Outriders from Square Enix and People Can Fly is a third-person RPG shooter with an emphasis on loot drops. It's a game I hadn't heard of before the demo launched. As I've played it more, it has grown on me. Thanks to smart, albeit streamlined, design choices, and exponentially growing powers and skill trees.
The Outriders demo starts off quite generically. It's not exactly slow. However, equally, it doesn't hit you with the good stuff straight away. It's a decision that almost made me delete the demo before I'd discovered the game properly. In fact, I know of a few people who did abandon it at that point. It's not helped by immersion-breaking occurrences like not being able to climb over certain terrain.
This was especially true of the first class I tried, The Technomancer. Essentially, the sniper class at first plays out very predictably with the initial two skills being a mine and a turret. However, the turret does freeze people so there is that... What I neglected was the melee attack, particularly the running variant which will become a staple of your attacking options whichever class you settle on. That's because your melee attacks are imbued with whatever power your chosen class has. The Technomancer briefly freezes their enemies, for example.
The other hurdle to the early game is the cover system, which lures you into thinking that the game should be played Gears of War-style. However, there are a number of issues with that. Firstly, the cover system isn't as robust as Gears, placing the 'dive/evade' move on a different button to the 'enter cover' button. Secondly, the enemies simply don't let you stay in cover and pop off shots! They are super aggressive in flanking and bombarding your position with grenades.
Once you realise this is primarily not a cover game, things get markedly better! The big clue is in how the healing works - each class heals by essentially killing the enemies. They might need to be close, or use their power, but the more aggressive you are the more likely you are to stay alive. This creates a neat tension between needing to and being encouraged to push forward and the temptation to take it too far.
Alongside your special powers, you have a comprehensive skill tree that you can adapt to your style of play. For each class, you will have 20 points to distribute among the skill tree, following three types or going your own way. This means your Trickster might play very differently from your friends.
Lastly are the weapons and armours themselves which come in common, unusual, rare, epic and legendary forms. The higher classes grant mod bonuses that usually play into one of your skills meaning you can make some devastating combos. From adding an extra clip of bullets to your toxic ammo to extending effects or even generating a shield. With each weapon you grow, you have the choice to either dismantle it for little money or sell it for more money. Except raring guns are worth dismantling because you can claim any stat bonuses as shards, and any mods will unlock for crafting.
Crafting isn't available in the demo but any gear you collect will carry over. There is a neat icon system showing you which mods you have already learnt to craft. The combinations are frightening and having seen some of the legendaries available in the demo, it's exciting to wonder what the full game might hold. That being said, I haven't been able to farm any yet...
Game difficultly is balanced through your 'World Tier'. Each character you create will have an individual level and a world tier. The individual-level dictates unlocks and stat boosts while the Work Tier is about difficulty and drop rates. Although your world tier will never drop, you can lower it if you are finding a section too hard. If you aren't though your world tier will level up giving you more challenge and reward.
Each class has a nuanced play style even at this early stage, one that is bound to get more extreme in the full game. Outriders presents a reasonable challenge and even now I can succumb to a quick death - particularly when I'm trying to quickly farm legendaries! In demo terms, the best way to do this is to max out your character level and world tier, 5 & 7 respectively, and hit the demo boss or one of the side missions. Currently, the only crate that will drop them is the demo boss, but some of the tougher enemies will too.
Levels are broken up into bite-sized chunks that give you 10-30 enemies to dispatch before moving on to the next part of the level. These areas are small enough to run around after looking for hidey-holes, and yet big enough for you to make full use of your powers.
Secrets aren't massively plentiful, but it's always worth dashing round to check for missed ore, crates and journals. The short sections in each level along with the new hardware, lightning-fast load times means it is perfectly possible to jump on and farm a few loot drops in a short amount of time. As a lover of Diablo, there's nothing quite like seeing shinies pop out of dispatched enemies!
I've not yet played online with any friends and yet I'm having a whale of a time creating carnage on the battlefield. To see that tripled with two friends playing too will be awesome. I've almost maxed out each class so far and I'm having the most fun with the Trickster and Devaster who's early powers give you surprising mobility and encourage up-close play.
It's been reported that the Pyromancer is the weakest class initially as the fire powers will become much more powerful down the line, but I still find then more fun than the Technomancer who is the most generic in my opinion. However, whichever class I play I end up having great fun. There is such satisfaction in teleporting behind an enemy before applying a shotgun to their back, turning round and time trapping their squadmates before applying a vortex blade to them.
From the early games moments of feeling weak and underpowered, it's night and day to the demo end state. I can wait to apply my time powers to an enemy who's been set on fire and turned into a bomb that heals our squad in co-op play. As it stands I'm expecting Outriders to score at least 80% from me. People Can Fly are a dev team that have shown they will take on feedback and change a game, and for Outriders, that means the future looks very bright.