4cr Plays: Out There

by Dave Beaudoin

Roguelikes have seen a serious resurgence in the past few years. Casual games have gotten more popular as smartphones and tablets have evolved into legitimate gaming platforms for even serious gamers. Until now the best roguelikes have been on PC with games like FTL, Dungeons of Dredmor, and The Binding of Isaac standing out from the crowd. While there are certainly plenty of quality roguelike games available on mobile platforms, Out There is the first to carry the same level of polish that I expect from PC rogues.

The setup in Out There is pretty straightforward. You’re an astronaut who is marooned in space and must now survive. Your survival comes down to gathering resources from passing worlds in order to maintain and upgrade your ship as you jump between star systems. There are more than a few dangers in the universe for a lone human, from unpredictable interstellar weather to malfunctioning interstellar space drives. You also encounter alien races that can help or hinder your journey. The interactions with aliens is one of the things that really drew me to Out There when I first heard about it. In the course of these interactions you pick up bits and pieces of the languages of the various races. The mechanic is really simple, and works well. You glean a few words from every interaction, depending on what happens. If you trade for iron, you might learn the alien word for iron. This language acquisition gives you an edge when you run into future situations, like strange alien devices or civilizations.

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What makes Out There unique is that, unlike most other roguelikes, it does an excellent job of capturing the desolation and loneliness of space. Out There features a level of player agency that is well beyond what most games manage to pull off. It is really an achievement that the team at Mi-Clos Studios is able to deliver this kind of desolate environment on a mobile platform in a game that can span as little as five minutes.

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The pacing of the game is also near perfect. Each playthrough takes different twists through space as the story unfolds. Details come in the form of captain’s log style entries that are left to no one in particular, due to that whole marooned alone in space thing. Each entry adds flavor to the game without bogging down the pacing or the story and provides enough variety to make the game not feel too repetitive despite the limited options for action in each star system. It also serves to keep you focused on the task at hand of maintaining your stock of fuel, oxygen, and ship parts.

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All of this adds up to a totally satisfying roguelike experience that works really well as a mobile game. More than that though, Out There should be considered on par with any PC or console release in terms of quality. It’s pretty easy to make a case for hooking your phone up to your TV and playing Out There on a big screen. You can pick up Out There for Android or iOS or at the game’s website right now!.

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