Last week I was able to play the highly anticipated Outriders demo and it left me with some mixed thoughts about the experience and where I think the demo can improve for the final release. For those who don’t know, Outriders is the new third person class based coop action shooter being developed by Polish studio People Can Fly. They are a phenomenal studio that have been behind games like Gears Of War Judgement, Bulletstorm, and Fortnite. With Outriders, they are creating a new cooperative campaign driven shooter with a looting system similar to that of Destiny or Division 2. So far the response to the demo has been incredible with a reported 2 million players logging in and completing it multiple times in an attempt to get the best gear that will carry over into the final game. I had a fun time with the game on both PC and PS5 and decided to break down a few things I experienced with the demo.
Usually I like to break these posts down into categories and describe how well things work in demos or betas and give you my overall impressions of them. This time I’m going to change it up and just go through my general experience. Outriders is a great concept built on many ideas seen in other co-op looter shooters. It features fast and heavy gun play with a cover system much like the Gears Of War series. It also features 4 specific classes which allow you to master unique abilities, each with its own highlights and disadvantages. Initially it seemed they were designed to support group matchmaking so that you can support each other with different ranges advantages and so on, however, as I played with each of them, it felt more like each one was its own juggernaut. I felt as though some classes were really well rounded and you didn’t really need any other classes to provide support. Particularly the special abilities from the Pyromancer and Trickster classes, which allow you to overpower your enemies singlehandedly since you have multiple ranged attacks and movement options to engage your targets effectively. Essentially it boils down to the classes feeling like its every man for himself since each class has abilities for varied combat scenarios.
During the prologue portion of the demo I was really immersed by the story. I really enjoyed being introduced into a new planet and learning about the gravity of the situation of survival for the human race. It really gave you this sense of urgency to learn about your surroundings and then I was hooked in by the beautiful open spaces of the planet Enoch. During the prologue, the HUD is minimal and it helps engage you with the storyline and beautiful visuals. While the main objectives are pretty simple and straight forward, you also get to learn about the core shooting mechanics of the game. After the prologue you are brought into this hub area where you truly begin your journey to recover from the events that happened when you first landed on Enoch.
Once the game asks you to pick your awesome looking class you are quickly put into a warzone/ trench like area filled with enemies. It serves as the tutorial to test out you newfound ability. From this point forward I began to notice little things that kept taking me out of the immersion. Things like weird weapon designs, an unexplainable fog across each area, bite sized side quests, and mixed up controls kept me wondering what was going on. Instead of everything working together cohesively, it felt like the game was fighting with itself and you could see its conflict in gameplay. For example, the barrel of the guns were huge and were being stabilized by a tiny stock which made them look like toys. I found it hard to take seriously because the game felt all over the place with its tone and its designs. In addition, the game forces you to play very aggressively as you need to get in close and use your class abilities in order to regain health, so the concept of playing from a distance or hanging back is essentially pointless. While I was unable to get into a co-op match while playing the demo, I couldn’t experience how those mechanics would work together with others, but it made me wonder how it would work with all 4 players were rushing at the same time trying to steal kills from one another to keep their health up.
As I continued playing though the game I also couldn’t help noticing how many similarities it shares with so many other titles. During combat I noticed certain engagements felt like Division 2 and Anthem (specifically the damage counter over enemies heads and even the font that was used). The cover system felt like it was ripped straight out of Gears Of War which is fine, but doesn’t work as effectively. Unfortunately Outriders’ evade mechanic is mapped to a separate button, so it felt disconnected and confusing (perhaps I am biased to this because I am a long time Gears fan). Personally, I thought the game should have only one button for entering and exiting cover and evading when combined with the opposing directions on the movement analogue stick. It would have made the combat feel much more cohesive and easier to play. In addition I saw the 4 classes and co-op multiplayer elements as ideas taken straight out of Anthem and Destiny 2. Even the lightning storms that cause the Outrider to become “altered” look like they were copied and pasted directly out of Anthem’s environment storms. Both of those games were built on the concept of having sci-fi themes, specific classes, co-op game play, and a loot system. However, both of those games had issues and I am reminded of them when I see those similarities here in Outriders. Finally I couldn’t help but notice that the dialogue options in the game felt copied from Mass Effect but were nowhere near as masterfully executed. I was taken through memory lane when playing this demo and while the game was clearly influenced by those titles, it didn’t adapt the parts that worked well in those games, nor did it take the necessary steps to elevate itself from the competition.
Finally, I want to take a quick moment to apologize if I seem forward with this post. I want to make it clear that I am not bashing Outriders in any way, I think it is a fantastic game and it has SO MUCH POTENTIAL. The core shooting mechanics and class abilities are addictive and genuinely fun to play, however, I think it still needs some polishing to set itself apart. I would really like to see it rise above previous game design mistakes from other developers. I love People Can Fly as a studio and I think they have a gold mine in their hands with Outriders. It really has the opportunity to stand apart from the previous games mentioned (with respect to those games and their developers, since I actually liked them all) and has a chance to do things better than they did, even if it borrows some of their ideas. I am looking forward to the final release of the game which should be in a few weeks on April 1st 2021.
As always thank you so much for reading this post. There is so much more stuff I have to write about in the gaming realm like the new Pokémon games that are coming out later this year, and the latest character addition to Dragon Ball FighterZ and so much more, and I will be posting about those in the next few days so stick around to read my thoughts on those. For now have a great evening and be well.