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Spoilers below. Also, overly dramatic and sentimental review. It is 4am though, so I think it's justified.
To The Moon is one of my favorite games. I've beaten it about 7-8 times and I bawled my eyes out every single time. I am not joking when I say that the first time I've beaten the game, I had an identity crisis. I started playing around 8pm and it was somewhere around 1am when I finished it for the first time. I then dried my tears and went to the balcony and just gazed at the stars for a couple hours. That game left such a strong impact on me. Years passed before I once again felt such an impact deriving from a game.
I cannot for the love of me trace how and where I first heard of Outer Wilds. It just somehow appeared in my library. "Oh, a space exploration game?! Nice!" It took mere minutes to realize how wrong I was. If To The Moon gave me an identity crisis, then Outer Wilds gave me an existential crisis.
The tone. It is set in such an innocent and approachable universe. Your starting location does nothing but pat you on the back and encourage you to fly into the unknown and have fun. One of your first mini-missions is to track a couple of kids joyfully playing hide-and-seek. And then it adds this scanning tool into your inbox. So you start hearing lovely music while scanning the area. All isolated tunes you cannot piece together just now. You hop from planet to planet and it is oh so endearing and overwhelming and bam. It all ends. I remember literally screaming from joy when for the first time my timeline ended. I knew I was in for a ride.
The setting. You are one of the bestest explorers in this universe. You move from planet to planet and each planet is a new enigma and you have no idea what you're supposed to be doing on this particular planet. And that is the charm of it. The unknown. Cause the game does not help you! You HAVE to explore! What else are you supposed to do in space?! And that drives you further and further.
The tears. I have cried so much playing this game. And there isn't any straight-forward narrative that would make you cry. It is just beautiful. You will discover worlds, you will meet other explorers, you will come across black holes, you will see time itself and time will then swallow you. And you will be happy. You might watch a movie or read a book that leaves you baffled. Outer Wilds did that for me. Transience is to be cherished. Because everything comes to an end.
I have stayed in this game for so long. I would not play it, I would just linger in space. I love KSP, but somehow Outer Wilds manages to give me this weird reassurance and is like a pacifier. I would just float in the universe, knowing it will end in 20 minutes and that would provide security. I would feel safe knowing it ends. And then it starts all over again.
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