Introduction to Outer Wilds: Echos of the Eye is Hall of Fame worthy, so comically hidden that players could complete the entire Outdoor savages without knowing that they had missed its entire expansion. Once found, the reveal is unforgettable and worth the hour or more of scratching your head to find the proverbial front door. Its creators apparently agree; they managed to hide all of what the DLC is of its marketing campaign. I admire this choice while wondering if the ambiguity hasn’t detracted from drawing attention to this gem in an already crowded market.
So I’m going to do something unusual. I will convince you to try this masterpiece without ever explaining to you what it is. Think of it as the critical equivalent of watching an eclipse: you’ll see the shape of the thing, but we’ll never look directly at the sun. I’ll follow up with a full spoiler review over the coming week, but for now, here’s why you should be excited about one of the best games of 2021.
Outer Wilds: Echos of the Eye was released as a downloadable expansion to the original game, Polygon’s 2019 Game of the Year. But by virtually every measure, Echoes of the eye is a sequel. It’s almost as long as its predecessor, plunging the player into an equally massive and disorienting setting. The creators tell a new story, arguably darker and more mysterious than the first. And the game can be played without discovering a single secret in the original Outdoor savages.
The only reason Echoes of the eye isn’t a real sequel, as far as I know, is because you can’t experience its many wonders without finding the game in the universe of the original. When I say “find the game” I mean it literally.
Here is the closest that I will spoil Echoes of the eye, although I just provide a map to reach it. There is a new note in the planet museum where Outdoor savages begin. The note tells you a radio station. This radio station, a few photos and a number will get you where you are going.
What if you had never spotted this note? Or did you bother to visit the radio station? Like I said above, you would totally miss the game. Despite Echoes of the eye be in the same universe as Outdoor savages, reaching your “space” in outer space is more abstract than just pointing your spaceship in the right direction.
And once inside Echoes of the eye, those twists keep coming, like the game is a broken gumball machine and it can’t stop dispensing treat after treat. Even after five o’clock, after seeing what I believed to be all there is to see, I sat by a fireplace, took a break, and found that I had forgotten another separate world, in the world, in the world of Outdoor savages.
I feel like I’m on MDMA? I hope so – this is how I felt while playing Echoes of the eye.
To keep my promise, I’m going to stop there. Outer Wilds: Echos of the Eye is a masterpiece living in another masterpiece. As a follow-up, it’s great. And if you take the two games together, like one video game, then Outdoor savages deserves its place at the top of any list of the greatest games of all time. If you want to chat with me I guess you will have to try it for yourself.
Outer Wilds: Echos of the Eye released on September 28 for PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One. The game has been tested on PC using a pre-release download code provided by Mobius Digital. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find further information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.