First Impression Outriders Demo Review: Mass Effect of War
With a sprinkle of the Division!
I’ve completed what I believe is almost all the demo content on one character at this point. So, it’s time to share some thoughts. I was not a part of any early tests so this is my first time ever with Outriders. If I had to sum up my experience with the entire thing so far it would be...
I know that’s not exactly a glowing endorsement, but many aspects of the demo have left me a bit underwhelmed, though I did enjoy myself in other regards.
The game has a rather long, rather disjointed introductory sequence that involves very little shooting and a whole lot of interspersed cutscenes. The story is not too hard to track, but the long and short of it is that you’re an “Outrider” meant to help blaze a new frontier for citizens fleeing to new worlds from a dying earth. The problem is that the planet you land on has an “anomaly,” some sort of weird energy storm that can do everything from rip people apart to give them superpowers. Guess which one happens to you!
After being zapped (and picking your subclass) you wake up from cryosleep 30 years later to find that everything sucks and humans are back to being at war with each other, in addition to fending off alien wildlife and further anomaly problems. Other people have been powered up too, and you’re all called “Altereds.”
I picked Trickster for my first class on Ps5, and it’s the only one I’ve used so far. It focuses on, slowing time, and teleporting behind enemy's but also healing through killing enemies, which seems to work pretty well.
If I had to compare Outriders’ third person combat to anything, you’re probably out of cover more often than The Division or Gears of War, and maybe it’s more like Mass Effect, as you run around and use both guns and your powers to take on enemies.
This aspect is…fun. Even though I prefer FPS to third person, the gunplay feels good on PS5, as do the abilities, and even in the demo, you start to get a real sense of loot and potential builds. I haven't found any noticeable weapons that stood out but the shotguns really rip. In short, it doesn’t seem like you’re going to have to wait very long to try out interesting and unique gear, and I can see the potential of builds and loadouts escalating the more is unlocked. I will say movement doesn’t feel amazing as you try to dodge roll out of grenade spam that can feel a bit Division-ish in a bad way at times.
There is, however, a fair amount about Outriders so far that just doesn’t sit right with me, based on what I’m seeing in this demo.
First, you can feel the lower budget compared to other AAA looters. I know, I know, Outriders is not trying to be a Destiny killer, but it will be compared to that game, to The Division, to Borderlands, even to Anthem. But it’s just not on that level. This is not a true open world. The zones are very tight and heavily instanced, loading into separate areas even for individual side missions that as of right now, are your usual fare of chest-high walls and groupings of enemy spawns.
There’s just no real visual identity in Outriders and it just doesn’t look…great? This is less of a “bad graphics” and more of an art direction thing that needs tons of polish. Warframe may not be made by the world’s biggest studio but it stands out in terms of its design. Outriders, in contrast, doesn’t have that, and feels very generic compared to its rivals in the genre. I have seen pieces of cool loot here and there, but generally speaking, the vibe and world here lacks something to set it apart.
I can’t say I’m hooked by the story. Or writing. Or voice acting. There’s some dark humor here that doesn’t really work, and I feel like it can veer into too-cringey “attitude” style dialogue that I don’t love. It’s early, but I can’t say I’m connecting with any of the characters, including my own, nor the world and its lore.
I’m torn. I need to play with friends, with more classes, see more of the story, see new areas beyond this brown rocky hellscape before I make a full judgement, obviously. But if this demo is meant to make a strong first impression, It made me want to play a fully polished and mastered version of the game. Combat is fun and the loot seems potentially solid, but everything comes across as a bit bland, and I hope that will change as time goes on.
All and all Outriders should sit in the incubator for a few months before its April release. Loads of polish and maybe a clear identity would be nice.
Based on demo and not final release. Outrider arrives in full on April 1, 2021 on PS5/PS4, Xbox One / Xbox Series X|S, Stadia (no demo for Google's cloud-based gaming system however), and PC. Pre-order available now.