Out There: Oceans of Time follows the adventures of Commander Nyx and her intrepid crew as they attempt to rectify a century-old error. The game opens with Nyx and her crew transporting the Archon to prison, to serve a sentence for treason against the government.
However, they encounter the Archon’s followers en route who then overpower Nyx and take over the ship. Nyx and her crew escape in cryogenic escape pods. Nyx eventually wakes up on a deserted planet where she finds her chief engineer, and they escape by performing necessary repairs on a downed ship. However, much to her distress, Nyx discovers that a century has passed since her ill-fated mission and that the Archon was ultimately victorious in rebelling against the government.
It falls to Nyx and her crew therefore to rectify this grievous error.
Out There: Oceans of Time tries to straddle the divide between a story-based game and a resource-management survival game, and it mostly succeeds by allowing you the player to choose how you navigate between story nodes. The navigation portion is unscripted and involves you having to balance the resources required to survive in deep space: fuel, hull integrity, oxygen levels, and morale. If you’ve ever watched the Expanse, this felt like playing one of those ships, especially given that upgrades to whatever ship you’re currently flying require exactly the same materials. Thus, the player gets to balance survival with making necessary upgrades, and frankly, you’re often running on a pretty narrow margin.
Out There: Oceans of Time does offer the opportunity to engage in Away Missions, which is pretty important because the navigation portion can become monotonous. The missions themselves aren’t incredibly complex; there are no moving enemies. You navigate a hex map where you can easily avoid hazard tiles and bounce between either acquiring rewards or scripted events. Fortunately, the game really is beautiful; there’s some fantastic scenery to enjoy as you run out of air or sidestep hazard tiles.
The game’s save system is problematic. While there are save points, they’re few and far between, meaning that if your game crashes, you could lose substantial progress. Moreover, the game only allows for a single save file, so if you find yourself wanting to rethink a decision, you’re out of luck. While playing, I encountered a great deal of instability, including a number of crashes that resulted in a frustrating loss of progression. I found the save issue therefore to be nearly a deal breaker.
The game tells its story mostly through scripted events, and here’s where the game seems to be pulled in multiple directions. While there is a story, most of the repercussions of your choices arise via gameplay unrelated to the story. It’s as if there are two games layered on top of each other that aren’t really integrated. The world is procedurally generated, which means that you rely a great deal on RNG, which can artificially extend your gameplay between sessions due to the unfortunate save system. It also means there’s no such thing as a speed run through the story, which gets frustrating.
Out There: Oceans of Time also struggles from a ridiculous difficulty curve in the beginning. It’s less a curve and more a straight line up, and I didn’t find the tutorial helpful. Thus, figuring out how to manage my resources effectively proved initially extremely challenging, which may be off-putting for casual players. Once you run out of a resource, that’s it. You have to lose your progress, and given the game’s awkward save mechanic, you can lose far more progress than it makes sense to replay.
What Out There: Oceans of Time does well is the roguelike, resource management aspect of the game. Yes, exploring the planets is necessary, and the game does create extremely alien-looking aliens. However, as previously mentioned, these Away Missions aren’t terribly challenging, though they do serve as a refreshing change of pace. It’s the surviving between destinations that Oceans of Time captures nicely.
However, there are some technical aspects of the game that really made it a tough game for me to enjoy. I found the distance between check points to be way, way too long for me to be able to squeeze in play time effectively. Between the time issue and the aforementioned instability, I couldn’t make it nearly as far into the game as I would have liked. If you’re looking for a game that you pick up and put down, Out There: Oceans of Time will not work for you. If you like resource management games, actual space physics, and have large blocks of time you can sink into the game, then you should definitely give the game a try. The game has great ambitions and is on the cusp of developing something really interesting and fun to play; it’s just not quite there yet.
Out There: Oceans of Time retails on Steam for $24.99.
Stray Thoughts From Behind the Keyboard
- While I love the alien designs, I could definitely do with better management of the information. The game relies pretty heavily on info dumps to tell you about these fascinating aliens, likely because you encounter them during the scripted Away Missions.
- I did like the inclusion of some actual hard science, but ultimately, I found myself just trying to get through the interactions more than enjoying them.
- I know I keep coming back to the save issue, but the game lacks an autosave feature. An autosave feature isn’t entirely necessary, but if some changes were made to the save system, Out There: Oceans of Time would be a much, much more fun game to play.