The Cycle of Life and Death in 'Out There' is a Peaceful Distraction
I'm enjoying a surprisingly chill experience, despite dying a lot in Mi-Clos' adventure roguelike.
All images courtesy Raw Fury
I am a lonely, lonely boy out in the far reaches of the galaxy. Sometimes I make jokes about how many hot girls Captain Kirk meets on pretty planets, and how all the aliens I meet are plants or cubes. Sometimes I don’t meet any aliens across dozens of planets, all I do is drill for precious resources to keep myself alive. And sometimes I die. I die a lot in this game.
I die because I run out of fuel most often. But sometimes, it’s because I forgot to restore my oxygen reserves, or get stuck in a black hole, or because my damned drill broke and I slowly bled out. But when I do die, I just restart with a sigh and an “oh well,” and I dive right back in.
Welcome to the surprisingly chill experience of Out There Ω: The Alliance, a game of resource management and random encounters across the galaxy, a vastly expanded upon version of the original, with roots in FTL-style spaceship resource management and light Star Control-style adventure mechanics: decision trees and conversations with aliens, mainly. It’s a pleasure to play, and despite my many untimely demises, a perfect adventure to curl up with in bed at night.
My tales often start promising enough: I’ll wake up from Stasis, my buff and crew-cutted astronaut (I nicknamed him Slab Squatthrust) makes a few bumbling journal entries about how lonely he is and how he’s losing his mind just a little bit, and I’ll start exploring planets. Throughout, you need to keep your eye on three chief resources: fuel, oxygen, and hull strength. They deplete pretty rapidly through the course of plotting your way through the galaxy, and you die if any of them runs out, so you have to take care.
After a couple of hilariously quick deaths, I started to get the hang of things. Gas giants lend fuel, rocky planets have plenty of ore good for repairing your hull, and oxygen rich planets have O2 and frequent alien encounters, which allow you to converse with cool beings and possibly learn some new technologies.
As you get further into the game, you can research and craft new tech and find much better ships than your dinky starter, and start making real waves in the universe. Your goal is to find a way home—or, you know, seek out new life and explore new civilizations, and generally have an excellent time among the stars without dying. Which again, I’ve been doing a lot.
But somehow, despite kind of sucking at this whole interstellar travel thing, I’ve ceased to find frustration in out there. Slab and I are having a great time surfing the stars every evening, encountering new, weird things with every adventure. It may be because there is so much to the game—this version boasts tons of extras over the original game—but after several hours, I’ve had almost zero repeat encounters. Sure, the routine maintenance (going to planets and mining for necessary resources) is in itself a repetitive act, but not an obnoxious one. There’s a satisfaction in completing my space chores and keeping Slab around for another day, another blue giant, another cool alien encounter.
Maybe it’s the tone: the chill music and colorful art are always inviting. Perhaps it’s that I’m simply primed to enjoy this type of experience, no matter how many times I restart. Exploring the galaxy is what I’ve always really wanted to do, after all, with a childhood of watching Star Trek and playing with telescopes and astronomy books. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because my obsession with Into the Breach (now 1370+ hours into my steam save and more on the very same Switch) has me simply accepting the inevitability of failure and embracing the cycle of exploration, death, and restarts.
There’s no explicit fiction about starting another timeline here, but going for just one more run seems to… just work within the context of a light roguelike exploration game.
No matter the reason, I’ll be out here with Slab, exploring the mysteries of the galaxy for many, many, many more inevitably failed runs. Hopefully a few successful ones as well.