Dying alone in space doesn’t seem so bad now that I’ve played Out There [$1.99] from Mi Clos Studio. I’ve exploded a few times, been stranded without fuel a few dozen and suffocated on at least one occasion. On the way, though… On the way I discovered the mysteries of the universe.

Out There might look a bit like, say, FTL in the right light, but it’s a different breed of game. It’s about desperately managing resources, making careful choices and suffering their consequences. It’s about exploration and being terribly, terribly alone. It’s not at all about space combat, and that’s entirely okay.

Its premise sees you lost in space with a little ship and a heck of a long trip home. You’ve gone off path under cryogenic sleep, and you’re nowhere near Earth. You have the technology to jump between solar systems, though. With that, you begin a mission to get home.

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That mission shakes out differently every time you play. At its base, Out There is all about resource and risk management. You can exploit the planets you find for their resources, and those resources give you fuel, oxygen and hull strength. Run out of any of those three things and it’s game over. You tap your way through solar systems, and on and off of identical planets. You drag elements around to fuel your ship and destroy anything that takes up precious space but doesn't pull its weight. While you’re getting the hang of it, your decisions revolve around which resources to risk to get others. Each time you eke out a profit in hydrogen or iron you drag out your survival a little longer. You score a little higher on the leaderboard, maybe finding your way to a clever achievement or two en route. But Out There’s galaxy is procedurally generated, so mastery isn’t guaranteed. You’re rarely far from an unlucky death in space. This isn’t the sort of game you’ll finish in one try—it has a bit of roguelike in its blood.

The galaxy opens up when your skill and luck take you beyond those basic elements of survival. The game starts to introduce you to bigger ideas. Gamebook-style choices mix in nicely with musings on your place in the universe, though both occasionally suffer from poor editing. They're part of the narrative at play, one that only really starts to show itself deep into the game. I’ve seen it in bits and pieces during my many expeditions, and it’s driven me to keep trying when my failures might otherwise grind me down. Not only do your big goals branch in dangerous directions as you progress—you also slowly pick up the language. This lets you communicate with the locals, and it also gives you a chance to understand the mysteries you stumble on. They are many, and they hint at bigger things.

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If you want to live long enough to explore those bigger things, you need tech. The ship you start with is beat up. It can’t hold much, and it can do even less. One of the few frustrations of Out There is that your shot at eventual success is almost entirely tied to randomly finding a ship worth flying. On the chance you do find something to take you the distance, you'd better hope to find the right gear. Without both those things you'll eventually find yourself unable to move forward. It’s not enough to know the best technology to build, or where to find the elements to build it. You also need to be very, very lucky.

The constant fear of death and failure certainly adds to the game’s melancholic atmosphere, but those deaths can sometimes seem brutally unfair. It still works, that unfairness, because the odds should be stacked high against you. They should tower above you at impossible distances. You’re a single individual, alone and friendless in a vast universe. To think you might make it home is sheer arrogance, and of course random chance will obliterate you nearly every time.

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It works because Out There gets the threat of death right. I can't count the times I've weighed the risk of stopping at a gas giant, wondering if this will be the one that flares and takes out my hull and if I'll even be able to gather enough fuel to make it worth while. I've jumped from system to system, praying that the next will have an inhabited planet where I can refill my oxygen tanks. Sometimes nothing seems to work in your favor. Sometimes the game reaches out and snatches away your hopes with a single unlucky encounter. But sometimes, just sometimes, your wishes come true. You might not reach the end, but those times when you come tantalizingly close to success make it all feel worthwhile.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • drdreh

    Yeah! You also need to be very, very lucky! This game is 50% lucky!

    • Tommmy

      This.

      First 3 games I was excited but the more I played the more I realised that there's not much of gameplay — and more randomness. 3 stars maximum.

      • Jake7905

        Actually it's the opposite. The first few games you play feel very random, very much based on chance. It makes this mini-universe feel much bigger and much more dangerous then it actually is. But as you play, you realize that beating the game takes more strategy then luck.

      • loox

        Yes. This.
        For example if you need oxygen you should focus on yellow star systems.

        It's little tidbits that play the odds and puts them more in your favor.
        It's all random but bettering your odds becomes a subtle dance of intellect and intuition.

        This game has pulled me into it in ways I had long forgotten.

      • xx99

        If the furthest you're getting is 3 stars, it's due to a total lack of skill (this is okay at the beginning). Even the worst of luck will take you, say, five stars deep once you know what you're doing. With any luck at all, skill will constantly take you beyond twelve stars.

      • fredfnord

        I think he meant 'three stars maximum' as a rating, not a navigational aid.

      • anabolicMike

        I died laughing bro. Goodly done

    • mike

      Its not that random. i think one could beat this game nearly every time, if they played intelligently. Its pretty simple, and well balanced...Just consider you're a dude who has really ration his stuff as you fly through space.

  • Ramaz1234

    Great game!

  • Louis Ace

    The recent game released have been great! Avadon, Bug Heroes 2, Autumn Dynasty: Warlords, and now this.

    • speedyph

      Dey have been MEDICORE at best kidd

      • MUTILATOR

        Avadon 2 is fantastic.

      • Fangbone

        You're about the only one on TA that feels this way. Saw you trolling the BH2 review as well. Find it hard to believe that you would really feel this way and are instead trying to just annoy people.

      • andrew9oh7

        Kid calling people kid haha.go away troll

      • CzechCongo

        I think he means he's kidding.

        It is hard to translate from idiot to English sometimes.

      • xx99

        Out if curiosity and for the sake of constructive contribution, what games do you like?

  • Amenbrother

    Absolutely love this game!

  • ImJPaul

    To give this any less would be an insult. Good review.

    • Foghorn Irrascible

      ...if being accurate is insulting, then yes. But really all these high scores are very odd. The game simply isn't that amazing *at all*.

  • Xexist

    Stay away if you hate games with a lot of luck/chance involved. Having said that this game is very addictive and very polished. It is practically a work of art.

    • CzechCongo

      With all hand drawn/painted backgrounds, I'd say it qualifies as art, the game notwithstanding.

  • jamarohn

    I love this game. You need luck to survive, which simply means you're not in control in the greater context. Which makes surviving all that more sweeter.

  • toolbag2009

    The whole luck element is putting me off a bit. I'll wait for a price drop methinks!

    • Jake7905

      Well, you are a tool.

      • Aerach

        ... A tool for not finding a core aspect of a game concept intriguing or compelling enough to warrant purchase? What an inane assertion.

      • Jake7905

        I was referring to the price drop comment.

      • M M

        Why pay the full price if you're not sure you'll like the game?

  • GaZ-OiD

    I'm afraid this can't go in my file named "great" games, dare I say it's fairly repetitive? There I said it and mean it.

    • xx99

      You're right. The beginning is tedious and repetitive. Once you get some new tech or a new ship, it picks up a lot. Unfortunately, the boring part is a part of every single playthrough.

  • scottS

    On the first plays, the amount of luck is kind of hidden, but the more I play it, the more I realize that there are very few meaningful decisions against the wall of luck. Which is too bad, because I really WANT to like it a lot. But everything seems to hinge on well-disguised dice rolls that I have no way of combating. If the available tech tree recipe book at the start of the game was larger, I'd probably feel differently, since then I'd be able to say "well, I guess if I built THAT I could've survived XXX".

    As a side note, is there any advantage to probing/drilling at say 8 (with the risk of damaging your equipment) versus just probing/drilling twice at 4 (which won't damage your equipment at all)?

    • oooooomonkey

      I always drill/probe at 7

      • Jake7905

        Always carry extra Fe to repair the probe, and try drilling at 10. You'll get MUCH more H and He that way. I always have some extra Fe to repair the probe, which is cheap to repair, and always probe at 10.

      • xx99

        I have used the 4, 7, and 10 strategies a few times each. 4 is definitely the worst.

      • CzechCongo

        Did you compare doing 4 twice to doing 7 once? Or 4 thrice to 10 once?

  • MUTILATOR

    Get lucky and find the stupid upgrade that let's you drill for fuel on the sun and you win, otherwise fuddle around with annoying inventory and repetitive nothingness gameplay until you lose. Garbage.

    • XianZhuXuande

      Until later in the game after a certain event the Ultraprobe isn't important. There are other ways to survive without the Ultraprobe. You can have tech to minimize fuel use, or one of the biggest ships with space reserved for fuel.

      It's trial and error, luck, and experimentation.

    • Xexist

      Hugely disagree. Ultraprobe is barely helpful at all until later on, and only IF youve got a ship that can withstand the sun.

  • PadreTomasito

    Great, incredible game with randomness. It's Rogue in Space.

  • curtisrshideler

    Surprised so many people mention how this is a rogue-like, but not many reviewers bring up the similarities between this and Oregon/Organ Trail. This is basically Oregon Trail in space. So, if you dig those games and you like space, then this will be perfect for you!

    • Bliquid

      I was actually going to ask if this game has some similarities with Organ Trail, so answered my unasked question.
      Psychic!
      But Organ Trail has a lot of situations where players choices and ability matter, while reading the review and comments, Out There seems a little heavy on randomness. Is it the case?

      • curtneedsaride

        Probably more so than Organ Trail. But then again, I lost so many car parts during trips in that game... that I randomly ever made it!

      • M M

        I could barely get through part of a trip in organ trail. The controls were atrocious and killed it for me. I really wanted to be able to enjoy that game.

      • joaquin_ondamoon

        Yes, they're very similar. But the randomness of events really notches up the level of tension for me, more so than either Trail game (both of which I enjoyed). It's definitely more 'rogue-like', in that permadeath is always just a step away, and one poor choice can be incredibly unforgiving. But IMO, that's what's so compelling about it. I don't ever feel cheated by events, but I do facepalm quite a bit over choices I've made in game that later turn out to be poor choices. I really like and recommend it, to those who like a cerebral game. There's no twitch elements, for sure.

    • http://www.appfreakblog.com appfreak

      Finally a description of the game that makes sense to me. I just bought it and decided to read the comments for some tips but couldn't understand much

  • JohnnyJ301

    This game is fantastic! Yes, there is a bit of luck involved but it's mostly skill and perseverance. There is a learning curve, but once you understand it and learn to manage your resources and learn where to find them. The game is very rewarding. One of the best mobile games of the year, imo.

  • Rooie1154

    Anybody that likes this game should try reading The Martian by Andy Weir. Great book about a member of a Mars expedition who gets left behind and has to survive and figure out how to get back to Earth.

    Yes, yes, I know. It's not a game. But it's a good. Ook

    • JohnnyJ301

      Thanks for the suggestion. I'm going to check that out.

    • oneironaut

      Yes, I'll also check this out. Big fan of Andy Weir. Check out his short story "The Egg" if you haven't already. A little off topic but man, the idea behind that story absolutely blew me away.

  • acvarlik

    Good game but very limited resources. You get carbon from drilling but what is the use of it? Cant improve cargo bay (admit it its very small) cant improve the ship (such as improving engine to consume less fuel etc) i loved the game though. Learning new words is mysterious...

    • curtneedsaride

      Yeah, I find the resources don't make sense because I can never make it far enough to doing anything with most of them. Then I think, "Oh, the longer I play the more I'll be able to do..." Then I realize after I die, I start from square one. Yeah, in that sense, I wish there were 2 game modes. This current one that could be called "Quick Play" and another mode where you don't die but learn and collect more, exploring until the end.

    • CzechCongo

      Carbon is frequently drilled from garden planets and is a required component in crafting certain technologies. You'll find them!

    • CzechCongo

      And you absolutely can improve your engines. First you have to learn the technologies.

  • http://www.the-app-shack.com Matt F

    On of the best games out there on any platform or time

    • Foghorn Irrascible

      Utter nonsense, are you a friend of the Dev?

  • Irvin

    I've only beaten the game once, and only barely, I was lucky to have big enough ship to make alot of techs plus carry resources.

    When I was just one jump away from the final star my star fold drive broke and I didn't had any Fe to repair, so I salvage the only tech that gives me fe to repair it which incidently was the system drive (which allows you to travel within a star system).

    I had no way of doing anything else but jump to the final destination after than, and what an ending it was!

    A really great game but I wish one game's accomplisment can partially transfer to a new game so we can actually feel we actually accomplished something and ease the dread of dying.

  • mike

    replay value is so good...i thought i got to the third ending...and there is more story, more game play. and then i died lol. the writing is really deep. as if some theoretical physicist / philosoper / and very good sci-fi story teller wrote it.

  • http://applebits.at/ AppleBits_AT

    I can't comprehend the enthusiasm. The game is highly repetitive, there is not much to influence and your progress depends on a heavy portion of luck.
    I can't recommend the game, I whould give it 3 stars in maximum.

  • Foghorn Irrascible

    I really don't get the appeal. Very little skill is needed to play, just luck and perseverance. What on earth is the appeal?

  • Cem

    I am done with Touch Arcade. The majority of high reviews are absolute horrible games. This game is the most repetitive/linear piece of crap I've ever played. I was hoping for a little bit of FTL, but boy I was wrong!

    • PadreTomasito

      And I feel absolutely different. There is something like subjective point of view so deal with it and your life will become much better.

  • seinfeld95

    This reminds me a whole lot of Mass Effect 1, what with the space exploration and resource gathering, but with much, much more to it. Definitely getting it!

  • Space Cowboy 01

    So is this game worth buying?

  • eugene whocares

    Sounds like a mix of Pixel Dungeon and FTL... a careful mix of luck and strategy with sessions usually ending in some form of gruesome death... Going to look a bit more into this one, may be interesting. Fans of roguelikes should check 'pixel dungeon' out, I think it's only android though.

Out There Reviewed by Nissa Campbell on . Rating: 5