We’ve been posting news on here about Outriders for some time now, and we never quite knew what to make of it. Developed by People Can Fly and published by Square Enix, the cooperative role-playing third-person title has looked mighty impressive, but we’ve been unsure if it would deliver an experience that got us as hooked as the likes of Destiny did back in the days of yesteryear. However, with a demo for the title released last week, we’ve been able to jump into the action to see if it provides enough to whet our appetites and leave us wanting more.
The demo of Outriders itself sounded promising, even before we downloaded it. It included the prologue to the game, setting up the storyline you’ll be playing through, and Outriders’ entire first chapter as well as four sidequests. Overall, it was stated there would be around three hours of gameplay to sink our teeth into.
Whilst it didn’t quite last three hours, it did give us a good taste of what to expect from Outriders. So let’s start with the story so far, and that means if you don’t want spoilers, you may want to skip over this next section.
Earth has been desolated. The human race has essentially run the planet into the ground, leaving it in an unlivable state. The last hope for humanity is to take to the stars and find a new planet to colonise with the chance of a fresh start. Fortunately, after 80 odd years, a planet named Enoch is found and beacons are dropped to gather data on the atmosphere to ensure that it can support human life. Showing positive signs, the first of the survivors from Earth set off to set up a base camp and investigate their new home.
As you’d suspect in a circumstance such as this, the first few people who land are the scientists and leaders in charge of establishing a base on this planet, to plant the seeds of hope for a bright new feature. Along with them are armed units, known as Outriders. Because, you never can be too careful, and as I was always taught in sex ed at school, you should always use protection.
This is where Outriders begins. Using the prologue as a tutorial to introduce you to the core game mechanics such as movement and attacking. Sadly, it’s not until after the prologue that you actually get to experience the game the way it is meant to be. Moving on, you’re asked to locate a nearby beacon in order to gather data for the scientists. It’s a simple enough task that lets you explore a small patch of this beautifully crafted planet, whilst introducing you to some of the local wildlife. But there is another signal nearby too, slightly different to the first one you find. And you go in search of it.
As you make your way to the beacon, you’ll get your first taste of combat with local wildlife, it’s an easy enough affair to deal with. But then, as you arrive at your destination, a storm hits, unlike any storm you’ve seen on Earth. Electronics begin to fail, strands of energy start striking the Outriders around you and disintegrating them before your eyes. You’re struck yourself but for reasons unknown, you seem to remain unaffected. Quickly gathering your thoughts, you head back to your camp in the hope to escape the storm and take shelter.
Ordered to quarantine those who were on the expedition, rather than sending them to a medical facility, things escalate. It then becomes a firefight as you chase down the one in charge who has tasked the remaining soldiers on site to kill everyone. You make your way through the camp, despatching of everyone in your way, using objects as cover from enemy fire and dodging grenades chucked your way. Once you deal with everything, you’re then placed in a cryo chamber until they can decipher what has happened, and how to cure you if necessary.
Time passes, and 31 years later you’re awoken into a whole diffferent world. The beautiful Enoch has become a battlefield with trenches and craters everywhere you look. This is the point where you get to decide which class you’re going to play as, but we’ll delve into them shortly. You break through the combatants in front of you, slowly discovering that you’re not the same as you were before, as you now possess special abilities.
After you finally make it through, you’re approached by an NPC who, like yourself, has been altered by these strange anomalies happening on the planet. He orders a grunt to take you to the commander, and old friend who you first landed on the planet with. And that’s pretty much the entire set up for the game, I won’t spoil the actual game’s story for you yet, we’ll save that for a full review.
How does the game play?
For the most part, Outriders plays really well. If you’ve ever played a Gears of War title before, then you’ll feel right at home, as it’s made by the same developers and it uses the same third-person style for you to control your character. If you’re more of a first-person type guy, it may take some adjustment on your part, but I’m sure you’ll soon get to grips with it. I think I actually prefer it as with it having RPG elements where you can constantly find better armour and upgraded equipment, you actually get to see what everything looks like all the time, unlike how only friends can see you in Destiny unless you enter your inventory.
Being an RPG as well, you’ll be able to customise your character. It’s only basics like your face, hairstyle, markings and such, but there is a decent selection to allow you to make your Outrider stand out. Sadly, there are no options for multiple voice selections, and it seems you’re stuck with one of two, either male or female. I think it’s small details like this that can make a good game great, and sadly in Outriders it is missing, but who knows if that feature will come with the full release.
As for the gameplay, it is relatively smooth with some noticeable motion blur but I expect that’s because the demo plays at 30fps with the full release of Outriders expected to run at 60fps, which should combat this. The only other issue was during combat, when I couldn’t get behind cover, without changing my camera angle. It is only the demo, so bugs are to be expected and many of these will likely be ironed out before the game’s release in a month’s time. But it was nice to be able to run in, shoot up some baddies, make use of your abilities to create havoc without any real concernable issues.
One aspect I really enjoyed about Outriders’ gameplay was as well as levelling up your character, you also move through World Tiers throughout the game. they’re not very well explained in the demo itself, but they’re easy enough to get your head around. Essentially, as you go up in tiers, the enemies become more difficult, and you get better loot drops and all that stuff. But the really nice aspect of it is if you get to a stage where it is too hard, you can switch the difficulty down at any time. This may not be necessary for solo play as the game was a breeze, but difficulty definitely increases the bigger the squad you have.
Some issues that were noticeable though happened during the cutscenes, which isn’t too detrimental as it doesn’t really affect Outriders’ gameplay itself. But subtitles, which can be turned off, were always ahead of the speech. And on numerous occasions, it was almost like the game glitched, often repeating lines that were just said. On top of that, cutscenes often seemed shaky, and despite a lot of detail going into them, I just didn’t feel blown away by what was going on. Again, small little niggles that don’t create to big a negative impact, but hopefully ones that will be polished off come the game’s full release.
A master class
Ok, so there is no master class in Outriders, but there are four for you to master; Technomancer, Pyromancer, Trickster and Devastator. Each class accommodates a different playstyle and has its own unique abilities, locked for the demo to four, you can only equip three at any one time. But that is all that makes them unique because all equipable items are the same across each class. It’s not like Destiny where each class gets their own armour sets and such, which I feel is a little shoddy as there is nothing to distinguish between them otherwise. Legendary loot may be different, but I’ve not been fortunate to get any yet.
In order to unlock the abilities for your class in Outriders, you’ll have to level up by earning XP. I said there were four locked to the demo, but there are an additional four to unlock when you move to the full game. As well as abilities you’ll also gain skill points which allow you to develop your character via a skill tree. Each class has three routes you can take, although you are able to pick skills from any of the three to mix and match. So even with each class having their own playstyles, you can further fine-tune your class to specialise more into certain roles for solo and coop play.
But let’s discuss the Outriders classes themselves. First up, Technomancer. The Technomancer specialises in long-range combat, support and gadgets. One cool feature in the game is to heal you have to dish out damage, so running away and hiding won’t work. But being long-range, the Techno has the best healing ability of them all, receiving a percentage of damage dealt back as health. And because you’re not up close and personal, your friends will be taking the brunt of your enemies attacks as you sit back. If you do get up close though, you have a melee attack that can freeze enemies, and if you sprint while performing the action, you’ll leap and slam down dealing area of effect damage.
As for your Outriders’ abilities, you start off with Shrapnel, a small proximity grenade you can throw. Now, be careful with this, because if you tap the button to throw, your character makes a pathetic attempt to lob it a few feet in front of you, but hold down and you can aim at where you want it to go. Next up is a cryo turret you can launch into battle which will fire at enemies with a chance of freezing them. The third ability is Pain Launcher, where you place a missile launcher and bomb the area in front of you. The final ability is Blighted Rounds, allowing you to deal toxic damage to enemies with your bullets.
Next up we have Pyromancer, a medium-range selection that as you can guess by the name, specialises in fire. Much like the Techno, Pyro has similar melee abilities, dealing damage and inflict Burn to all enemies, with a similar style ground slam when sprinting. Healing works a little different here though, as you will only recover health whenever enemies marked by your skills are killed.
For abilities, you start with Heatwave, allowing you to summon a fiery wave that deals damage and inflicts Burn to all enemies in its path. The second ability you get, which is earned across all classes by levelling up, is Feed the Flames. This pulls an enemy toward you, dealing damage, draining Health, and inflicting Ash which immobilises the enemy. The third ability is Thermal Bomb, where you select an enemy to Burn, Interrupt and deal damage to. If killed while still afflicted by the skill, the enemy will explode, dealing damage in a large radius. The final one on the demo is Overheat, which Deals a little damage to all enemies in a large radius and Interrupts their skills.
Trickster is the third class in Outriders, focusing on close-range combat, and specialising in bending the laws of space & time. Again, melee is very similar with the same ground slam, but as well as dealing damage you also inflict Slow to all enemies within a small radius, which as you can imagine, slows them down. When it comes to healing, each enemy killed in close range heals you and grants a portion of Shield. So as you may notice, the more your character leans toward close-combat, the more difficult it is to heal, although these classes do take more damage and in this case, you get the ability to have a shield too.
As for abilities, your first one is Temporal Blade, which paralyzes and slices enemies in front of you, dealing damage and inflicting Slow and Interrupt to all targets. The second ability is Slow Trap, in which you create a spacetime Anomaly that inflicts Slow onto enemies and projectiles for 10 seconds, a handy little tool when being overwhelmed. The third is another cool ability called Hunt the Prey, where you select an enemy and teleport behind them, receiving a shield bonus and allowing you to get behind enemy lines. The final is Twisted Rounds, which fill your weapon’s magazine with Anomaly-infused bullets that deal significantly more damage to enemies.
The final class is Devastator, a tank class specialising in a close range combat, built to stand your ground. Whilst an extremely fun class to play, because who doesn’t love jumping right into the mix and smashing stuff up like an angry Hulk, it can be difficult if not careful. That’s because to heal with this class, you will only recover health from slain enemies that stood too close. Although, if you have a Techno on your team, they do get skills they can upgrade in the game that can help heal you and other allies. As for the melee, same again except with this brute, you deal Bleed damage, which just causes damage over time.
The first ability you’ll get to play with is Earthquake, in which you release a shockwave to deal damage and Interrupt all enemies in front of you. Next up, Golem, very handy for when you run into battle as you fortify yourself against 65% of incoming damage for 8 seconds. The third ability Gravity Leap is similar to the ground-slam melee, where you leap into the air and strike your targets from above, dealing damage and interrupting enemies within a small radius of the area you land in. The fourth skill Reflect Bullets, creates a barrier that captures all enemy projectiles and accumulates damage. The accumulated damage is reflected back to enemies in front of you.
What else is holding Outriders back?
I’ve mentioned a few niggles about Outriders already, like the cutscenes and the lack of voice options for your character. But there are a few additional things holding Outriders back that I’ve not mentioned yet. Unlike game series it will seemingly try to compete with, such as Borderlands, Destiny and The Division, this is not a very open-world type game. It looks like it to an extent at times as you get to roam around certain areas, but you’re actually very restricted.
You’ll often find yourself having to get to new areas through doorways, similar to the way Borderlands takes you from area to area, it even has a teleport feature going on to quick travel to locations you’ve been to on the map. But, the maps on Outriders are much smaller and closed off, forcing you to take certain paths you can’t stray from, and with far too many of those doors and other bridges between areas to progress, each leading you there with loading screens or 2-second cutscenes which just leave you going “Meh!”.
The other issue I’ve had with Outriders, and I’m gonna copy in the views of two of the other guys on the site further below so there may be more I’ve forgotten to mention, is despite the fact you can play with friends. It feels like the game should be Destiny-esque, in that it’s an MMO where you’ll see other characters running around common areas and the like. But nope. It’s just you and the NPCs unless you play with friends. I’d say that it’s not a big issue, but again, I think Outriders has missed another trick to take the game to that next level.
Outriders overall thoughts so far…
Whilst I seem to have done nothing but moan so far about little niggles throughout Outriders, I have actually really enjoyed it. I kind of enjoyed the story, or what little I have of it but where my imagination runs off to and what actually lies ahead could be two different things. Whilst some have slammed the prologue too, I enjoyed the relevance of it as to why you’re on Enoch in the first place, although admittedly, the tutorial could’ve all been done after you got your abilities, since that is a major focus of Outriders, and they could’ve made some lavish cutscene to set everything up.
The question is, will I take the plunge into the full game? Well, I do like the fact my progress will carry across. And Outriders itself has a lot of promise. But when you look at what it is competing against in the genre, it falls short of all its competitors in many ways, and I’m not sure I can think of one way that it actually outshines them. I do hope I’m wrong, and that this game takes off because you can tell a lot of work has gone into it, but sadly, many people may leave Outriders in the storm they experienced in the prologue and just not return. But only time will tell.
But don’t just take my words for it, what did the other members of FULLSYNC think of Outriders?
Outriders is fun, I enjoyed my time playing the demo. The characters are well designed, the abilities all look fantastic and the world-building is done really well. There seemed to be a fair few bugs that will inevitably be ironed out. But, the big kicker for me was the fact that before going in I wanted to finish the content in the demo and then run through it all again trying MY hand at all the available classes in the game, but honestly,
I just didn’t want to once I was finished completing all available content with the Pyromancer. As much as I liked it, for the price it is advertised (£49.99 on steam or £59.99 on PSN) I’d much rather just buy all the expansions for Destiny 2 and jump back into that. I think Outriders has a lot to offer if you’re into third-person shooters. The gunplay was good and the variety of equipment was great especially for such a short demo. But I think, personally, I just prefer FPS.Stubat
Outriders is an upcoming cooperative role-playing third-person video game developed by People Can Fly and published by Square Enix’s European subsidiary. It is set to be released on April 1, 2021 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Stadia. In the meantime, check out some of our other game previews by clicking HERE.