French Developer, Mi-Clos, originally launched Out There on mobile devices in 2014 and it was a soaring smash hit having sold over 250,000 units. It put a fresh spin on something as mundane as resource gathering. It went to a dark place. After this success stationary fans are now blessed with a graphically enhanced version, Out There: Omega Edition, now touching base on PC, Mac, and Linux platforms via Steam.
The original game has been given a complete visual overhaul, improved controls, and over 350 text-based adventures with four possible endings. There’s no combat so it’s you and you alone against this harsh environment.
So what is Out There: Omega Edition? It is sci-fi exploration at its finest level with resource management and survival being the only true goals. You play a lone astronaut on his way to the moons of Jupiter. But something happens, naturally, and you’ll soon find yourself waking prematurely from cryogenic sleep and nowhere near your destination. Plus, your ship is damaged. Space is dark and inhospitable; it doesn’t want you where you don’t belong. Every turn could be your last and if you’re not smart about how you play it will be – and you’ll have to start over.
That won’t do you any good as the game is pretty well randomized so the only thing you can do is take what you’ve learned about managing your resources and apply it to your next go around. Thankfully, the game autosaves after every jump into a new system. Your goal is to get to the marked system that was pointed out to you by the unmanned space station that you encounter. There you will learn your destiny and that of the human race. Again, if you survive long enough.
Gameplay is very easy to grasp, especially if you’ve played Mass Effect, which Out There’s movement and resource collection seems to have been based on . The tutorial is rudimentary and will only give you the basics without any insight into how to manage your resources or how many upgrades or different technology is floating around for you to uncover. Yea, I know… it’s not very fair. It’s as if the game’s authors don’t want you to win. There’s no shooting or combat, no movement outside of the same cut-scene animation between jumps to new locations. Everything is text-based kind of like Zork on steroids (yes, I’m digging deep into gaming history – watch the first season of Halt and Catch Fire on AMC for a short course in it).
Your contact with alien life is little more than a language you can’t understand and a picture and the ability to Accept or Decline. You don’t know what they’re saying! They might be asking you to allow yourself be murdered. The more you interact with aliens on breathable worlds the more you’ll begin to understand what they’re trying to say… if you live that long. But your new friends/enemies can also give you technology and upgrades so it’s worth taking the risk. You essentially have to be all judgy basing your interaction on appearances – sort of like dating on Plenty of Fish.
One aspect that kind of irks me is the pop comic look of the navigation and text screens. These adds nothing to the atmosphere and seemed sort of goofy and out of place. More so once you hear the score. It’s creepy and eerie; cold and foreboding then you have Marvel Comic speech bubbles. It’s just weird. Over time you get over it but I’ a firm believer in total immersion. Give me something technological. Change up the dialog texts in ways that could give a clue about how the aliens speak and if they’re going to eat my liver.
Everything you do requires fuel (H or He) and most everything else requires oxygen (O) and if you enter hostile atmospheres you better have a supply of iron (Fe) because your hull requires it in order for you to repair the damage. Those are your main resources. Everything else is used to create new technology, commit to upgrades, etc. etc. The key thing to learn about your vessel is that it is extremely limited and space, ironically, is a factor in how you manage your resources.
You have a cargo hold that holds BOTH your technology and resources. You can combine units to a maximum of 20 per each block so you can combine a 16 unit block of oxygen with a 4 unit block to free up a space. What I found interesting is an underlying educational aspect in that the resources appear on the periodic table and you can start to learn about elements and their designations. You know, in case you plan on being a part of Jeopardy in the near future. It could happen!
Out There: Omega Edition is a fantastic game that’s easy to learn, hard as hell to play and everything is random so you never get bored. At its heart is a great feeling of danger and discovery through exploration. If you’re a fan of resource sims and sci-fi then you’re in luck. If, like me, you’re a hardcore sci-fi fan then you’ll notice nods to genre classics that’ll raise smiles. I happened to encounter a giant space squid that ate away my fuel, meaning to escape I had to dump my precious resource. That’s the premise of a Star Trek: Next Generation episode. Expect to spend countless hours traversing the stars only to die in a few horrible ways and then clicking to continue only to start again from the beginning. And guess what? You’ll love every second of it because, quite simply, you’ll want to beat the damn thing.