Hands-On Impressions With Outriders, People Can Fly's New Co-op Shooter RPG

Last week, Square Enix and People can fly gave us an extensive, hands-on look at their upcoming shooter RPG Outriders. The game is oozing potential.

Last week, People Can Fly and Square Enix held a big press event for their upcoming shooter RPG Outriders. While there, I was able to play the game for a few hours, and sit down with some of the devs to ask a few questions. There is so much to talk about following the event, but first, give their latest trailer a watch if you haven’t. It gives a great overview of the game and some context for everything I’ll talk about below.

“The first time I saw a few of the early abilities, my jaw was on the floor.”

From a macro standpoint, Outriders is a co-op shooter for 1-3 players with a heavy emphasis on story and crisp gameplay. At the event, People Can Fly had three of their four character classes available to play. You can check out more in-depth impressions of each class in my write-ups going up on the site today. However, the short version is that each class feels totally unique in the early stages. The Pyromancer uses fire magic to burn opponents down over time. The Devastator wants to bring the fight to his enemies, using earth and gravity to form, as the devs say, the “backbone of the team.” And the Trickster mixes hit-and-run techniques and control over time and space to wipe foes out quickly.

Each class has its own unique healing mechanic. This lets People Can Fly build MMO-like boss fights, while not requiring players to use the holy trinity of healer-DPS-tank. Sure, you can build a Devastator up to be an incredibly survivable character; however, any combination of skills and classes is meant to be viable. As you progress through the game, you’ll unlock eight skills, of which you’ll select three to make up your load-out. PCF’s goal is to make “each skill feel (totally) different.” There isn’t a skill in the Trickster’s kit that’s copied in the Pyromancer’s load-out. And, from my early gameplay, they’ve also put a huge emphasis on upping the wow-factor on each skill. The first time I saw a few of the early abilities, my jaw was on the floor.

At the event, I, unfortunately, had some technical issues with the PC I was playing on. From talking with other press there, it seemed like I was just unlucky. Plus, Outriders is still in active development, so small issues like out of sync audio isn’t a big deal. However, because I had to move computers a few times, I was behind everyone else there. That meant I couldn’t really spend much time trying out the classes in co-op. That said, it was easy to see how their various abilities can combo together in impressive ways. Plus, the powers are on a short cooldown to make them feel like a more integral part of your toolset. You’re not just popping off an ultimate ability every 90 seconds. Instead, you’re constantly getting to feel like a badass as you bathe you and your comrades in the blood of your foes.

Outside of the powers, the core gunplay feels great. Popping in-and-out of cover is effective, but I found it was more fun to just run through people, blasting powers and bullets with equal ferocity. You’re also healing as you kill people with powers, so staying in the thick of things seemed like the best way to play. Now, I have to say that I don’t play any Destiny. Maybe you’re a big fan of that franchise and Outriders feels a bit samey to you. However, for me, the gunplay felt sublime. And it makes sense coming from the team that brought you Bulletstorm and Gears of War: Judgment.  People Can Fly knows how to make a shooter. That isn’t a surprise. What might surprise some is the quality of Outriders‘ narrative.

The team at the event made it unequivocally clear that Outriders will be a full experience in the box. This isn’t a game as a service. The two words People Can Fly kept using were “complete” and “cohesive.” They have a set endpoint for the story and will deliver that in the base game. That alone makes it stand out in the crowded loot shooter genre. And they have a great setting to play in.

Basically, you play as an elite human soldier who is part of the advance force of explorers looking to find a new planet for your people. As you land on Enoch, you encounter something called the “Anomaly.” It explodes and infects you, forcing your team to send you back into cryostasis. When you awake, it’s 30-some years into the future and you have a suite of brand new superpowers.

The world around you has morphed into a post-apocalyptic battlefield. In the early game, you’re fighting your way through a war-torn city full of trenches, mud, and enemies. From a purely visual standpoint, Outriders stands out as this weird mix of futuristic sci-fi and World War 1 warfare. As I mentioned above, I was having some audio issues and missed out on bits of the story. That said, in our big group interview, the story was all anyone was really talking about. I was, of course, intrigued from the jump, but seeing how into it so many people were has me excited to play the game once it releases.

“From the few hours I spent in Outriders‘ world, I cannot wait to play more in the universe People Can Fly have created.”

While the gameplay was excellent and the story was compelling, the thing from the preview event that piqued my interest the most is something the team calls “world tier.” This system is how Outriders handles difficulty levels. It’s kind of similar to Diablo 3. There are fifteen tiers of difficulty, with increased loot drops at higher levels. You can reset your world tier at any point, lowering it when you run into a tough fight you just can’t beat. What’s neat about it is that the system seems dynamic.

In Diablo 3, you can only raise your difficulty above Expert once you clear specific goals (beating the game once, getting a character to level 60). Outriders, on the other hand, has a bar that’s slowing filling up as you play. Once you fill the bar, you can bump the difficulty up to the next tier. The team wasn’t really talking about how and why the bar fills (and trust me, I asked a few times), but it felt like the bar filled more quickly as I mowed down the opposition faster. Obviously, without knowing exactly how it works I can only speculate. That said, the world tier feature was the thing I most want to know more about in the coming months.

From the few hours I spent in Outriders‘ world, I cannot wait to play more in the universe People Can Fly have created. The game boasts a world filled with mystery, diverse classes with wild abilities, and seemingly innovative systems that have my brain reeling with possibilities. It’s going to be a long wait until Outriders is finally in my hands.

Outriders is coming to PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X this winter. If you want to get more in-depth impressions about the three classes, check out our articles about the Devastator, the Pyromancer, and the Trickster.

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Ricky Frech

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