Game Reviews

Out There

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| Out There
Out There
| Out There

It's strange how much weight a single tap can carry. My hull has already taken a good chunk of damage, and I've used up my reserves of iron, meaning I'll have to find some more before I can patch up my beaten vessel.

But there's a strange alien city in front of me, floating dead in the blackness of space. I can choose to leave it alone, scuttle along in search of a metallic ore-rich planet to mine for the element that might save my life.

Or I could go in, pilot my little ship through one of the giant gateways that were once thronged with alien freighters, and find the secrets that lurk within. Those secrets might be the end of me, but they might be new technologies that will make my ship stronger and safer.

This is Out There boiled down to a single conundrum. Life in space is hard and awful and brief, but it's tempered by the possibility of wonders.

Each step you take into the unknown could well be your last, but it might take you somewhere amazing too.

There but not back again

The game owes debts to both FTL and parts of the Mass Effect franchise, but it brings its own material to the space exploration genre, and adds a melancholy note that lingers long after you've crashed your ship or run out of oxygen.

This is a universe as full of random accidents as it is full of giant luminescent squid made of energy, and you're as likely to graze a supernova you didn't see coming as you are to cut off a finger doing some manual repairs.

Your ship is made up of a series of compartments. These can be used to store the elements you mine and probe out of the planets you visit, or house the equipment you need to jump between stars, protect your weak hull, and absorb the crushing pressure of black holes.

You start off with a stash of a few elements and a couple of pieces of tech, then you're basically left to your own devices in a massive universe, with a distant star marked on your map that an alien cube told you to go to.

If you die, that's it. And you will. A lot. But each death leaves you a little bit smarter, and ready to face the next randomly generated universe more attuned to the harsh rhythm of the game.

Exploration date

There are four parts to your exploration. You begin in a zoomed-out star map with a circle marking how far you can travel. Tap on a star within range and you can shoot across to it using your space-bending alien engines.

Once you get there you'll see a simple layout of the solar system that shows you the star and the planets that orbit it. Tapping on these tells you how much fuel it'll cost to visit them, and any other information that might be important.

When you're in orbit around a planet you've got a variety of options depending on the equipment you have and the planet you're zooming around. There are probes to fire, scans to perform, and hydrogen to dredge from the atmosphere of gas giants.

The last stage of your visit involves spending more fuel and oxygen landing. Here you can drill into the planet to find ores, or, on planets with breathable atmospheres, interact with the natives, learning new words and often receiving new elements and technologies.

Everything in Out There has a consequence and a cost. Whether it's picking the wrong option when you're talking to a vortex-faced alien lifeform, or simply choosing which planet you're going to land on, you're probably going to end up losing something.

And that brings us back to the dead city, and my finger hovering over the screen.

Choose your own adventure

I choose to go inside, my hull gets punctured, and I'm left with little to no chance of making it anywhere else alive. In a few minutes I'm dead, luck exhausted, ship a wreck, left to float forever in the freezing abyss.

It was worth it though, to see that little bit more than I'd seen before, to experience something new before the lights went out.

And that's what every play of Out There delivers. New spaceships to climb into, new species to parley with, new unfathomable things to stand in awe of.

It's a game of words and imagination, of simple taps and the events they set in motion. Of desperate attempts to suck hydrogen out of a gas giant before your engines stall.

Space is lonely and bleak and full of death, but it's worth coming back to time and time again.

Out There

A vast, lonely game about space and time and death, Out There is by turns funny, exciting, and fresh
Harry Slater
Harry Slater
Harry used to be really good at Snake on the Nokia 5110. Apparently though, digital snake wrangling isn't a proper job, so now he writes words about games instead.