Out There is a title that I’m familiar with on a level that surpasses a majority of indie titles that I’ve played in the past. Having owned an iPhone since 2010 onwards, mobile games have been my guilty pleasure, ranging from quick and dirty puzzle jaunts to shockingly deep and addicting role-playing motifs. Out There, from Mi-Clos Studio, was one of the first that I played that caught me off guard with a combination of storytelling and drastically unfair difficulty. Despite feeling like the deck was constantly, unforgivably stacked against me, I kept coming back time and time again to keep at it. When the original Ω edition was released on Steam, I was grateful to pick it up and write a review on a website that has long since slipped the bonds of this mortal internet. The game had evolved, changed, and become more robust and interesting. Now, close to four years later, I’m genuinely excited to be taking my turn at seeing the latest incarnation of this unique adventure with Out There: Ω the Alliance.
Out There is the tale of a lone astronaut who is sent to investigate Ganymede, one of the moons of Jupiter, in order to find resources to help a struggling Earth that’s collapsing under humanity’s weight. The astronaut enters cryogenic sleep, but awakens to find himself somewhere far from home and far, far from any recognizable civilization. After a brief exposition to figure out how to repair the ship and what to do next, the Astronaut is left to his own devices, attempting to find his way back to Earth. There’s a small indicator as to where to go, and that’s really about it. As one might expect, the trip back home is incredibly difficult, multifaceted, and, oh yea, full of twists in terms of how much alien life is around you. Easy to guess spoiler: there’s a lot, and it only gets more intense.
Out There is the closest thing that I can imagine to intergalactic Oregon Trail, and I mean that in good and bad ways. The main objective of being able to get back to your home planet is a huge reach at best if only because of the sheer amount of space one has to traverse in order to get there. As you move from galaxy to galaxy, you expend fuel and oxygen to keep yourself alive and moving, not to mention occasionally getting hull damage from asteroid fields. There’s a matter of repairing and refueling yourself through either random events or drilling/probing planets that exist in the galaxies you bounce between. Some are better than others in terms of what they drop, and you can, more often than not, discover planets with liveable atmospheres where aliens exist, new technologies can be discovered and your ship can become more awesome. Oh, and then you can sometimes find new ships, which is never, ever a bad thing. Even if the ship you discover is less than optimal in comparison to your current rig, you can usually salvage stuff and get more base components to fuel yourself/make new stuff.
In my opinion, Out There is a game that does its intention well as long as players understand, from the very beginning, you can get dealt an exceptionally bad hand. Everything is procedurally generated, from the layout of the stars to the consistency of the planets that you find. Sometimes you’ll get a planet right off the bat that’s rich in helium (the better fuel source), make some proper solar sails to move massive lengths in about six galaxies, and make the gravitational lens in time to find the hidden planets. Or you get three events in a row that result in damaged equipment, expend all your supplies in record time and die before you even discover your first monolith. When it happens, it sucks, but you simply gotta deal with it. Instead, just accept that the procedural generation means that the game is truly random and roguelike, but there are still limitations. I don’t think there’s gonna be a single run that’s impossible, but I am not even close enough to being a great player to justify that statement. Instead, I’m just an avid player who recognizes the great construct of the game and can also see some of the shortcomings in a grander scope of just “good” or “bad.”
Atmospherically, Out There delivers on multiple levels. The soundtrack to the game is sufficiently ethereal and cosmic, adding to this sensation of being alone and not alone in the same swing. It takes only a minute for you to discover the first alien life forms, and you can detect subtle differences in the musical tones and sound effects as you make your way between hospitable planets, hostile lava spheres, and frozen space ice balls. The alien life forms seem to share a common language that is not your own, and, through trial and error, you start to pick up their language, piecing together a grander storyline than just “get back home,” and some allusions to the idea that maybe Earth isn’t where the Astronaut left it. You get the real sensation of a great history unfolding, one that you’ve apparently slept through, and, just as you’re finally starting to grasp things properly, you realize you’ve gone the wrong way, you gotta backtrack across five galaxies to a different fork in the road, and you’re dead long before you get there.
The inherent risk/reward of the game can sometimes leave a player frustrated. For example, the process of discovering technology, including incredibly helpful things like black hole jumping or the gravity well generation, then gets really upsetting when you need to start again and rediscover ideas. Becoming near fluent in the alien tongue and then starting from scratch post-death can shake up a player deeply, not to mention desperately mining for the right minerals and finding the last bit of gold you need with the last bit of fuel you have. The new Alliance edition does address this issue a bit, but only if you’ve played enough to unlock different ships. Yes, for veterans of the game, you’ll be pleased to know the Alliance edition incorporates new ships to start off the journey in, including the most fun I’ve had, the “take all the chances” speed ship that has zero inventory and basically invites you to die as fast as possible. Of course, we hope the PC and phone players will have this upgrade eventually, but it’s a Nintendo Switch only at the current time, which also means…button controls.
I was pretty adamant against the button controls at first, simply because the buttons aren’t exactly intuitive. The process of touching the screen made more sense, as that’s how the game was originally designed, and there wasn’t a floating mouse cursor to use, which I enjoyed on the Steam version. However, after a few moments, it becomes clear that Mi-Clos Studio took a good amount of time in mapping out the buttons and seeing the more fluid way to play. Being able to select with one button, activate with another, and cycle between ship interior, planetary alignments and galaxy maps with separate buttons makes for a much easier pathway and speeds things up considerably. It’s like people who attempt the Dvorak keyboard setup and find it to be unbearable. After a bit of feeling clunky, it gets smooth and significantly faster than touching the screen, though there are still times (when you need to alter multiple technologies on your ship) that you falter. However, for a majority of the play, buttons are, shockingly, the way to go.
Out There: Ω the Alliance is the far and away definitive edition of the game. With new tech, new missions, a new ending and new events (plus new ships), it’s more than enough to entice players to grab the game for a second or third time on their Nintendo Switch. As for new players, the game can seem daunting and scary, but damn if it isn’t engaging and exciting. The storytelling is compelling and makes for a great tale of a life beyond humanity and into a greater scope of universal civilizations. It’s frustrating at times, but it’s richly rewarding to succeed, owing to equal parts skill, planning and luck. Do not plan to just play it for a five-minute stretch and call it a day. Block off a half hour and give it a real chance to lure you in, crush your hopes, and then ask you to try again. If you get the momentum going, you’ll find yourself flung to distant stars and brand new dreams that you’d never imagine were way Out There.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
Out There: Ω The Alliance Review
User Review( votes)
Out There: Ω the Alliance brings the classic experience to the Switch with brand new content, button controls, and a new chance to die from lack of oxygen.