The demo for People Can Fly’s Outriders went live late last week, and after a weekend of shooting up enemies for little balls of loot, April looks like a long, long way away.
The first thing that caught my attention as the game started is that my character spoke. Unlike so many other PVE shooters, my character has a voice, which meant the NPCs didn’t have to do all the heavy lifting. The game also features a few dialogue trees, where you can ask NPCs for more information. There aren’t choices like you would see in a full-blown RPG, but at least you can dive into the story a bit more if that is the side of things you are interested in. Speaking of diving in, the various journal pieces and bits of lore are really well done, and I felt rewarded for finding collectables and weird knickknacks in the environment with backstory on characters and events.
Outriders is fast-paced, but not to the point that it is a game only for people with great reflexes. Most big enemy abilities have a wind-up, shown with a little cast bar that you can interrupt if your skill has the interrupt tag on it. Enemies can only be interrupted so many times before they get a short-term immunity to the effect, so working out what to interrupt and what to dodge or try hide in cover for will become really important later on.
You only have space for three skills and the demo only gives access to four of the various bits in the arsenal. Skill choices and gear can be changed mid-mission, letting you react to certain enemy loadouts or just if you want to experiment with abilities. From what I have seen, the various abilities are all fun to use on their own, but pairing them up with the effects of another class is where things shine. Whether you are lining up a bunch of enemies for someone else to set alight or smashing into a group that has just been trapped in a time bubble, working together makes quick work of big threats.
It isn’t just your skills that are fun to use. The game’s various guns are easy to get used to, and getting a headshot with a sniper rifle feels great as your crosshairs turn into a little red skull after you ventilate someone’s skull. Gear in the demo was still pretty low level, but the appeal is certainly there. Guns can have life leech or bonus firepower on top of their usual stats, and there are little modifiers on your gear that you can strip off by dismantling an old favourite gun to craft that onto another weapon later. Crafting wasn’t in the demo, but I can imagine with some tinkering you could have a pretty mean setup of extra modifiers. For example, one revolver had the ability to slow down time for an enemy, with a fairly long cooldown. But my shotgun would spread any bad status effects on enemies to others if I shot them. It makes for a great opener on a boss and his underlings, before switching to a submachine gun that gives me a shield each time it does damage.
Armour also has various abilities, linked to your skills. How about another charge on your favourite skill before it goes into cooldown? Or more resistance in the skill that covers you with a stony carapace to avoid damage? Having the right gear will complement your class, or help you to shore up the weaknesses. Each class has its own way of healing in combat, meaning everyone can be self-sufficient, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t going to want to take skills or abilities that help your whole squad.
It took a while to adjust to Outriders not being an open-world game, after so many of the various games about guns with levels and loads of stats are set in the open world, but it works. I am hoping that later missions feel longer and have more variety than “go to the end of the level and kill the thing”. However, even if that is all that there is to it, the killing of the thing and getting there was a lot of fun, as was all the loot on the way. Now can I see more of Enoch now, please?