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Out There: Oceans of Time falls somewhere between being an unforgiving rogue-like adventure and a point-and-click visual novel with some key decision-making. Unfortunately, it isn’t clear which one it wants to be. At times you find yourself trying to enjoy the story but ignoring it because resources won’t manage themselves.
In Out There: Oceans of Time you’re mostly thrown into the deep end of this vast space saga. What passes for a tutorial is really the prologue with a few text boxes hurriedly explaining what everything does. It’s a lot to take in and even more to remember. Unnecessarily complicated systems of resource gathering, development, and management make it difficult to navigate the core aspects of the game. This is disappointing as there is a good story underpinning it with even more impressive visuals.
The game sees you as space-faring survivors trying to work out what’s going on as you emerge from a deep cryo-stasis. This is set against the backdrop of great evil taking over literally everything. So, you begin hopping your ship to one of the countless systems to explore, gather resources, and ultimately arrive at various objectives. There you will be met with a lot of text-based dialogue as the story unfolds. This all sounds relatively straightforward, but it is resource management that seems to be the biggest foe in Out There: Oceans of Time.
To do anything, your ship spends resources. Only in certain locations can you replenish those. However, it’s rarely clear if you’ll get what you need, and if you do, whether your equipment will last, and you’ll get enough. Gathering any main resource negatively impacts another and so rather than focusing on the adventure, you find yourself obsessively worrying about just staying functional. This can get frustrating as one wrong move and it’s game over. There isn’t even a simple save solution to make that outcome anything less than frustrating.
What is phenomenal is how vast this game really is. There are so many planets, so many of which you can land on and explore. This can lead to interactions with possibly the most diverse range of unique alien designs I can recall. Depending on how well these interactions go (you must learn a language along the way which reveals more of what these dialogue choices are with the more that you participate in) will determine how successful your trades or resource gathering is. You move your away team along different tile paths where you can interact with things along the way. These can be as simple as collecting items, or text-based choices in a choose-your-own-adventure format. There are also things that will harm your crew so healing and effective management are key.
Art and Graphics
Art from sheer scale, Out There: Oceans of Time has some wonderful designs. The ships, and especially the aliens, all feel very fresh in a genre that has some pretty big heavy hitters when it comes to design aesthetic.
It’s a delight to see so many weird and wonderful designs that make the game’s universe feel very alien. No two aliens feel the same and none of them feel like they’re cookie-cutter templates from the genre. In fact, the most generic characters seem to be humans, and for once in a sci-fi medium, it’s nice to see. For example, the alien language you have to learn along the way, at first, it’s a total guessing game what you’re saying, and I love that there aren’t a ‘universal translator’ and humans aren’t literally everywhere.
Everything from the planets, to space, to the animations and cutscenes, are all beautiful to look at and you can certainly spend a lot of time looking at them… provided you have resources and aren’t too busy worrying about them!
Is Out There: Oceans of Time worth playing?
The lack of ability to save whenever you want, tied to an incredibly complex resource management system is unforgiving. I can see why people find Out There: Oceans of Time to be a game they just can’t get on board with. Try and stick with it though, the story is great, the visuals are better and if you’re lucky enough to have enough resources to fully explore, you won’t regret it. Out There: Oceans of Time is a challenging rogue-like, story-driven adventure and while sure, it isn’t perfect, it isn’t a total write-off.