Outriders Demo Impressions

Over the weekend Developer People Can Fly released a free demo of their upcoming shooter RPG Outriders.

And much like demos of old, it’s here, and it’s here to stay. We’re so used to seeing betas that are treated like demos, and they come along, and you may have to pre-order to get access to them, and even then they’re only around for a weekend or at most a week. 

That’s not the case here. 

Remember when games used to have free demos, so you could try before you buy? 

This is one of those. The plan is for this for it to stick around, so people can try it and decide whether they like it or not before they buy it, but it should still be around even after the full game launches on April 1.

That’s kind of the first sign of confidence about this game. They didn’t call this release a beta, and they aren’t going to pull it as soon as you start seeing the cracks in the foundation.

And maybe more enticing, as long as you get the full game on the same platform you played the demo, your progress will carry over to the full game. That’s why so many people are grinding the replayable missions for better and better loot drops.

But as usual, I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself. 

What is Outriders?

The way the game was initially advertised, you might have thought it was another Destiny-style looter-shooter, game-as-service. And it is a looter-shooter, but it is not a game as service. It’s a 40-plus hour story-driven RPG, with some of those looter-shooter trappings. 

And I mean that in the best way possible.

The game reminds me quite a bit of Mass Effect, but without the choices to be made, the companions and the paragon/renegade morality aspect.

The third person cover-based shooter with abilities, skill trees, multiple classes to choose from – it all reminds me of Mass Effect. The fast-paced, fluid combat reminds me of the best aspects of Mass Effect 3’s cooperative multiplayer. 

The Devastator class (one of four playable classes) even has an ability that’s basically the vanguard class’ biotic charge from Mass Effect 3.

The story even reminds me a bit of the setup for Mass Effect Andromeda’s story in which Earth is in danger, so they sent a giant ship full of people in cryosleep to some distant world to start a colony that could preserve the human race (and the other Mass Effect races).

In Mass Effect Andromeda you played as a Pathfinder, a person specifically designated to potentially put themselves in harms way to carve out a path to a place where settlements could be built and colonies established.

In Outriders, instead of being called a Pathfinder, the designation is of course, Outrider, but the role is essentially the same.

The opening sequence of Outriders even features a crazy storm that causes everything to go haywire, much like an early sequence in Mass Effect Andromeda.

However, Things diverge pretty quickly from there.

It’s the storm that gives everyone their abilities in Outriders, and it would seem several factions have formed.

You get a couple of quick glimpses of the wildlife in the demo, but otherwise that’s saved for the full game. We know, from seeing footage the developer has released previously, that wildlife plays a much bigger role in the full game.

As for the story, I’ll say it’s far too early to tell definitively at this point, but I have been somewhat pleasantly surprised. I’m not expecting the next grand tale told in video game format, but I am curious to see where things go. I’m hoping some of these characters get a fair amount of development because there’s potential there.

But I will say, there’s a lot of bad, corny, even cringe-worthy dialogue, just within the few story missions the demo does have. I suspect that’s going to get grating after a while, and will certainly leave a bad taste in some players’ mouth.

Either way, this is clearly an example of rock-solid gameplay over story, but I’m not writing off the story just yet.

The combat is fast and fluid and the abilities are a lot of fun. You only get a taste of the abilities each class has, and you barely scratch the surface of the skill trees available for each class.

The Pyromancer is the fire-based class whose abilities seem mostly designed to knock enemies out of cover or slow-down advancing enemies. And of course they put fire damage over time on enemies. I have this class down as a solid mid-range class.

The Trickster has some crazy space-magic abilities that allow him to teleport behind distant enemies to not only take down snipers but to quickly traverse the battlefield. The Trickster can also do a close-range space-magic slash that turns enemies to skeletons before they explode. It’s a close range class.

The Devastator is the tank of the classes. It has armor and shielding abilities, and the aforementioned ability that feels like a version of Mass Effect’s biotic charge, in which the character jumps into the air, targets an enemy across the battlefield and slams down on them.

The Technomancer is the longer range class. It seems designed to be the sniper class that can stay in cover and throw out turrets to assist in dealing damage. But the class’ ice based melee abilities are just too good to not use – so I still find myself getting up in the face of the enemy. 

There are no health packs in the game. Recovering health is all about dealing damage or killing enemies, so despite the cover system, you’re very much encouraged to get in the enemy’s face and deal damage quickly.

I started the demo with the Pyromancer and moved to the Trickster next thinking those two looked the most fun and would likely be my favorites, but I quickly realized how much easier the boss fights are with the Technomancer. So easy, in fact, that I may make the Technomancer my main character once the full game comes out.

As fun as the abilities are, you’ll spend a lot of time using the weapons as well. And they also feel very good to use. Shotguns in particular are a very good time. Running and gunning and using the melee abilities alongside a good shotgun is particularly fun.

And of course, like a good looter-shooter, getting that next great loot drop is part of the addictive fun of the game. 

I can tell it’s working because of how many people I’ve seen on YouTube and Twitch grinding for Legendary drops.

I have done some grinding hoping for loot in the demo myself. In fact, I should be playing other games. I should be finishing Cyberpunk 2077. I should be playing Persona 5 Strikers. I should be getting to any number of games on my backlog. But instead, I’m grinding this demo in the hopes of getting at least one more cool legendary weapon before the full game comes out. And I’m enjoying the gameplay enough that I don’t even mind it. That tells me they’ve made something pretty special.

I can’t wait for the full release, so I can see what the rest of the game has to offer.

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