The part I enjoyed most was mixing powers with other players, experimenting with skill load-outs and upgrades. It’s about how they all work with each other. The Devastator’s ‘endless mass’ attack can pull enemies together, meaning any explosive splash attack from the Pyromancer or area-of-effect powers of a Trickster can be stacked together easily for maximum destruction. The Technomancer, meanwhile, can pick off the stragglers either from a distance or through auto-targeting turrets.
During my playthrough, I was given a blank-slate Trickster with plenty of points to assign to skills. It also gave me ample opportunities to test out multiple powers, like time-slowing fields, or a very addictive teleportation strike that put me behind the enemy ranks. I was then free to shoot them from behind, catching them unawares. Combine your collective powers — say, with a friendly Technomancer’s mortar-style attacks — and enemies explode in a shower of gore.
Later on, I swapped this out for knives that damaged and slowed multiple enemies at once, hopping from cannon-fodder to cannon-fodder, enemies that couldn’t be targeted with area bombs. It made easy work for the Devastator also on my team, with his heavy-hitting attacks, who was able to survive the now-limited fire from the slowed-down enemy.
This is what seems to separate Outriders from all the other games I mentioned earlier. Improving your equipment and weapons are key, yes, but combining characters’ strengths and weaknesses (and stacking powers together) seemed to be the path to victory, at least if my early playthrough was any indication. As such, this game will hinge on how you interact with other players, unless you decide to play it alone.
There’s an additional layer here: a “World Tier” difficulty system. When you start Outriders, you’ll be placed in the lowest difficulty level. As you gain experience in the world, separate to your character’s level, you’ll level up through 15 different stages, and then leap up to a newer, more difficult tier. Enemies will hit harder, but they’ll leave behind better loot too — it’s a little like the system in Diablo 3. That said, if you die, your character will lose a percentage of this World Tier experience, and you’ll have to build it back up again. It’s all meant to ensure players choose the appropriate level of difficulty to play.
When Outriders launches, you and your friends can complete the entire game together, or you can drop in and drop out, not beholden to other people’s schedules. Unfortunately, it won’t be something I’ll be able to test until the game arrives, and whether I’m able to convince friends to play it with me. Are they ready (and willing) to play something else that looks, at times, built for regular, time-intensive, sustained gaming?
Yes, you can (and probably will have to) grind for gear, but the Outriders team has said several times that power layout and team composition and skill will trump shiny new guns.
Outriders launches on PS4, Xbox One and PC holiday 2020.