Outer Wilds review for Xbox One, PC

Platform: Xbox One
Also On: PC
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Developer: Mobius Digital
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

Outer Wilds is a hard game to talk about. On the one hand, it?s a mystery, so you don?t want to know too much going in. On the other hand, it?s got an interesting hook, and if you go in ignorant of what that hook is, it?s going to seem very, very confusing until you realize what?s going on.

So I?ll split the difference, and say that if you want to go in blind, just know that Outer Wilds is Groundhog Day but in space, and that you should check it out right now rather than reading any further. And if you want to know more, you should continue on to the next paragraph.

Now that all those spoiler-averse people are gone…well, I?m still not going to say too much more, since, as I said, the game is designed to be a mystery. You wake up one day, find out you?re going to be launched into space, and that you need to explore your little world in order to learn a few basics first. And then, depending on how far you get with that, the sun will explode, and you?ll die.

At which point you?ll wake up again, and live that same day over and again, until you solve the mystery and figure out how to break the cycle. As I said, it?s Groundhog Day, but in space.

Even if that?s Outer Wilds? hook, however, that?s not what makes it worth playing. No, that?s in equal parts because it makes space exploration interesting, and because it blends so seamlessly with the mystery around which the game is built. The game is set in a solar system whose size is manageable — big enough that you get to feel like you?re exploring as you soar through space, but not so big that visiting all the different planets is impossible. Likewise, piloting your ship is pretty intuitive, and the game?s map is easy to understand and to navigate, which makes exploring a breeze. To top it all off, your ship is pretty hardy, so even though you?ll need to learn some basics (including how to repair a broken ship), it?s not going to fall apart if you land a little roughly.

As for the worlds, each of them are distinctive, and each of them hide their own mysteries that take a little bit of exploration and detective work to solve. It?s important to remember that you won?t be able to solve everything in one go — but equally important to remember that exploration, death, and rebirth are part of the game?s DNA, rather than things to be overcome.

All of which is to reiterate what I said up near the beginning of this review: Outer Wilds is well worth checking out. It?s got an intriguing hook and even better execution, and it?s one of the more inventive games you?re likely to play this year.

Annapurna Interactive provided us with an Outer Wilds Xbox One code for review purposes.

Grade: A-