When I first saw the trailer for Outriders at last year's E3 I wasn’t too impressed. Not to say it looked bad, but the game didn’t really come off as anything other than another post-apocalyptic class-based looter shooter where you use color-coded abilities to kill endless and often time faceless enemies. Been there, done that. So, when I was invited by the developer People Can Fly to have hands-on time with Outriders in LA, I wasn’t expecting too much beyond my assumptions. To my surprise, what I did play might very well be one of the first breakout hits with the next console generation.
At its core, Outriders is an RPG shooter where you gain stronger weapons through RNG based drops after completing harder challenges. There’s a three-person multiplayer co-op element, and like most shooters in its genre, you can spec out specific classes and subclasses. What makes Outriders different is that this isn’t a looter shooter like Destiny, Anthem, and The Division. Outriders is an RPG first and foremost and a looter shooter second. The developers said repeatedly at the event that “this is the whole package”. There are no plans for microtransactions or cosmetic DLC (outside of possible expansions), and there are no loot boxes at all.
Outriders is a traditional RPG in the vein of The Witcher that still appeases that carrot on a stick gear chase that gamers have become accustomed to. The simple fact that this isn’t another service game gives Outriders a bit more appeal. I love knowing that I won't subject myself to an endless chase for slightly better gear and armor, or the dread of hoping to pull something good from a loot box. Outriders looks to scratch that itch gamers get from titles like Destiny and Mass Effect all at once.
How does Outriders play?
The class-based combat and shooting in Outriders plays really well. The shooting feels tight and extremely refined The movement never felt clunky or obtuse as I dove from cover into close range enemy engagements. In my two hour demo, I played the prologue solo, dove into the first few missions with two co-op players, and experimented with three different classes (there's an unrevealed fourth class they’ll show closer to launch).
Similar to Destiny and Anthem, Outriders lets players choose their class and spec it out with subclasses and specific abilities. While these classes all have unique abilities and core mechanics that complement each other, the development team assured me that each class can easily stand on its own if you choose to play solo. For my demo, I choose the Trickster class, which is similar to Destiny's Hunter. He focuses more on movement and stat skills. It felt more than satisfying taking down enemies with skill-based attacks on my own, but when combined with my teammate's tank-like Devastator, we quickly found plenty of combos. Thanks to the teamwork, taking out groups of enemies was incredibly efficient and surprisingly fun.
Tag Team = Best Team
Where Outriders really shines is in its flawless integration of multiplayer without making gameplay feel too easy or boring. The difficulty did scale as teammates joined, and harder difficulties seem to lead to better loot. Still, it doesn’t feel like enemies become bullet sponges the second another player jumps in. They were definitely more difficult to kill, but the extra strategy of combining your abilities make the trade-off more than worth it. At the time of the demo, it was still unclear exactly how the leveling will scale when you drop into someone’s game, but it seems like it is host-dependent. If you’re a higher level and you bring in a friend that's much weaker, you’re going to have to carry them through.
Like all games in this genre, there were a plethora of emotes and cosmetic gear we picked up during our demo, ranging from typical point and laugh empties to more absurd dances. Unlike most of its competition, you can earn all of this in-game by completing tasks that are found in a sub-menu similar to Destiny’s moments of triumph. There is an in-game store where you can buy weapons and armor, but since I was so early in the game I can't confirm if emotes and cosmetics will be available at in-game shops as well.
Is Outriders a Next-Gen Release?
Visually Outriders is in a strange place. While this might be one of the first “next-gen” games playable by the press, it still has to run on the launch Xbox One, PS4, and PC. When I asked about specifics of the multi-generational versions of the game I was told to wait for more info down the road. I'm not saying that the game looked bad or anything, but there’s definitely a discrepancy between the particle effects and character details, and the world's textures. What the main differences between an Xbox Series X and launch Xbox One version will be is yet to be seen. The art direction is top-notch though and if you’re a fan of post-apocalyptic dark fantasy meets future tech, then you’ll be happy with Outriders aesthetic and world.
Outriders Preview | Final Thoughts
Outriders looks like it may be a real contender this holiday and it's easily some of the most fun I’ve had with a video game in recent memory. While some people have an issue with it looking like its just another looter shooter service game, I can assure you that’s definitely not the case here. If you’re looking for an RPG that can be played solo or with friends, and want to try something that’s accessible but still incredibly deep for one price, then Outriders is definitely something to look forward to.
TechRaptor previewed Outriders at a closed-door press event held by developer People Can Fly and publisher Square Enix. The game is set to release this holiday season on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC.