Outriders Demo Impression – A promising game with glaring flaws
People Can Fly released a free demo for the much-anticipated Outriders. In preparation for the April 1st, 2020 launch, Square Enix wanted players to play the game themselves. The great thing is this isn’t a beta that requires a pre-order to participate. As an Outrider, we experience a fully functional build, but Square Enix is considering player feedback. Regardless, many of us have already tried the demo, and I’d like to share my impression of Outriders!
Note: I started Outriders on PC but went through all of the content on the Xbox Series X.
Character creation is where it’s at when it comes to action RPGs. Unfortunately, Outriders doesn’t give many choices for making a unique character. There are a handful of customization options for every aspect, from the face to skin color to the hairstyles. As someone who wastes far too much time making a character, it took somewhere around five minutes to complete all of them. I’d love to say the lack of options is because this is a demo, but a demo is pretty indicative of the final product’s state.
The beginning of Outriders
“Earth was dead. We had destroyed it,” the intro reads. Aren’t we always the instrument of our demise? Humanity prepared two colony ships to venture out into the stars for a new home, but only one survived. Eighty-three years later, they orbit the mysterious planet Enoch, a promising world for the characters. For the player, the ominous music playing over the planet’s reveal does not bode well.
The Outriders demo drops us into a prologue that you cannot skip at first. On subsequent playthroughs, you will be able to. At first glance, the game’s world – Enoch – appears lush and verdant, with little distinction from Earth besides glowing fungi. The scenery looks all too familiar – it resembles Mass Effect more than Destiny. Destiny is the original aesthetic I thought People Can Fly would follow.
Honestly, the prologue is boring, and though it sets up some of the world, Outriders could do without it. Maybe shorten it? The game uses the prologue to teach us basic mechanics and introduce us to certain characters. However, there’s a transition from the prologue to the next section of the demo that makes the prologue seem unneeded. The characters introduced have changed drastically to the point I recognized one: Shira.
Moving on to Rift Town
After emerging with powers, we go to Rift Town to search for old, still breathing allies to figure out what’s going on. Here, we undertake side quests and progress through the main story. It’s important to take note of the base, though, as you will continue to return to Rift Town for the demo. As with any home base, there’s plenty to do: Buy from vendors, try to join a multiplayer game, fast travel to another location, change your appearance for free, and spy a stash box that cannot be used in the demo. Players unlock explorer flags across the map to quickly travel from one point to the other.
Speaking of explorer flags, players can customize their flags with emblems, flag poles, and more. We have to unlock banner pieces through accolades, sets of challenges tied to classes, guns, enemy types, and more. Fortunately, these accolades stack across all characters on your account. I’m not sure what the accolade level-cap is for the demo, but I managed to reach level 7.
What I like about Outriders
As expected, as soon as we gain our powers, the game ramps up. Outriders has four classes to choose from, each with its own unique abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. This is where the demo should have started, as this is where Outriders offerings are on display.
There are four classes to choose from: Technomancer, Pyromancer, Trickster, and Devastator. All four of them fill a particular RPG role. In other words, there’s your typical Tank, DPS (damage per second) classes, and a Ranged class that doubles as support. However, the game seems tailored toward lightning-fast fire-fights, and each class is capable of high DPS. They also have ways of regaining their health that are related to combat. At the very least, this assures players that play solo won’t fail consistently because they lack support. Hopefully, weapon perks and class skills will allow us to tune into their specific roles.
What I enjoyed about each class
My favorite class is the Trickster, whose hit-and-run mechanics make for a fun time. As I unlocked the fourth ability, though, I abandoned the teleportation skill for one that increases bullet damage. It controls spacetime, so I can only imagine the kind of builds players will make when we have the whole game in our hands.
The Devastator was also fun in that it can withstand the carnage and serve it equally. I loved the golem ability that gives it rock armor/turns it into a golem. Eventually, the Devastator class gains the ability to stop bullets and then fire them back at the enemy. Often, the ability takes out an entire screen of enemies.
Then there are the two classes I didn’t enjoy as much as the others. Pyromancer has interesting abilities that set the enemy ablaze and reaps health from them, but it was a pretty straight-forward class with not much new. I rank Technomancer as the least satisfying class. Right away, the class feels like a copy/paste of many first-person shooters. One gadget it uses is a grenade, another is a turret, and it gets poison bullets. Honestly, Technomancer is a knockoff brand Roland from Borderlands.
Outriders Demo provides plenty of action
There’s nothing better in Outriders than unleashing wild powers and clip after clip of bullets at unfortunate enemies. They shatter into bloody messes that cover the field. The odds may be against our enemies, but they force us to stay on our toes. It’s all very fast-paced and designed to make you play aggressively. Cover exists, but I could only remain behind cover for seconds before enemies closed in or threw a grenade to flush me out. At any moment, the player can be overwhelmed by groups of melee and ranged opponents.
As I gained more gear that enhanced my abilities, the action ramped up two-fold. Stronger enemies can build resistance to the abilities you use, adding extra strategy to the battle. Of course, once you reach a certain level of strength, even those enemies can be melted in minutes. It’s a satisfying build toward the insanity that each class can output, and the demo only scratches the surface of what’s possible.
The World Tier
The World Tier mechanic in Outriders is very familiar. As you play the game, you gain experience toward your world tier. Once that increases, so too does the difficulty of the game. That’s not all. The higher the difficulty, the better chance at earning high-quality rewards. Best of all, you can reduce the world tier level whenever you want. Why does it sound familiar? Diablo 3 has ‘Torment Levels’ that crank up the difficulty beyond normal limits. Only characters with the best gear and builds survive the higher levels, so I’m excited to have that kind of mechanic.
What I didn’t like about Outriders
Whether I played on PC or Xbox Series X, I was rarely able to find another player. I found a lobby a whole two times, but the player was always standing still for minutes on end. Square Enix claims to have patched multiplayer, but I have yet to get into one. If I’m able to before the full game releases, I will update this section.
The gear in the Outriders Demo bores
Meh. I don’t enjoy the appearance of player gear. Standard weapons look the same and are uninspired – think COD firearms without skins. I expected something more technological. Low-level weapons won’t look awe-inspiring but should help set the game apart from others. I farmed for legendaries and found two. They are an improvement, but not every legendary weapon is created equal. Some look downright strange, like the Migraine.
Also, I played every class, and the equipment isn’t exactly different between them. Again, these are low-level items, but People Can Fly should have taken the initiative to give each class its own identity outside its powers. I do expect mid to high-tier class-specific equipment to look different, but that’s a hope, not factual knowledge.
Movement and cover need improvements
Character movement in Outriders feels off, in the same vein as Marvel’s Avengers. The characters feel light on their feet as if they’re being led quickly on a rail that I have to divert from forcefully. After a time, I got used to that but throw in awkward movement with a weak cover system, and problems arise. It’s not that the cover system is terrible; a few things could be better, like indicating which pieces of cover I can vault over. Also, the ‘A’ indicator disappears often, which hampers my ability to move from cover-to-cover. The game is fast-paced, though, and it feels like People Can Fly doesn’t want us to spend much time stationary.
Replaying Side Quests – Good theory, poor execution
Replayability is important for Outriders or any loot shooter. Outriders allows you to replay any side quest. Unfortunately, restarting them takes you through every cutscene you have experience. Players can skip each line of dialogue by hitting ‘B,’ but wouldn’t it be better to skip entire scenes? After several playthroughs of every mission, all I wanted was to hold B to skip right to the action. That is not an option.
Loading screens haunt the Outriders Demo
I expected Outriders to have loading screens, but not quite so many today. Every new place you travel to either presents you with a loading screen or an odd cinematic transition, trying to hide the fact that it’s a loading screen. That’s the problem when we’re in the next generation of gaming, but the games themselves have not caught up. It doesn’t matter that the SSD cuts down on load times when there are so many loading screens.
In an interview with Eurogamer, Outriders game director Bartek Kmita explained that the loading screens are present because of co-op. All players must be in the same section at once. So, if one player goes through a door, the other two must be teleported to the same area. The developer put in cutscenes to give players a sense of where they are. Also, Outriders doesn’t run on dedicated servers, Bartek reveals:
“Without dedicated servers, our solution would be if two guys want to go to different parts, we have to separate them so they will not be able to play together. Because everyone needs to compute the AI and everything on their machine, we would have had to split the party. I would like to have the door opening animation for two seconds, but still playing together with my friends, than just breaking apart through transmission. So we chose this solution. We understand it’s not the best.”
The Outriders demo showcases that it is a game that does the little things so wonderfully. There were small moments when discovering and using specific abilities that thrilled me. Watching bullets slow down when entering the Trickster’s barrier is another touch that Players Can Fly added that I love. Even the dialogue, while often voiced questionably, comes across as natural/genuine reactions to the scenario’s absurdity.
Unfortunately, the demo’s storyline did not stand out. I didn’t expect it to, but Outriders is a narrative story, and I hoped I would feel immersed in the world. I felt like an outsider to the events, even as I progressed through side quests and the main quest. Square Enix leaves us wanting more, but I wonder if they showed enough to hook a massive amount of fans.
I was not convinced to pre-order the game by playing the demo. That’s not all bad news. Outriders is now under my radar, and I will continue to watch what changes the devs make to the whole product. I can’t imagine much Players Can Fly can update at this stage in the game. Outriders has much potential, though, so I hope the final version is a hit!