Square Enix has been drip-feeding details of Outriders, its upcoming squad-action RPG-shooter… chimera since last year’s E3. Its latest broadcast, now live, added details of the fourth and final character, the Technomancer, alongside more gameplay details.
It also coincides with a two-hour playthrough session, which I played remotely earlier this month. There’s still a while to go before Outriders arrives on consoles and PCs, and it’s already a lot of fun. But how will the game avoid the pitfalls of similar (notoriously named) ‘looter shooters’ like EA’s Anthem?
It’s easy to frame Outriders as a combination of several great and hugely popular games that came before it. Anthem aside, the weapons UI and stores take unmistakable cues from Destiny.
The over-the-shoulder view is lifted from Gears (or Mass Effect, perhaps), and that’s even before we get to the gunplay and how the game works. (Part MMORPG, part Destiny was my shorthand while I was playing).
This makes it very easy for someone who’s played one of those games to get up to speed quickly and start enjoying blasting mutants and other creatures. Established conventions and gameplay features do make it harder to explain what Outriders is bringing to the party, however.
Judging from my early time with the game, it boils down to cooperative play, and how you kit out your character in different combinations of otherworldly powers — something you can do anytime without needing particular items or money.
The source of your powers is what’s known as the anomaly. Your foes are also imbued with similar powers, and unraveling the mystery of the anomaly forms a major part of the storyline, it seems.
These powers are apparently born from the same energy that destroyed the technology and structures in place when humanity got to Enoch, the name of the space colony where the game is set.
This world-building was the wobbliest part of Outriders for me. I’ve watched the teasers and earlier playthroughs of parts of the game, and it’s all a little familiar and bland if I can use the word bland to describe an apocalyptic wasteland.
Barring a few of the big, bad bosses, characters struggle to stand out — even the one you’re playing. Perhaps the universe building will come later? It’s my biggest worry for now.
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