In the overly brown, trench-filled world of the Outriders demo, I found myself pinned behind some cover by a horde of angry soldiers. This normally would be where I slowly kill each enemy with a careful combination of precise aiming and moving to more advantageous pieces of covers. But I’m playing the Trickster, Outriders’ time manipulating class, so I can throw all of that boring cover-based combat in the trash.
In a flash of blue light, my fashion disaster of a super-soldier warps behind an enemy on the other side of the battlefield and blasts him with a shotgun. I then create a time bubble around me, slowing down any bullets and enemies that enter it. With a single button press, I use a Temporal Blade to cleave into my enemies causing them to explode like bloody water balloons in slo-mo. By the time everyone is a pile of body parts, I can repeat the same process on the next group of enemies standing in my way.
This is Outriders, a loot-based RPG from developer People Can Fly. Set to release on April 1, a free demo for Outriders launched last week, allowing players to get a taste for the game’s world, story, characters, loot, and combat. While the demo leaves me with a lot of lingering questions about the full game, it has absolutely sold me on the power fantasy of being a time-bending force of nature. Similar to other loot-based series such as Diablo and Borderlands, players can select one of four distinct classes which have their own powers and skill trees. Things diverge from other titles in this genre since People Can Fly doesn’t seem to care about restricting players from doing cool flashy moves right away.
Instead, your Outrider’s abilities are on remarkably short cooldowns, giving users more opportunities to experiment with the different mechanics and tools at their disposal. This heavily reminded me of another looter shooter, Warframe, which is infamous for having some of the most bonkers abilities in any video game. It’s a breath of fresh air in a genre that is typically gunshy about letting players become too powerful. While this mentality isn’t solely reserved for the Trickster, it’s certainly the most engaging of four classes available. Being able to kill someone while they’re greatly slowed down just makes you want to say dumb, cheesy lines like “You’re already dead, you just don’t know it yet.”
Feeding into this is how players heal in Outriders. Unlike pretty much every other loot-based game, you won’t recover health by just hiding in cover and waiting an arbitrary amount of time. If you want to recover those sweet HP points, you will need to kill enemies. See, Outriders heavily encourages players to just dive into the thick of the fight, even if they appear to be outnumbered. Since healing is tied to close range kills for the Trickster, making extensive use of your time-based abilities is crucial to your survival. It’s a neat twist that always kept the gameplay’s momentum going, as I attempted to uncover new, inventive ways of using my various skills.
It’s this kinetic menagerie of abilities and gameplay design that acts as a foundation for Outriders. Players are constantly pushed to try different combinations of skills since they can be swapped out at any time in and out of combat. Where things get exciting is how different armor and weapon perks increase your Outrider’s killing potential. Many pieces of gear offer either stat boosts to your class’s abilities or complete alterations to how they function. For example, my Areia Master shotgun will lift any enemy hit into the air, setting them up for an easy takedown with my Temporal Blade skill. Yes, this gun has a comically low drop rate in the demo, but it’s a great example of how Outriders will potentially let players constantly develop their favorite powers.
While I am currently buried under a mountain of rusty guns and bland low-tier armor pieces, this chaotic, synergistic combat kept me engaged throughout the demo. Whether it will hold up throughout the entirety of Outriders remains to be seen, but it does leave me with a glimmer of hope for the final product.