Out There: Ω The Alliance Review (Switch)

Game: Out There: Ω The Alliance
Genre: 2D, Adventure, Roguelike
System: Nintendo Switch (also on PC and IOS)
Developer|Publisher: Mi – Clos Studio| Raw Fury
Age Rating: EU 12+ | US Teen
Price: UK £11.69 | EU 13.00 | AU $19.50 | CA $19.99 | US $14.99
Release Date: 9th April 2019

Review code provided with many thanks to Raw Fury Games

Prepare to Launch

So my mind is a bit of an odd mystery just like the universe. You see when I started this game the song that kept repeating in my mind as I traveled through space was the song ‘Out There,’ from the 1996 Disney animation The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Now the game Out There is not about a Hunchback finding acceptance in a society where he fears rejection. But a small similarity in both the Disney movie and this game is that they touch on the topic of loneliness and isolation. So after that diversion into a worm hole. Let’s talk about the game and not nostalgic songs. That’s for another article.

Let the journey home begin.

Captains Log

In this title you play as an astronaut who has spent a little too long in cryogenic sleep, waking up to find that they are far far away from Earth. Your goal is simple: return to Earth, but this is easier said than done. Space is cold and cruel and you’ll need to manage your ship’s resources, as well as make many decisions, in order to return home. It’s just you and the mysteries of space. As you jump from solar system to solar system the astronaut updates the ship’s log. Giving an insight into his psyche as you progress. I kinda felt sympathy for the guy as he often copes with rough situations and, by some miracle, tries to laugh off the situation.  Little life lesson there.

Comic Style

The graphics look like an old comic book, but with a more modern use of colour to go with the space theme. You will see quite the variety of planets and solar systems with a varied use of colour and detailed backgrounds. While there are small animations almost everything is presented in drawings. You will also encounter a wide variety of alien species.  The music feels haunting to match the emptiness of space as well as giving a small reminder of the difficulty of your mission.

Time to drill into another spooky planet.

Before you venture forth you can choose your difficulty as well as make some optional adjustments to gameplay. This includes the ability to find a ship from your previous playthrough so you can salvage any useful resources. I opted to stick between easy and normal, but to be honest I failed many times on either difficulty. Failure was something I become used to quickly. Every attempt you make is randomly generated, which made my rogue-like funny bone tingle with joy. The game provides a brief tutorial to show you the ropes then its all up to you.

Managing Resources

Your starting ship gives you some basic tools and resources to get going. Fuel, oxygen and iron are essential in order to keep moving and keep your hull integrity, as well as to fix any broken tools. If any of these meters drop to zero it’s pretty much game over. Tools and resources take up slots on your ship. You can craft new equipment for the ship provided you have enough resources. But you will rarely have enough space to collect everything. You have to choose wisely. For the majority of my playthroughs it was the fuel that was my weakest link. I often just ran out and got a game over screen informing me I was drifting in space with the hope someone might find me. A scary end.

The end of another run.

Your ship starts with a drill and probe enabling you to land or orbit planets to gain more resources. Of course every action costs fuel and oxygen, and your ship or tool may become damaged in the process. Then there is the prospect that you don’t have enough space to even store the resources you find on the ship. This leads to a juggling act of what to keep and what to remove. Every choice you make feels like rolling the dice. Sometimes luck is in your favour, and your probe will return with more fuel than you spent sending it. Other times you might just be unlucky and get less, or even break your drill or probe, leading more issues.

What to keep, what to leave.

Drag and Drop

The game can be controlled with buttons, or it has full touch screen capabilities in handheld mode, or you can of course opt for a hybrid of the two. Touch screen mode was a lot of fun. Simply drag and drop the resources you need in the appropriate slot. To remove a resource from your ship entirely simply drag it out the ship, drop outside the ship and agree to remove it.  Handheld was definitely my preferred method to play the game but I had no problem using my pro controller in docked mode while I was grabbing screenshots of the game.

This needs some repairs.

Choose Your Destiny

Out There feels like a living Choose Your Own Adventure book. Remember those? Where you read a short chapter then made a decision and turned to the next page to see the outcome. Each time your ship jumps to a new system a random event often occurs. Sometimes you’re given a choice, other times actions are often forced upon you. Things can go in your favour, or sometimes go terribly wrong. In my multiple playthroughs I never encountered an instant death event. But having my ship damaged or precious resources used up was fairly common. In fact the more I think about it, it’s rare that I wasn’t stressed playing this game, however I was constantly compelled to keep playing.

What to do?

Unexpected Surprises

One of my favourite parts of Out There was the various surprises I came across. On one occasion I ran out of fuel and thought all was lost only to have my ship spark back to life, transform into a different ship, and allow me to continue on. Then there was that time a large alien attacked me and I decided not to attack it, only for the large alien to give me a gift. Then there was that time I found a ship full of humans in cryo-sleep. Giving me a secondary objective to finish instead of just returning to earth. These surprises made so many of my playthroughs unique. It’s like a game I wanted to talk about at the water cooler with a work colleague and say “You’ll never guess what happened in Out There last night!’ Unfortunately I don’t work in a office, or in an American sitcom.

Saved by the bug ship.

Out There has a long beefy campaign. There are also multiple endings giving you plenty of reason to return for more. You can also choose from multiple new starting ships provided you have unlocked them. This makes the game a little easier, or possibly harder depending how your feeling I guess. Each playthrough felt so unique I was constantly called back. It was also quite refreshing to play a game with rogue like mechanics that features no form of combat. The game also has in game achievements if your into that sort of thing.

Space Niggles

I did come across a few niggles though. The game’s difficulty sometimes swung drastically. At times I didn’t even get past a few solar systems before failing. Other times things were going well and then suddenly the odds were just not in my favour. This sort of design may frustrate some gamers. But being a rogue like fan I kinda welcomed it, it’s all part of the risk. The other thing I came across is when I changed my ship to an alien ship which required different elements for fuel, oxygen, and hull integrity. It still highlighted helium, oxygen and iron as the resources I needed, when the ship actually required carbon and silicon, leading to some confusion on my part.

Be aware, different ships use different elements to replenish fuel, oxygen and hull integrity.

A Star Is Born

I was really surprised by the emotions I felt playing Out There. While playing this game I felt quite drawn to the urgency and panic of the mission. I also felt the loneliness of tackling an impossible task alone while savoring and enjoying the small victories when they arrived. And of course finding the strength within when you feel all is lost. It’s this feeling that makes Out There, to me, something truly memorable, and it will no doubt be something I will return to again and again in the years to come.

Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up

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