Outriders is garnering attention and the game's demo is stoking the flames but considering its potential, it could use some more. We jumped into this snippet of the action to see what People Can Fly have in store for April fool's day 2021.
Outriders starts with a familiar sci-fi premise – the Earth is no more and half a million people are all that remains. The colonists have charted a path to Enoch – a planet that seems to offer a chance at a fresh start.
After cruising through space in cryosleep for some 80 years, the chosen team of scientists and outriders – rangers who'll ensure the planet can support human life - set out to locate some lost probes.
Upon their landing, the first thing we see is that humans haven't changed one bit and are driving their trucks willy nilly around the place, not letting something as insignificant as a tree stand in their way. Outriders are D's to the trees. Also, they brought the Internet.
We immediately get the distinction of who's a trusted ally and who's an evil corporate suit as it's telegraphed with the former having an inviting southern accent, while the latter barks orders aggressively with a distinct British English twang.
The accents aside, the characters we meet at the beginning feel lived-in and familiar. This is thanks to the protagonist's interactions and dialogue options that reveal much about the Earth that was. Everyone we meet in the prologue has lost something to get to this new world.
Character depth and focus on the story is the first thing that sets Outriders apart from the other modern looter shooters. Instead of taking the Destiny approach where you have to delve into the depths of the Ishtar Collective to understand the lore or having no meaningful story besides the initial setting like The Division, this game actively introduces you to everything.
Such a way of handling Outriders lets players get invested in more than just grinding for loot, which tends to leave games superficial in many aspects.
There is quite a few cinematics that act to move the story of the prologue along but they don't overstay their welcome or break the immersion. This was an elegant choice by the devs as giving the players a chance to explore the world without triggering some key moments in the prologue would make the whole affair drag on for some time.
Gameplay - PC
The initial layout of Outriders' controls (on PC at least) is a bit wonky but easily fixed in the options menu. One of the key changes everyone will want to make immediately is to disable the double-tap to roll since you don't want to just somersault and accidentally break your sprint in the middle of a fight. Still, the game lets you customise the options extensively so it's more of an inconvenience rather than a significant problem.
The tutorial does a good job of showing you the ropes but the cover system leaves a couple of things to be desired and even more opportunities to scream at the screen while your character just stands there, or even worse - keeps rolling around.
On the other hand, the cover system is not the focus of the Outriders gameplay loop, which is something the devs noted several times. You are not supposed to sit behind a wall and take potshots at the enemy. What they had in mind appears to be something along the lines of grabbing your gear, embracing your powers and looking cool while laying waste to hordes of enemies in high octane action. The video below should give you an idea of what it looks like.
Outriders features only co-op, there is no PvP. Much like the Borderlands series, this game employs enemy scaling that depends on the number of players in your party.
Opponents get more numerous, healthier and deal more damage when there are two or three players taking on them but from what we could see in the demo, it doesn't go overboard.
While the scaling seemed fine itself, the multiplayer broke several times since the game kept kicking one of the party members out.
One extremely cool thing about multiplayer is how People Can Fly handled cutscenes in these scenarios. If you are playing with a friend, your TV or monitor will show you as the one interacting with NPCs and the environment in the scene while the friend's own display will show them as the main character. Everyone gets to enjoy being the hero.
Character creation is fairly nice. It's not extremely detailed as you can't customise the preset faces but the number of facial options, along with things like hairstyles, markings and scars offer enough variety to satisfy the basic customisation needs. On top of that, you can change your appearance at any time you are in a camp, at no cost.
This is one of the best selling points Outriders has. Devs have stated that this is not a live service game time and again, meaning we are not looking at a future microtransaction machine that keeps pulling you with barebones drip-fed content just to make you buy a shiny new cosmetic. You buy a game, you get a finished product and that's it.
You can never be 100 per cent sure with these things, but playing through the demo didn't yield any evidence that would point to the future introduction of microtransactions.
Should you give Outriders a try?
Absolutely. The game may not be getting enough attention at the moment but we have a strong feeling this will be a fantastic experience once it comes out. Considering it features crossplay between all the eligible platforms, this could be one of the best games to try out with friends on PC or Xbox and PlayStation family of devices.