Looter shooters have become all too commonplace ever since the arrival of the Borderlands series, though it was perhaps Destiny that cemented the genre as a mainstay staple, adding a more consistent online element and larger co-op activities in the form of raids. Since then, there’s been some success stories in games like The Division and Warframe, while there’s also been some large misses. Anthem springs to mind.
People Can Fly, the talented developers behind games like Painkiller, Gears of War: Judgment and, perhaps best of all, Bulletstorm, have decided that they’d like to have a go, launching the demo for Outriders last week ahead of the full game’s launch on PlayStation, Xbox and PC on April 1st. After spending a few hours with the game, it’d be hard to call Outriders an original concept, and there are some elements that make the game feel a bit janky (we’ve talked about the game’s overall direction, though this jumping cutscene is also worth highlighting), but hot damn, Outriders is a lot of fun.
Earth has died, which is a fun start, I know, but that’s just how Outriders begins. Two ark-like spaceships are sent off into the stars to find a new planet, though one is immediately destroyed before it can go anywhere. The other manages to make it to a planet called Enoch, so some humans are unfrozen from cryostasis to try and begin the colonisation efforts, including you, the Outrider. You’re free to create your own character, but the tools available to you are minimal at best unfortunately.
As you touch down on Enoch, you begin to realise that the planet isn’t quite as hospitable as the humans would like, as a storm referred to as The Anomaly starts wreaking havoc on everyone in the vicinity. While you try to delay the colonisation efforts, you end up injured and forced back into cryostasis, waking up decades later to find the remnants of humanity battling with each other. Same crap, different planet I guess, only this time you’re given some powers that make you an Altered.
As an Altered, you select from one of four classes, each offering a different style of play. The Technomancer, aside from sharing a name with a terrible RPG, is a long-range focused class that utilises gadgets, while the Pyromancer is a mid-ranged powerhouse that throws flames at anyone they see. Then you’ve got the two close-range classes, with the Trickster following an assassin-like archetype with teleports and brutal attacks, while the Devastator is a tank that’s designed to get in the faces of enemies. The idea of picking a class might be hard, but there’s enough character slots for one of each class, with two slots to spare.
The gameplay is about what you’d expect from your looter shooter, as you make your way through the hordes of enemies on various missions, earning better loot to become more powerful and take on harder missions. It’s the standard formula that’s been done in so many loot-based games before, but where Outriders gets a lot of credit is in the fact that you feel powerful once those abilities start rolling in.
Games like Destiny offer gadgets and abilities that can murder waves of enemies in one fell swoop, but for the most, it feels like that power only comes from your grenades and other tools. Only when you’ve got Super does your Guardian themself actually feel powerful. However, Outriders allows you to use plenty of game-changing abilities like summoning streaks of fire, teleporting, slicing enemies with energy from your hand and causing insta-kills, along with more besides. With short cooldowns between usages, you’re always made to feel you’re the strongest person on Enoch, until the other Altered humans come out to play.
Outriders also promotes a more aggressive playstyle than some other shooters out there, with each class recovering health for performing different actions, whether that’s dealing damage, killing enemies marked by your fire abilities and more besides. While it’s still possible to get overwhelmed and die, your odds of survival drastically go down if you try to play a conservative approach. It certainly makes for a more compelling gameplay experience than hiding in the backline and waiting for the blood to fall off your face.
As Outriders is only in the demo stage right now, we aren’t able to get to grips with the crafting mechanics in the game, or the class skill trees and extra abilities that’ll really allow the player to tinker with the intricacies of each class. However, what’s on offer in the demo offers a lovely glimpse into the full game. Whether the entire game holds up remains to be seen, but as of right now, Outriders looks like it could offer some very good co-op fun.
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