Outer Wilds is a masterpiece, it really is. It’s a game about exploration, discovery, trusting your gut, ambition, love, and having one eureka moment after another. The Nintendo Switch has received a fair amount of ambitious ports over the years, and I believe Outer Wilds is one of them. A game about space travel with a fully simulated solar system? Yes, the Switch can somehow handle it.
To cut things short, if you somehow haven’t played Outer Wilds yet, then yes, the Nintendo Switch is a viable platform for it, and you should waste no time reading this meandering review, and get it. If you’re sticking around though, I’ll try to convince you why you should play this magical game.
The Cosmos Is Within Us
At its heart, Outer Wilds is about discovery, and charting the unknown. You are the latest recruit in the Outer Wilds Ventures space program on Timber Hearth, anxious to seek out the mysteries of the cosmos. The planet’s fascination with its solar system is a consistent theme throughout the title, and Outer Wilds Ventures has a bunch of legends that have paved the way for space exploration.
As you familiarize yourself with the inhabitants of the planet, and finally your spacecraft, you finally ascend. Even on the Switch, the first flight is still spectacular, and the feeling of actually taking off, leaving everything, and everyone you had known for a few minutes feels bittersweet. After that, you’re free to do and go wherever you want. The
world solar system is your oyster.
Talking about this game is so difficult because I don’t want to rob anyone of the experience it offers, but in a nutshell, you’re stuck in a time loop that leads to the eventual explosion of the Sun, and it’s your job to figure out how to stop it. That’s all I’ll say about the premise and everything else you’ll have to find out on your own.
The time loop works quite well for the game’s exploration premise because it not only instills agency but allows you to become comfortable with the inevitable. Yes, you have limited time in each run to make discoveries, but it only makes those discoveries feel special because you’ll likely have a eureka moment right before it all ends.
Controls, Performance, and Presentation
Outer Wilds has always played better with a controller, and the Nintendo Switch is perfect for it. Everything responds as it should, and playing in handheld mode is the way to go if I’m being honest. First off, it’s clear the internal resolution isn’t as high, and you’ll see some aliasing on a larger screen, which is why I prefer playing in handheld mode. Yes, you’re not getting an experience as refined as something like a Steam Deck, but it’s perfectly playable.
Performance for the most part is a stable 30 FPS from what I can tell, but you’re bound to see some drop in the more complex scenes, especially on Brittle Hollow, Ember Twin, and the DLC areas. Textures, even on other platforms were never as highly detailed to begin with so you’re not losing much in terms of visual clarity. Arguably, the only downside is the lack of proper aliasing.
Despite some visual cutbacks to get it running on Switch hardware, Outer Wilds’ excellent art direction is still a highlight, and the breathtaking moments are preserved in both handheld and docked mode. Each new surface you land on has something worth exploring, and the music by Andrew Prahlow is as exceptional as ever.
There is so much to see in this solar system, and I won’t blame you for just taking in the sights during a run. You’ll fly to one place, and end up in another, land on a planet, only to be submerged in water, and find people in places you’d never expect.
Overall, despite some framerate drops and aliasing issues, the Nintendo Switch is a perfectly viable platform to enjoy Outer Wilds on. It plays well in both handheld and docked mode, and while there are some visual cutbacks and minor framerate drops, those don’t detract from the experience negatively.
What did you think of our review of Outer Wilds? Share what you think about it in the comments below.
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch version of Outer Wilds. The key was provided by Annapurna Interactive.