At first blush, Outriders is difficult to distinguish from a sea of similar-looking looter-shooter RPGs. Destiny is the go-to comparison these days, mostly because the long-running title is perhaps the best example of the sub-genre. Borderlands is another, though it’s hard to mistake that visually stylish insanity fest for anything else. Then there’s the elements of Mass Effect, Gears of War, Remnant: From the Ashes (which arrives on PS+ as a free game next month), and even failed attempts like Anthem, DisIntegrated, and the limping Marvel’s Avengers to throw into the pile. I literally heard every single title mentioned as a reference in my Twitch chat while checking out the game. When Outriders’ introductory chapter and character establishment, which is all set up in the free demo, struggles to set itself apart from any of the above, it’s tough to get excited about yet another looter-shooter that might just ultimately die on the vine.
Maybe it’s just wishful thinking. Maybe it’s a numbers thing, the hope that if studios throw enough looter-shooter titles out there, one of them will finally stick. Or maybe I just really want to invest time in grinding for gorgeous-looking gear, absolutely disgusting perks on weapon rolls, and a fully kitted-out skill tree that will make my fellow players jealous. I want that time I’ve invested in the game to pay off in ways I never expect, though I’d settle for the game simply continuing to provide new content over the months and years; looking directly at you Anthem and Marvel’s Avengers. So, yes, I’ve already created a character for each of the four classes in Outriders, and yes, I’m in the process of level-grinding them as much as I can in the demo offering. Why? Because Outriders is just grungy enough in its bullrush storytelling, just attractive enough in its bevy of promised loot, and just fun enough in its aggressive “kill to live” approach to combat that I’m hoping against hope that it finds a main vein to tap into among hungry looter-shooter fans out there.
The story of Outriders is a familiar one even if you can’t pin down exactly where and when you heard each of its sci-fi beats: “Earth is dead,” the opening scroll boldly states. The last surviving members of the human race hunker down in cryostasis aboard two massive ark-like spaceships for a nearly century-long journey to Enoch, a supposedly habitable world. Only one ship survives intact. And the first folks to wake up, make camp, and scout the new world are known as the Outriders, a name with roots in the Old West as riders who flanked massive cattle herds to keep them from breaking or from being rustled off. The cowboy aesthetic is strong in the captain of the group, Jack Tanner, who sports a cowboy hat, duster, and a voice (and mustache) worthy of Sam Elliott.
Pretty standard setup so far. So while even though the landing pods are casually destroying wide swaths of forest and setting them on fire, you can’t help but hope that everything works out well for your character, a capable Outrider who has earned Jack’s confidence and trust. Of course, as you probably expected, things do not go well. Not at all. I’ll spare you the story details here (the demo is free to play, after all), but another time jump throws your character into a hellish situation that has some real life-or-death stakes. Luckily, you’re singularly gifted with abilities that will not only let you survive this new world, but thrive in it, perhaps to the betterment of one faction of survivors over the others.
Classes & Skills
The rather trope-filled setup story leads to an expected but attractive turn of events: You become Altered by an anomaly, a cosmic storm of sorts that should have killed you but actually grants you powers. And yes, you guessed it, this is where your class selection comes in. You’ll choose from the long-distance support class Technomancer, the mid-range attack class Pyromancer, the close-up stealth expert Trickster, and the classic tank build, the Devastator. Any of the classes on their own will let you solo the demo with ease, but it’s the co-operative effects I can’t wait to dig into via multiplayer and the main game itself.
So far, I’d suggest Devastator as a starting place for new players. Its stock ground attack has a quick cooldown and is stupid easy to use against enemies coming directly at you. Devastator’s second acquired skill is rock-shielding that will let you tank more damage even as you dole it out; it’s a nice combo. No matter your class, you’ll have a complement of two long-guns and a sidearm at pretty much all times, eventually dropping with perks like Leech Life, but it’s the skills that will separate you from your buddies. I vastly prefer the Trickster class, though I’m usually a stealth-sniper typer, because of their ability to warp spacetime and either slow a group of enemies or teleport behind one, with the added bonus of a shield. The addition of a quick-kill Temporal Slice skill is super-handy, and I never tire of watching enemies turn to skeletons before they blow away in the wind as so much dust a la Terminator.
Of course, the fire-wielding Pyromancer or the gadget-using Technomancer may be more your style; I’d advise making at least one character of each class to play around with and see what feels best. It’s a little too early in the game’s life cycle for there to be a meta yet, so just enjoy yourself. Who knows what position your team will need you to play once you take on tougher and tougher Altereds.
And speaking of difficulty, Outriders could probably up the challenge a bit, even in the demo. I think I’ve only died once so far because I got greedy in the final boss fight of the opening chapter. Other than that, combat has been a breeze. You can take chances, make plenty of messy mistakes, and manage to kill your way out of a tight spot. It’s a little chaotic, a little frenetic, and a little wild, but I kinda like it. (Just please for the love of Enochian gods, stop with all the insane camera shaking, especially for dialogue scenes!)
From what we’ve seen from the available skill trees and hero shots of cosmetics, loot, and epic gear, there’s a lot of upside to Outriders. The story has room to grow and wild places to go. Enough seeds have been planted that could bear fruit in months and years to come. It just needs content, content, content. And so far it seems like people want to check it out at the very least. The Devs team is hard at work making sure their servers are up to the task of handling the demand, a good problem to have though a problem just the same. And the behind-the-scenes Comms team has been aces with keeping the community updated on availability, problems, and fixes over social media. All good signs. Just keep that content pipeline flowing.
Here’s hoping the next month’s worth of demo availability will help to spread the word about the promising looter-shooter. My friends and I will be on Enoch for the foreseeable future; won’t you join us?
Plus, Odenkirk confirms when filming on Season 6 kicks off.
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