Before leaving for space, Outer Wilds allows you to sit in front of a campfire. You can watch it and listen to its crackle, to remember the feeling when you are far away amongst the stars. You could also stick a marshmallow on a wooden stick and start roasting it if that’s what you’d like.
This adventure gives you absolute freedom to explore the planets and celestial bodies of the solar system. In each of them, you will find different natural environments and many storylines that you will have to complete to unravel all the mysteries.
However, to interact with the environment and solve all the mysteries, you have many gadgets, such as a scout probe that takes pictures, an artifact designed to translate the language of a missing alien race, and a sound detector that will guide you to the many, many secrets. It’s a lot to process, be it a blessing or a curse; the game does not walk your hand through it. Outer Wilds is an exploration and discovery game that does not spoon-feed you its content; it pours it right on you and leaves you to deal with it. Alone in space, to top it all.
Outer Wilds is essentially one giant puzzle comprised of smaller puzzles. In this Outer Wilds Beginners guide, I will not be telling you how to solve them. That’s the entire point of the game, and I don’t want to take that satisfaction from it. Instead, I want to give you a few tips and tricks to solve those puzzles yourself.
Before You Begin
Use a Controller
This is a first-person game in which you’ll mostly be walking and flying through space. The developers have often recommended playing with a controller, as zero-gravity physics can be challenging to master. I second this suggestion even if you are uncomfortable with controllers, as it can significantly enhance your gaming experience.
Adjust the Settings to Customize your Experience
Believe it or not, each Outer Wilds experience is personal and different from the rest. I have never seen two playthroughs go the same way. Several aspects of the game can be adjusted to your preferences right before you start.
You can remove the “ship log” feature from the Advanced Settings option, which will require you (as a person, not a character) to manually track the points of interest you find on each planet.
You can also check the “Freeze time while reading” option, which, to be honest, is a blessing in a game where the clock is ticking.
Your First Trip To Space
Meet the Hearthians, Soak Up Knowledge
It all starts on a holiday: you’re about to go on your first space exploration. You wake up next to a bonfire, talk to all the inhabitants of the small community of Timber Hearth to get encouragement and advice (or directly invite us to participate in tutorials), get the launch codes for the ship, and set off to explore other planets.
That might be easier said than done, so let’s break it down into smaller pieces. The only way to get through the tutorial is by speaking to NPCs.
Speaking with Mica – Ship Tutorial
As soon as you wake up and learn that it’s launch day from your buddy Slate, you should turn left and walk straight. It would help if you soon ran into Mica, who will offer to give you a hand and help you fly the practice ship. Don’t worry; it resets as soon as you crash it. You won’t be so lucky when you are out in the real world, so take advantage of this opportunity.
Gneiss, Tephra, and Galena: Music and the Signalscope
Gneiss is an old Hearthian sitting in front of her house. If you speak to her, you’ll learn that she crafted instruments for all the explorers in space. She also points out that you have a tool called Signalscope, which you can use to detect these sounds and their direct direction.
You can learn how to use this tool with a bit of Hide and Seek game. You’ll find two children Hearthians around town who will invite you to play. It’s up to you to find the two little rascals using your Signalscope.
Snapshot the Ghost Matter
As you make your way up to the Observatory, you’ll come across a restricted area with “Ghost Matter,” a deadly substance only visible through pictures. Luckily, you have a camera that you can put to good use with this section.
Have a Chat with Gossan to Learn The Basics about Zero-G Cave
Once you fully climb the stairs, you’ll come across a cave and a new acquaintance, Gossan. He’ll say you can make the necessary repairs for the ship in the Zero-G Cave, a space simulator. You’ll have to use the elevator to head downstairs, suit up, and fix the satellite nodes. This one is an excellent introduction to keeping oxygen and fuel levels.
The Observatory: Learn to Translate with Hal and Grab The Good Ol’ Launch Codes from Hornfels
Hal, or the nerdy Hearthian as I call him, will introduce you to the wonders of translation, and the Nomai, who are aliens with fur.
At the top of the observatory, Hornfels will ask if you’re ready for your trip and, finally, give you the launch codes.
This means you can return to the starting area and take the lift on your right to access your ship.
Lo and behold, your rusty, piece-of-junk ship. It flies, I swear.
Exploring Your Ship and… The Rest of the Galaxy, I Guess?
Inside your ship, you’ll find your raggedy suit, some fuel tanks, and your ship log. This ship log is the computer where you’ll gather all the information you’ve learned and piece it together in a giant web. There are a few points of interest on each planet, and as you explore them and learn new things about them, they’ll be saved here.
From our spacecraft’s cozy cockpit, you can quickly and comfortably access a series of planets or other celestial bodies that, like Timber Hearth, orbit steadily around the Sun. The scale is relatively small, so fuel is not a problem, and the autopilot function guides you towards the orbit of the selected target to initiate a manual landing. Landing can be tricky, as gracefully making your descent on a moving object while piloting another object takes practice.
As a good astronaut, you have a suit to breathe in alien atmospheres, and you can move around nimbly thanks to a propulsion system, both of which are limited by their respective oxygen and fuel meters. They can be refilled on the ship or in other points enabled for it (the areas with trees regenerate the oxygen tank and some small metal canisters left by other explorers, the fuel tank).
Up until this point, the story’s been quite linear. Now, it’s up to you to visit the rest of the planets and in which order you decide to visit them.
You may be drawn to Attlerock, the moon orbiting close to your home planet, and will chat with one of the former astronauts who paved the way for the space race. Or, you may end up on one of the Twin Hourglass planets, which float in tandem as one fills in the fissures of the other in a great stream of sediment that flows through space without spilling out. How could you not be surprised by the ocean with significant tornadoes of Giant’s Deep? In case you are kind of lost, here is a quick overview of each planet:
Timber Hearth is your character’s home. This lumbery planet is essentially full of geysers and craters, I mean, the village itself is placed in a crater. Keep in mind that there are other locations to explore besides the village once you get in your ship.
Brittle Hollow’s moon rains down lava rocks onto the surface, so you might want to step with care into this planet. Raining meteors aside, there’s loads of history to uncover undernearth this planet’s surface… and a black hole at its hollow center.
Giant’s Deep is an ocean world anyone could find fun at. Its islands island serves as an excellent beachfront location to set up and relax… the tide can rise quite unexpectedly, so just make sure you bring your scuba diving set with you to prevent unwanted drownings.
Dark Bramble is a cold, scary place full of menacing fish and plants. As crazy as it sounds, it’s true. You can also find a portal network here, so begin your warping journey.
The Hourglass Twins
Ember Twin and Ash Twin; two planets for the price of one. Isn’t that cool? Make sure you don’t end up buried in sand while you visit them. The reason they are named Hourglass Twins is because Ash Twin will take up all the sand and free up Ember Twin for you to explore, but after a while, Ember Twin will release the sand and transfer it to Ash Twin. If you get caught in this sandy mess, you’re a goner.
Regardless of where you start, all paths will converge at the same point upon reaching the first half hour of play. Because it is then, after the end of a melancholic melody that acts as an omen, that the sun explodes in a supernova and consumes the entire galaxy.
Wait… Did I not mention that the sun will explode every 22 minutes, and you’ll have to start over?
Yeah… that happens.
The Death Cycles
Everything you’ve learned in the past will stick with you when you die. Death is inevitable; you can’t stop it. Every time you die, you will go over your memories when you wake up and repeat the whole sequence. Luckily for you, you’ll already have the launch codes and continue to progress your campaign. The goal is to create this giant web and figure out the end game.
The Basics: Outer Wilds’ Core Mechanics
Outer Wilds will equip you with tools to aid you in your travels. Make sure you know them well and use them frequently.
- Translation tool: is used to read the information from ordinary writings.
- Spacesuit: is used to breathe in space and comes equipped with a propulsion system.
- Signalscope: detects waves of a specific frequency.
- Scout Launcher: triggers a gadget to detect hazards, take pictures from a distance, and illuminate dark rooms.
- Camera: takes pictures and detects ghost matter.
Tips I Wish I Had Known
Tip 1: Match Velocity and its uses while flying the ship
The A or X button will prompt the ship to try and match the speed and direction of the planet or object you’ve selected. You can use this to reach small, fast-moving targets since it allows you to inch in, which is helpful while moving.
You can also use it another way. I usually do it because when flying to a planet, you want to lock it first and check the distance. You can accelerate for about half that distance because you need to slow down the same amount as you sped up to land safely. So what I do is when I hit halfway, instead of pulling back on the stick, I just hit Match Velocity. That way, the left joystick is open to maneuver any way you need, and your fingers are free to do whatever you want.
To top it off, you can use it while using the landing camp, which is X on Xbox and Square on the PlayStation controllers, while in landing cam mode. To the right of the screen is an Ultimeter. This lets you know how close you are to the ground. You can use Match Velocity, the right trigger, to slowly ease down to the planet’s surface just in case you need it.
Holding down on the DPAD will let you look around freely in the cockpit, and if we look to the right, it reveals a button with a cover on it. This button allows your entire cockpit to be ejected from the rest of the ship. If the ship gets dinged up and the reactor goes wrong, it may just save your life.
Tip 2: Replenish your oxygen and fuel whenever you can
You’ll always be running low on both of those, but that’s okay because in your ship and throughout the solar system are ways to refill these two things. Also, if there’s an explorer, there’s a fuel tank for you. You can find small fuel tanks at every location where there is an explorer; some have even left fuel tanks behind while doing their shenanigans.
There are many trees that we can quickly refuel our oxygen. You can also find a campfire at every camp of the explorers from the Outer Wilds adventures. These camps are pretty helpful. You can also roast the marshmallow at a campfire, which restores your health. The med pack in your ship does the same.
I’ll also say two things without giving them away directly. You can meditate in this game to essentially die, though you don’t start with it. That sounds strange, but it all makes sense once you play the game.
Tip 3: Don’t get mad at deaths
Deaths happen a lot in this game. This is part of the content of the game. It would help if you died a lot. You will figure out that deaths are not even something terrible. They can also save you some time in the later game.
Tip 4: Flying is hard at the start
I’m using a controller. The game is telling you that a controller works better. And I agree, even if you’re playing on a PC with a keyboard and mouse. The probe that you can fly early in this game is inaccurate. It’s a smaller version. It flies a little bit weirdly. It’s not very accurate, but you will get to know that the ship has a little bit more inertia. You can slide better than this small one while on the ship. The ship is a massive part of this game.
Tip 5: Your computer is your friend
There is something valuable in your ship: the ship computer. That’s a computer. Yeah. Go to the computer. Timber Hearth, Giant’s Deep… you have to go to every planet you get to know. It also gives you access to the rumor mode. And in the rumor mode, you have got logs. You can go into the rumor mode there and get hints on everything happening in the galaxy.
And you have to check that all the time. The computer is essential. It can give you markings for specific locations inside the universe so that you don’t have to remember every location for yourself or write it down. It will give you markings for that.
Tip 6: Read your ship logs and sometimes read them twice
When you have a log there, they change. And there’s sometimes additional information. And this additional information will give you more hints, knowing where to go or what to do next. Take a look out for specific advice in this game.
Tip 7: If you get specific advice, be sure to follow it
It is there for a reason and at anything else if you’re on a planet and you get some guidance. Then follow it thoroughly, thoroughly, thoroughly, thoroughly. Sometimes they give you hints and advice and point out the danger. But beware that the most direct way is not the only one always. My age tip is that there are some alternative routes that you can discover for almost everything. So keep an eye out, try to think out of the box, and see this game as a giant puzzle.
Tip 8: Visit the Explorers at least twice in the game
Sometimes they will have to tell you something more important right away when you visit them the second time. Sometimes you need to find more information and then have another talk with them later in the game. You may need to be more knowledgeable to get new conversation points with your Explorers.
Tip 9: Get that precise landing
There is a quality-of-life option that can be unlocked. It is the only thing you don’t get at the start of the game. There is a specific Explorer you want to see twice in the game because he will give you another menu option, and I’m not telling you which one. There is a quick hint that I will show you without telling you where it is or who that is: get that precise landing.
The Oopsies: Common Mistakes to Avoid
Don’t Go Big, Start Small
When offered the possibility of landing on the most extravagant and breathtaking galaxy planets, you might be tempted to jump right into one of the bigger ones. For god’s sake, Giant’s Deep is a planet with tornados. Who wouldn’t want to make that their first destination? However, to digest the story in the most straightforward way possible and avoid getting overwhelmed by the number of points of interest that giant planets offer, I would highly recommend starting with one of the more minor planets.
My personal favorite is Attlerock, which is the moon orbiting Timber Hearth. It’s a good starting place; you can meet one of the first explorers, get your interest piqued by the potentially missing but alive harmonica explorer, and even get an introduction to each planet’s visual aesthetic. It’s the perfect starting point.
Don’t Put Off Revisiting The Explorers
You land on a new planet; you head towards the music, meet this random Hearthian in space and then carry on with your shenanigans. Nothing wrong with that… except you’re missing critical information for your ship log. Each conversation will update your ship log and add new bits of information.
Naturally, when you speak to Riebeck on Brittle Hollow for the first time, you’ll get more info on Brittle Hollow. The same goes for Gabbro on Giant’s Deep and so on. However, make sure you re-visit them as you progress in the story, as sharing your discoveries will lead to them sharing theirs, which means… more information is revealed to you!
Use Autopilot with Care
Isn’t autopilot fantastic? You lock onto a planet, hit a button, and then sit back and relax while automation does its job.
I would suggest that you keep a finger or two on your controller while you relax, just in case. The autopilot feature is known for riding players straight into the sun or making them crash against debris. This happens because it locks into an exact, direct direction, not the place itself. Use with care.
Don’t Run Out of Jetpack Fuel
Your jetpack won’t do much unless it’s fueled up. You can only fill this tank at your ship, or if you come across an extra one in your travels, I suggest you try to save as much as possible. Here’s a pro tip: jumping before using your jet pack lets you get a bit higher if you use all your fuel. That’s coming in handy for me in many situations.
Long-term Goals To Consider
Outer Wilds’ vast word and lack of questline often make you go: OK, what now?
And the answer to that is literally whatever sparks your curiosity. Explore. Have fun. Uncover the mysteries hidden away in the galaxy.
Outer Wilds excels at making you, the player, the real protagonist of the adventure. It never forces you to do anything at all. There is no success, and there is no failure. There is only one goal, and you decide how and at what pace you want to achieve it. You can kamikaze your ship into the sun; you can explore the solar system little by little, starting with the satellite of the initial planet and traveling further and further away; or you can throw yourself directly to land on a comet. You are entirely free.
There are no pre-established objectives, checkpoints, or progress systems beyond the knowledge you acquire. All you have is your protagonist and your eagerness to unveil the mysteries.
The feeling of gradually exploring, of finding ancient ruins submerged in the sands of a burning planet, of recovering lost parts of a ship that crashed on a comet; all this makes you feel like a real explorer, like Columbus’ ships sighting American land for the first time, like humanity seeing the photo of the face of Mars at the end of the 70s and dreaming of an ancient civilization that inhabited the red planet millions of years ago.
If you are feeling unsure on how to uncover this solar system’s secrets, you might want to pay Timber Hearth’s Museum and Observatory a visit, as well as the many locations available in Attlerock. These places are full of bread crumbs that should spark your interest and lead you to explore.
Here are a couple of leads:
A parasitic seed made it’s way to Timber Hearth. It’s name is Dark Bramble, just like the actual planet. Could there be a connection between the two? *wink, wink*
A guy named Feldspar, also known for playing the harmonica, has been missing for quite a while. If you point towards the Dark Bramble, you can actually hear his instrument. Could he actually still be alive?
Quantum Physics are hard. You get to experience your first bit of it at the museum. There is an interactive stand of a quantum rock. If you look away and then look back, this rock disappears and reappears somewhere else. It literally moves when you’re not looking at it. If you’re interested in learning the way of the Quantum , head to Giant’s Deep and locate the Tower of Quantum Trials, where you’ll learn some of the rules about Quantum Physics. Also, did you know there’s a Quantum Moon?
And the biggest mystery of them all: why the heck are you in a time loop? Who is responsible for it and how can you get out?
Question: What Planet Should I Start with in Outer Wilds?
Answer: The amount of content available can be a bit overwhelming. To make things easier for yourself, I would recommend picking one of the low-hanging fruits. Timber Hearth’s moon, Attlerock, is a good pick.
Question: Is Outer Wilds a horror game?
Answer: Outer Wilds is one of those games that is unintentionally scary. You feel insignificant and as if something terrible might happen at any time. It’s not that you’re going to shiver, but it does create that constant tension.
Question: What happens after 22 minutes in Outer Wilds?
Answer: You only have 22 minutes to explore the Outer Wilds system. Why? Well, what will happen is the sun will explode, destroying everything it can reach. A new cycle will start as if nothing happened.
Each playthrough in Outer Wilds can last five minutes, fifteen minutes, or maybe half an hour. I can’t give you a number or an average. Does it matter? No. What matters here is to get further and further, or at least try to reach the unknown and understand the secrets of a mysterious race that seems to hold the keys to the solar system in which you live.
This game is about as accessible as it can get. It doesn’t tell you what to do. There’s a mystery. Just figure it out.
Some general advice is that you won’t solve the game planet by planet or location by location. You often have to leave to explore elsewhere, to find how to progress with what you’re dealing with or stuck on. It may seem counterintuitive, but be sure to take your time. No matter what happens, be patient. You’ll find a way if you keep at it.