In the past week, I sunk in it for about 25 hours Outriders– on top of the dozen – I played the demo repeatedly. And yet I still haven’t committed to a major league. That doesn’t indicate indecision on my part (okay, fine, maybe just a little bit). That’s a testament to how great all of the lessons in this game are.
The loot shooter Outriders, officially out last week for all but the Switch, casts you as an interstellar mercenary tasked with mapping ground on a potentially habitable exoplanet. After an overworked prologue – which takes you through hour-long third-person shooter gameplay by track – you can choose from four different classes, each imbued with a different kind of downright overloaded space magic. That’s when the game gets good.
I’m currently rolling with four characters, three of which I’ve kept in roughly the same spot in terms of story and level progression. I don’t know which one to focus on.
The Trickster is clearly the coolest, or at least the newest. By choosing this class, you can instantly teleport behind enemies, or whip out a knife and spin like a dreidel, cutting everything in your path. With one power, you can create a bubble that slows everything in it, except your character, to a crawl. It’s a lot like cordoning off a small patch of battlefield and saying, ‘This space is here now The MatrixWhat a blast. I sometimes rock this Trickster solo, but more often in collaboration sessions with Kotaku‘s Zack Zweizen (well, if he takes the time to play with me).
There is also the Devastator, actually the Outriders version of a tank. Choose the Devastator class and you can wrap yourself in a layer of rock, wiping out incoming damage. A mid-level skill allows you to set up a force field that bounces off bullets. You also unlock a move literally called Impale. (It works exactly as you would imagine.) I played this one with a friend who is a Trickster. The two classes go together like baked brie and fig jam; once you’ve gotten a taste, it’s sad to imagine one without the other.
For solo play, the Technomancer seems best. When humans can fly bragged Outriders last spring with only three classes, and said an unnamed fourth would appear in the final main game. That turned out to be the Technomancer, an Inspector Gadget-type that can lay turrets, throw landmines, summon missile launchers, and heal on command. Every class in Outriders restores health through various combat parameters. (For example, devastators heal a bit when you kill enemies in close combat.) In this respect, Technomancers are superior: any damage you deal will heal you.
Finally, there is the Pyromancer, which can throw flames and otherwise kill enemies. I’ve spent the least amount of time with this class, partly because firepower is done very often in video games, and partly because of circumstances. I created my Pyromancer during the demo, during crossplay between PC and consoles somewhat functioned and I could play with a pc-bound friend. On the heels of some problems with the launch weekend serverDeveloper People Can Fly has temporarily disabled crossplay between console players and PC players. In a tweet this week, People Can Fly said full crossplay functionality will be included in a future patch. I’ll probably wait for it to turn back on – if I can work with my friend again – before revisiting this character.
So yeah, I’m a bit messed up.
My indecision has put me in a situation where I play the game three times at the same time. I’ll traverse one region – including all side quests, which is how my brain functions – and then switch to another character and run it again. Most missions follow the same structure: you just push forward and shoot everything you see. But I never got bored, especially since the four classes are so distinct, almost like playing a different game with each. The same mission can feel like a typical cover-based shooter while playing as a class, a close-and-personal action game like another, and something from the bazonkers Platinum Games body of work like another.
Whether it is Destiny or Borderlands, in loot games, it is normal to laser focus on amplifying one character before starting over with a second one. In Outriders, at least for me, it’s less easy. I’m dumbfounded, unable to decide, juggling three interstellar badasses that I love equally. But as for the issues, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. We’ll see how I feel after another region or two.