I’ve been lowkey anticipating the release of Outriders for a number of months now. I don’t like to get too hyped up for any new looter shooters, as the genre has a storied history of overpromising and underdelivering, but the folks at People Can Fly seem to be focused on the right things with Outriders and I get the sense that this one may surprise people.
Thankfully, we have a lot more to work with than marketing assets and the admittedly spot on things the dev team are saying and doing in the run up to launch. PCF recently released a demo for Outriders that will give players a sampling of the early game experience with the added bonus of carrying over to launch. These are some things I like (and dislike) about the Outriders demo.
There’s some jank in the gunplay and movement in combat, but overall it’s solid fun. I especially enjoy the game’s “kill-to-heal” design that encourages aggressive gameplay over hiding in cover. This does present some weird identity issues where it sometimes feels like the game is at odds with itself: is Outriders a cover shooter? Or not? I tend to play it aggressively as its mechanics encourage, but there’s a ton of cover that suggests a more deliberate approach to combat.
Another aspect of combat that I enjoy about Outriders is the relatively shorter cooldowns on skills. The game may be a shooter, but it’s also an ARPG and I never really understood games like Destiny putting such long cooldowns on skills. Items and skill trees allow players to reduce skill cooldowns even further and even focus on ability usage over guns if desired, so there should be something for everyone here.
With the exception of the Technomancer, which is a bit ho-hum for a game like this, Outriders’ class options are compelling enough it’s made choosing a “main” very difficult not only for me but for many in the community. The more we learn about each class the more difficult the decision has become. Do I want to be a spell slinging Pyromancer? Or maybe a Pyromancer that focuses more on guns with volcanic rounds? Or do I want to leap up into the air and crash down on my enemies as an earth-bending Devastator? What if I want to blink from enemy to enemy like Nightcrawler as the Trickster? Options, options! The game launches in just a couple of days and while I’m leaning Devastator, I’m truthfully no closer to my decision than I was before I played the demo.
Items are interesting in Outriders right out the gate. You can find Legendary items at lower level and begin thinking about a build, but even Rares can often make a huge impact on how your class plays. The demo doesn’t let us mess about with crafting, but there’s clearly a deep appreciation for ARPG itemization in Outriders and this is something just about every looter shooter that’s preceded the game has inexplicably dropped the ball on prioritizing.
Years ago I felt like I was in the minority when it comes to caring about this sort of thing, but it’s clear fashion is the true endgame for a lot of gamers out there and I totally appreciate that. Outriders has some outlandish, mostly aesthetically pleasing gear design, but no ability to transmog gear which is a big letdown for me. Yes, you can modify your items, but not fully (one mod slot is locked), and if you’re using set items you wouldn’t be able to carry the set bonuses over, either. I don’t know what PCF’s stance is on this issue, but I’m hoping some kind of transmog feature is added in a future update. For now, I’m glad I can at least hide my helmet.
Character creation is another area where the game suffers. For as many options as Outriders offers in its gameplay and the total freedom players can imagine for their characters as “Altered” it’s a wonder that there aren’t a robust set of options for character creation. I want to make my Pyromancer or Devastator as wicked looking as the rest of the game’s out there art style and setting would suggest I could, but there simply aren’t enough options on offer.
I get that Outriders appears to prioritize build customization through itemization, but if you’re going to have skill trees, you could make them a bit more meaningful. I don’t really find invisible bonuses such as extra damage or HP to be compelling and the skill trees are almost entirely comprised of these sorts of choices. They’re also same-y across classes. The top tree focuses on weapon damage, the middle typically focuses on mitigation, and the bottom tree focuses on skill usage. There are a couple of nodes here and there that offer some interesting build synergy, but the tree is mostly a letdown for me.
I’m often unsure if the game is trying to take its story seriously or if it’s a cheesy parody of sorts. Truth be told, I’m not really here for the story anyways and so far it’s at least kept my attention and that’s fine, but I do feel like this is one area the game will probably be weaker in for me.
Have you played the demo? What are some things you liked (or disliked) about it? Let us know in the comments below!