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Outer Wilds beginner’s guide

Getting you started exploring the solar system (before it explodes)

Outer Wilds beginner’s guide and tips Mobius Digital/Annapurna Interactive via Polygon
Jeffrey Parkin (he/him) has been writing video game guides for Polygon for almost seven years. He has learned to love just about every genre of game that exists.

Outer Wilds is a game about exploration, puzzles, and solving a mystery. It just doesn’t tell you why you’re exploring, what the mystery is, or even that there is a mystery. It’s a purposefully obtuse game that rewards curiosity.

But that also makes it a daunting game to jump into. We’re here to help you get started with some tips and a general introduction to Outer Wilds.

You’re on a timer, but it doesn’t matter

It’s not going to take long — 20 minutes, give or take — to learn that you’ve got a limited amount of time to explore in Outer Wilds. But you’ll also learn that the timer doesn’t really matter. You keep all that you learned (and there’s no inventory to speak of in the game), so you don’t lose anything when you die.

Ignore that timer. Explore slowly and freely. Outer Wilds isn’t a game about racing through to the ending — it’s a game about learning.

Read everything to figure out what to do next

Outer Wilds beginner’s guide Observatory
Reading the displays in the Observatory gives you a hint about the timer you’re under.
Mobius Digital/Annapurna Interactive via Polygon

Like 99 Percent Invisible says, “Always read the plaque.” Starting from your home village and its observatory, to every piece of Nomai text you find on the system’s other planets, there are hints, flavor text, and explanations everywhere. Since Outer Wilds is a game about learning, never skip your chance to read something new. You’ll often find a clue about what’s happening around you, a clue about where to go next, or just some flavor text that makes the world a little richer.

Learn something new, then start over

Taking our first two tips together teaches you the rhythm of Outer Wilds. You read, explore, learn, and wander until you (hopefully) uncover a new clue, and then the sun goes nova and you start all over again. That’s not a punishment. That’s the cadence of the game.

Lean into that, and make it your goal to learn (at least) one new thing. This gives you purpose in a game that’s purposefully vague about your goals.

The starting village teaches you almost everything

Use the starting village (and your first cycle through the game) as the tutorial it’s meant to be. There are people who will give you your first hints. You’ll learn about the tools you have to explore the solar system. There’s a model ship to practice flying. You’ll learn how to interact with Nomai artifacts.

Outer Wilds beginner’s guide Signalscope
Learning to use the Signalscope in the starting village.
Mobius Digital/Annapurna Interactive via Polygon

Everything in the starting village teaches you how to play the game. Spend a cycle or two getting comfortable with everything so you remember how to use it (and that you can use it) later.

Check your Ship Log every cycle

Death isn’t an ending in Outer Wilds. What you learned on your last trip gets fed into your Ship Log. Interact with it every time you get on board.

Outer Wilds beginner’s guide Ship Log
The Ship Log records everything you learn.
Mobius Digital/Annapurna Interactive via Polygon

You’ll get a corkboard-and-string display of what you’ve figured out, rumors you’ve heard, and the connections between them. You’ll even get a note — in yellow text — that lets you know if you haven’t finished exploring an area.

Don’t skip this. Your Ship Log is a great refresher every time you get back on board. It’ll point you to the mysteries you haven’t solved yet, and remind you of connections you’ve likely forgotten.

Think about where to land on a new planet

It’s not exactly easy to land your ship where you want to in Outer Wilds, but it’s worth taking a few extra seconds to make sure you’re close to your goal. Not every planet is navigable on foot. And not every planet is small enough to walk around before you run out of time, air, or jetpack fuel.

Outer Wilds beginner’s guide landing
Consider where to land when you arrive at a new planet.
Mobius Digital/Annapurna Interactive via Polygon

Instead, slow down and look at the planet (or moon) before you land. You can usually spot the poles with their ice caps (like on Brittle Hollow), or some other landmark to orient yourself. Take the extra time to land nearby and get right to exploring, so you’re not stuck hoofing it when the sun explodes.

You can repair your ship (and your suit)

Not every landing is gentle, and sometimes things break. It’s not a death sentence, though. If you walk up to the various parts of your ship — you can see what’s damaged on the display in your cockpit — you’ll get a prompt to repair them. Similarly, if you puncture your suit, you’ll get a prompt to repair it right on your HUD.

Outer Wilds beginner’s guide repairing the ship
Repairing the damaged ship.
Mobius Digital/Annapurna Interactive via Polygon

You’ll heal the damage your body takes take from falling, crashing, or general misadventure on board your ship. Head to where you pick up your suit, and look to the left for a medical kit. You can also refuel your jetpack here.