Out There: Oceans Of Time is an upcoming space exploration game that blends RPG mechanics with planetary exploration. Its art style and branching choices recall Mass Effect at first, but after a few hours with a preview build of the game, it's clearly a different beast altogether. What we've played so far succeeds in presenting wacky space-faring exploration, all the while grounding it in realistic systems and science.
By filling its world with small yet affecting choices, there's a sense that each player will create wildly different experiences from others. One wrong move could spell disaster for your team, and in a universe as hostile as this one, there's careful consideration that must go into every action carried out. Out There: Oceans Of Time presents a universe that feels familiar, yet alien. Dangerous, yet inviting.
For all of the space exploration games we've seen over the past three decades or so, video games have always been fairly conservative with their depictions of alien life. Most stories are delivered through a human lens, with aliens taking on mostly humanoid forms, and possessing similar weaponry and knowledge to us. Out There: Oceans Of Time is refreshingly different in this respect, and makes it clear from the get-go that things are about to get weird. On my very first planet, I encountered a creature trapped in a spider cocoon. After choosing to apply acid, the beast was freed, only it wasn't a beast at all. A strange alien entity called Elsur had been added to my team. They had what resembled a giant iris for a head, and moved around on all fours as we explored.
As my team headed up to space, I came to realise that the universe depicted in Out There: Oceans Of Time was a very strange one indeed, filled with life that barely resembled humans at all. It verged on fantasy at times, but through its grounded story and character interactions, I got the feeling that it might have been closer to realism than I expected.
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Leave the Engine Room
One of the ways that Out There: Oceans Of Time anchors its otherwise unbound version of space is through its technology mechanics. You can head down to inspect the innards of your ship, exposing what resembles a motherboard with nodes corresponding to different functions. Using drills and refiners you create useful elements that can be used to refill fuel and hull integrity. There were a few times when I needed to dismantle my tech to divert resources to more pressing repair jobs, as I tried desperately to keep my ship intact in the cold darkness of space. Small choices like this are laced through every aspect of the game, from planetside decisions to resource management.
There's a great loop that starts to establish itself early on, one that encourages exploration as you make your way from system to system. You'll have main objectives to aim towards, but you can land and scan planets as you go. Some of these locales are fairly tame, with giant orange flowers and patches of harsh desert. Others resemble black holes, surrounded by strange organic rings and emitting tantalising gold light. You'll meet new crew members on some of these planets, and will need to make key decisions on how far to explore before you run the risk of losing your resources.
Everything Has Its Cost
As with many RPGs that take place in a world as strange and hostile as Out There: Oceans Of Time, there are always consequences to each small action you choose to take. While exploring planets, you may see an outcrop of rare resources. To get there, you'll need to cross a patch of desert, which means losing water. You'll also need to cross back through it to get back to your ship for extraction, and will need to manage the individual statuses of each of your teammates. Because of this, every expedition tells its own story, just as likely to end in disaster as it is in success. This is where I think the true depth of the game could begin to reveal itself. I played the first few hours, and already have a handful of small stories about crew members and missions gone wrong. With such a wide variety of environments to explore, I'm both intrigued and terrified about what might lay ahead.
Out There: Oceans Of Time is set to launch April 7 2022 on Steam. Expect roguelike systems blended with trading, space exploration and a branching narrative. For a look at what other games are releasing this year, check out our video game releases guide.