… The weird invisible smog that sometimes floats above them that only shows up on camera is… and don’t worry that’s not a spoiler, the game tells you that in the first 5 minutes if you… read this plaque and see for yourself… but I just sort of… skipped right past that… I’m sorry for disrespecting you like that Slate.

The lesson I learned is that, some clues don’t come from the Nomai, sometimes you just need some advice from your fellow Hearthians.

It’s almost like the Nomai don’t know about ghost matter, I WONDER WHY THAT COULD B- Music: Portal 2 OST Volume 1 – I’m Different My crippling case of dumbass aside, when you think you’re missing a clue but are actually just not quite getting the puzzle… this can turn what are supposed to be well placed challenges into complete and total roadblocks… doors with no keys, causing you to turn your back on critical information that progresses the story until you later realize that you actually had everything you needed the first time you saw it.

Outer Wilds doesn’t handhold, when things aren’t explained with Nomai text or in the missable tutorial, they’re shown, which compared to a buddy character dropping not-so-subtle hints, I think is a much more satisfying way to learn about the world you’re exploring… but you have to be looking.

And you can’t do that unless you … meander around and try stuff… Unless you patiently observe each world.

But patiently waiting and meandering in a game that does place you on a time limit each run… does sometimes feel particularly… against the grain.

When you play a fromsoft game and you die… it’s annoying, right? You have to try the boss from scratch, you’re frustrated, all that time has gone down the drain.

But what that death does offer you is clear feedback, you know how you died, probably why you died, and you’re likely already calculating what you’ll do differently this time around.

When you drain a ton of time grinding for experience in an RPG, it’s not the most exciting thing, but you’re constantly being reassured of your efforts with levels, items, rare drops, things are happening, again, you have those video gamey markers of progress.

But when you spend 20 minutes in Outer Wilds traveling to a specific place, flying into the sun because autopilot was being naughty, then flying to that spot again, waiting to arrive, painstakingly landing, THEN failing to progress the game because you were investigating something based on an incomplete clue or ramming you head into a puzzle you just can’t seem to crack… if you don’t come away with new information… all of that time is gone and you have very little to show for it.

I often… had very little to show for it… Oftentimes, no feedback other than, try anything else.

Toss in a time limit, the deadly pandemonium of space, and controls that are about as confusing as my sleep schedule, Outer Wilds often feels like a game that you want to- Music: Xenoblade Chronicles OST – Colony 9 But… it can’t end like this, I told myself, I got through Ornstien and Smough, I got through Ichigo 100, I’ve gone all these years avoiding spoilers for this game… So I booted it back up.

I took my time, I chose to believe that the treasure was real.

And I beat it… Thanks for watching… Oh you want to know, like, what else happen- Music: 死夢VANITY – Beautiful One thing that I adore about Outer Wilds is that it has an incredibly… lavish feature that even the grand masterpiece Elden Ring does not… a pause button.

Discovering I could leverage this against the time limit was like discovering water in the desert.

If there was ever a moment of indecision, if I ever needed to find a way out of here now, if I ever needed to deeply ponder what I had just read, I would just- *inhales, exhales* “Okay, okay… let’s do this.

” If you’re considering playing, you certainly don’t have to use this if you want to preserve the experience of course, but after panicking during a late game sequence, I found serenity in knowing that the game would continue when I was ready.

Especially when I wanted to really soak up the implications of some text I had just found.

Because despite my or anyone else’s feelings about written lore, having to read in a hurry makes for a bad time.

At some point, I found that there is an option to have the game freeze time while you read so that you can take as long as you like to truly comprehend what’s in front of you.

I didn’t realize this was a thing until later in the game and haha… it’s just… hilarious knowing that I was speed reading all that time for absolutely no reason… It was also wonderful to discover that if I didn’t quite grasp what I was reading that the ship log was always scooping up the important bits and storing them here, even after I died.

It was such a relief to have a sparknotes version of the nomai text as well as a list of ideas of where to go next.

Things began to come together, I was getting very spoilery answers to my questions and making very spoilery questions about those answers.

There was a lot I still didn’t understand, but I was determined, theories were swirling and rolling into one another in my mind like hurricanes.

I was having fun… But a few… little things kept nagging me.

Music: Outer Wilds OST – End Times One such pebble in my shoe was the controls of the rocket and space suit.

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Using and learning from autopilot really helped me, as did just holding x to match velocity when I got a little out of control, but it still felt really unnatural even after several hours of playing.

I remember at one point, like 10 hours into the game crashing my ship thinking: “Come the hell on man, movement is the most basic action in a game, it should be smooth, it shouldn’t be this complicated, this isn’t rocket scie-” Music: Chrono Trigger OST – Schala’s Theme by Miguel Ramírez Bernal … and then it kind of hit me that… between the way it hides secrets behind my understanding of the universe instead of traditional locks and keys, the way even simple travel is infinitely tedious and inconvenient, the way the ravages of space didn’t give a damn about me… Outer Wilds wasn’t designed for me to have fun or to annoy me.

As odd as it sounds… It’s not really a video game.

It’s just a place that’s following the laws of physics.

Nothing here was trying to kill me, it was just doing exactly what it would even if I wasn’t here intruding.

At some point after being trapped in an ever rewinding, ever re-recording blockbuster VHS tape of being battered, broken, scorched, crushed, and suffocated… I began to realize that this was just the natural consequence of searching for answers that were hidden where my kind was not meant to inhabit.

Whether I go or I sit by this campfire, death comes all the same.

And once I made peace with that, death sort of lost the “failure state” that most games have assigned it.

This guy on this planet teaches you to meditate if you ask him how he deals with the threat of impending death; a skill that then becomes your skip to the next loop button.

And when he teaches you, the game has you meditate until the next loop begins… regardless of what you were doing which… to me almost felt like the game saying, hey, it’s fine.

Restarting is fine.

Take as long as you need.

Once I got to this point, to this mindset, when death became less of a distraction, it became easier to see what the game was trying to show me.

I began to notice that keys and clues don’t just come in the form of Nomai hieroglyphs, but in the wisdom I accumulated trying to survive each planet’s ever changing habitat.

I began to notice… things that I won’t spell out and spoil but… there were these little… consistencies… laws that were always followed, biomes that moved like clockwork… Eventually, the galaxy became more of a dance partner than an opponent… Annoying controls became the natural consequence of space having no friction.

A timer on my every move felt less like poor game design and more like a star just doing what the laws of nature dictate stars do.

Obstacles became tools, threats became transportation, a bad game turned into an enigma that I simply had to know more about… Music: Outer Wilds OST – Reprise The laws of this galaxy are often inconvenient, but because Outer Wilds follows those laws so closely, it could get away with showing me something that felt like science fiction and yet make me respect it.

In the optional tutorial section of the game, there is this 0 G cave that you can play around in right? Listen to the devs talk about why the cave has no gravity.

“It’s literally 0 G because it’s in the middle of the Planet?” “Yes, yeah, because… you’re no longer being attracted by the sum of all the mass.

Um, now you’re there, and the mass is all around you.

And so it’s all pulling on you equally in each direction.

So this is actually physically correct!” I won’t tell you how, but there is a way to the fabric of break space time in this game, THAT is how closely Outer Wilds follows it’s laws and THAT is how you cultivate a childlike wonder.

I’d see something that made no sense and instead of discrediting it I’d think “Whoa… Well there’s an underlying logic behind everything else so there MUST be some kind of reason behind this that I just don’t understand yet.

” There’s a powerful and deserved sense of awe that I felt when I finally began to unwind the threads of this cosmic knot.

And I think it’s because at no point did Outer Wilds patronize me, it allowed me to struggle, it lets you look up at the emptiness of space over and over and think, what the hell do I do next? What does any of this mean? It’s, dare I say, and I hate to say, soulslike in that regard.

It’s unyielding… this was the first time I’ve ever played a game and thought, I don’t actually know if I can beat this simply because I’m not smart enough.

Sure there are lots of titles I’ll never have the patience or skill for, but this made me feel like I was tackling a problem so grand in scale that I just wasn’t… worthy to decipher the truth.

Which… made every little clue, every little revelation, and every little truth feel equally as grand in scale.

This… journey was exhausting in a way that I can’t fully explain because it didn’t feel like I was playing a video game… and as strange as it sounds, as soon as I stopped viewing it as one, it became so much more.

As soon as it became a hat, it fit just fine.

For the first few hours, I thought of outer wilds as a human designed experience, and I considered all of my grievances toward it as nefarious design flaws.

But after spending enough time waking up to the stars flickering above the trees, away from all of the noise people make about this game, away from my assumptions and what games have taught me to expect, away from everything else.

I think of it as simply what it is… an invitation.

Music: Uniq – Art Of Silence Hello there, thank you very kindly for watching today.

I had a lot of fun writing this one, but since it was so highly requested, I rewrote it several times over trying to make it perfect and that’s why it took so long, so my apologies on that.

With any luck, it was worth the wait.

Hell of a game, I hope I did it justice.

If you liked what you saw and you want to support the show, every month on Patreon I make bonus content including editing streams, bloopers, live commentaries on these videos, as well as weekly updates.

I might even ask you for some creative input when I’m stuck between thumbnails.

All that and more for only a dollar a month, can be yours.

Click that orange link on screen in a moment or the one in the description if you’re interested.

An astronomical thank you to this months featured Patrons: Specter Christine Foligno ScoutHunter546 Alexander Schiller Geoffrey Su Kai M.

Adrián Toscano A_Bearded_Child Like, share, subscribe, let me know if you had a similar Outer Wilds experience to me in the comments below, and as always, have yourself a damn good one.

Are you here to help? Are you my little assistant? Are you my- OH GOD