A lot has happened between the first time I went hands-on with People Can Fly’s Outriders and my recent session with the game. Namely, you know, the pandemic. I’m not saying that to be glib, just to acknowledge that my expectations around what we’ll be getting this holiday season when the new consoles arrive have been tempered quite a bit. Thinking of Outriders as a “next-gen” experience seems less important now than just getting anything fun to play at all.
The occasion for this particular hands-on session, conducted remotely via Parsec’s streaming service, was to test out the game’s final class, the Technomancer, which People Can Fly just unveiled. Unfortunately, a “graphical glitch” caused publisher Square Enix to ask us to take our gameplay footage down, but I can at least report on what I played.
Unoriginality of the name notwithstanding, the Technomancer is a nice complement to the other classes. Its main gimmick is that it can conjure up different types of automatic turrets that provide cover fire in a pinch, as well as supporting teammates with a heal ability.
What’s interesting about the Technomancer is how wildly different the gameplay experience will be depending on how you outfit the character. While it’s the only class that has an ability that can actively heal teammates, the Technomancer isn’t just a support class.
Using the 20 skill points that I was given at the beginning of my session, I outfitted my Technomancer as an offensive tank. Thanks to the choices I made in my skill tree, anytime I used toxic damage against enemies, I healed myself. As I detailed in my previous hands-on preview, Outriders doesn’t have health pick-ups and instead requires players to use their abilities to regain health. Being able to heal myself with my toxic turret, which I could throw down seemingly every five seconds thanks to another skill I’d acquired, I had a practically never-ending supply of health that let me stay in the thick of the action at all times. It almost felt like I broke the game, but it was still fun, and I still had some close calls.
While most of what we played in this demo felt familiar, People Can Fly did reveal two new types of side quests that players can take on, both of which we got to try. There are Wanted quests that let players collect bounties on wanted outlaws, and Hunter quests that task you with tracking and killing some of Enoch’s more dangerous monsters.
Another aspect of the game that I noticed more during this demo was how the difficulty scaling will make Outriders friendlier for casual co-op sessions than most games of its ilk. Depending on how well you’re performing, your World Level will scale accordingly, and individual team members can have different World Levels while still playing together. While I was comfortably in the World Level 5 and 6 range, I had teammates that dropped down to World Level 4 before climbing back up to 5. What this means is if you have friends that you want to play with who might not put in the time that you do into Outriders, you can still play with them and have a consistent difficulty level for each player.
After two extended hands-on sessions with the game, I think I can safely say that Outriders might be one of the games I’m most looking forward to at the end of this year. Compared to similar games like Destiny and The Division, Outriders’ action is blazing and bloody. Sure, the gear is important, but what’s most important is how you deploy your abilities and work with your team to handle the hordes of enemies the game throws at you. The gameplay is silky smooth, especially for a third-person shooter, and there’s very little downtime.
My only concern right now is that Outriders could become repetitive—and maybe even overwhelming—in the long run. It’s an absolute blast in the small bursts that I’ve played, but I can definitely see it becoming just one routine fight after another, with no real changes in the gameplay loop, over the course of 30-plus hours.
Outriders launches this holiday season for Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC. You can find some new, official gameplay footage showing off co-op below.