By the luck of the stars
It’s three in the morning and I’m trying to get back to Earth as quickly as I can. My oxygen is in short supply, and soon I will suffocate if I don’t find a planet with an adequate atmosphere to refill it. Speaking of supplies, I had to scrap half of my gear, including my radar, in order to get the parts necessary to repair my ship’s hull after a near fatal encounter with space debris in the last star system. So without the aid of radar, I’m blindly flying to the closest system: the only system my remaining wisps of fuel would allow me to get to. I have no idea what awaits, but I’m hoping for a planet rich in oxygen, with friendly natives, and ample with the resources and fuel that I need to continue my journey.
In the deep space of Out There, luck, much like oxygen, is in short supply. I come out of my jump, just short of a black hole; a dead end. I don’t have enough fuel for another jump, not that I have enough oxygen to live long enough to even attempt another jump. So, it looks like I won’t be making it home.
Out There is an unfair and frustrating game. But it’s also engaging and fun, at the same time. It is a game where players will curse their luck as often as they will praise it. Players opposed to gambling may be a bit turned away by Out There, as the game relies on luck pretty heavily. But then again, the life of a space explorer would more than likely heavily depend on luck. It’s all part of the job.
In Out There, players take on the role of an astronaut in the 22nd Century who has just woken up from cryonic sleep to discover that his ship has totally gone off course. Now, with limited resources, the player must leapfrog from star system to star system, in an effort to get back to Earth safely. There are three main resources players must maintain in order to keep the mission going: fuel, oxygen, and hull integrity (iron). Fuel is used to jump to the star systems, travel to planets, and gather resources from the planets. Oxygen is used up gradually over time from doing just about everything, and the ship’s hull will take damage from unstable planets as well as a seemingly infinite number of unlucky anomalies that players will undoubtedly encounter during their voyage home. Other resources in the form of elements can be collected and used for ship upgrades.
Specific planet types offer specific resources, at the expense of the other two resources. For example, to acquire iron for the hull, players must use fuel to fly and land on a planet to collect iron, and they will also expend oxygen in the process. Unfortunately, all the strategic planning in the universe will not be enough to get players back home. Upon entry to most star systems, players are greeted with a message. Sometimes the message is an exciting message about how the player found an abandoned ship with some salvageable resources. Other times there are messages about how an anomaly is forcing the player to make a “Hail Mary” jump back into space to a random star system. The latter message is really, really frustrating.
As annoying as these route scrambles were, and although they usually always directly related to my demise, I found myself going back, again and again, attempting to make it back to Earth. Because of the random nature of the game, the developers have tapped into that gambling mentality of “one more spin”. Even though it was past three in the morning, I was ready to try to get back to Earth, one more time.
Out There is a solidly built game that I can happily recommend to anyone looking for a proper adventure game, and to players who don’t mind testing their luck over their ability to plan. It’s worth mentioning that the game is largely text-based, so it’s suitable for players of all skill levels.