Outriders Hands-On Pre & Post Demo
Up until now, Outriders has been an elusive game, a whisper on the wind. At E3 2019 we were treated to a cinematic sneak peek with little else to go on except some haunting and harrowing images, capped off with a title card. Since that time, I have covered the game in detail. You can check out all of COGconnected’s Outriders articles HERE. Now that the demo is live and everyone is finally able to sink their teeth into the experience, I wanted to share with you some of my impressions of the demo. But also take a look back at my hands-on impressions from one year ago.
Demo Impressions February 2021
I went into the demo excited to return to Enoch after over a year since the first time I set boots on the ground. With the demo loaded and controller in hand, I jumped in and haven’t been able to stop playing since.
Everything I loved about the game is still here and more refined. The camera controls are fast and tight, the combat is incredibly quick, and the split-second decision-making is on point. This is war, you don’t have time to plan out your attack like a tactician, you need to get out there and conquer the field. Having learned so much more about Outriders over the past year, I was better able to maximize my builds and loadout to suit my playstyle. The Trickster and Devastator need to be up close and personal. They need to move fast and eliminate the enemy while staring into their eyes. The Pyromancer is a mid-range specialist with powers that can reach across the field. Put a long-range rifle in their hand and don’t be afraid to make use of cover. The Technomancer can surprisingly work both ways.
Each weapon and its variants feel unique from one another. The weapons I choose to wield and how I need to play each class synergize well, especially combined with powers. The Pyromancer with a sniper rifle is deadly, particularly given the incredible range on Thermal Bomb which can set up a chain reaction after a headshot. Trickster, however, with a fully automatic shotgun is nearly unstoppable. I’m also happy to say other than a few issues with audio not syncing up during cut scenes, this game has run flawlessly; no disconnects, no lag, no problems.
Quite possibly my favorite feature of the demo comes from mod farming. The loot grind feels a lot more fun as you refine your skills and technique in battle to get random drops, and the more loot you get with mods, the better. Dismantling the loot will unlock mods in your library for later use, and given the demo only gives you four of your eight powers, farming mods to enhance those other skills down the road is a great idea. The missions for loot grinding are short and easy to jump into, so despite being repetitive, you can grind for hours and barely even notice time has passed. For those worried about the longevity of the game, players have already proven their willingness to sink tens of hours into grinding the same four missions for better gear.
I have spent the last year excited for Outriders. An entire year of being hyped and telling everyone who will listen about this game. I have done my best to be accurate with my experience without overselling it and the simple truth is that it really IS that good. I haven’t enjoyed a game like this in a long time, and being able to sink 10 hours into replaying the same segment while still having fun – and knowing there is at least another 30 hours of campaign in the full game – is a great sign for things to come. With the demo now in the public’s hands and folks able to play it for themselves, the community is overwhelmingly on board with how fun this game is. I can’t wait for the full game to drop and for players to dive into the mystery of Enoch, face off against the Perforo, and discover the mystery of the signal.
Original Hands-on Impressions February 2020
People Can Fly have been working on shooters for some time now with titles like Fortnite, Gears of War: Judgement, and Bulletstorm under their belt, not to mention plenty of other gritty shooters in their collective resume. From the outset, it is clear that Outriders is a passion project they have been working on for a number of years, but taking all of their knowledge and putting it together with the legendary RPG portfolio of Square Enix has created an amalgamation with something for everyone. You might be forgiven for thinking this is just another looter-shooter, but there is so much more to Outriders than meets the eye. Yes, you’ll team up in squads of three to unleash hell on your enemies to find better weapons and armor, but more than that is the heavy RPG system and engaging narrative that reinforces this as a game with a soul. Outriders can be played solo or with up to three people, but what I was able to experience was a game that reinforces that hefty single player narrative we crave and blends it with co-op gunplay. Characters felt real. They have unique motivations and personalities, and the developers at People Can Fly have hinted that the bonds you forge and destroy with certain characters may even have adverse affects.
An Epic Looter-Shooter RPG Hybrid
Outriders borrows the mix of powers and gunplay from titles like Destiny and Anthem. Whereas Destiny is about guns and featured powers, and Anthem is about powers and featured guns, Outriders seamlessly balances both of them together. Each class can equip up to three abilities at a time with their own individual – and notably brief – cooldowns, but you never feel like you need to rely on either powers or guns individually to win a fight. The complexity of using them in tandem comes naturally, and the fact that each player’s powers can stack on an enemy together makes for an explosive and visceral experience. I played as the Trickster, a nimble class that manipulates time and space. I was able to erect an energy field that slowed down time for enemies trapped within, charging them with electric energy and setting them up for the Pyromancer and Devastator in my squad to obliterate them with their respective powers in gloriously gory fashion. The effects of these attacks stacked on one another and made for a brilliant sci-fi spectacle before our eyes, and this was accomplished with only the beginning few abilities; I can’t wait to see what late game powers have to offer.
While I might normally play a destructive class like the Pyromancer, the Trickster appealed to my penchant for playing a rogue-like character. His melee strike will slow down time, making the target easier to hit. His starting ability is a wide arcing slash with an energy sword that electrifies the enemy with a decent range. My second unlocked ability was the field that slows down time. It felt like such a potent support ability to run into a crowd, slow them down, and unleash a hail of bullets while my allies destroyed them. The third ability I got to try was to teleport. The Trickster can point at any enemy on the map regardless if they are in view and immediately teleport behind them, slowing down time for the target and gaining a buffed energy shield with a chance for some serious damage. It took me far too long to realize this was the best time to have a shotgun handy.
As we explored the settlement of Rift City, the dire situation of humanity became apparent. Any tech more advanced than a grease engine has been wiped out, leaving humanity fighting for scraps. The post-apocalyptic styling is incredibly well realized and – most importantly – no part of the city or Enoch itself feels under-populated. Humans, creatures, enemies, they all make the world feel alive. Locations are designed to feel lived in and yet destroyed by the war. The environmental details were incredible, whether it was the re-purposed steel plating now used as a walkway, the eroded stone of the sniper tower, or the way the foliage moved in the breeze. No part of the game I experienced felt like wasted space, instead all culminating in telling the story of Outriders.
As my squad progressed through the game, the world itself would level up in difficulty alongside our performance and skill level. Varying levels of World Tier difficulties would change enemy strength and loot drops as expected, yet it is the host player who controls the World Tier setting. We only managed to get to the fourth level during the demo but it is expected to have around 15 levels of difficulty to unlock. As we explored the world and picked up loot we found the typical assortment of weapons: shotgun, sniper rifle, assault rifle, etc. Players will always have two weapon slots to equip their weapon – not locked by class in any way – however a third slot is reserved for handguns with unlimited ammo. I had an assault rifle with 600 bullets and often found myself running low, so the handguns were a great option as a back up until I realized their range and damage is JUST as viable as the standard weapons. I frequently found myself switching to these pistols in favor of their accuracy over the spray of bullets from a fully automatic. Combat felt challenging enough to be engaging and keep me on my toes without being rage inducing. I was in the moment at all times and thoroughly engrossed in my actions. While the game does retain the snap-to-cover system of the Gears franchise, battlefields don’t feel designed so you HAVE to use it. It’s entirely possible to play out a fight without using cover, giving you the freedom to play as you see fit.
Our hands-on time with the game culminated in an epic boss battle where we had to put our skills to the test. While it was easy enough to chip away at the bosses health, he had more than a few tricks up his sleeve. His abilities were catastrophic but we learned very quickly the key to defeating him: teamwork. More than ever I feel that Outriders nails the necessity for teamwork. Alone you are powerful, together you are unstoppable. Our powers were mighty, but it was only using them together at the right time and communicating that led to our victory. The battle went on for 15 minutes and every moment was brilliantly tense. Despite playing with controller in hand for hours, the rush Outriders delivered made it feel like half an hour at most. I went into this game knowing only the bare bones and came out of it wanting more.
Since I put the controller down all I have wanted to do was dive back in, and from what the team at People Can Fly have told us, Outriders is shaping up to be a serious blockbuster to watch out for. Whether you love looter-shooters or engrossing sci-fi RPG adventures, Outriders seems to borrow the very best from Bulletstorm, Gears of War, Destiny 2, Anthem, and The Division 2 to create a genuinely captivating experience that I cannot get enough of. What do you think of the Outriders reveal trailer? Let us know your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, or the Comments section below. Outriders is expected to launch Holiday 2020 and will be available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC. For more information, check out the game’s official website.
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