Mar 12, 2014
There isn’t a roguelike quite like Out There. A space simulation game where players find themselves adrift in space, scrounging for materials from planet to planet, solar system to solar system, trying to find their way home.
Essentially, the game is turn-based. Players start out in a solar system, and can explore planets of two kinds: ones they can land on with materials they can mine for, or gas giants which can be probed for fuel. Each move uses up fuel, oxygen, or damages the hull, and players need to find the materials to refill and repair as necessary. Materials can be mined for that can build new parts and repair current ones.
How does one learn how to build new parts? Either through random events when traveling to a new solar system, or by encountering life on certain planets. The different species speak in alien languages that become revealed over time as players encounter them more. As well, random events can harm the player, with choices affecting what happens.
While randomness does play a big role in Out There, especially when it comes to doing well (finding a suitable new ship at a distress beacon to take over can be key), really the game is all about how the player manages adversity. Things are always tilted against them: something is always being depleted. Space for new materials and to install new tools is always low. Drilling or probing for resources might not be fruitful. There’s always the luck-of-the-draw factor, but smart players can minimize those effects.
But the most fascinating thing about Out There is the way that the game is actually about narrative and discovery – each runthrough creates its own story, both from scripted events and from emergent narrative of what the player experiences. No run in Out There is quite the same, and that’s the beautiful thing. The game is gorgeous with its comic book art style, sure. But this is just such a fascinating game: it’s not about combat, it’s about survival, and how the player manages to face it. It’s all done through this resource management system, but that just serves as a wrapper for something larger.
Out There is a game I don’t want to give away by saying too much about, and on paper, it’s perhaps not the most exciting game. But the experience of it, of learning how to survive and mastering the methods of doing so, and discovering the unknown, not knowing what is around the next corner, that’s something truly special. Perhaps the interface is a bit small on phones, or I’m annoyed that when obtaining materials, it’s not possible to use the refilling resources to clear space for the drilled/probed materials. These are minor issues for what is one of the most enthralling mobile games I’ve played in recent memory.