Outriders Hands-on Preview
A first look at People Can Fly's Outriders after spending a few hours playing the game.
Outriders is an upcoming RPG-shooter being developed by People Can Fly. People Can Fly brings considerable shooter cred to the table, with games like Painkiller, Gears of War: Judgment, and Bulletstorm on their resume. But will that experience translate well to a co-op shooter-RPG? Based on my hands-on time with the game it certainly seems so, but first let’s take a look at what Outriders is all about.
When creating Outriders, the developers set out with the goal of creating a full shooter-RPG experience right out of the box. Outriders will not be a “games as service” title, so you won’t find any loot boxes in the game or other ways to pay to get ahead in the game. And while you might expect People Can Fly to create a shooter with RPG elements, their primary aim was to create an RPG that happens to have a third-person shooter combat system.
The game is set in the future after a dying Earth sends two arks into the stars in 2159 in a desperate attempt to save humanity. One ark is lost, but the other survives and reaches the seemingly Eden-like planet of Enoch after an 80 year journey. Before the colonists can be awakened from cryosleep and be brought down to the planet’s surface, advance teams need to prepare the way for them. As an Outrider, an elite explorer who is always the first boots on the ground on a new planet, that’s your job. Without spoiling too much of what happens during the game’s prologue, things are not as blissful on Enoch as they first appeared to be, and while investigating a strange signal an unnatural storm with great power hits and quickly turns the new Earth into a nightmare for the Outriders. Forced into cryosleep due to an injury incurred during the storm, you wake up 30 years later in a world torn apart by warring factions and under the constant assault of the storm, now known as the Anomaly, and the creatures of Enoch who have been mutated by it.
Not all of the mutations are turned against you, though. Your encounter with the Anomaly 30 years earlier has given you superhuman strength and stamina, and imbued you with supernatural powers - you’ve become one of the Altered. When your powers manifest, you’ll need to choose which form they’ll take, and with that choice you’ll set your character’s class.
The demo I played had three classes available, but a fourth will also be playable at launch that will be announced at a later date. Two of the available classes feature melee-based powers and the third medium-range attacks, so my money’s on another ranged class. The Devestator is the game’s tank class, with gravity-based attacks that punish nearby enemies and a rock-like shell that provides superior protection. The Trickster has devastating melee powers, as well as the ability to teleport behind enemies and slow time. Lastly we have the Pyromancer, Outriders’ fire mage class, who can strike enemies from afar with flame attacks that can cause them to explode in a fireball damaging anyone unfortunate enough to be close by.
The developers wanted to create powers as violent and powerful as the weapons you’ll wield, making them as important a part of the gameplay as the guns. As such they feature quick cool down times so that they will be an integral part of your attack tactics and not just something that can only be called upon in a pinch. There are no class weapon restrictions, so your choice of primary and secondary weapons can be made to fit your play style and not because what you can equip is limited by your choice of class. I found arming my Trickster with a sniper rifle and shotgun to be an interesting combination that let me thin out the enemy ranks a little from a safe distance, after which I could blink in and devastate the remaining ones with melee attacks and shotgun blasts.
Each class also features a unique self-heal mechanic that is tied to defeating enemies with their class powers. You’ll be able to partially regenerate your health by avoiding enemy fire, but you won’t be able to restore your health fully this way. There aren’t any health packs in the game as far as I could tell, so you’ll have to standup to your enemies even when you’re hurting if you want to heal to full strength.
As you progress in level you’ll unlock additional powers, as well as skill points that can be spent in each of the class’ three different skill trees that will let you further specialize your character. I wasn’t able to try out any of these skills, though, as I didn’t earn any skill points during my time with the game, either due to the nature of the restricted demo we were playing or because they don’t become available until you reach a certain class level.
Despite the developers focus on the game’s RPG elements, People Can Fly’s extensive experience with shooters really shines through in the game’s combat and you can see the influence of their prior games on the style of play. The game emphasizes cover-based shooting, but also features brutal melee combat. While the environments are bounded, you always have plenty of tactical options as to how you want to approach each battle. Enemies have a number of weapon types and attack styles, and the AI is pretty impressive and always seems to be working to flank you and flush you out of cover.
During my time with the game I was able to play through the prologue and first chapter with one character, and then complete the first chapter again with a second. My first character selection was a Pyromancer, after which I took a Trickster out for a test drive.
The Pyromancer really did work best as a mid-range character just as advertised. I would fire from behind cover while using ranged flame attacks until the front rank of the enemy was cleared, and then I’d advance to the next row of cover and repeat the process. While the Pyromancer could handle an enemy or two at melee range, I could be quickly overwhelmed by multiple enemies and so I rapidly learned that it was best to keep my distance even if that meant making a strategic withdrawal. I had fun with the Pyromancer - it really did feel like I was a mage with a gun.
Playing as the Trickster was a different experience. Now mobility was critical as I would keep moving and watching for the opportunity to close in on enemies swiftly and strike them down with melee attacks, quickly moving out afterwards and looking for my next opportunity. It’s pretty exciting to strike down a large number of enemies face-to-face while they try in vain to utilize their numerical advantage. The Trickster’s ability to slow time is particularly fun to use as you create a protective bubble around yourself and watch the bullets coming towards you slowly crawl through the air. I loved teleporting into a group of enemies, slowing time, and then walking around their bullets to take them out with melee strikes and shotgun blasts.
The game can be played solo, but it also supports three player drop-in/drop-out co-op play, so you can imagine all of the different ways that you can combine the classes, weapons, and builds to develop unique tactics and change the game experience.
There’s a lot more to the game than I was able to see in the three hours I spent playing it, and the developers were able to tell me a little bit about that. While the areas I saw in the game’s opening chapter looked like the battlefields of World War I, the full game features a diversity of environments that will include everything from forests to deserts. The guns available in the demo were the standard types that we’re all used to from playing other shooters - pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, and sniper rifles - but the full game will feature weapons with customization slots, special attributes, and some amazing looking skins. One of the game’s unique features that unfortunately I also did not get to see is that each player will get a customizable truck. The game’s zones are laid out with centralized hub areas, but when you’re far from a hub the truck will serve as your mobile base. It’s also a way to show off your accomplishments to other players as you’ll be able to attach trophies to it that you’ve earned by playing the game. When you play in co-op, your trucks will form a convoy and when you set up camp you can create your own little wagon train style circle.
That’s all I have for now, but we’ll have a lot more on Outriders as we move towards its holiday season 2020 launch window. The game plays really well and is quite fun almost a year away from launch, so I’m expecting great things from the final product.
Transmitted: 8/7/2020 7:00:27 PM