Out There: Oceans of Time is a roguelike by Mi-Clos Studio, blending resource management and interactive fiction in a space survival journey, where death is around every corner.
Out There: Oceans of Time begins by explaining the purpose of our adventure: Earth was dying, and humanity sent out spaceships to establish new life. Then, just as humans thought they were the only intelligent life in the galaxy, they found others. Among them, the God Cubes – who wanted to end all violence in the universe.
Their plan was to unite all species and get rid of such a concept as territoriality. But not everyone bowed to them. A persuasive genetic chameleon – member of the lords race – who called itself Archon, rebelled against its own creators and promised to end their reign. Archon was defeated, and that’s where your crew comes in. Captain Nyx took on a mission to deliver this being to the prison. Everything goes wrong, as Archon’s allies try to save it. The crew escapes in cryopods and ends up on a nearby planet, waking up a hundred years later.
That’s just a quick summary of the exposition – to give everyone an idea of what it’s all about. I have to say, the story didn’t really hook me. It does get slightly better later – especially when more quests appear, but there are some flaws that show up early on. First, to me, the beginning seemed quite cliché. Then, another issue is that Captain Nyx is a rather bland character. Her officer, Sergeï, seems in many respects better in terms of critical thinking. Not sure why they went this way. On the positive side, it’s interesting to see how different the galaxy became, through the eyes of the main characters – as they explore its vast reaches and go on side missions. This is something I absolutely dug into and found very enjoyable.
One of the main features of Out There: Oceans of Time is Exploration. This is where in my opinion the game most shines. You will be going from system to system, with random events showing up, and flying over to nearby planets. The latter you can then scan for something interesting – an anomaly of sorts. Finding it gives an option to go on an expedition to the planet. After landing, you end up on a grid-like map, with the crew you’ve selected for the journey. From there, you just move across the planet’s surface, gathering resources, possibly navigating trap areas and, finally, solving events.
The characters have set health during an expedition, and letting them die will affect the crew morale. When Nyx is down, and we have a special resource called omega, we can resurrect her – considering she’s the protagonist. The characters also have their own ability points. There are two ways to use those: either for abilities, such as healing – or for solving events. There will be tough choices where you’ll have to decide between those two uses.
You might also find cities, where you are able to trade: from resources, to modules, to improvements in the ships. It will also be the main place where you can recruit your crew. There are a variety of characters, but there’s an issue with those. They are mostly bland – the only time they get some personality is when they are mission-specific characters.
Another aspect I really enjoyed is uncovering an alien language as you progress. At first, you won’t be able to understand most species in the galaxy. Through events and exploration, you figure out more of the vocabulary which lets you communicate with them. So, on your first encounter, you might say random words you don’t even understand; sometimes ending up insulting them and reducing your reputation.
While exploring, you might also encounter adrift spaceships to which you can fly. You can either scavenge those for resources – or, if the ship is good, to switch over to it and scavenge your old one. The game doesn’t tell you which one is better, however. You figure it out on your own, depending on, for example, how much space it has.
I found exploration to be the most fun aspect of the game. Not knowing what will be in the next sector, or what I’ll find on a planet – it was always fun. Many events are also well-written, being quite enjoyable to read.
Resource Management and ship upgrades
Another core aspect of the game is managing resources. Your ship usually has a set amount of slots on it. You can change slots between storage (White), module (Orange) and technology (Blue). For example, many times I carried with myself spare fuel, oxygen and metals to fix my hull. Other resources you can use for trading or building your slots. There is a good variety to what you can build, and how you upgrade your ship – and almost everything is well-done.
I say almost, because here comes the issue with exploration, in my opinion. In the end you’ll mostly just drift in space, managing fuel, oxygen, hull and morale; often end up jumping from sector to sector just to get more resources, or solving expeditions for morale. They are depleting fast. Making a jump to another sector? You use fuel, oxygen and morale. Flying to a planet? Fuel, oxygen and hull. Want to drill for resources or send probes to get more fuel from gas giants? That’s right, you use fuel. It was very tedious to manage. At times, I was over-carrying materials just so I don’t have to constantly restock. All that, so I could explore more of the galaxy. Quite a shame, because some people will probably find it fun, but I didn’t.
Later on, when you get rare module upgrades and such, it gets better. The issue is that the early game can be very frustrating, especially considering the game is a roguelike. So just because of how tedious it is, you can end up with so little resources, you will get a game over. And then you have to start this entire part all over again.
Visually, Out There: Oceans of Time is good, and the music fits the atmosphere of the unknown space. However, the optimization isn’t perfect. I was playing the game both on my home PC and the laptop. While my computer didn’t have much trouble with the game, my laptop did. And it’s not a weak one, so I don’t believe some of these FPS drops should have happened; especially considering many were happening during character conversations, with a static background.
Take this screenshot above as an example. Here, my laptop was getting very bad FPS. On the planets with way more 3D objects, the game worked fine. Hopefully, issues like these will be fixed before the release – or soon after.
Another problem on the technical side of things is: the bugs. There were many – some more frustrating than others. Off the top of my head, there are two I remember: one during exploration, the other during the tutorial. In the latter, I was supposed to fix one of my modules on the ship, but despite me doing this, the prompt didn’t progress. I ended up figuring out on my own what I was supposed to do. Considering this is a crucial part of the game, where it explains its mechanics to you, this is quite a negative.
So, for the other bug: during exploration, when I was solving an event – after picking an option you usually get to know what happened. I was greeted with a blank page and a text at the very bottom, which said, “Button”. I found it quite funny, but ended up not knowing how the event resolved. There are also some typos in the game. And some programming errors that you can notice on an earlier screenshot of game over with LINE].
Out There: Oceans of Time is a fun game. I believe fans of the original will dig into it; while new players who enjoy roguelikes with resource management and exploration as core mechanics might find it fun. Sadly, it’s held back by some design choices – like the early game resource management. What surely doesn’t help either are technical problems, at the time of writing this review. However, I believe the game might be fixed on that front. While with the early game, the developers might need to do some tweaks. The story being rather mediocre could also be an issue. Thankfully, the events redeem the narrative. I just think that Out There: Oceans of Time should have been a bit longer in the making.