Not So Massively: Outriders’ demo teases a decent but unremarkable looter-shooter

    
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Outriders, the new co-op shooter from publisher Square Enix, is not a game I’ve followed super closely, but with Anthem consigned to eternal purgatory, I could use a new sci-fi shooter in my life, and developer People Can Fly has been kind enough to provide a free public demo prior to the April 1st launch, so I figured why not give it a shot?

Outriders draws its name from a group of elite scouts sent to be the first to explore a planet known as Enoch. Following Earth’s destruction in a geological disaster of unknown origin, Enoch is the only hope for a single arkship that now contains all that remains of humanity. It doesn’t take long for the colonization of Enoch to go badly wrong, and the player soon finds themselves adrift in a brutal, dystopian world of constant violence and little hope.

I want to say that I really appreciate the decision to offer a free demo in the first place, and to call it a demo and not try to mask it under the guise of a “beta.” This is something way more developers should do. I say that because I want to acknowledge that this was the right decision for the players. But it may not have been the right decision for the developers, as this demo sadly did not leave me with a very positive impression of the game.

Picture every over the top gritty, grimdark stereotype you can imagine. Then take all the edginess of that and double it. That’s what the world and setting of Outriders is like. It’s like the writers saw Mad Max and decided the problem with it was that it was so subtle and tasteful.

This game is just trying so desperately to be mature it ends up being anything but.

And keep in mind that I’m a fan of all these things. I like broody, edgy characters. I like ultraviolence. I like intense stories. My favorite D&D character that I’m currently playing is an orphaned, one-eyed, half-demon Drow princess. That’s my baseline edgelord level. And even I think this is too much.

Making the story even more hard to swallow is the fact that every cutscene has the worst case of shaky-cam I’ve ever seen. I’ve never gotten motion sickness or anything, but even I found the cutscenes borderline painful to watch. And there’s so many of them. I’m usually arguing for more story in games, and I respect that they wanted to make an effort, but there’s so many cutscenes in the opening sequence of the game that it slows the tutorial gameplay to a crawl, and it just doesn’t seem worth it when the story is so shaky, in every sense of the word.

Once you do finally wade through all that and get to the actual gameplay, it’s actually not bad. Outriders largely follows a familiar looter shooter mold, combining elements of a few similar games. It’s a cover-based shooter, which calls to mind The Division, but each of the game’s four classes can also equip three powerful abilities (from a selection of about 10 per class), which feels a bit more like Warframe or Anthem.

It may simply be that Anthem‘s loss is still a raw wound for me, but I will say Outriders is another game that suffers from the comparison. It’s not that Outriders‘ abilities aren’t cool — they are — but they don’t have Anthem‘s quick cooldowns and satisfying combo system.

I also found it surprising there’s no way to change your class after you’ve chosen it. I guess that shouldn’t be weird, as it’s how most RPGs still work, but pretty much every other looter shooter I’ve played either had freeform character-building or the ability to swap classes on the fly, so I’ve come to expect it.

There is one concession to alt play: Once you’ve finished the (lengthy) prologue once, you can skip it on future characters.

The gunplay in Outriders does feel a little better than average. All the guns I found felt very powerful, and they can come with some interesting passive abilities. One I found causes enemies to explode in a spectacular fountain of gore, dealing AoE damage to their nearby allies. This is the kind of ultraviolence I can get behind.

On the not-so-massively scale, Outriders leans more towards the single-player end of the spectrum. From what I can tell you will never encounter other players if you don’t invite them, and even if you do your team can only have up to three players.

All in all, if you put the story aside and focus on the gameplay, Outriders is a decent experience, but I can’t quite escape the feeling that it just isn’t anything I haven’t seen before. It does many things well, but there’s not really anything I can point to and say, “This is something better than anything anyone else is doing; this is why you should play Outriders.” I’m not sure it’s doing enough to set itself apart from the pack in a competitive market.

One final thing I should mention is that I did experience frequent crashes on menus in this game. I expect it’s the sort of thing that will be fixed before too long, so I’m not sure it should be used as a mark of how good of a game it is or will eventually be, but it was frustrating enough that I stopped playing sooner than I normally would have when writing one of these columns, and it may have given me a further negative bias against the game. Take from that what you will.

If you’re craving a new shooter and you’re one of those people who skips every cutscene anyway, Outriders could be worth your time. If you care about story or want something more novel, you can probably find better options.

The world of online gaming is changing. As the gray area between single-player and MMO becomes ever wider, Massively OP’s Tyler Edwards delves into this new and expanding frontier biweekly in Not So Massively, our column on battle royales, OARPGs, looter-shooters, and other multiplayer online titles that aren’t quite MMORPGs.
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Bannex

I played the cutsce…. er demo. This shit is a trainwreck.

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Holden Nagata

I liked the combat and the graphics/character designs. I hated basically every single story beat they dropped into cutscenes.
one story quest tells you there’s a limited amount of humans left, and then another that ends in a boss fight… has literally hundreds of burned bodies surrounding the boss arena????????
this is a definite no-buy from me. it feels that terribly edgy/grimdark.

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Malcolm Swoboda

It is that terribly edgy/grimdark.

I believe their half a million has dropped to somewhere tens of thousands. And we shouldn’t take repeated missions as canonical so we’re not really killing many thousands by ourselves.

From what little they so far let us know of the history, there were periods of relative peace, so it wasn’t total apocolypse right off the bat, but periods of increased violence and turmoil until recent years. Problems that might have been handled by good leadership and cooperation eventually, but the Altered, for whatever reason, would fancy themselves as apart from this and decide they are basically gods. They capitalized on the otherwise understandable alienation of the ‘exiles’ (from dangerous criminals to the simply unlucky and less elite) and grew increased cultish followings. An Altered alone can take many down, but they’re not invincible no matter their insanity, so I imagine some have died to simple attacks. Yet an Altered with squads of desperate followers behind them can launch surprise attacks that overwhelm whatever tech and trained personnel officials have behind them.

The game just puts us in the latest hotspots. When we first arrive, there’s a Storm, but these storms don’t happen all the time, and there’s typically a way to find some or near total safety from them (this is the ‘Rift’ location’s purpose). There’s many hung people at the start because this is a recently victorious place for the Exiles, as they’re recently pushing forward (probably due to new leadership/assets that we’ll meet). We were not unfrozen because we were hidden in the No Mans Land until recently, where a generation doesn’t even remember we’re frozen there.

At the end of the demo, we cross the front lines, and there’s corpses everywhere. As you progress, many of these corpses are caused by the one Altered and his followers. The piles aren’t normal, and we can see in promotions, future locations with very different environments. The point of the early warfare is to illustrate the extents things have come to, not what they always were.

Hundreds of bodies are thrown in because you’re awoken on the Now or Never period. If ground isn’t taken back from the Exiles, they’re attacking Rift Town next. If the attack Rift Town, they’ll almost certainly win against the boxed in headquarters that can take a storm, but probably lacks anything to repel a concentrated assault. They’ll be trapped and killed by the thousands, quickly. Sacrifice hundreds to save the last of whatever preserved civilization remains. (As you meet the one historian who actually wants to keep knowledge of Earth.) It will become largely primal, with Altered temples and useless wars between cults for the narcissism of their gods, until our species is far past any chance of replacing and growing itself.

All that said, this is just justification I wanted to explain. Tonally, this is pure edge and eXtrEme.

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John Mclain

It felt like an indie developed game, that had AAA graphics budget. The game “looks” good, but everything under the hood was… not good. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “garbage”, but it was a solid 3/10 experience for me. Definitely won’t be buying it, so I did really appreciate that they offered this demo to save me some money.

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laelgon

I had fun with it, but I definitely worry that it’s going to be another Anthem, though that may just be because its so fresh on the mind.

Have to agree about the tone, it’s all over the place. The bad guy from the prologue, who is definitely coming back in some way later on, is a cliche anime villain to the point of feeling out of place next to the characters we barely know. Then the rest of the demo is tilts between trying to impress upon the player the horrors of war and how terrible humans can be, and being quippy and lighthearted while killing people. It kind of gives the impression that there was a change in direction late in the game, or just that no one really knew what they trying to make.

What I’d like to know is if the rest of the game is going to be taking place in the same brown and grey arenas with chest high walls, or if they start exploring more vibrant environments.

It’s a mechanically competent looter shooter that I can see getting a few months of fun out of, but I don’t know there’s anything to make people stick around.

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Malcolm Swoboda

If it has an ending that feels like an ending, it won’t be an Anthem.

There are more vibrant environments, check their postgame video.

If its not a ‘live service game’ like they say it won’t be (at most, initial patches, and major expansions if there’s the demand), yes, months of fun then you can actually put a shooter looter game down!

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Tee Parsley

In cover shooters, the highest percentage of my character-deaths are from getting stuck on cover. Invariably.

Same with this one.

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Malcolm Swoboda

I surprisingly loved it. LOVED it. Even on GeforceNOW 1 hour time limits and iffy game streaming performance (laptop). Even acknowledging nearly all the faults other people, or myself, throw at it.

I can’t really get into this in April, but its a Summer or Fall purchase for me for sure, depending on launch reception, patches, playerbase, and potential post-release content support (even 1-2 nice, weighty expansions for 2-3 years would be great, as long as I trust in the base game and the expansions redeem any initial story junk).

If it ends up a 7/10 overall, it’ll be MY 7/10, unlike Andromeda’s disappointed 7/10.

I would never skip the cutscenes first time. You kidding me? Its like watching Defiance and skipping its cringiest Stahma scenes. I live for this.

And I want to see if there’s twists where pretty much every initially dead character returns in some aspect.

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Kickstarter Donor
NeoWolf

I think the title summed it up pretty well, decent but unremarkable. The setting was interesting it gave me weird Defiance crossed with Phantasy Star Online vibes in places.. The Story was interesting and I for one enjoyed the cut scenes that establish a lot of your relationships with the important NPC’s.

I did have some control issues on the Ps4 controller with the melee button being on the right control stick so every time I tried to aim and move my gun I would inadvertently press too hard and do a melee attack which would throw me out of cover and at least from what I could see of the demo no way to remap controls on a controller was included.

The classes were very different and definitely gave a sense of being quite powerful compared to the other ordinary non-altered folk which was nice.

The gear was okay, nothing new, five slots being boots, gloves, trousers/pants, chest piece, and helmet and then primary and secondary weapons and a third weapon slot for a pair of pistols. Gear affects your cosmetic appearance and you are pretty much stuck with whatever the gear looks like and its colour which from the demo is mostly rusty brown and similar shades to begin with *shudder*, more annoyingly there does not seem to be any toggle helmet option.

Once you have progressed enough there is a base, inside of which you have space in a hangar-like room with access to a storage chest, and you have a banner you can customise

I enjoyed the demo but not enough to want to buy it, for me, it just didn’t bring anything new to the table that existing looter shooters do not already provide.

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Malcolm Swoboda

‘transmog’ was among the things devs recently have in consideration for post-release, but any message like this should be taken with a grain of salt for now.

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cursedseishi

My favorite D&D character that I’m currently playing is an orphaned, one-eyed, half-demon Drow princess. That’s my baseline edgelord level

Alright, but is she a ‘Order of the Lycan’ Blood Hunter who snarls under her breath that this baleful curse she endures is her atonement for some grave misdeed and the beast lurking just within her is the horrors she must bear to see vengeance served kind of edgelord?
Or is she a ‘Order of the Profane Soul’ Blood Hunter who hides her missing eye under an eye patch and when facing someone steps forth and talks about something akin to; ‘the insatiable hunger of my left eye, it is stirring… Its demonic blood is roaring, telling me to unleash it and reap destruction upon all it gazes upon! Stand back, fall upon your knees, as I cannot hold it back any longer!’? That kind of edgelord?

There are many variants of Edgelords. But all of them are Blood Hunters in D&D.

On topic though, this kind of checks with what I’ve been hearing of the game. Fun in multiplayer (what game isn’t), but easy to fall upon both sides of the ‘meh’ spectrum. I’ve seen some have fun with what is available, and others simply bored by it. Nothing that really stands out though. Which… hey! Good for them that they released a demo, at the very least. I’m not big on looter-shooters so I might eventually give it a glimpse, but… I have Destiny for when I do have the itch. Hunters have knives to toss and go slashy slashy with, and that ends up being my preferred way of playing.

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MolleaFauss

Cutscene were a pain, but I kinda enjoyed the demo. Will probably end up getting it at some point – probably not at start.

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Kickstarter Donor
Greaterdivinity

Honestly…I’m kinda here for the hilariously over the top edgey/grimdark story, I love that kind of smelliest, moldiest of cheese. Even though I loathe cheese IRL.

I’m very much waiting for reviews and the first few months on this. I’d love another shlooter since Division 2 seems to be on repeat for the next 5-6 months (though at least the season passes will be free!) but I’m big time waiting on this given that the reaction to the demo mostly seems to be very Dom Deluise – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RlbYMVlq3k

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Malcolm Swoboda

Its bad story is successfully bad like Andromeda failed. *screams in Anomaly*

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Holden Nagata

still subjective, as I don’t think it’s successfully bad and I also really enjoyed Andromeda

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Malcolm Swoboda

Did I say it wasn’t subjective?