System: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Stadia, PC | Publisher: Square Enix | Developer: People Can Fly | Impressions on: PlayStation 5, PC | Released: Demo February 2021
Outriders is a story-driven RPG shooter, where you leave Earth, as it is now doomed, to try and start a new life on the Planet Enoch. You are only told snippets of what became of Earth, as you land on this new planet to begin anew. As part of the expedition team that is unfrozen after eighty-three years on ice, you begin to check if the planet is suitable for the rest of the colony to land.
During the opening the Outriders seem to be the specialist team that was recruited from Earth to give humanity a fighting chance when seeking out to colonize a new home on this alien planet, you are given a basic entry to the story but there is plenty of lore to find with conversations and collectibles outside of the initial story beats you get told outright.
Troy and I have played the demo and will now share our initial thoughts on this Outriders Demo.
When you start off in this game you can not instantly squad up with a friend, this game has been built to offer co-op drop-in/dropout, but you can play solo as well, the same sort of idea as The Division & Destiny, but you must play through the prologue solo first. The prologue is a nice introduction to the game, you get a bit of backstory and get to learn some of the controls you will be using. I loved the environment you start off in as it looks stunning, but soon you shift to chapter one of the game and the world looks vastly different from the beautiful scenic one you just left behind. Between the prologue and chapter 1, thirty-one years have passed as you get put back into cryosleep at the end of the prologue, which is why you see such a drastic change when you start this chapter.
It is from here you can now squad up with friends, one thing I love that the team put in was cross-play from the get-go, they were transparent by saying that this was still in beta form, but you could still use it. I was on PlayStation 5 and Troy was using a PC, and during our experience playing alongside each other, we only had one crash each and it was the same type of crash where we just got booted out of the game and sent back to the lobby, then had to re-join up again, this really did not take long and the fact it happened once each in our roughly four hours of playing, I thought was a good sign for something that’s still in beta, beyond that as a team it was really smooth and no major issues. On my side of things though I had a few audio and lip-sync issues, where my character is talking before his face animation starts and cutscenes end abruptly due to this issue too. I also found that at times the dialogue was quiet on some characters and again seemed to get cut mid-sentence, but I expect these things to be looked at during the demos time and I would expect most of it to be sorted by launch day on April 1st. I have clocked up to eleven hours on this demo and replayed it roughly about four times. The developer has now released a patch for the demo, which for me on console fixed a lot of the lip-sync issues, but at times now the subtitles move too fast so it's showing you the next line from the character as he/her is currently still saying his/hers previous lines, however, if you turned off subtitles you would be unaffected by this, I feel the main thing is they seemed to fix the lip-sync for the most part, which is obviously more important. The dialogue with some characters in cutscenes still seems a bit low at times though but again I am sure more fixes will come on launch day, if not shortly after.
The gameplay loop I have enjoyed immensely, I love the powers that you get to choose from for your character, I chose the Pyromancer, which can manipulate fire. I am having a ton of fun with this power and the game really forces me to use both my special powers as well as my guns, it makes combat incredibly fun, with Troy in my team, who used a different ability, I will let him talk about that, we were able to combine our abilities to take out the enemies in fun ways. I have enjoyed playing solo but 'squadding' up with friends is where the real fun lies. The gunplay and cover system reminds me a lot of Gears of War as well as The Division, but it is a mix that I feel works incredibly well.
I am glad as well with the new patch that you can now turn off motion blur, as this kicked in when running, which was giving me sore heads, so it has now been swiftly turned off and the game is much better for it. The camera in cutscenes could use some work as well, as in some cutscenes, the camera is moving around a lot as the characters on screen stand still talking, I found it very distracting at times with the game having many cutscenes in it.
The environments I really liked, as it was a fitting setting for this war you have woke up in the middle of but after completing the demo, the cinematic that shows you what is in store in the main game has me excited to see the new environments and explore them as it would get tiring extremely quickly if this was your map for the full game.
At first glance, Outriders looked like a game I wouldn't be all that interested in. I'm more of a realist and seeing the Outrider powers being showcased on the marketing campaigns was a slight turn-off, though I was willing to give it its fair cop, off the back of interest from Colin.
Jumping into the game demo I was pleasantly taken aback with just how subtle this area (powers) becomes in contrast to the standard sci-fi regurgitation. Not only does the game ease you into the story and give you a tantalizingly brief overview of the backstory during the prologue, but it also provides justifications for the powers you gain which aren't too far out of the realms of possibility, and Square Enix have been extremely mature with how they have approached it. I'm also really happy with how story-heavy it feels, contrary to my thoughts prior to playing.
The main selling point of this game was the Crossplay between console and PC. Colin and I had an absolute flipping blast running through the demo multiple times, leveling up and amassing weapons and armor to the capped level. Gears of War vibes surround the gameplay heavily but the mechanics are somewhat smoother and lighter (Gears felt really heavy) and I'm impressed with Square Enix's take on this type of game, outside their usual remit.
The demo gives you a good all-round taste of the visuals we can expect in the release on April 1st and showcases its clear-cut textures and landscapes in a way that makes me sigh with relief. Moving from the lush green environment on the first landing, to the darker, trench-like war world we see for the majority, gives me hope that Square Enix will inject a scaled-up version of this variety in the full release. Variety is key and I hope to traverse varyingly beautiful environments following the story.
Despite my initial preconceptions, I loved using my Trickster powers, and as Colin said, being able to use your powers strategically together in Crossplay to defeat the Captains, was nothing short of satisfying. I only experienced the one crash Colin mentioned on PC and as far as I could tell, everything else was running so smoothly. Even in crossplay, I didn't notice any glitching, no lag between us both, and we really had the smoothest of experiences playing together. This goes to show how solid we think the game will end up being. Square Enix's transparency about the game has also won my respect.
The only misgiving I have about the game is a very slight annoyance with the menu systems. Now, Square Enix has always been the same in this regard and although aesthetically pleasing, they are always a bit daunting until you get to know your way around. But this wasn't the irritation. The game demo hosts vendors at which you can purchase items such as weapons and armor-rated clothes, at which it does this annoying thing where you have to leave the vendor menu, and thus the vendor, to equip a new weapon or piece of clothing you just purchased, to then have to go back to the vendor to sell the items you just unequipped. I'm sure they'll receive feedback from this and end up allowing you to do everything on the vendor screen; An easy alteration.
My final thoughts on this brief encounter are very positive. I loved the demo gameplay, which is easy to get to grips with but complex enough to add finesse and the quality of the crossplay was fantastically coded. We have received a solid entry point into what I imagine is going to be a mature sci-fi story with likable characters and potential scope for blowing my (odd) socks off. Really excited to receive my preorder on April 1st.
Overall, I am having a blast with this demo of Outriders, is it perfect? No. But it is a lot of fun, especially with friends and the gameplay loop has me hooked as well as hunting for as much loot as I can find since the Developer has already told us that your progress will transfer over to the main game. There is still plenty of tweaks I would like to see in the main game, but the Developer has so far been transparent on social media that I feel a sense of trust in them. I hope they continue to keep an open dialogue with players and keep us updated on future content as well as patches. This demo has been solid enough that I am looking forward to seeing how the story unfolds and what the full game has in store for us.