In the case of Outriders, a title that will also be released on the PS5 and Xbox Series X later this year, this philosophy takes the form of a three-player cooperative shooter, a looter shooter that winks to fans of the most recent Game as a Service. In addition to a sci-fi setting that will have to prove its worth, in Outriders we find it incredible attention to the loot, a system of progression and development of the characters, a division into classes that according to the team will significantly influence the approach to the games. To inaugurate the communication path that will take us to the launch, through a series of live broadcasts that will present the various characteristics of the production, the team invited us to try (rigorously streaming) a build of the game. So we took up arms, prepared our devastator, and threw ourselves headlong against the raiders that populate the brutal lands of a hostile planet.
A wild and dangerous land
Outriders is set on Enoch, an alien land that man has decided to colonize in search of resources. The settlement operations on the mysterious celestial body did not go exactly as expected, since the colonies were hit by an energy storm known as the Anomaly: a traumatic event that razed the structures set up by the settlers to the ground and reaffirmed what it can this new space frontier is dangerous.
Enoch is back to being an inhospitable place, populated by raiders, riotous and aggressive creatures. Fortunately, following the Anomaly, some of the inhabitants of Enoch developed supernatural powers, thanks to which they could face terrible adversities and attempt to regain a space for humanity. On a narrative and imaginary level, Outriders initially presents itself with the traits of a very regular science fiction.
Enoch is presented to us as a wild territory, which still preserves the scars of the great catastrophe and the war that followed. There is a large devastated city, a mass of broken buildings and debris, and slums now abandoned. There are alien panoramas populated by a bizarre flora and – for variety’s sake – snowy areas and areas completely transformed by the radiation of the Anomaly, as if we were in the middle of the X Area of VanderMeer.
Visually the design of these areas is a bit swinging, and at times it is likely to result slightly anonymous and too regular. During our playtest, for example, we were not very impressed with the complexity, impact and effectiveness of the panoramas. It must be said that, according to the development team, Outriders’ adventure is structured like a journey to discover Enoch and its quirks: it begins in devastated but somehow urbanized areas, then moves to much more extravagant and mysterious areas. Outriders may therefore have some surprises in store for the players. Instead, we were struck by a writing that takes itself extremely seriously, staging strong situations and effectively conveying the idea of a ruthless and bloodthirsty environment. At the level of direction and visual impact the interlude scenes do not have great ambitions, but the team has placed a lot of attention in the script and the structure of the setting, or in what is called “world building”.
The construction of the Outriders world also takes place through a series of collectibles, side quests and optional dialogues that give some more details on the context, the storm and the settler society. Creating a coherent and fascinating universe is not an easy task, and it is too early to comment on the success of the operation, but the guys from People Can Fly seem to have a clear lesson from Destiny or The Division: to “grab” the audience, not only a frantic and fun gameplay is enough, there must also be an interesting and well-finished frame.
On the gameplay front, Outriders looks like a rather traditional third person shooter. The distinctive element is represented not only by the rhythm always sustained, but also by the presence of special abilities devoted to the indiscriminate massacre of waves of opponents. Another of the traits that characterizes the game is the desire to completely reject a passive and wait-and-see approach.
Ideally there is an opportunity to exploit a roofing system at Gears of War, but in truth you end up using very little; also because staying sheltered and away from confrontation does not trigger the automatic recovery of life. Indeed, when you are in difficulty and with the residual energy bar dangerously close to zero, it is better to throw yourself towards the nearest opponent, since each kill will allow us to recover some vitality.
The result is a game where you run at breakneck speed, furiously attacking the enemies and alternating the use of classic firearms with that of skills. The latter seem to have a preponderant weight in the economy of action, since they have enormous destructive potential. Notwithstanding that each class will have its specific abilities, the Devastator area attacks have allowed us to eliminate large groups of enemies, while its “stone skin” has pulled us out of some critical situations, providing us with an additional shield to reduce the effectiveness of the opponent’s hits.
During the playtest we were able to take a look at the character enhancement system, unlocking a series of passive skills to increase the hero’s parameters. The branches of the very rich scheme that regulates the development of the avatar seem well diversified, so as to leave the user the possibility of focusing on endurance, mobility, damage or skill reloading time. At this moment, however, it is impossible to evaluate the concrete impact of this system on the pace of the clashes.
Active skills can also be selected from a sufficiently wide range (there will be 8 for each class), and in this case we seemed to notice a good diversification. In this regard, the people of People Can Fly confirm that it will be possible to find unique and legendary weapons capable of alter the functions and effectiveness of some skills, creating synergies that will further expand the assortment of approaches available to the player.
In this respect, however, we cannot tell you about our direct experience, given that we were a bit unlucky with the loot, ending up only accumulating somewhat generic armor and firearms. Too bad: we would have liked to have a look at the equipment more “exotic”, also to understand how much work there has been on the aesthetic side. For a looter shooter, moreover, the shape and character of the rare pieces is a fundamental detail, and Outriders must be extremely convincing also on this front, if he wants to hope to make a break in the heart of those who will land on Enoch.
The adaptive Loot system
About Loot it is worth mentioning the “World Tier” system: it is basically an adaptive difficulty mechanism, designed to ensure that each player has a pleasant and stimulating experience. Accumulating experience not only serves to level up, but also to increase the “Rank” of the game.
A higher World Tier means stronger and more resistant enemies, with devastating perks (such as additional elemental damage) and greater aggression. The counterpart is represented by a conspicuous increase in legendary drop probabilities. In practice, the most skilled, determined and looking for the best loot players will have to raise the rank of their world by mowing down increasingly powerful and fierce enemies, and avoiding dying too often. Falling on the battlefield means losing a lot of points and risking a “relegation” to the previous Tier. Even in this case, however, judgment postponed: it will be understood if this invention will be able to keep users nailed during the endgame, making all the missions and all the contents potentially intriguing even for those who have reached the level cap and are looking for a challenge height. As for the level of difficulty, among other things, Outriders will modify it according to the number of players present in the game, also to favor the synergistic use of the skills of the three classes and coordination between participants in the match.