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Sweepstakes Details: I’ve decided to run two separate sweepstakes in the comments section of this review and the main game review. Any comments made below (that do not violate site guidelines) will be entered for a chance to win a digital Xbox copy of Outer Wilds: Archaeologist Edition. The lottery will close on November 7th at 11:59 PM EST. Good luck!
*Note no. 1: Must be a US Xbox account (due to Microsoft gifting policies).
*Note no. 2: This giveaway is done through me (Lee Mehr/coolbeans) and not the site. All communication with the winner will be handled by me personally.
*Note 3: One entry per account.
*Note no. 4: It will guarantee that there are two unique winners, even if someone initially gets the first pick in both raffles.
Reviewer’s Note: I have a harder time addressing the compliments and complaints I have without browsing for more as well SPOILERS Generally. Given how Echoes of the Eye tacitly expects you to make significant progress in the main game, a deeper discussion feels warranted. Reader discretion is advised.
Despite being a new discovery Outer wilds fan, I can imagine the initial response to Mobius Digital’s expansion: many would show thoughtful interest in more content for an already stellar game, while others would question its necessity. With all the complex systems in the base game, the places to explore, and the succinct story already told, is it even more necessary to add proper focus? More than just getting extra hours of engaging content, Echoes of the eye stands out for the recontextualization outer wilds’ themes through their disparate design ethos. Not all new ideas are created equal, but it’s nonetheless an amazing expansion that weaves neatly into the original.
Instead of being a segmented standalone expansion (a la The Last of Us: Left Behind), echoes is subtly incorporated within this The galaxy and the means to discover it are found in Timber Hearth. After learning more about Outer Wilds Ventures’ newest satellite and the accidental discovery of a strange anomaly, you’re forced to investigate on your own. Right under everyone’s nose was a cloaked orbital station, far away from all the other planets. You settle into their mysterious dock, see glowing green words that your translator can’t decipher, enter through an airlock into a strange wooden cabin, flip a switch, and suddenly you’re rafting through a huge ring world. Welcome to The Stranger.
The main line of this expansion, both thematically and mechanically, is like the other side outer wilds’ currency If you’ve completed the canon ending, you’ve experienced that sublime sense of cosmic insignificance; and yet those disturbing implications were layered with warmth and appreciation for existing. But what if you feel no comfort from it, only terror? Instead of the fervor of seeking parts unknown and living a life of genuine search, you retreat to that which cannot be reacquired: the past.
This is the story of outer wilds’ the new alien race. They are different from the Nomai, both in anatomy and character. Circumnavigating The Stranger’s inner ring, you’ll come across some quaint theaters that house ornate sliding metal projection rings that elucidate their history. What they considered the most… “dangerous” scrolls have been set on fire or hidden in inconspicuous places, making you work to learn more about these enigmatic people. In keeping with the core game’s storytelling, the world-building feeds back into understanding its more challenging puzzles.
As the pieces come together, you’ll eventually find out where these denizens were hiding and what they did to avoid reality. His self-sustaining dreamscape, perhaps better known as “The Other World,” can be thought of as a fusion between Ready player 1 i Home. These projections from the race’s previous era have become their perceived reality. The more ways you learn about this second world, its origin story, etc., the more you’ll appreciate how this structure complements the main game.
When I think about its ambient storytelling and how often your actions connect thematically with its larger message, I can see many fans ranking it among the best expansions ever made. The only thing that dampens my enthusiasm is a couple of design deviations. Gone are the contiguous planetoids where you can explore every square acre, in their place is a more linear means of travel; even access is limited to a few entry points. This marries perfectly with the story being told, but I lost some eager to return after several constant restarts. It’s hard to replace the true joy of boundless freedom in your space module.
Well aware of this, echoes eager to show new concepts. The duality of light and dark is constantly played out in its design: the directional entrances to each raft are powered by light, to unlock the doors you need your flashlight, a special flashlight is needed to get anywhere in the other world, but it is also a means of attracting the unwanted attention of its unwelcoming guards. Each of these, along with a few other fun nuggets, show just how much Mobius wanted The Stranger to have its own identity from anywhere else.
However, the problem is less creativity and more execution. Given the attention of these guards, you’ll need to hide this flashlight to successfully get past them. Initially it’s a decent game of cat and mouse; trying to use your flashlight sparingly to avoid detection while maneuvering in the dark has some fun moments. That initial luster diminishes when you pick up on some of the patrol’s gimmicks: sometimes successfully catching yourself despite being completely hidden, annoying moments of blocking the only path forward while hanging on to geometry, and no detection indicator appropriate. The atmosphere is extremely palpable, but those pseudo-stealth segments left me wanting.
It would be remiss not to talk about The Stranger’s world design as well. The interior of the ring is basically Pacific Northwest river land with hickory buildings. From anywhere you can see practically the entire landscape: every tree, building and stream. If you’re not too distracted by looking up, you’ll also have opportunities to see the sun through its giant glass window. Like each neighboring planet, there is also a sequenced event that alters the topography of the ring; Besides, how joins with The other world brought about a couple of excellent moments.
Married to its new locations and heavier horror vibe, echoes The audio is incredibly detailed and inspired. It’s the subtleties of The Other World’s sound design, like when The Strangers sound the alarm or its moody atmosphere, that sell its artificial world. Andrew Prahlow returns as composer and certainly outshines his previous work. While he still incorporates soft instruments and electronic synths where appropriate, he also plays with raw distortions and other ideas that suit each setting incredibly well.
Despite being a location, credit is due for being the densest. Naturally, just like with the main game, your speed on completion will return to your acquired knowledge. Although you can’t necessarily “beat” echoes in a play like Wilds, you’ll still lose something valuable by sprinting through it. If you rely on self-discovery (as much as possible), you’ll likely get nine hours of The Stranger, which seems perfectly fine for $15. When you look at their qualitative value, you also have a great expansion with several outer wilds’ best moments so far.
Echoes of the eyes the best success comes from subverting expectations. This has been a cliche for years, but it’s incredibly rare to see an expansion diverge so much from the tone and design of the base game while still fitting in so well. By contrasting the inherent optimism of the original with the dangers of regressing to convenience and willful ignorance, it sharpens the message from both ends. While these themes feel perfectly put together, their rare mechanical pitfalls dampen the overall experience slightly. Still, what surprises me the most about Mobius’ latest effort isn’t just that the developer made a huge expansion; somehow he was able to make one necessary.
A contractor by trade and writer by hobby, Lee’s nasty reviews have found a way to be featured on various gaming sites: N4G, VGChartz, Gaming Nexus, DarkStation, and TechRaptor! He started gaming in the mid-90s and has had the privilege of playing many games on a large number of platforms. Reader Warning: Every click given to his articles only helps inflate his Texas-sized ego. Proceed with caution.
This review is based on a digital copy of Outer Wilds: Echoes of the Eye for the XS
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