Outer Wilds by Andrew Prahlow is an open world mystery about a solar system trapped in an endless time loop. If you love exploration, puzzles and of course an overarching feeling of mystery, then check out Outer Wilds. Now, the game doesn’t tell you what the mystery is, or even that there is a mystery. It’s a purposefully obtuse game that rewards curiosity. You play as an explorer and astronaut set to collect pieces of information to figure out what is happening to you and the solar system. Outer Wilds is a straight-up open-world game with a lot of daunting little elements so we’ve set up this beginner’s guide to help.
Time Doesn’t Matter
Outer Wilds starts off with one pretty big caveat to its gameplay, in 22 minutes the sun will go down and a supernova will kill everyone. You’ll be playing these 22 minutes over and over again, learning new things that will help with your next playthrough. Now, this may stress anyone out at first you’ll find out that the time doesn’t really matter. It’s not a Majora’s Mask situation where you’ll lose inventory (mainly because there isn’t really any inventory to speak of). You don’t really lose anything when you die, the only thing you’ll gain is knowledge. So explore slowly and freely, the same day is just a supernova away.
Take Your Time To Get Down The Basics
You already have all the tools you need at the start, so you make progress in the game by learning where things are and how to use your tools to overcome obstacles. Take the opportunity, in the beginning, to talk to everyone in your home village, there are people there who will give you your first hints. In this village, you’ll learn about the tools you have to explore the solar system. There’s a model ship to practice flying. You’ll learn how to interact with Nomai artefacts. Everything in the starting village teaches you how to play the game. Spend a cycle or two getting comfortable with everything so you remember how to use it (and that you can use it) later. You might be tempted to mess about, but you should come back after you have launched for the first time.
Lore in Outer Wilds is spread around everywhere, mostly in the form of writing. From the moment you start the game at your home village there are copious amounts of text, and explanations to be found. Since Outer Wilds is a game about learning, never skip your chance to read something new. You’ll often find a clue about what’s happening around you, a clue about where to go next, or just some flavour text that makes the world a little richer.
Start Shallow, Then Go Deep
Start by exploring the surfaces of planets and moons before you try to go too far into any of them. Because they are easier to reach, the surface features tend to contain more early-story material than late-story material and thus aren’t as fun to explore later. So you should try to visit all the planets and moons before you dig deeper into anyone. A good early-game goal is to find all your instrument-playing astronaut comrades using the signalscope’s Outer Wilds Ventures frequency and then chat with them. They give you good suggestions on where to visit and you’ll want to talk to them several times later after you learn new things.
Be Careful About Your Landing
Flying in Outer Wilds isn’t exactly a moonwalk. Not every landing is gentle, and sometimes things break. It’s not a death sentence, though. If you walk up to the various parts of your ship — you can see what’s damaged on the display in your cockpit — you’ll get a prompt to repair them. Similarly, if you puncture your suit, you’ll get a prompt to repair it right on your HUD. You’ll heal the damage your body takes take from falling, crashing, or general misadventure on board your ship. Head to where you pick up your suit and look to the left for a medical kit. You can also refuel your jetpack here.
Additionally, think about where you’re landing your ship. Not every planet is navigable on foot. And not every planet is small enough to walk around before you run out of time, air, or jetpack fuel. Instead, slow down and look at the planet (or moon) before you land. You can usually spot the poles with their ice caps (like on Brittle Hollow), or some other landmark to orient yourself. Take the extra time to land nearby and get right to exploring, so you’re not stuck hoofing it when the sun explodes.
Check Your Ship Log Every Cycle
Death isn’t an ending in Outer Wilds. What you learned on your last trip gets fed into your Ship Log. Interact with it every time you get on board. You’ll get a corkboard-and-string display of what you’ve figured out, rumours you’ve heard, and the connections between them. You’ll even get a note — in yellow text — that lets you know if you haven’t finished exploring an area. Don’t skip this. Your Ship Log is a great refresher every time you get back on board. It’ll point you to the mysteries you haven’t solved yet, and remind you of connections you’ve likely forgotten.