Echoes of the Eye, the only expansion to Outer Wilds, is a more condensed and focused collection of everything that made the original game great. There is not much action spread out across the solar system like in other games; instead, Echoes of the Eye focuses on a single location and divides it up into exciting subplots to keep things interesting. However, a few hiccups along the way add sporadic but inescapable frustration to the game’s fundamental time loop.
While no prior knowledge of Outer Wilds’ format is necessary to begin or finish Echoes of the Eye, the game is designed for those comfortable with the type of thinking required to solve its puzzles.
Because it’s an add-on for the main game, you do not have to know anything about quantum physics or superposition to enjoy this expansion. It will be more challenging to complete Echoes of the Eye if you have not completed the original adventure because it is always of thinking that can only be through solving the puzzles in the main game.
An object from another dimension has arrived at your house, drawn by the same mystery surrounding the Eye of the Universe that underlies all the stories in Outer Wilds. The Stranger is a self-contained ecosystem that follows the same time-based changes as the other planets in Outer Wilds. As soon as the game begins, you are given the same 22-minute time limit as before, and you must learn how the various changes to The Stranger affect the entire area as time passes.
This is a loop that’s easy to get used to, as each trip to the Stranger reveals more and more of the world beneath the surface. A change in the way you gather information also keeps the adventure fresh. As a result, there’s some ambiguity around each hint, making it more challenging to figure out the solution, but it’s also more rewarding when you do. There are subtle nudges to specific mechanics in Echoes of the Eye that make you feel like a genius once you figure out the solution because you have enough to work with but are delicately restrained.
Many of The Stranger’s quirks will only become apparent later in your journey, so you will have to get to know its routine to learn more. You will have more reason to study the craft’s more minor details when considering how much depth this one area offers than many of the more giant planets it orbits. The Stranger’s mystery does not reframe Outer Wilds’ central narrative; instead, it tactfully adds a new level of complexity to it. Nothing in the sequel takes away from the experience you already had with the original, but it does so in such a way that watching the original ending again is just as rewarding as the first time you saw it.
In the story, a new species discover the solar system and its connection to the Eye of the Universe, detailing their fascination with the phenomenon and the sacrifices they make to find out more about it; While playing as a long-dead civilization, you must piece together what they were trying to discover and empathize with their ultimate failure, much like the original. In contrast to the original, horror is a significant part of the overall mood this time around.
The sacrifices made by this new civilization to complete their journey have a sinister undertone, and the revelation of what happened, in the end, is deeply unsettling. Many of the slides you will find have burnt-out frames and the disturbing silhouettes of the figures hidden within them, which is evident early on with haunting musical tonal shifts.
It’s made even more difficult because there is not much light in most of these places, and your only reliable source is the lantern you hold, which also reveals your location immediately. As a result, your progress in Outer Wilds is hampered only by your ability to sneak around in the dark, which represents a startling departure from everything the game has asked of you up until that point. It’s a shame it comes to an end after all the good it’s done.
Embracing Outer Wilds’ gameplay ethos while also pushing you in new directions makes for a satisfying ebb and flow of confusion and revelation, and you will need to uncover a surprising amount of world-new wrinkles as you progress through Echoes of the Eye. Even though the final third of the game is brutal, it’s made even better by the alterations it makes to the end of the main game, should you decide to play it again after the expansion is completed.
It concludes Outer Wilds in a way that enhances rather than replaces the original ending’s strengths, adding a new layer of understanding to an already finished and enormously satisfying story. That’s what makes Echoes of the Eye a must-have if you enjoyed Outer Wilds to the fullest extent. Although it uses many puzzle-solving tricks as the original, it pushes you in new and challenging directions. Mobius Digital’s design prowess shines through in this achievement, but when it tries to reimagine the game’s progression in the final third, it stumbles.