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You: You're lucky I'm in a time loop, because otherwise I'd be super dead.
Slate: And you're lucky I don't have you grounded for medical reasons, because I have no idea what you're talking about.
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Outer Wilds is an open-world exploration sandbox game with heavy inspiration from immersive sim games, developed by Mobius Digital and published by Annapurna Interactive. As the newest recruit to Outer Wilds Ventures, you are an astronaut who's just completed their training and is ready to embark on their newest job: strapping in a ship, blasting off into space, and finding out the secrets of the Nomai, a race of precursor aliens who mysteriously vanished long ago. About 20 minutes into your first flight, however, disaster strikes. The local sun somehow goes supernova and violently explodes, wiping out your whole solar system and killing your entire race in a blast of nuclear fire. (Or possibly you die before you even reach that point; the solar system is a dangerous place, after all.)

And then you wake up back on your home planet, staring up at the stars. You discover quite quickly that you're stuck in a time loop, but you decide to use this to your advantage- maybe, just maybe, the Nomai had something to do with why the sun went all kablooey, and by exploring their ancient settlements and ruins, one could be able to stop your imminent demise. This is a mystery that's bigger than your entire race's collective knowledge of the Nomai, and it'll take guts, determination, and a whole lot of smarts to figure out just how to save your world.

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The game is a first person exploration game that focuses around exploring different planets in your solar system. Each planet is unique and has a gimmick to it that makes exploration different per planet you're on, from the crumbling crust of Brittle Hollow to the sky-high water spouts of Giants Deep. Your main task is to uncover the history of the Nomai and their people, and to follow in their footsteps to figure out how to save your solar system.

The game was first released on Xbox One on May 29, 2019 (and on PC the next day), with the PlayStation 4 release following on October 15. A Nintendo Switch version is due Summer 2021.

Echoes of the Eye was announced as DLC for the game, and was released on September 28, 2021. The expansion centres around a mysterious deep space anomaly detected by the Hearthians in the far reaches of the Solar System, with the trailhead beginning with a simple new museum exhibit.

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The expansion adds an entirely new location to the Solar System, dubbed "The Stranger" - the source of the anomaly. With the new location comes a new standalone story, filled with a wide range of new mechanics, new lore, new environments, new mysteries to solve, and new secrets to uncover, with ramifications that echo into the story of the main game.

Not to be confused with The Outer Worlds.


Buckle up, blast off, and check out these tropes:

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    Tropes in the main game 
  • Advertised Extra: Riebeck. Despite not being the main character, they get featured in a lot of promotional screenshots and trailers, and the prominence of the banjo instrument in the soundtrack (which they play) makes them more significant, often to the point that they're considered the face of Outer Wilds as a whole. In-game though, you only encounter them camped out beneath Brittle Hollow's surface and is revealed to be a bit of a coward when it comes to space flight. In the finale, Riebeck's banjo is the first instrument you gather out of the others, so the game at least acknowledges their status.
  • An Aesop: Delivered by Riebeck just before the Golden Ending.
    Riebeck: I learned a lot, by the end of everything. The past is past, now, but that’s... you know, that’s okay! It’s never really gone completely. The future is always built on the past, even if we won’t get to see it. Still, it’s um, time for something new, now.
  • Alluring Anglerfish: The inside of Dark Bramble has a thick fog, with the only way to navigate is to follow distant lights. Each light is either a portal or an anglerfish that will try to eat you.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • Discussed by a couple of Nomai regarding the Ash Twin Project — namely, that not only would the Project activate if it was successful, it would also activate if it failed, potentially trapping any paired Nomai in the time loop for a very long time if the project wasn't shut down properly. Indeed, the numbers in the Probe Tracking Module show that the probe that successfully found the Eye was #9,318,054. In other words, after that exact amount of 22-minute timeloops, a total of 389 years, 276 days, 21 hours, and 48 minutes passed before a probe found the Eye. The implication is that they were expressly trying to avert this trope, so they only made the statues pair up when the Eye was actually found, rather than forcing anyone to sit through what could potentially be millions of cycles.
    • Due to the Quantum Moon's nature, Solanum exists in all six of its locations at once, and only the one in the sixth location (in orbit of the Eye of the Universe itself) is alive (sort of). As time doesn't work in the Moon, she's been trapped there for 281,042 years. Any horror is downplayed, because Solanum seems not acutely bothered by her condition. If you remove Ash Twin's warp core and you are in the sixth location when the supernova happens, you will suffer the same fate.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • No matter how much time you spend in the Hearthian village, you will always return to the Nomai statue at the exact moment it activates. From a story perspective, this would mean that the entire series of events comes down to a massive coincidence; had you taken too long, the statue would have paired with Hal instead, and had you run through too quickly, it would have had no one around to pair with, leaving Gabbro as the only one aware of the loop.
    • After the player's first death, Slate will interrupt them as they go to the launch tower, reminding them to go and get the launch codes, and then shrugging it off when the player already has them. In all loops afterwards they won't speak up at all.
    • Because they're also in the time loop, Gabbro can teach the player to meditate, which immediately skips them to the next time loop. It is however a Guide Dang It! to get this ability, since you have to return to them in multiple loops to unlock the right dialogue option.
    • No matter what angle you fall into Brittle Hollow's Black Hole, you will always exit the White Hole facing and moving in the direction of the White Hole Station, so finding it is always easy if you accidentally tumble in. Even more conveniently, its place in the White Hole's "orbit" means the Station is always backlit by the sun when you exit, making it immediately visible.
    • Finding and reaching the Hanging City and Sunless City via following the "proper" trail of clues to their "main" entrances can often be a time-consuming process, wasting time that could be better spent on scouring them, should the player have to return. Within each city is a passageway that leads out of the cities back to their respective planet's surface, through an exit that is hidden from the outside, but always open. These secret exits, once found, can be used as shortcuts to bypass the regular journey in later loops, and save entire minutes should the player wish to quickly return to the cities.
    • Despite removing Poke's Advanced Warp Core breaking the time loop, thus narratively enforcing Permadeath for any outcome thereafter, anything other than a proper ending will just dump you back to the main menu after the credits roll, giving you a chance to start that last loop from the beginning again. This is largely for convenience's sake, since dying to the anglerfish in the final stretch of Dark Bramble and having the file deleted literally in the last leg of the game before the ending would sour many players towards trying again otherwise.
    • If you get sucked into the warp core inside the Ash Twin Project and create a duplicate of yourself, you will get the "YOU DESTROYED THE FABRIC OF SPACETIME" ending if you don't jump in again... which you can't if you took the Vessel to the Eye of the Universe. But if this happens, when you reload you'll already be on the Vessel at Eye of the Universe, and your duplicate will no longer exist, allowing you to reach the ending normally.
    • A lesser case that might also be an In-Universe one is that warp pad exits and your ship's Tractor Beam don't reactivate until you've stepped out of them, allowing you ample time to get your bearings (and, if applicable, repair damaged landing cameras).
    • Despite the fact that the Orbital Probe Cannon fires in a random trajectory and orientation every loop, the Probe Tracking Module will always end up breaking from the Cannon and winding up stuck in the core of Giant's Deep. While reaching the core is still a journey in and of itself, there is no need to manually track down the Module across the system based on the random starting orientation of the Cannon.
    • The game features the ability to directly pinpoint already visited locations on the HUD from the rumors menu, making finding previous discoveries easier and is essentially a godsend for Dark Bramble. Additionally, with the release of Echoes of the Eye, where the Stranger is literally invisible, new dialogue is added where Slate explicitly reminds the player of this feature in the loop immediately after the player finds the Stranger - removing the need to waste time refinding it. The player can even lampshade just how conveniently timed this reminder is.
  • Apocalypse How:
    • The sun's explosion causes a Stellar Scale, Physical Annihilation variant, and this always ends a loop when it goes off.
    • What killed the Nomai was the dispersion of "ghost matter" across the entire solar system caused when the Interloper, a comet carrying it in its core entered the solar system and exploded. This killed all of them except for Solanum, who resided on the "sixth location" on the Quantum Moon and was thus spared. Her other Quantum Moon incarnations were not so lucky.
    • As the player discovers more information, it becomes clear that the sun's explosion is only a symptom of a Universal-scale Physical Annihilation, known more accurately as the Heat Death of the Universe.
    • Meddling with the wrong thing causes a Non Standard Game Over and a Omniversal Metaphysical Annihilation through the destruction of the fabric of spacetime. The achievement text for doing so even paraphrases the description for 'Original Negation' - "There's no going back."
  • Apocalyptic Log: Since Nomai communication appears to be solely through the written word, many of their logs can be found throughout the solar system. Some actual "audio" logs left by Hearthian explorers can also be found in various places.
  • Artificial Gravity: Nomai installations frequently have walkways with a purple pattern on them. These walkways have their own gravity which overrides the local gravity. This results in locations like the Black Hole Project, which is entirely upside-down relative to Brittle Hollow.
  • Artificial Stupidity: In-Universe, the player's ship's autopilot. It works in three stages: stopping lateral movement, accelerating towards the target, and then decelerating to bring the ship to a halt at a safe distance. It is completely incapable of recognizing obstacles in the way, such as moons. In worst case scenarios, the autopilot will quite happily fly the player directly into the sun. You can even bring this up to Slate, who will simply tell you to make sure something isn't in your path when you use it. Furthermore, it also isn't capable of compensating for changes in position, merely locking onto the point in space where the object was when you activated the autopilot. If the object is moving fast towards you, such as the Interloper as it approaches the sun, the autopilot will happily crash into it at several hundred m/s.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Trees can produce all the components needed for a breathable atmosphere even in a vacuum, can grow anywhere they've been planted, and spring up in less time than it took between your fellow astronauts arriving on their respective planets and you visiting them. Ironically, cacti, which are very much also photosynthesizing plants in real life, can't help you at all.
  • Artistic License – Physics: The Quantum Moon and quantum objects found in the game operate on a very basic interpretation of real life quantum mechanicsnote , but it makes for a fun mystery to solve, so it's fine.
  • Artistic License – Space: For a game that takes great pains to simulate some realistic physics, Outer Wilds is simultaneously completely unashamed to take creative liberties with astrophysics where appropriate.
    • In order to cut down on the player's exploration time to a reasonable degree, all of the planets you can visit - aside from the Dark Bramble — are tiny, able to be traversed in a few minutes at most. The way that celestial bodies move is also shrunk down to size; planets complete their orbits around the sun in just minutes.
    • The game presents the heat death of the universe, which you cannot avert, as a situation where all of the stars in the galaxy spontaneously go supernova. In real life, the heat death of the universe is a hypothetical scenario wherein the universe reaches a point where fusion as we know it becomes impossible due to the universe reaching thermodynamic equilibrium. In other words, the stars would all die out, but at their usual, gradual pace, with the significant thing being that new stars form less and less frequently until none ever form again. You also wouldn't be able to witness stars going supernova in real life, due to the time that light takes to travel. Of course, neither of those make for particularly exciting visuals.
    • Individual trees are portrayed as producing enough oxygen on their own to create a breathable atmosphere, even in a complete vacuum.
  • Awful Truth: The Sun going supernova isn't artificially-induced. It's a completely natural event as a consequence of the star's aging, which itself stems from the heat death of the universe occurring around you. This also means it's completely unpreventable - no matter what you do, no matter how many loops you go through, the solar system is doomed, and every single person you meet (including a few children) will inevitably die after 22 minutes, and there's absolutely nothing you can do about it, save for restarting the universe in a new Big Bang as to make sure life in general can continue to exist.
  • Baby Planet: An entire Baby Solar System. All the planets are really small, only a few hundred meters in diameter. Your character can walk from one pole to the other in only a few minutes tops, and your spaceship can fly much faster. This makes space navigation pretty swift and easy.
  • Background Music Override: About a minute and a half before the sun goes supernova, End Times plays, replacing whatever music is currently playing. The sun proceeds to explode a few seconds after the track ends. If the loop is broken by removing Ash Twin's warp core, a variation of the song will play constantly from when you leave the Ash Twin Project until either you reach the Eye of the Universe, or the sun explodes.
  • Bamboo Technology: Downplayed; Hearthians live in a society that's rustic and nature-oriented, their entire civilization essentially resembles a summer camp and their main building material is lumber. However, they're advanced enough to have an observatory and a functioning space program. Your spaceship contains enough metal and electronics to function, but its hull is still mostly made of wood.
  • Beast Man: The Nomai were three-eyed goat people.
  • Benevolent Precursors: The Nomai, who existed thousands of years ago, were very kind and conscientious with their designs.
    • When they were constructing the outer shell of the Ash Twin Project, they took most of the material from Timber Hearth, but stopped when they realized that their mining might damage the local ecosystem. They were particularly concerned about a cute species of four-eyed amphibians — the species is implied to be the distant precursors of yours. The Nomai even left more than enough material to ensure that if any intelligent life on Timber Hearth developed spaceflight, they would be able to construct their own vessels.
    • Even the Sun exploding isn't their fault. Although they created the Sun Station, which was intended to cause the Sun to go supernova for their experiments, records on the station itself indicate that it was unable to function as intended. And even then, Nomai opinion was split on the ethics of such a project. Then they were wiped out before they could resume research on the project, 281,042 years before the start of the game. Even if it had worked as intended, the point was to use it to power the Ash Twin Project, the completion of which would have undone ever using the Sun Station in the first place.
  • Bigger on the Inside: Dark Bramble. Something about it and its seeds warps space, and the space inside not only gets bigger the deeper you go, but the seeds are also capable of warping things that enter it to elsewhere in the Bramble.
  • Big Good: Discussed by the Nomai in relation to the Eye of the Universe itself, which may or may not be sentient. If it is sentient, then it is willingly calling sentient species to it in order to remake the universe, as the current one is dying.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Hearthian enters the Eye of the Universe and after a very surreal trip, collects their astronaut friends and Solanum (if you found her on the Quantum Moon) to help create a brand new universe. While it's implied they all die in the ensuing Big Bang, their universe was dying anyways, and their sacrifice allows life to go on. The post credits scene shows a group of insect-people living in a brand new universe and roasting marshmallows, showing that the adventurous spirit of the Hearthians is being kept alive. If you finished the DLC, the Prisoner also appears at the Eye, and a lantern-bearing, flea-like alien joins the insectoid campers.
  • Bookends: The Eye of the Universe calls back to the opening tutorial, with a replica of the museum detailing the aftermath of your adventure, a series of "hide-and-seek" puzzles with the signalscope, and the general lack of a time limit.
    • The Golden Ending depicts a new planet similar to Timber Hearth, with insectoid aliens similar to the Hearthians, as a remix of the Timber Hearth theme plays.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Right near the start of the game, the player is invited to play around with Mica's model ship, to get a feel for the controls, and one of the things they can do is drop the model into the nearby geyser. Go for a swim in the planet's underground waterways later, and you can find lots of model spaceship parts littered around the cave at the bottom of that particular geyser.
    • If the player fires their Little Scout into the Eye of the Universe before jumping in, they'll lose connection to it and be unable to call it back for the entirety of the finale. Credits roll, 14.3 billion years pass, the player is treated to a shot of a new civilization... and then the Scout goes flying past.
  • Captain Crash: Feldspar, apparently. Their logs that you can find keep a separate count of how many interesting crashes they've had versus the boring ones, and the only thing left from their inaugural flight is the pilot's seat.
  • Convection Schmonvection:
    • You can get as close to lava as you want on Hollow's Lantern, you won't die until you actually touch it. Also, you are completely unaffected by the molten meteors burped out by the volcanoes.
    • You can get really close to the sun, you only die once you hit the surface. Depending on your velocity, you can be doomed a bit earlier as when you are close enough, your rockets are not powerful enough to get you out.
  • Cosmic Horror Story: Downplayed. If the sun exploding doesn't scare you, and the Quantum Moon only gives you the willies, then the malicious, semi-sentient pocket dimension of the Dark Bramble just might. Ultimately, though, it's a story about exploration, hope and new beginnings.
  • Credits Gag: Should the player trigger a Non Standard Game Over in which they destroy the fabric of spacetime, a sillier version of the credits scroll accompanied by the main theme played on kazoos.
  • Crystal Spires and Togas: Nomai tech fits this aesthetic perfectly. Their vacuum suits look like robes with ceremonial masks, they carried high-tech staffs, and stored their electronic communications on scrolls and tablets. Most of their remaining structures were made of quartzite, gold, glass, and crystal. It stands in stark contrast to the Hearthians' duct tape and wood aesthetic.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast:
    • As this is an exploration game where Death Is Cheap, this is a given for the player, especially if they're unprepared for what they find.
    • When you make it to The Vessel, you can discover the story of Escall, the leader of this lost Nomai clan. He ordered his Vessel to warp to the source of the signal from the Eye of the Universe immediately upon discovering it, without telling anyone else where they were going, because he was afraid the signal might disappear. The ship immediately crashed in Dark Bramble, killing an unspecified amount of the crew. This crosses over into Hoist by His Own Petard afterwards, since while he did escape the Vessel, he was on Escape Pod 3, so he never made it out of Dark Bramble and instead suffocated.
    • Pye and Poke venture deeper into the Interloper despite the obvious dangers. On the one hand, they do learn about the existence and danger of ghost matter. On the other, they don't live long enough to warn anybody else about it.
  • Cutting the Knot:
    • Getting below the current on Giant's Deep is a complicated affair to discover — you have to visit the Southern Observatory on Brittle Hollow to find out that one storm on the planet sucks in objects, rather than expelling them like the rest. Alternatively, fly about 350-400 km away from the planet and just ram into it at top speed. There's an achievement for doing it.
    • Getting to the Black Hole Forge normally requires you to wait for the sand to drain on Ash Twin for you to be able to access the Brittle Hollow Warp Tower, because the whole structure is upside down and the foot path is damaged. Or you could carefully pilot your ship under the planet's surface and land it upside down in the Black Hole Forge district.
    • Getting to the Sun Station normally requires using a warp pad at a very specific time, since the path is blocked by cacti. If you're a daredevil who laughs at the notion of a fiery death, on the other hand, you can fly there directly and attempt to land on the Sun Station itself. Pulling it off nets you an achievement, and it also means you're probably not surviving that loop.
  • Developers' Foresight:
    • If you happen to roast a marshmallow at the end of the world, the marshmallow will instantly catch fire from the heat from the nearby sun exploding.
    • If you try to get to the Eye earlier than usual by going to the sixth location on the Quantum Moon, the upper atmosphere winds will be too strong for you to escape into space.
    • The Ash Twin Project contains a long set of Nomai writings that detail its history and all the steps to finding it, so that anyone who may have skipped some steps would get the clues added to their Ship Log.
    • Feldspar has one of the hints necessary to get into the core of Giant's Deep. If you figure it out before meeting them, a unique dialog option becomes available lampshading this fact.
  • Difficult, but Awesome: Piloting the Nomai shuttles. Unlike your ship, shuttle flight involves looking for launch windows and timing your trajectories to meet up with your target destinations, much like space flight in Real Life. It's a bit tricky to pull off, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes a fun way to traverse the solar system and also provides an alternative transportation option to your ship, should you lose it.
  • Downer Ending: All of them. You can't stop the sun from going supernova. The game introduces a few Red Herrings to distract Genre Savvy players, but in the end, there is nothing you can do to save your planet or your race; everybody dies. The Golden Ending is at least Bittersweet.
  • Driving Question: There's a whole number of these, and your ship's computer groups together rumors and research on the Nomai into five mysteries (the DLC adds one more to make six) that link into one another.
    • What is the "Ash Twin Project", what does it do, and why were the Nomai so focused on creating it?
    • What is the Orbital Probe Cannon, where is it, and what is its purpose?
    • Where did the Nomai come from?
    • What is the significance of The Interloper, the comet that is orbiting the sun?
    • What is the Quantum Moon, why does it hold such importance for the Nomai, and how do you get there?
    • Narratively, there's also the question as to why the sun keeps exploding every loop, and whether or not it can be stopped.
    • For the Nomai, what is the Eye of the Universe, and what is the purpose of the signal it is emitting? Why can't it be found by simply following the signal?
    • The DLC Echoes Of The Eye adds one more for your ship's computer: What is the Stranger?
  • Duct Tape for Everything: Some of your equipment and even your spaceship is held together by duct tape. When you repair damage to your suit, the sound indicates you are fixing it with tape.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: In the solar system's history, there used to be a fifth planet where Dark Bramble now orbits, until a Bramble seed appeared at its core and shattered it from the inside. Remnants of that explosion can still be found around the solar system. There's enough evidence to suggest that the Giant's Deep jellyfish were actually native to this fifth planet but got displaced by the explosion. And if it's not dealt with quickly, it's likely the seed on Timber Hearth will cause the same fate, if it wasn't for the sun going Supernova anyways.
  • Easter Egg:
    • Not strictly; more of a case of a location that's unnecessary towards figuring out any of the mysteries and is never hinted at elsewhere. Hollow's Lantern, the firey ball orbiting Brittle Hollow that's spitting its own fireballs at it for the whole 22 minutes, has a Nomai conversation wall inside one of the volcanoes. The whole moon is moving very quickly and one wrong move will see your ship being melted by lava. It seems like a Violation of Common Sense to go anywhere near it, and if you do manage to get inside without being taken out by a flying rock, it merely exists to inform you a little more about the mines on Timber Hearth. What does qualify in that location is a charred Nomai skeleton hidden in the lava that is slowly revealed as the lava recedes. Its arm is stretched upwards from the lava in a very distinctive manner.
    • One that more readily fits the definition can be found on Ash Twin. If you get sucked into the black hole that opens up in the middle of the Ash Twin Project when the loop ends, when you return there next loop you'll encounter... yourself. Dialogue options range from Casual Danger Dialogue through suggestions of Screw Yourself to just screaming at each other. Then, if you fail to fulfill the time loop by hopping into the black hole the next time it opens, you break spacetime spectacularly, giving you a Non Standard Game Over.
    • One particular knot inside Dark Bramble has an unusual destination — you can't fit into it yourself, but fire your scout inside and it'll end up in the Great Hall at Elsinore Castle, from another game featuring time loops, which Outer Wilds' art director Wesley Martin had worked on previously.
    • At the very edge of the solar system you can find a small probe — the Fig Backer satellite, a reference to the original crowdfunding campaign on Fig from which Outer Wilds was raised. Donators who donated above a certain threshold were able to submit their own images and audio to be hidden in the game, which are shown on the satellite's screen.
    • The names of other high-donating Fig backers are included in the Observatory Museum, in a small thank-you note for helping the game's development (sneakily written in-universe as helping the Outer Wilds Ventures space program).
    • Hidden in the Hearthian Village is a small graveyard, the tombstones having the names of other Fig backers written on them.
    • Crashed in the Attlerock's surface is the ship from the game's original alpha, complete with its original low-quality textures.
    • A tree near the gravity cannon on Brittle Hollow has a perfectly normal-looking rock that acts as a very odd wall scroll.
  • Easy Logistics:
    • Easy Oxygen! You just need a living tree or two nearby and you can refill your air tank. The Hearthians actually have a packet of emergency tree seeds they give to their explorers just to make a livable space where they go.
    • Your ship never needs to refuel, even though your suit does. Checking the fuel gauge shows the ship does use fuel as the thrusters go off, but you can't run it dry unless the tank gets damaged.
  • Ejection Seat: A button on the right side of the ship's console triggers an ejection sequence that blows the canopy then launches you forward. There's an achievement for doing it while the ship is parked on a planet. It's also a useful tool if you're trying to get into the Sun Station without using the teleporter.
  • Eldritch Location:
    • The Dark Bramble. A maze of strange portals, twisting branches and enormous angler fish, this hellish, foggy labyrinth is perhaps the most confusing planet to navigate in the whole solar system.
    • The Quantum Moon, a place that exists only when being observed and warps around the Solar System rapidly. Not only are there six different versions of the moon depending on where you are relative to it and what planet it's orbiting, but the entire thing is made of the same quantum rocks that are found on other planets, which themselves can have an effect on local wildlife. Solanum correctly theorizes that the reason the moon is like this is because it's actually the moon of the Eye of the Universe, which is itself an even bigger Eldritch Location. Among other things, time does not work as it should in the Moon's sixth location, as Solanum is still alive eons after the rest of her people, including her own versions in the other Quantum Moon locations, died.
    • The Eye of the Universe is, if possible, even weirder than its own moon. The symbol the Nomai used to represent it is actually a strange structure that surrounds the planet itself. Its northern hemisphere is trapped in endless night, while the southern hemisphere has a massive, stormy maelstrom that covers it in its entirety, each lightning that falls changing the locations of the rocks and trees that can be found there.
  • Electric Jellyfish: The game's largest planet, Giant's Deep, is home to a species of giant jellyfish that zap anything their tentacles touch. They can even overload your ship's electrical system.
  • Everything Is Trying to Kill You: As AV Club noted:
    Outer Wilds is a game about dying in space. And also exploring and archaeology and mysteries and time, but it’s the dying that’ll occupy a decent chunk of your early time with it. It’s a horror game where the most terrifying monsters are things like physics and poor planning. (There may also be some actual monsters; there’s an ocean planet I’m way too scared to dip below the surface of just yet.) Maybe you fly into the sun. Maybe you get blindsided by a moon, moving at spaceship-smooshing speeds. Maybe you just run out of time. Either way, you’re dead—until you’re not, as time rewinds, and you’re right back where you started, staring up at the stars in your idyllic, rustic village, and wondering just what the hell is going on.
  • Face Death with Dignity:
    • Talk to Chert during End Times and they'll only ask you if you want to sit next to the campfire with them.
    • At the Eye of the Universe, everyone gathered around the campfire is relaxed. They know they are about to be gone (or maybe they already are), but they seem to accept it gracefully.
  • The Faceless: Chert, Riebeck and Gabbro are all wearing their spacesuits when you find them, so their actual faces are never seen. They're also not among Outer Wilds' founding members, so they're absent from the group photo in the observatory. Similarly, Solanum is wearing a Nomai spacesuit.
  • Fast-Forward Mechanic: The 1.0.3 patch added the ability to fast-forward time by sleeping at campfires. It becomes available after a few loops.
  • Fate Worse than Death:
    • Solanum is trapped in the Quantum Moon's sixth location, and supposedly has been for eons. For bonus fun, her other quantum versions in the other five locations all already died and withered away ages ago. If you remove the Ash Twins core and then wait out the supernova here, you meet the same fate. At least you have company...
    • Alternatively, you can jet outside of the solar system with the core in hand, so far that the supernova won't reach you. Since the loop is broken, there's no going back, and since the universe is, you know, dead, your prize for this bout of logic is being stranded in the empty, pitch-black void of space indefinitely, until your ship runs out of supplies and you starve, suffocate, or die of thirst.
  • Featureless Protagonist: Sidestepped a little in terms of gender as all Hearthians are nonbinary. Otherwise, no mention is made of the protagonist's name or age (aside from a couple of characters calling them "hatchling", the Hearthian equivalent of using "kid" as a quick nickname for a younger person). The most the player can see of themself without some scout ingenuity is their hands, but placing a scout in the middle of your ship's cockpit does reveal a complete player model. Alternatively, the player may also use the Ash Twin Project to send a duplicate of themself back in time, which they can then meet and talk with in the following cycle.
  • Five Stages of Grief: Chert will go through most of these over the course of a time loop, as they are the only Hearthian who is able to notice that the universe is ending, due to them observing the stars from Ember Twin. Their dialogue will change throughout the time loop as they go through these stages, starting with denial when they first notice what is happening, then anger, then a depressive state where they have no dialogue options and will simply ask you leave them alone. In the last minutes of the loop, they will be in acceptance, and will ask you to sit with them and watch the stars die together.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Whenever you wake up, you can clearly see something explode over Giant's Deep and shoot a bright purple object around the solar system. That's the Orbital Probe Cannon, and the probe it fires is crucial in figuring out how to get to the Eye of the Universe.
    • In the part of Timber Hearth that has a piece of Ghost Matter a young Hearthian explains that ghost matter eventually evaporates and wonders if there will be any by the time they grow up, foreshadowing the revelation that the Nomai went extinct from the sudden introduction of Ghost Matter througout the system due to The Interloper.
    • Foreshadowing the ending, Solanum mentions that her biggest question is what happens when a sentient observer enters the Eye of the Universe. You end up doing this in the ending.
    • Also foreshadowing the ending, if you fly out to the edge of the solar system and wait for the planets to line up just right, it's possible to hear all of the travelers' songs at once — the same song they all play together when the player finishes the game with the Golden Ending.
    • Talking to Chert reveals that they've been seeing a ton of supernovas out in space today, and looking around can show that they're right — there are an unusually high number of stars that are rapidly accelerating to their final stage before detonating. If you're familiar with some hard sci-fi stuff and theories about the Big Bang, this should set off some warning bells, as mass star detonations like this can only herald the heat death of the Universe.
    • A combination of this and Freeze-Frame Bonus can occur when shooting a scout into the Dark Bramble seed that lands on Timber Hearth. If one is paying close enough attention or has a pause button, it can be possible to see Feldspar's campfire in the Angler Fish skeleton.
  • Gainax Ending: The ending is filled with surreal imagery, symbolism, and makes little to no sense if viewed literally.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • Having unlimited time to go through the tutorial area aside, logically the time loop should send you back to the moment you locked eyes with the statue in the observatory, not the beginning of the game when you wake up next to the launch pad. But that would mean walking all the way back every time.
      • Justified in that the statue doesn't start the loop; it merely makes you aware of it for the first time. After all, over nine million loops elapsed before the statue even activated, because the loop is being created to gather more information. In other words, the loop starts running right before the probe cannon launches, and you just so happen to wake up right at that point.
    • Quantum objects always move in reaction to the player only. In the case of the Nomai they observed the Quantum Moon staying around their planets for much longer periods of time (because multiple people were looking at it over differing periods) but in-game the Moon always moves when the player's camera is no longer pointed in its direction.
      • Semi-justified as most hearthians live in a crater with a limited view of the sky. The only people who could be watching the moon for long times are Chert and Esker.
    • The Orbital Probe Cannon fires in a random trajectory at the start of every loop, yet somehow the Probe Tracking Module will always end up breaking off and falling into the core of Giant's Deep when the Cannon shatters. Of course, this is to the player's benefit, as manually tracking down the Module's location based on the Cannon's entirely random starting orientation would be a far greater slog.
    • Due to the bombardment from Hollow's Lantern, Brittle Hollow slowly collapses piece-by-piece from a relatively whole planet to a hole-pocked mess of rock barely holding itself together, with most of the ancient Nomai structures falling as well — but over the course of 22 minutes. Which naturally begs the question of how said ancient structures survived there, let alone the entire planet remained relatively whole for thousands of years, as text indicates that Hollow's Lantern was active even in Nomai times. Unlike the Hourglass Twins, where the sandfall direction is described as an alternating cycle, the Black Hole in Brittle Hollow's core is only one-way, with no way for the planet to reform any fallen pieces.
      • This particular case was noticed by the devs, as a later patch with the DLC added an extra Nomai computer in Hollow's Lantern which notes that the moon is currently having an abnormal spike in volcanic activity due to the approaching supernova, explaining why its meteors are suddenly so powerful.
  • Gameplay Randomization:
    • The rocks that launch from Hollow's Lantern and crash into Brittle Hollow do so completely randomly. While most of Brittle Hollow's chunks will end up falling into the black hole by the end of the loop, the order in which they do so is entirely determined by the frequency with which rocks hit them, and can even be altered by the player crashing into them.
    • On a lesser note, the Orbital Probe Cannon fires in a random trajectory every loop. For the most part this has no actual impact on the gameplay, but can lead to hilarity when that trajectory just happens to intersect with your ship.
  • Genius Loci: Some of the Nomai theorize that the mysterious "Eye of the Universe" could be one of these, calling out to sentient races for some unknown reason. While it doesn't show any overt signs of sentience in the ending, it definitely reacts to your presence, making it ambiguous.
  • Gimmick Level: Pretty much every location in the game has a unique gimmick of its own.
    • The Hourglass Twins are a pair of double planets — Ember Twin and Ash Twin — that orbit each other. and revolve around the gimmick of sand. Ember Twin is a barren rock and Ash Twin is a barren sand pit. As the two orbit one another, Ash Twin's Sand is vacuumed up by Ember Twin at a steady rate. Ember Twin gradually fills up with sand as time passes, which can make many of its underground areas inaccessible after a while if you don't explore them quickly enough. Ash Twin is the opposite, all of its areas buried in sand being revealed and accessible if you wait around long enough.
    • The player's home planet of Timber Hearth may seem regular on the surface, but exploration outside the home village shows it is dotted with powerful geysers of varying sizes capable of catapulting anything on them into space — and the geysers themselves lead to an elaborate underground waterway that connects every geyser on the planet, and links every key location with a geyser together in a single hidden subterranean highway. This waterway can be used both as sneaky fast travel and also contains secrets of its own. The planet's moon, the Attlerock, is perhaps the most mundane celestial body in the System, and even then, viewing its dark side reveals that almost half the moon has been carved out completely by a massive celestial collision by the remnants of Dark Bramble.
    • Brittle Hollow is a Hollow World with its surface composed of many brittle sections. As the surface gets bombarded by lava rocks spewed from its volcanic moon, Hollow's Lantern, pieces of the crust will collapse into the core, until most of the planet is gone save a few safe zones. At the center of the planet lies a black hole, which won't kill you if you fall in it, but instead, will warp you to a White Hole on the outer edge of the solar system. Waiting out the collapse allows access to areas you might not be able to reach when they're still attached.
    • Giant's Deep is a storm-wracked ocean planet where small islands drift about its surface. They'll occasionally cross paths with the cyclones and be flung briefly into space, eventually crashing back down, prompting the player to find special gravity panels that keep them safe. It also has the strongest gravity of any planet, which hampers jumping and jet pack usage.
    • Dark Bramble is a maze of fog-covered, space-bending brambles where getting around is a case of finding the right path. It's also the only area in the game to host dangerous enemies; the Anglerfish, which will pursue you on the slightest instance of sound.
    • The Interloper is a comet with its interior sections only being accessible when it reaches perihelion (closest approach to the sun), and you only have two chances to explore it before it eventually crashes into the expanding sun. The ice caves inside are filled with the deadly, invisible ghost matter.
    • The Quantum Moon is a key (though optional) mystery in the Solar System, an entire moon that undergoes quantum effects, a major game mechanic - appearing in different orbits around the System, and disappearing when unobserved. Landing on the moon conventionally is impossible, and a great understanding of the many loopholes of quantum effects is required to both land on it, and to uncover its many secrets.
  • Golden Ending: The best ending is still bittersweet, but you get all of the Travelers to play their song together, and remake the Universe with a new Big Bang. The Golden Golden Ending has the player seeing their probe survive the universal reset.
  • Gravity Screw: Obviously, getting close enough to planets or the sun while flying through space will pull you towards them. In addition, the Nomai have installed gravity crystals in various locations in the star system that allow you to walk on the surface they're attached to whatever its orientation, as well as entire wall panels with the same property. Gravity changes are particularly abrupt when the player is not in their ship, as they will re-orientate rapidly so as to be falling "down" on crossing a gravitational boundary. Accidentally getting caught in the gravity well of the Sun and plunging in is common enough that the game will advise new players when their first death is that way.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: After 22 minutes have passed, the Player Character is sent back in time to the beginning of the game and must relive the same 22-minute period again. Dying can reset the loop early.
  • Guide Dang It!: Arguably, since much of the game revolves around solving the puzzles the Nomai left behind (some of which require a basic understanding of quantum mechanics), there's a lot potential for players to run into this. However, some notable examples include:
    • The Quantum Moon. Just finding the Moon is difficult enough, as it is constantly teleporting to different locations around the solar system and the only way to lock it down is to directly observe it. Then, in order to move it to the mysterious sixth location, you have manipulate the Nomai quantum tower to appear on the Moon's north pole, and then turn off the lights and turn them back on to teleport the Moon through its set locations until you reach the sixth location. Thankfully, finding the Quantum Moon is an optional objective, and only needed for achieving the Golden Ending.
    • The Ash Twin Project teleporter. Unlike the other teleporters, the roof to the Project teleporter is broken open, and it only activates when Ember Twin passes directly over it. However, without the roof, there's nothing stopping Ember Twin's sand stream from pulling the player off of the teleporter pad before it can activate. The solution to this is that you have to wait in cover until the last possible second when Ember Twin is directly over the teleporter, then make a dash for the teleporter and step on it before you can get picked up.
    • Reaching The Vessel requires navigating through a tight cluster of blind Anglerfish without making too much sound via thrusting. But it can be made easier by leaving your spaceship behind, making yourself much smaller. Alternatively, if you fly into the red node fast enough, inertia will carry you past them without the need for additional thrust.
    • Your ship's log will inform you if a location has more clues for you to discover. What it won't do is tell you if there's an entire location with hints that you've missed. This can prove problematic in finding certain places, because the game won't even hint that you need to find them, let alone point you in the right direction.
  • Hand Wave: It's implied that the computer in the player's ship keeps data across loops because it was built using a piece of the same statue that was paired with the player. This is just mentioned in passing by someone who has no idea of its significance.
  • Here We Go Again!: The Golden Ending has a new species having to repeat what the player did 14.3 billion years later.
  • Heroic BSoD: Later in the time loop, if you talk to Chert about 16 minutes in, they'll come to a realization based on their observations of other stars going supernova that the universe is dying, and that the Sun will do the same. They'll immediately slump into depression and ask to be left alone for a while, and just as the Sun is about to go, they'll ask you to sit down beside the campfire with them and spend the last moments together, fully accepting their fate while lamenting how the Heartheans are unlucky to be born at the end of the universe.
  • Improvised Microgravity Maneuvering: If you run out of jetpack fuel, your suit will switch to your oxygen tank as an emergency backup. There's an achievement for using 75% of the tank in this manner.
  • Info Dump: Finding the Ash Twin Project is usually the culmination of hours investigation and following clues. It also contains Nomai writing detailing every major plot point along the way, in proper order, just in case you blunder on it by accident.
  • Jet Pack: Your spacesuit has one. Unlike your ship, it has a finite fuel supply.
  • Just Before the End: You've got 22 minutes before your sun explodes and wipes out your entire solar system.And it isn't just your solar system that's Just Before the End, the entire universe has reached the Natural End of Time.
  • Justified Extra Lives: Thanks to a "Groundhog Day" Loop.
  • Justified Tutorial: The Zero-G Cave at the core of Timber Hearth. You can talk to Gossan at the cave entrance (before starting the "Groundhog Day" Loop), and they will ask if you want one last round of practice before your launch. Taking a spacewalk in microgravity can be an unintuitive challenge with Some Dexterity Required, though it is necessary to master the game. This cave allows you to practice maneuvering with no time limit in an enclosed space with little danger. And if you already have the skill, you can skip it.
  • Kill 'Em All: On a universal scale. You cannot prevent the sun from going supernova; it is an inevitable part of the heat death of the universe. You and everyone you meet throughout the game will die in the resulting shockwaves - and because every other star is also going supernova, all life in the universe will likely face the same fate. Despite this, it is not a complete Downer Ending: by reaching the Eye of the Universe, you help kickstart the next Big Bang and allow a new universe to be created. The post-credits scene shows a group of sentient beings sitting around a campfire, proving that life goes on.
  • Language Barrier: When you find the last living Nomai, Solanum, you only have the ability to translate her language and she is unable to speak yours. To compensate, she generates tiles with various concepts that you can pair together to ask about the relationship between the two, allowing her to express her thoughts on the matter.
  • Last Lousy Point: Collecting every rumor for the Ship Log can be frustrating because the game doesn't always give you a hint as to which areas have clues you've missed. For example, the Dark Bramble seed on Giant's Deep can be completely ignored and the game will never hint that you've missed anything unless you land on it.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: Although the solar system is vast, only the parts of it that hold relevance to the gameplay are made to be eye-catching.
  • Lethal Lava Land: Hollow's Lantern is a small moon entirely consisting of lava. It occassionally spits molten meteors at its parent planet, gradually breaking it apart.
  • Light Is Good: The Golden Ending of the "Let there be light!" variety.
  • A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away...: The game is entirely set in a fictional solar system just referred to as the Solar System or the Outer Wilds with no mention of Earth.
  • Loophole Abuse: Basically how the player has to manipulate the game's quantum physics to solve puzzles. An object will remain in place while observed, and will move when not observed, for generous definitions of "observe."
  • Lore Codex: The ship's log, which automatically notes down things that the player has discovered while exploring the solar system.
  • Lost Technology: Your probe, if you drop it into the Eye of the Universe, will be lost and never recovered. The ending reveals that it survived the Big Bang and is now drifting through the stars. Also, judging by the fact it's still making noise, it's still functional, despite the passing of 14.3 billion years.
  • Made of Indestructium: The Ash Twin Project is encased by a solid shell that is impenetrable from the outside. The only way in or out is through a warp pad. It's so tough that even the force of a supernova isn't enough to breach it; you simply freeze the same as if you had fled the solar system.
  • The Many Deaths of You: The game has many responses to the varied ways the player can die. For example, death by suffocation makes the player wake up gasping for air on the next loop. Death by temporal paradox has a unique credits screen and kazoo remix of the theme song.
  • Meaningful Name: The planets. For example, the Hourglass Twins are a pair of planets orbiting each other, with sand flowing back and forth between them (the game's timeline only allows the player to witness it in one direction though). Similarly, Giants Deep is a water planet, and Brittle Hollow is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • Mental Time Travel: This is more-or-less how the statues and the resulting Stable Time Loop works; each statue is recording the memories of whoever it's paired with and, using the incredible amount of energy from the supernova explosion, launches those memories back in time into the mind of its partner at around the time they paired with the statue. This also includes memories from any previous loops.
  • Mind Screw:
    • Quantum objects move between different locations whenever they're out of sight. The effect can really mess with your head.
    • The Quantum Moon is an entire stellar object with quantum properties that you must use as a vehicle to traverse the solar system. There is a Nomai you can meet at its sixth location, Solanum, who is fairly sure she's not completely alive any more since, in all other locations, she's dead.
    • The ending can really mess with your head. Everything after you enter the Eye of the Universe is either metaphorical in nature or else very symbolic.
  • Minovsky Physics: While quantum objects in Outer Wilds operate on rules that only passingly resemble actual quantum mechanics, they do operate on rules, which are logical and strictly defined, averting Quantum Mechanics Can Do Anything. Learning these rules is key to completing the Quantum Moon storyline.
  • Multiple Endings: Mainly dependent on what you do after removing the warp core from the Ash Twin Project. Any ending other than either of the Golden Endings or the Paradox ending results in a credits sequence that's entirely silent.
    • Eye of the Universe Ending: Visit Solanum on the Quantum Moon (and the Prisoner if th eDLC is installed) during one of the loops, then relocate the warp core to the Nomai Vessel and travel to the Eye of the Universe.
      • Not-Quite Golden Ending: Same as above, only without meeting Solanum (and the Prisoner if the DLC is installed).
    • You Died Ending: Either die before ever making contact with the Nomai statue that's the source of your "Groundhog Day" Loop, or die after ending the loop by removing the warp core. This ends with you permanently dead.
    • The next two endings are unintuitive and difficult to achieve, making them a case of Earn Your Bad Ending.
      • Isolation Ending: Remove the warp core and leave the solar system, setting yourself adrift in space until your supplies run out.
      • Quantum Moon Endingnote : Remove the warp core and travel to the sixth location of the Quantum Moon, leaving yourself trapped for eternity like Solanum is.
    • Breaking Spacetime Ending:
      • The game will end if you screw around with the time travel experiment in the High Energy Lab. By setting it up correctly you can observe what the Nomai did: that an object (in your case, your Scout) will emerge from a white hole before it enters its corresponding black hole. If you then remove the black hole warp core after the Scout has left the white hole, but before it's entered the black one, for a moment you have two Scouts... then black tentacles forming from the duplicate Scout which came out of the White Hole suddenly eat the world. "YOU DESTROYED THE FABRIC OF SPACETIME." Cut to credits, with the main theme being played on kazoos.
      • Also known as the 'Self' Ending, for this ending, you have to jump into the black hole which forms in the Advanced Warp Core just after the supernova. This causes a time paradox to start, where there will be two copies of you in the world - one of which would remain in Ash Twin. Once seeded, if the player doesn't manage to jump back into the black hole while it is open, or if they die, then like the above, black tentacles (this time from the copy of themself) suddenly eat the world, as once again, "YOU DESTROYED THE FABRIC OF SPACETIME."
  • Natural End of Time: The setting turns out to be the Heat Death of the Universe, which is why you're in a "Groundhog Day" Loop.
  • Non-Human Non-Binary: The Hearthians all use singular "they" pronouns for themselves, and never indicate the existence of differing genders in their culture. The Nomai, however, appear to have two genders, even using "he or she" instead of a singular "they" to further emphasize the contrast.
  • Non Standard Game Over: Death does not result in a Game Over, only a round of Mental Time Travel and a Justified Extra Life for your character. Reaching any of these endings requires avoiding or destabilizing the Stable Time Loop.
    • If you manage to die before ever making contact with the Nomai statue that's the source of your "Groundhog Day" Loop, your death results in a Game Over. "YOU ARE DEAD" appears and the game ends, returning you to the title screen.
    • The game will end if you screw around with the time travel experiment in the High Energy Lab. By setting it up correctly you can observe what the Nomai did: that an object (in your case, your Scout) will emerge from a white hole before it enters its corresponding black hole. If you then remove the black hole warp core after the Scout has left the white hole, but before it's entered the black one, for a moment you have two Scouts... then black tentrils emerge from the duplicate Scout and tear the world apart. "YOU DESTROYED THE FABRIC OF SPACETIME." The credits roll with the main theme played on kazoos.
    • In Version 1.0.4, a second Breaking Spacetime Ending was added, known as the 'Self' Ending. For this ending, you have to jump into the black hole which forms in the Advanced Warp Core just after the supernova. This causes a time paradox to start, where there will be two copies of you in the world — one of which would remain in Ash Twin. Once seeded, if the player doesn't manage to jump back into the black hole while it is open, or if they die, then like the above, black tentacles (this time from the copy of themself) suddenly eat the world, as once again, "YOU DESTROYED THE FABRIC OF SPACETIME." This also makes the game technically unwinnable, requiring you to reload a save file (post-destruction) and not seed the paradox again, or start a new game in order to prevent this paradox from happening again. However, if reality breaks after warping to the Eye of the Universe, the game will helpfully give you a save point just after arriving there, with your clone now conveniently out of the picture.
    • Yet another has you disabling the Ash Twin Project then visiting the Quantum Moon to meet the last Nomai — without a way to get off. The game then announces: "HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN HERE? MINUTES? YEARS? YOU ARE UNSURE BUT IT SEEMS YOUR JOURNEY HAS REACHED ITS END."
  • Noob Cave: The Attlerock, which Hornfels will suggest as a good destination for your very first flight if you tell them you intend to start with something small when asked where you plan to go first. It's the closest celestial body to Timber Hearth, very small with only a handful of locations to find, is devoid of any sort of hazard other than a lack of atmosphere, and features a Nomai structure that immediately introduces you to one of the game's Driving Questions and hints as to where to go next in search of its answer. That said, there's nothing whatsoever requiring you to go to the Attlerock first, or even at all.
  • Noodle Incident: The history of Outer Wilds Ventures is full of these, mainly centered around its first official launch — or more specifically, its first intentional launch.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Where to even begin? Both the Nomai and the Hearthians have no real concept of safety.
    • Nomai architecture:
      • The Nomai built extended paths, over a black hole, with no railings. In general most of their architecture has no railings.
      • They also have paths using gravity crystals that require that you walk on the ceiling or wall; walking too far from the crystals will have you fall to your death, and, again, no railings or even any indicator of what the safe distance is.
      • The Nomai's Orbital Probe Cannon uses too much power, so it explodes every time it's fired. Notes from the Nomai indicate that it was going to be manned when they planned to fire it.
      • The Sun Station inexplicably has an outdoor walkway between the teleporter and the main station, despite being mere kilometers from the surface of the sun.
      • The Nomai solution to the fact that islands on Giant's Deep regularly get flung into space was to build little panels you have to frantically rush to and stand on to avoid lethal impact. Note that the Nomai have the ability to cover an area in artificial gravity, they just didn't use it here.
      • The Nomai solution to needing enough power to run the Ash Twin Project was to make their sun go supernova, though the plan was that they would be able to set up a temporary stable time loop. Note that some of the alternate endings imply that even if this worked, it might have destroyed the fabric of spacetime due to a time paradox.
      • Nomai spaceships have no seatbelts. This is a serious problem and not just Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking — if you try to pilot one it is very easy to die from a collision as a result.
    • Hearthian spaceships are deathtraps. You can Lampshade this when you talk to Slate.
      You: You know the ship is a death-trap, right?
      Slate: Well yeah, it’s a death-trap, but a really powerful death trap. What, you suddenly care about safety now?
      • The autopilot will gleefully crash you into anything between you and your destination, including the sun.
      • The ship will explode dramatically if the reactor takes too much damage.
      • The ship is only sort-of capable of affixing itself to a surface, and has a tendency to get flung off into space by any serious motion or impact, leaving you stranded.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Chert comes down with this towards the end of the loop when they finally put together that the universe is ending and that the system's sun is about to explode.
    • Pye and Poke, the Nomai whose bodies you find inside the core of the Interloper, who realized that the core was approaching the point of explosion far too late to warn anyone.
  • Outrun the Fireball: It is possible to leave the solar system in order to avoid being killed by the supernova. However, the 22-minute time loop will yank you back in time regardless of whether you're alive or dead. If you take Ash Twin's warp core with you, the supernova will dissipate before it can get to you. The game ends a bit over a minute after the supernova, with the words "NOW BEYOND THE REACH OF THE SUPERNOVA, YOU DRIFT THROUGH SPACE UNTIL YOUR SHIP'S RESOURCES ARE FINALLY DEPLETED".
  • Outside-Context Problem: The Interloper filled this role for the Nomai. Though it has no relevance to the hunt for the Eye of the Universe, its sudden arrival is what ultimately leads to (almost) every Nomai in the solar system dying at once. This is reinforced by the ship's computer: information discovered on the Interloper never connects to the rest of the rumour tree, as the events that took place there are self-contained.
  • Permadeath: When outside of the time loop:
    • Once the Advanced Warp Core is taken and the time loop broken, you have the remainder of that loop's time to reach an ending. Run out and let the supernova kill you, or else die by any other means, and you're greeted with this, followed by credits (though afterwards you can reload your file and try again.) If you get cute and try to avoid this by taking the core and then going to one of two possible places where the supernova won't kill you, you're rewarded with a Fate Worse than Death, instead.
    • An example you'd have to try to find: die before ever seeing the Nomai statue for the first time, and you're dead for real, since the loop hasn't even been triggered yet. Since you can't launch into space until you've seen the statue, it takes some creativity to make this happen.
  • Place Before Time: According to the signal the Nomai picked up, the Eye of the Universe predates the Universe itself. The ending indicates this is because it plays a key role in creating them, whenever the latest one succumbs to heat death.
  • The Plan: In order to find the Eye of the Universe, the Nomai conceived an elaborate plan to locate it. They constructed two massive projects: the Ash Twin Project, and the Orbital Probe Cannon. The Ash Twin Project is a Mental Time Travel hub of sorts, where the Nomai would store their memories, which would be sent back in time when the Advanced Warp Core made by Poke is powered by the energy cultivated from the exploding sun. The Ash Twin Project also sends back the order to fire the Orbital Probe Cannon, as well as the probe data from the previous loop. Because the cannon fires in a different random direction each loop, it will eventually find the Eye of the Universe by chance. The Nomai would then end the Ash Twin Project, which stops the sun from exploding, and then find the Eye of the Universe by taking the warp core used to power the Project back to their Vessel in the Bramble, and using that to find the Eye. Unfortunately, the Nomai were never able to use the Sun Station to trigger the supernova required to power the project. The Interloper comet soon thereafter killed all of the Nomai when its Ghost Matter-filled core exploded, abruptly ending their civilization and their designs to pursue the Eye of the Universe. However, their inability to explode the sun was the only insurmountable obstacle: if they had, this whole scheme would have worked perfectly — and over the course of the game, it does! The protagonist getting scanned by the Nomai statue on Timber Hearth is implied to be because the Ash Twin project succeeded in finding the Eye of the Universe, inadvertently powered by the sun naturally going supernova during the heat death of the universe many millennia after the Nomai intended.
  • Planetary Parasite: Strongly implied with the Dark Bramble. There's strong evidence found throughout the solar system to suggest that this mass of brambles can infect whole planets as hosts and tear them apart, and this was the fate of the unnamed fifth planet that used to be where Dark Bramble is now. Prior to the start of the game, a Dark Bramble seed impacted Timber Hearth and began to embed its roots into the planet, which became a concern for Tektite who says that they need to chop it up as soon as they can. If not for the Sun going supernova and the universe dying, Timber Hearth's future is already pretty grim and likely to become the bramble's next victim.
  • Portal Network: To help facilitate the Ash Twin Project, five towers that connect via warp cores to various planets and space stations were constructed along the equator of Ash Twin.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: Averted for the most part. Almost all Nomai structures you find are decaying and eroded, often presenting literal Broken Bridge obstacles to the player. Only locations sealed off from the environment have been spared. However, the Nomai took great pains building their multi-step Rube Goldberg time machine to exacting specifications. Their intent was to avoid accidentally destroying all life in the system by blowing up the Sun. The result is that the time machine works perfectly thousands of years later.
  • Ramming Always Works: While for the most part high-velocity impacts with the player's ship can damage and sometimes even destroy it, there are two locations where intentionally smacking into things with the ship can be helpful to the player:
    • Brittle Hollow is made up of several fragments, which destabilize and fall into the black hole inside the planet when they've been hit by enough rocks from Hollow's Lantern. However the player's ship is substantial enough to cause small changes to the surface integrity as well, meaning that with enough solid impacts on a section that can fall, the player can intentionally cause a fragment to fall earlier than it would normally.
    • The other one is somewhat of a spoiler. By flying into Giant's Deep fast enough, the player can force the ship down through the planet's ocean current, circumventing the need to seek out the information from Brittle Hollow the player would need to bypass it the proper way. This takes a lot of speed, however, requiring at least several minutes of constant thrust.
  • Red Herring: Several.
    • If the player pays attention to the star map at the end of the loop, they'll notice that the Interloper has gone missing; should they be watching at the right time, they'll see the meteor crash into the sun shortly before End Times starts, and it's easy to assume that it's the cause of the supernova. While it did cause a previous event, this time it's a symptom of the sun expanding into its orbit.
    • When using a projection pool to view into the Ash Twin Project, you can see three activated masks. And when you make it to the Probe Tracking Module within the core of Giant's Deep, there is a Nomai statue with open eyes. Given that one of them is you and the second is Gabbro, it seemingly reveals that there is a third person out there that's remembering things between time loops. But once you learn what the Ash Twin Project and Orbital Probe Cannon are designed to do, it becomes clear that the third pairing is the Probe Tracking Module sending its telemetry back to the Ash Twin Project, which stores the results out of millions of probe launches over millions of time loops.
    • Some very obvious writing in The Sunless City (and a discussion board connected to Sun Station) reveals that the Nomai planned to make the sun go supernova. Many players will assume that this means the Sun Station is The Very Definitely Final Dungeon of the game. If the player gets to Sun Station they can discover that the attempt failed, and never could have worked in the first place. Nonetheless, it is here that you discover the real reason behind the sun going supernova.
  • Restart the World: Restart the universe, to be more precise, in the Golden Ending. And even though it means the end for the Hearthians, they're okay with that.
  • Sequence Breaking: Because this is an open exploration game, it is entirely possible to accidentally stumble upon important plot points before finding the hints intended to get you there.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Applies whenever the Nomai use figures of speech, e.g. "bitten off a larger portion than I can consume", "pulling my locomotive limb", and "on the other appendage". This may be Translation Convention at work, implying that whatever figures of speech they do use are foreign to your species and are being translated literally.
  • Shattered World:
    • Brittle Hollow's crust is crumbling into the black hole at its core.
    • Dark Bramble has burst from the inside due to the planet-sized space-warping plant at its core.
    • A seed from the Dark Bramble plant has landed on Timber Hearth, so that might go the same way if it weren't preempted by the sun going supernova.
  • Shifting Sand Land: The Hourglass Twins are, like their namesake, full of sand, and as time progresses sand flies off of one planet and falls onto the other, revealing ruins on Ash Twin and filling canyons on Ember Twin. Coincidentally (or not) Ember Twin is completely full shortly before the sun goes nova, giving you a very big visual indicator of how much time you have.
  • Shout-Out: Not in the game itself, but a few of the achievement names: "Deep Impact", "Die Hard", "Gone in 60 Seconds (1974)", "It belongs in a museum" and "You've met with a terrible fate". "A Terrible Fate" is also the name of the kazoo main theme that plays over the broken reality silly credits.
  • Shrouded in Myth: When aboard the Nomai Vessel, although its warp core is dead, it is still picking up communications from living Nomai elsewhere in the universe. These Nomai mention a frightening story: the legend of Escall's Vessel, (the one you are currently aboard) which vanished one day without a trace. One Nomai dismisses the story of Escall as a tall tale, but another interrupts the conversation to insist that Escall's Vessel really did exist, and their ancestor was among those who tried (and failed) to find it.
  • Side Quest: Finding the Quantum Moon is not necessary for completing the game, and only exists as a cool optional undertaking. It is very rewarding, however, as completing it nets you a conversation with Solanum on how the universe may operate. Completing it will also allow her to show up in the ending sequence, and is just heartwarming.
  • Signature Instrument: This is the signature theme of the primary members of Outer Wilds Ventures, with each playing their own instrument that gives them an identity. Riebeck plays the banjo, Chert plays the drums, Gabbro plays the flute, Feldspar plays the harmonica, and, while Esker doesn't have an instrument of their own, they make up for it with their whistling. Solanum, the last Nomai you encounter on the Quantum Moon, is represented by the piano, which she plays on her scepter-like device. In the DLC, the Prisoner likewise plays their species' cello-like string instrument. In the finale, all these characters play the iconic "Travelers" song to remake the universe.
  • Silent Credits: If you find a way of dying permanently or manage to escape the supernova with the warp core in your hands, the ending's credits will have no music whatsoever.
  • Slippy-Slidey Ice World: The interior of the Interloper is basically a three-dimensional maze of ice. To make matters worse most of its tunnels are filled with ghost matter, so the player has to be quick with their camera and nimble with their jetpack to navigate it without dying.
  • Spikes of Doom: Spiked cacti not only hurts you, but also punctures your space suit, making it leak oxygen until you fix it.
  • Squee: Both the Player Character and Riebeck freak out and gush appropriately when the player reports their meeting with Solanum on the Quantum Moon.
  • Stable Time Loop: Played with. While the Ash Twin Project itself is not an example of this trope, by the laws of time travel established in the game, intentionally averting one by not sending an object back in time that had already appeared in the past (be it your Scout or even yourself) causes a Reality-Breaking Paradox. The Nomai believed that they had found a way around this by only sending memories and other non-physical data back, allowing them to burn multiple timelines' worth of the sun and use it to send the location of the Eye of the Universe back in time to them, and then once they had it, not blow up the sun. However, due to the Sun Station not working as designed, they never actually got to test it out in their lifetimes, and it takes until the natural death of the star for the loops to commence.
  • Starfish Language: Nomai language is written in spirals which branch off with each new thought. This can include whole conversations between two or more individuals.
    • One of the developer easter eggs hidden under a tree near the gravity cannon on Brittle Hollow is written in a circle instead of a spiral, and does some very weird things with the translator's text rendering.
  • Star Killing: The Sun Station's purpose is to deliberately nova the local star as a power source for the Ash Twin Project. It's then subverted when you learn it never worked; the star is at the end of its natural life cycle.
  • The Stars Are Going Out: Chert remarks that there have been an unusual number of supernovas sighted recently, and indeed, if you look up at the stars it won't be long before you spot a few of them, exploding and dissipating into nothing. The symbolic Mind Screw world you find yourself in after going through the Eye of the Universe features a forest filled with tiny galaxies that wink out one by one until everything is dark, reflecting the death of the universe.
  • Stellar Station: The Sun Station is a large structure orbiting very close to the Sun, which can be accessed safely through one of the warp towers on Ash Twin. It was built by the Nomai long ago for the sole purpose of blowing up the Sun in order to provide the Ash Twin Project with enough power to trigger the time loops, thus increasing their chances of finding the Eye of the Universe. Not all Nomai supported its construction, though, as some find it profoundly unethical to destroy a whole solar system as a means to an end. If you manage to reach Sun Station, however, you will discover that it doesn't work: the Nomai physicists were fundamentally wrong and it is impossible to force the sun to explode. The Sun currently going supernova is the result of it reaching the end of its natural lifespan.
  • The Stinger: In the Golden Ending, 14.3 billion years later, a new galaxy is shown, with new attributes from the previous universe. Planets are hollow with what appears to be a black hole. Upon descending down one of the planets, insectoid aliens enjoy themselves by a campfire, similar to the Heartians.
  • Sudden Soundtrack Stop: At the moment the music End Times is finished, the sun starts to collapse into a supernova.
  • Swap Teleportation: The quantum rocks can do this with any sort of object under their influence like trees and monuments, but only when you look away from them. They can even take the place of another object temporarily, teleporting it to another location.
  • Take Your Time: You have unlimited time to explore your home crater before the time loop starts. You'll always return to the Nomai statue after getting the launch codes at the exact moment it activates, too. A rare case of this occurring at the very beginning of the game, and of only being significant in hindsight.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Optionally. By default, time progresses as normal while you're talking to characters, but there is the option to pause time while in dialogue scenes, and/or while you are reading Nomai text with the translator. However, once the "End Times" music track begins playing at the end of the loop, everything then progresses in real time.
  • Tele-Frag: You can do this to your own ship. If you land your ship in one of the gravity cannons on either Ember Twin or Brittle Hollow, and then use the recall function to call back the Nomai shuttles, the shuttle will teleport right into your ship and cause it to explode, leaving you with a wrecked vehicle and stranding you on the planet.
  • Temporal Paradox: Nomai warp technology uses a black hole/white pair that results in objects arriving through the white hole slightly before they enter the black hole. The more power the pair is given, the more pronounced the effect. The High Energy Lab lets you experiment with this and potentially break space time if you disable the black hole before the object enters. The advanced warp core in the Ash Twin Project generates a black hole so powerful it'll send a copy of you into the past if you jump into it when the loop ends, creating a paradox if you don't repeat that action every loop.
  • Theme Naming: Both of the sapient species have names around a theme.
    • Floral Theme Naming: The Nomai have plant-related names. Examples include Cassava, Cycad, and Root.
    • Rock Theme Naming: Hearthians are named after minerals or geological formations. Slate, Gneiss and Galena are a few obvious ones.
  • Third Eye: The Nomai have three eyes. Whether the third does anything special or not is ambiguous. One Nomai writing uses the phrase "even to the third eye", and another speculates about the fourth eye of a frog-like Hearthian species.
  • Timed Mission:
    • You have 22 minutes before the sun goes supernova. Since you're stuck in a time loop, this restarts the cycle, allowing you to try again. Since many locations are frequently changing, it also means that some places will become inaccessible after a certain amount of time, and others won't be reachable until a certain amount of time has passed.
    • Once you remove the warp core from the Ash Twin Project, the time loop shuts down, and you have however long is left in the loop before you're incinerated by the supernova and die permanently. For the sake of the game, though, this only shows you the credits and boots you to the main menu; you can resume play from there as if you started the loop again.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Invoked by Riebeck during the finale.
    Riebeck: No rush! Take your time. It might not even exist here...
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • There are lots of ways to die in Outer Wilds. This trope kicks in for such deaths that are entirely avoidable, such as walking into a campfire and burning to death while looking up at the stars, walking off the launch platform and falling to death while looking up at the stars, or leaving the ship in space without your suit because you were too eager to look at the stars.
    • If the player takes the elevator up to their ship but then leaves the landing pad for any reason, the elevator will remain at the top until the player approaches the bottom. If the player fails to notice this, cue death by being squashed.
  • Touched by Vorlons: The protagonist doesn't become a part of the time loop til they encounter the Nomai bust in the museum. Everyone stuck in the loop can be considered this.
  • Tractor Beam: These appear frequently in Nomai structures, particularly inside Brittle Hollow, as a form of transportation. Nomai shuttles and your own ship also feature them as a way to get on board, and the landing pads on Giant's Deep use what appears to be a similar technology to lower the gravity to acceptable levels for disembarking without leg injury.
  • Underground City: The Nomai built two of them: The Sunless City deep beneath Ember Twin's surface, and the Hanging City beneath Brittle Hollow's north pole.
  • Under the Sea: The underwater part of Giant's Deep.
  • Unfazed Everyman: Gabbro spends the entirety of each loop playing their flute while reclining in a hammock, even when the storms of Giant's Deep throw their island up into space. Even being trapped in the time loop along with the player is something they seem unconcerned about.
    Gabbro: [on resetting the entire universe] Heh, this should be cool.
  • Unrealistic Black Hole: Zig-Zagged. The Black Hole in Brittle Hollow functions exactly as it does in real life, with light warping around it just as it does in observable space. Its gravitational pull is quite weak though, so escaping its pull can be done by timing one's jets properly. Falling into it doesn't take forever like it would in real life, however. Entering it shoots you out of the White Hole on the edge of the solar system, completely unharmed. Entering a black hole in real life would probably be an excruciatingly painful experience followed by instant death. Also, the Nomai were somehow able to extract chunks from both holes and use them to create their warp cores.
  • Variable Mix: The theme that plays after stealing the working warp core from the Ash Twin Project is reduced to its own reverb inside Dark Bramble. All the better to hear when you're a safe distance from the anglerfish to gun the engines again.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: After finding Feldspar in Dark Bramble, it's possible to report their survival to Hornfels, who is ecstatic at the news and promises to put together a rescue mission immediately. Sadly the loop and subsequent supernova prevent this mission from ever taking place, but you've just let Timber Hearth know that its very first astronaut is alive and well after being missing for so long.
  • Video Game Time: Averted. Not only do the 22 minutes loops play out in real time, but Take Your Time is also averted, in that events pass whether you are aware of it or not.
    Polygon: If [the player] show[s] up to the planet that’s being destroyed late in the time loop, many of the platforms and features that [they] would have seen early in the loop are gone. Likewise, on the planet that’s filling with sand, any tardiness means that useful clues will be buried. These are facts that [the player can] learn and process as [they] play through dozens of time loops, accruing knowledge.
  • Vortex Barrier: The Tower of Quantum Trials is located inside a perpetual polar vortex on the north pole of Giant's Deep, with its winds far too strong for even your ship to pass through. There are only two ways to get around the vortex; either from above the cloud layer or below the ocean current. Accessing the tower is critical to obtaining the knowledge needed to land on the Quantum Moon.
  • Walking Spoiler: This is a game about discovery, so naturally certain locations and characters are massive spoilers. The single biggest one of these, however, is Solanum, who is the last living Nomai in the solar system.
  • Wham Line:
    • While its effect can be muted somewhat if it's found after visiting the Ash Twin Project, reading the words "22 minutes" in the High Energy Lab is your first indication that the time loop isn't accidental after all.
    • The Sun Station could never cause a supernova. Up to this point, the game has been building up the Sun Station as The Very Definitely Final Dungeon. As you learn more of the processes surrounding the Ash Twin Project, it becomes more and more apparent that this Project is responsible for the supernova. The Sun Station detonates the sun, kicking off a complex system of processes and machines whose history is detailed across the solar system. But then you make it to the Sun Station, ready to solve whatever malfunction is destroying your solar system, only to find this news. The Sun Station doesn't work. It never worked. The supernova is not man-made at all.
    • The Sun Station crashes into the expanding sun halfway into the loop, most likely taking you with it shortly after you find out that the Sun Station is not to blame, giving you plenty of opportunity to think about this information as you start a new loop.
      Pye: The Sun Station is useless. It will never, and could never, cause the sun to explode.
      Nomai Computer: Star has reached end of natural life cycle.
  • When the Planets Align: One achievement requires you to hear all four Hearthian songs at the same time, which requires waiting for the planets each one of them is on to align so all four can be picked up by your Signalscope. The conditions for this one are fairly lenient, however, merely requiring all four to be audible. You can cheese it by simply flying far enough away from the solar system that all four can be detected regardless of their position relative to each other.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: For the occupants of Escape Pod 3. Stuck in Dark Bramble and running out of breathable air, they decided to follow a signal back to the Vessel, only to find that the instance of it they followed was coming from a seed which they had no hope of passing through.

    Tropes in Echoes of the Eye 

"My role in this ended long ago, and now I’ve learned my efforts weren’t in vain. Thank you for facing what was hidden in the dark."
The Prisoner

  • And I Must Scream: The Prisoner's body, like the rest of their species, is long dead; however, their mental-self within the simulation has been trapped in the Vault (which consists of two small, sparsely-furnished rooms), essentially on house arrest, for hundreds of thousands of years, with no way to end their life within the simulation so they can finally die. Tellingly, once the Hearthian finally finds and releases them and they share stories, by the time you're able to reach the surface again, the Prisoner is gone, and is all but outright stated to have walked into the water and extinguished their Artifact, finally able to die (and at peace with themself, to boot).
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • The base game already features a navigation marker system that allows you to tag any rumor location you've already visited. Chiefly, this allows you reach the Stranger directly after finding it the first time, despite its cloak. However, this feature isn't given any attention in the base game and is often completely missed by players. To remedy this, the DLC adds new dialogue where Slate explicitly reminds the player of this feature in the loop immediately after the one where the Stranger is first found - for the express purpose of saving time refinding the very invisible ringworld. The player can even lampshade just how conveniently timed this reminder is.
    • For those who chafe at the stealth sections against the Stranger's inhabitants within the simulation, a "Reduced Frights" option exists that heavily slows down the aliens, greatly reducing the difficulty of getting past them, which the game itself points out (though with a warning that it would detract from the intended experience). Of course, the sections must ultimately still be completed one way or another.
  • Artificial Afterlife: A major feature in the DLC is a massive simulated reality that can be accessed much like a shared dream world by sleeping near specialised green fires with a special artifact, as a major mechanic. However, near the end of the DLC's story, it is revealed that physically dying will still allow entry into the simulation, as long as the artifact is held and the death occurs near a green fire - enabling the mind to persist long after the body's physical death. This allows its inhabitants to persist in the simulation long after their real bodies have rotted away, and creates certain loopholes/bugs in the simulation that the player can exploit. Of course, exiting the simulation after this will obviously result in actual death instead of waking up.
  • The Atoner: The Prisoner in the end is ashamed of and apologizes for their entire race. The player will forgive them.
    The Prisoner: When my kind found the Eye and realized what it was capable of, they were terrified. It was too difficult a truth. Like a light too bright to look upon directly, it burned them. When they could not unlearn was hidden away in darkness — obfuscated, then lost. They did not want to see their story end. My kind weren't always like this. We weren't always so afraid. I did what I could to set things right, yet I am still of my kind, and you now know what they did. I cannot promise our fear won't stain your mind.
  • Big Dam Plot: The Stranger's main environment is a circular river that runs around the entire ring's circumference, complete with a massive Reservoir and a dam that marks its end. Early in the loop, due to the Stranger detecting the coming supernova and unfurling its solar sails to escape the blast, the Stranger suddenly overstresses itself, causing the dam to slowly deteriorate. A major time milestone is when the dam finally breaks halfway through the loop, releasing the Reservoir's water in a massive wave. This floods the river's lowlands and destroys many structures in the Stranger, but uncovers certain others in the Reservoir as the water level recedes. Player actions must be timed to account for the dam's eventual destruction.
  • Book Burning:
    • A major lore thread focuses on the Stranger's inhabitants having burned the majority of the slide reels containing their lore as part of the rejection of the Eye and fall from grace. Secret safehouses filled with burned slide reels can be found hidden throughout the Stranger as major clues. It is somewhat downplayed after the Forbidden Archives are discovered in the Stranger's simulation, and it is revealed that they made sure to scan all the reels into the simulation to store them digitally in pristine condition - only destroying their physical representations afterwards.
    • Played straight with the three codes for the Prisoner's cell. They destroyed every copy in both simulation and reality to make sure absolutely no one would be able to free them.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Prisoner (who can be distinguished from their kin by their missing antler) can be spotted in many of the early slide reels, long before their true importance is revealed.
  • Chekhov's Skill: The DLC continues the standard of making use of abilities you've always had to achieve unexpected results. In particular, a late-game puzzle requires you to die in a fire.
  • Cutting the Knot: The aliens were thorough in their destruction of the codes necessary to unlock the prisoner's cage. You have to figure out how to bypass the codes entirely.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The DLC reveals the tragedy of the Stranger started after its inhabitants reached the Eye of the Universe. Upon arriving after their long journey, one of their number used their Vision Torch to interface directly with the Eye. However, the vision they saw was what would occur should a conscious observer enter the Eye; it would detonate into a new Big Bang and destroy the universe, but create a new one in its place. Believing the Eye to be evil, the species stopped all worship and went as far as to build a craft to block the Eye's signal completely to prevent anyone else from finding it. However, having already stripped their entire home moon to nothing to build the Stranger and committed their entire population to the quest for the Eye, the remaining crew fell into despair, having realized they can no longer return home and believing their entire journey and sacrifice were All for Nothing.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The Prisoner was placed in a purpose-built cell, which was buried underwater, sent into the simulation, then triple-locked and had the keys thrown away. When you arrive, they've been there for several hundreds of thousands of years, for the crime of allowing the Eye of the Universe to broadcast its signal for a few minutes.
  • Dream Emergency Exit: Played With due to being in a simulation as opposed to a dream, but the mechanic operates similarly under the original ostensible belief that it is a dream. In the Stranger's simulation, inhabitants can be immediately booted from the simulation world in a number of tangible ways. Most common and easiest is having their Artifact flame extinguished in either reality or the simulation. Also viable are simply dying in the simulation or specialised alarm bells linked to bells in the real world, designed specifically to wake (living) inhabitants up.
  • Dream Land: A new major mechanic that is introduced is what is apparently a shared "dream world", accessible when sleeping next to the hidden green campfires with a working Artifact on The Stranger. The dream world is a bizarre reflection of the real world, covered in darkness and inhabited by actual living (and hostile) aliens. However, this turns out to be a Subverted Trope as more lore is uncovered, and it is revealed that the "dream world" is in fact a giant simulation modelled after the aliens' home moon.
  • Dungeon Bypass: You never actually learn the codes to unlock the Vault. You just find ways around them.
  • Exact Time to Failure: Inside the Stranger, if you attach your Little Scout to the dam, then your HUD will display the dam's structural integrity as a percentage. That percentage starts decreasing after the solar sail deployment damages the dam, then reaches zero just as the dam completely breaks.
  • Exploited Immunity: There are totems linked to alarm bells which ring if they see you for long enough, waking you in the real world. However, they don't work if your physical body is dead and can't hear them.
  • Explosive Results: A laboratory in the Hidden Gorge shows the testing of three Artifact prototypes to enter the Stranger's simulation. The laboratory can only be entered through a hull breach in the Stranger, leading into the lab's second testing chamber. Reviewing the burned slide reel for the second Artifact test in combination with the slide reel showing the very explosive creation of the hull breach makes it all too clear what caused the breach. An achievement can be gained by attempting to use the second Artifact prototype at a green fire anyway, with obvious results that immediately end your loop.
  • Fling a Light into the Future: It is revealed in the DLC's climax that the Stranger's inhabitants had deliberately blocked the Eye's signal to prevent anyone else from finding it, after they rejected the Eye. However, one member rebelled against them, sneaking out and managing to deactivate the signal blocker for mere moments before being caught and imprisoned. It is this split second of a signal that is detected by Escall's Nomai Vessel, attracting them to the Eye's Solar System and sparking the entire main story to occur. The fruits of this story grow long after the inhabitants', and their Prisoner's bodies have passed away, and it isn't until the player meets the Prisoner in the Stranger's simulation and shares their story that the Prisoner learns about the ultimate good their actions had led to, and their sacrifice wasn't in vain.
  • Flying Saucer: There are a number of shuttlecraft in the Stranger's docking bays that look like stereotypical UFOs. Sadly, the player never gets to see one in action.
  • Foreshadowing: While the why remains a core mystery of the DLC, it's possible to at least infer what is inside the vault fairly quickly if the player pieces together certain pieces of evidence, especially the empty berth in the tower ritual room and the presence of a ritual fire inside the submerged structure.
  • Giant Wall of Watery Doom: The dam in the Stranger's Reservoir collapses halfway through the loop, creating a giant wave which washes through the entire ringworld. Getting caught in it can be deadly, but there's also an achievement for riding the wave for 15 seconds. Once the wave finishes, most of the lowland structures are damaged or submerged, while those near the dam are uncovered now that the water isn't blocked. It also blocks the two main exits.
  • A Glitch in the Matrix: The simulation has three exploitable bugs which you can learn by reaching the Forbidden Archives in its three main sections. Learning these is key to unlocking the final area.
  • Golden Ending:
    • For the DLC by itself, the amount of detail in the montage shown while meeting with the Prisoner depends on how thoroughly you've completed the ship's log in the main game. If it's entirely finished, the montage contains an accurate retelling of how the Nomai detected the Eye and came to the solar system, but if not then the montage is a very basic story full of holes.
    • In relation to the game as a whole, finishing the game after beating the DLC adds the Prisoner to the group at the Eye of the Universe. If the player elects to have them participate in the final song, then the new universe sports a touch of mysticism (some glowing ritual stones in the distance) and new aliens who look a little similar to the Prisoner's species (they're just as tall).
  • Guide Dang It!: In order to access a hidden room in the real world, you have extinguish lights in the simulation in the same location as the lights in the real world which control the door mechanism, when otherwise such interactions are limited to the alarm bell system. Even with a slide reel showing the process, it can be an unintuitive leap to think repeating the process in the simulation would have an effect outside. This is all the more noticeable because the clues needed to progress in the main quest are gated behind this puzzle, and you'd have to stumble upon the solution by accident otherwise.
  • Hesitant Sacrifice: Upon approaching the Eye, the Stranger's dwellers misinterpreted what it was showing them as destroying all life, including their own, so that a new universe could bloom. Most of them were not up for it.
  • Holodeck Malfunction: An odd, Played With variation. A key element of the Stranger's simulation is that perturbations in the real world to both the body and their Artifact's flame can affect the body in the simulation, to the point of forcibly ejecting the user from the simulation. This includes the sounds of alarm bells, water dousing the green flames, to even the entire environment tilting. This is normally not dangerous and only a setback/timed obstacle — as the dam breaking and flooding the Stranger submerges some of the simulation rooms, permanently booting its inhabitants out. However, it becomes very dangerous when the bug/feature that allows dying beings to enter the sim is taken into account. In the case of the Stranger's inhabitants and potentially the player if they use this method to enter the sim, some of these perturbations become incredibly dangerous — the flooding of the sim rooms will immediately kill all inside by dousing their flames, and getting caught by the aliens/accidentally losing your flame now has very fatal consequences.
  • Inside a Computer System: The DLC introduces what is ostensibly a shared "dream world", accessible when sleeping next to a green campfire with an Artifact, appearing to be a bizarre world of darkness inhabited by the living inhabitants of the Stranger, where light can do apparently supernatural things. However, as more lore is uncovered, it is slowly revealed that the "dream world" is in fact an incredibly advanced simulated reality modelled after the inhabitants' home moon — one with glitches and bugs that can be exploited.
  • Invisibility Cloak: The Stranger is hidden by a cloaking device which renders it completely invisible to the naked eye. However, from a very specific angle, it doesn't work correctly, reflecting space instead of what's actually behind it. The Heartians stumble upon this flaw by accident while testing out their mapping satellite and write it off as a glitch, which serves as the beginning of the DLC quest.
  • Invisible Block: Certain sections of the simulation have bridges which are invisible. The only way to know they're there, at first, is to find a slide reel showing that they exist. After completing the Endless Canyon simulation, where they feature prominently, an error report in its Forbidden Archive teaches you how to make them visible.
  • Killed Off for Real: One of the major discoveries is that though the inhabitants of the Stranger are long dead, their minds live on inside their simulation — as long as the flames in their artifacts remain lit. Over the course of the loop, two of their simulation rooms are flooded, booting their sleepers from the simulation and killing them instantly.
  • Language Barrier: The language barrier is far more severe with the Stranger's inhabitants than the Nomai, as the player's translator tool is completely useless for the Stranger aliens' language, which is entirely unknown to the Hearthians. In contrast to the base game, the story must be discovered entirely visually. This is Justified and Discussed directly should the player talk to Hal about the new language - they could put in the new language into the tool... if they had a ton of texts to work with and at least 6 months. Obviously, 22 minutes and at best a few samples is hardly adequate.
  • Minus World: If you drop off the raft when transitioning between two areas, you'll fall through the world and into a flat pond connecting the four endpoints of the simulated areas. Learning this trick allows you to bypass one of the three locks, as it drops you on the opposite side of the final area. It also allows you to enter the Shrouded Forest Forbidden Archive directly.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: The aliens are a humanoid mix of deer and birds.
  • Neck Snap: If you're caught in the simulation by an alien and aren't holding your Artifact, they'll snap your neck to boot you out since they can't extinguish your flame.
  • No Name Given: Thanks to the Language Barrier, the owl-deer-like alien species featured in the DLC is never given a name in the game, since, unlike with the Nomai (who have a written language that the Hearthians are able to translate), the player character is only able to learn these aliens' story through visual reels. The alien you meet imprisoned in the Vault is, thus, never properly named either, only being known as "The Prisoner". Datamined data names them Kaepora, a Shout-Out to the owl from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: A few of the slide reels you can find on the Stranger are functional but damaged, and only give you a partial record of events. You can find their undamaged counterparts in the simulation and get the whole picture:
    • A reel depicts the aliens building the Stranger, but obscures that they strip-mined their original homeworld in the process.
    • A reel depicts the aliens rejecting the vision they received from the Eye and destroying their temple, but doesn't show what they did afterwards: launching a device to contain the Eye and block its signal.
    • A reel depicts the aliens testing three different Artifacts, but obscures the results of the second test. The intact reel is hidden inside the simulation, but it clearly shows what is otherwise concludable from the condition of the testing chamber - that the artifact violently exploded.
  • Planet Spaceship: The DLC's flagship location, the Stranger, is an enormous circular spaceship hundreds and hundreds of metres across. While this is nothing compared to real life planet scales, the reason it qualifies for this trope is due to the fact that Outer Wilds' planets are at a similarly small scale, with the Stranger dwarfing the smaller moons and planets in the system.
  • Red Herring:
    • Despite it being one of the very first enigmas the player will encounter on the Stranger, they will never be able to translate the unknown language of its inhabitants (Justified due to the acknowledged and realistic difficulty of translating an entirely unknown language, let alone in a 22 minute timespan). The story is told almost entirely visually.
    • The simulated Vault has three locks and three codes which presumably allow you to disable them. Unfortunately, those codes have been burnt in the real world and deleted in the simulation, requiring you to exploit glitches in the simulation to bypass them rather than find them and enter them in. It is possible to see the unlocked vault if you cheat, but this isn't intended and is more of an easter egg.
  • Retcon: Among the changes made in the patch that added the DLC, if you look out of the front window of the Vessel after arriving at the Eye of the Universe at the end of the main game, the craft that the inhabitants launched to block the Eye's signal can now be seen orbiting the Eye.
  • Ring World Planet: The DLC's new location, the Stranger, is a circular spaceship hundreds of metres in diameter, with its main interior habitat running in a ring along the inside of the ship's circumference.
  • Rule of Perception: The simulation outright uses this as one of its rules. Certain objects only manifest in the simulation if they're visible, and de-spawn if they're in complete darkness. This leads to scenarios where a bridge only exists if its lamps are lit, or the locked door to a cave disappears if you extinguish all the lamps nearby.
  • Sealed Good in a Can: The final Traveller you can meet, The Prisoner, is sealed in a locked Vault within The Stranger - in both body (the physical Vault submerged in the Reservoir) and mind (the Vault within the simulated reality "dream"). Breaking the three locks that bind the simulation Vault and meeting the Prisoner's mental projection is the ultimate goal of the DLC, where the player learns it was their actions and sacrifice that led the Nomai to originally find the Eye, and therefore kickstart the entire story of the game.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: The Stranger was built at the cost of destroying its inhabitants' home moon. They remain in orbit to this day because they have no home to return to.
  • Sequence Breaking: Even though the three codes can't be found, they are coded into the locks and can be brute-forced, allowing the player to access the ending sequence without taking certain actions that would otherwise be necessary. While not initially accounted for, a patch later made it so that unlocking the Vault would be reflected in the real world, should you visit it afterward.
  • Skyward Scream: After the player shows The Prisoner the fate of the Nomai and the events leading up to the present, they scream. Whether it's meant to be mournful or triumphant is unclear. (Perhaps a bit of both?)
  • Small Role, Big Impact: The Prisoner physically appears once (twice if you include the version in the Ancient Glade), unknown about until the Hearthian breaks into their vault. However, their defiance allowed the Eye's signal to go out for a brief amount of time, starting the chain of events leading to the creation of a new universe.
  • Solar Sail: The Stranger's main method of propulsion appears to be an enormous radial set of green solar sails on its sun-facing side, that unfold from the wheel-like ship's "spokes". Early in the loop, the Stranger's sails unfold suddenly, causing the entire ship to shudder and the lights to flicker. This is due to the Stranger detecting the sun going supernova, and automatically attempting to get out of its blast radius. It is this event that causes the dam in the Reservoir to slowly break from the stress.
  • Starfish Language: The language used by the Stranger's inhabitants is written vertically and features branches and limbs like a tree. Scanning it with your translator throws up an error message, as no Hearthian before you has ever laid eyes on it.
  • Survival Horror: The simulated world has many elements of the genre. Unlike the main game's Dark Bramble, where you at least got to keep all your gear and the terrifying anglerfish were in gameplay terms essentially just stage hazards that can be safely avoided once you learn the trick, here you're placed in pitch darkness where you have to escape from aggressive, invincible pursuers actively patrolling the area with the only thing to your disposal being the Artifact which provides a very miniscule light at the cost of potentially alerting said pursuers. The already ominous atmosphere of the non-simulated world is cranked up to eleven, with the only music being a Drone of Dread and the pursuers greeting you with an obligatory Scare Chord should they catch you.
  • Together in Death: After releasing the Prisoner (whose body is long dead) in the simulation and sharing your stories, the Prisoner leaves the Vault with their Artifact, and by the time you follow them, they're both long gone. The only thing they leave behind is one last vision by the lake's water - you and the Prisoner setting off together in a raft, and sailing away into a beautiful sunset. The heavy implication being the Prisoner has already chosen to die peacefully, extinguishing their flame by walking into the lake, and they want you, the only one who truly understood them, to join them together in the afterlife. As your body must also be dead for you to open the Vault (unless you cheated), the least you could do is oblige.
  • Violation of Common Sense: The alarm bell system in the simulation can be bypassed by not having a physical body in the main world that can be woken up. Which is to say, being dead. You can achieve this by burning yourself to death on the flame rather than going to sleep in front of it like you normally would.
  • Walking Spoiler: The Prisoner's entire existence is this. One of the biggest mysteries of the DLC is what's inside the locked Vault and why the Stranger's inhabitants destroyed every copy of the code to open it. The Hearthian enters the Vault at the climax of the DLC to find the Prisoner there, and learn that they disagreed with the rest of their species's choice to block the signal from the Eye of the Universe, and turned the shield off for a few minutes, allowing the Eye to briefly broadcast again, before being caught and locked in the Vault forever as punishment while the shield was put back up. This brief signal sent out from the Eye is what the Nomai picked up and what brought them to the solar system in the first place. In other words, the Prisoner's actions are the reason that the entire base game was able to happen at all.

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