Outer Wilds: Echoes of the Eye

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Comments: 2   (latest January 11, 2022)

Tagged: reviews, outer wilds, echoes of the eye

I wrote my Outer Wilds review while halfway through the thing.

[...] And it's, I'm pretty sure it is, no I'm sure, it's incredibly clever.

Play this one. Don't wait for me to talk more about it.

-- my comments, June 2019

Then I never said any more about it. But what would I say? The awards and plaudits piled up; you knew that. Any specifics would be spoilers, and -- just this once -- spoilers really are verboten.

I replayed Outer Wilds last month, in preparation for the Echoes of the Eye expansion. Replaying was strange. I enjoyed revisiting all the familiar sights and refilling the log book. I unpacked the tiny solar system like a well-remembered toy. But it was hard to connect that to the original experience. The shock of the world transforming in my head, over and over. The cycle of seeing, exploring, understanding, and letting go of what I thought I knew. I missed that. Replay is not discovery.

Then I started Echoes of the Eye and -- it all came back. Only, of course, not. This was different. New beings; new worlds; new uncomfortable realizations. Nothing at all like the nostalgic realizations from last time!

(Memory is such a liar. No wonder people get hooked on remakes of the stuff they loved at age thirteen.) (By "people", I mean me.)

Anyway. The shock of your expectations exploding and the world rewriting itself in your head. That's what you want. Play Echoes of the Eye. If you haven't finished or started the original, that's fine. You can buy the expansion and play the threads in parallel if you want.

I will say that the "less fear" gameplay option was a wise move. (Not a spoiler -- the game mentions it up front.) I am entirely and vocally worn out with Amnesia-style "hide from monsters in the dark" gameplay. This isn't that but it's similar enough, and far enough from the "core" game of pure intellect, that I really stumbled. I switched to "less fear" and got through with no further trouble.

Mind you, "less fear" does not mean "spook-free". EotE is not a horror game, but it is hella haunted. Another post for that, maybe.

And, mind you further, "game of pure intellect" glosses over a lot. Outer Wilds demands a certain degree of controller-flying skill. It's the game's big flaw (and I say that while insisting that the game is flawless). Many people who would really enjoy the investigation are turned off the first time they wreck a landing or bounce off an airlock door.

I'd love an assistive mode for precision flying and jetpacking. It's a tough design problem. Perhaps unsolvable. Many of the game's secrets are about how you move, what you can try while moving. Some destinations are intentionally difficult because you're supposed to find an alternate path. It's hard to imagine how to convey those limitations and discoveries outside the existing mechanics of "try it and see". But it would be a big win if someone figured it out.

Anyway. If the flying is too difficult, park yourself on a friend's couch and insist that they handle the controller for you. They're not allowed to refuse. Tell them I said so.

Echoes of the Eye is over; I have found my way through. I can never experience that again. More like completely different from this, please.

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