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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. 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 have mysteriously vanished. 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.

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 them 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. Not to be confused with The Outer Worlds.


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

  • 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. As time doesn't work in the Moon, she's been alive, but trapped in there for 281,042 years. 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.
    • Despite removing Poke's Advanced Warp Core breaking the time loop, thus narratively enforcing Final Death 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: All the planets are really small, traversable in only a few minutes tops. This makes getting around the solar system pretty 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; Hearthian spaceships have enough metal and electronics within them to function but the structure of the spaceship itself is 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 mining when they realized that a species was developing in the waters of the planet. That species is implied to be the distant precursors of yours, and the Nomai even left more than enough material to ensure that if your species ever 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 life can go on in a new universe. 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 carried over into the new universe with gusto.
  • Bookends: 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.
    • In the backstory, Escall, the captain of the Nomai Vessel, ordered his ship 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 pressing 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. 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 aren't surviving that loop.
  • Developers' Foresight:
    • 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, even the Golden Ending. 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.
  • 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 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?
  • 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.
    • 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 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.
    • 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 human probe satellite.
    • 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 fuel, even though your suit does.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Final Death: 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.
  • 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.
  • Floral Theme Naming: The Nomai tended to have plant-related names. Examples include Cassava, Cycad, and Root.
  • 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.
    • 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 literary.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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: Several locations in the game have unique gimmicks of their 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.
    • 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 collpase 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 an optional area that requires some optical trickery to get to, first to land on the moon itself, and then to navigate through it.
  • 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.
  • 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 reorientate 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 Hearthian 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, she is unable to speak your language. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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, projects those memories back in time into the mind of its partner at around the time they paired with the statue. This also includes any 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.
  • 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.
    • Golden Ending: Visit Solanum on the Quantum Moon, 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.
      • Both of these are known as the 'Eye of the Universe' Ending.
    • Early Death: Die before ever making contact with the Nomai statue that's the source of your "Groundhog Day" Loop. This ends with you permanently dead.
    • Late Death: Die after removing the warp core.
      • Both of these are known as the '"You Died"' Ending.
    • Lost in Space (Isolation Ending): Remove the warp core and leave the solar system, setting yourself adrift in space until your supplies run out.
    • 813:note  Remove the warp core and travel to the sixth location of the Quantum Moon, leaving yourself trapped for eternity like Solanum is.
    • Breaking Spacetime:
      • 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.
  • 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 a deathtrap (you can even bring this up in dialog):
      • The autopilot will gleefully crash you into anything between you and your destination, including the sun.
      • The ship will explode dramatically if it takes too much damage in the wrong parts.
      • 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.
  • Non Standard Game Over:
    • If you somehow manage to die before ever making contact with the Nomai statue that's the source of your "Groundhog Day" Loop, you will die permanently, a black screen with "YOU ARE DEAD" written in yellow letters will appear, and the game will end, returning you to the start 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 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.
    • 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."
  • 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—and only two—genders, even using "he or she" instead of a singular "they" to further emphasize the contrast.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • Place Before Time: According to the signal the Nomai picked up, the Eye of the Universe predates the Universe itself.
  • The Plan: In order to find the Eye of the Universe, the Nomai conceived an elaborate plan to help find 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. 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 Tekite 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.
  • Quantum Mechanics Can Do Anything: The game takes a bit of creative license to the nature of quantum physics.
  • 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 was 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 actually failed, and never could have worked in the first place.
  • 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.
  • Rock Theme Naming: All Hearthians are named after some form of rock; Slate, Gneiss and Galena are a few of the more obvious ones.
  • 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, and Dark Bramble has burst from the inside due to the planet-sized space-warping plant at its core. A seed from that 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, to whit "Deep Impact", "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, it can be discovered that while its warp core is dead, it's still picking up communications from living Nomai elsewhere in the universe, who between coordinating escape from all the dying stars talk about the legend of Escall's Vessel, the one you are currently on board, which vanished one day without a trace. Another Nomai interrupts the conversation to inform them that the Vessel did actually exist.
  • 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 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.
  • Space Does Not Work That Way: 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. You also wouldn't be able to witness stars going supernovain 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.
  • Spikes of Doom: Spiked cacti not only hurts you, but also punctures your space suit, making it leak oxygen until you fix it.
  • 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.
  • Squee!: Both the player character and Riebeck freak out 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 very unethical to destroy a whole solar system as a means to an end. It's later revealed on the Sun Station, however, that it actually failed to blow up the Sun as it didn't have enough power. The Sun currently going supernova is the result of it reaching the end of its natural lifespan due to the universe dying.
  • 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 translater. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 pipe while reclining in a hammock, even when the storms of Giant's Deep throw their island up into space. Even their reaction to being trapped in the time loop along with the player is akin to 'eh, it happens'.
    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.
      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.

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