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Outer Wilds Ending Explained

Developed by Mobius Digital and published by Annapurna Interactive, Outer Wilds is an interesting game about exploring the vastness of space in order to escape a Groundhog Day-style time loop where the universe explodes every 22 minutes and you have to restart. There are other types of "endings," but since you get reloaded into the loop after each death, they aren't the true ending. The game encourages players to explore and learn each loop, eventually discovering a way to stop the time loop once and for all.

In order to reach what is considered the "final ending," players must take the warp core from the Ash Twin project, which is what is causing the infinite time loop. As u/CountofAccount explains on Reddit, the warp core must be taken through the Dark Bramble to reach the Vessel at the end. Once there, players put the core into a console in the Vessel, which will transport them to the Eye of the Universe if the proper coordinates are input. After a short journey across the planet, the players are transported to a quantum version of the observatory, which is where things get weird.

Some games have had endings that are confusing, while others have been downright insulting. But the strange ending of Outer Wilds is surprisingly beautiful.

Just specks of dust in the universe

Once inside the observatory, you make your way through all of the displays which have personalized descriptions based on your accomplishments in the game. There are many fan theories surrounding this ending. On Reddit, u/ScottUkabella posits that the Eye of the Universe is trying to communicate what happened to the protagonist by using their memories to create visuals. Once through the observatory, players enter a forest, where the other travelers encountered throughout the game can be found. Once all of the travelers are brought to the same spot, they all play instruments together.

As the travelers play on, a purple egg is created above the campfire, which creates a new universe once jumped into. As u/ScottUkabella speculated, this is the Eye of the Universe's way of easing the protagonist into the understanding that they and all their friends have passed. "You watch the egg as it expands, the music swells, and there's a giant explosion. A new big bang, and a new universe," u/ScottUkabella wrote.

What happened to the protagonist and other travelers

While the ending of the game is very much left up to speculation, the primary theory is that the protagonist ended the time loop, which was occurring just as the universe was actually ending. Therefore, it's believed that the protagonist and every other character in the game are actually dead. In order for the new universe to explode into existence, u/manavsridharan explains, the current one must end. 

The protagonist really doesn't have much of a character arc, since they don't speak. As for the other travelers, their dialogue at the end of the game implies they are all at peace with both their death and that of the universe.

"Everything you see there is (most probably) an illusion," u/manavsridharan wrote. "At the eye, you find your friends, gather them around the fire, and as you talk to everyone, you see that your Universe ending is inevitable." Another commenter, u/Zendiv1999, says that the game isn't so much about freeing people from a time loop so they can continue living, but instead it's about helping them to finally rest peacefully at the end of all things.

The natural flow of time and space

The theme of Outer Wilds seems to be two-fold for players. First, there is the idea of taking your time, which allows for infinite exploration, with no limit to the number of loops you can play. The other theme comes in strong at the end of the game. On Reddit, u/manavsridharan wrote that the theme of the game is allowing nature to continue its cycle. "[T]hat song gives birth to the new Universe over the flame, just as [yours] explodes into nothing. And in that new universe, there's new life, new explorers, and a whole new story to be told. That's the message of the game in a nutshell," u/manavsridharan wrote.

u/Zendiv1999 echoes that idea and provides an example from the end of the game. "As for what the protagonist experienced in the Eye, the bonfire, the reunion and the song. I like to think of it as their way of thanking him for freeing them and finally showing him their next destination, the last voyage," u/Zendvi1999 wrote. They think that the universe has thanked the protagonist for ending the time loop, finally allowing the other travelers and the universe itself to move forward. 

The final explosion of the game may not let the player explore the new universe because they have finally reached the end of their own journey.