I played the entire demo of Outriders. You basically get to do 4-5 quests and some bits of the early story. All told, it left me confused. I liked the premise. You basically arrive on Enoch with the last capital ship carrying what’s left of humanity, after we basically destroyed Earth. There isn’t much backstory to what happened but you do learn there was apparently a major massacre as you took off on the S M Flores as people tried to fight and die trying to get on board one of the two ships leaving Earth. But apparently this only merits a little footnote as two of the characters discuss the last things they remember before waking from cryo-sleep and landing on Enoch.
So far, the premise is OK. Its basically a whole new world we plan to terraform. Its not original but it also means a giant sandbox for wildlife, fauna and terrain. However, this planet has what so far appears to be a natural weather phenomenon called Anomolys, and here’s where it gets weird. The cut-scene where you first encounter it is very weak. You don’t really understand what’s happening and barely do anything other than basically try to run back to your scout vehicle and avoid the explosions. You see some black sludge that seems to absorb into humans. You seem to become decontaminated yourself. You get irate at the asshole leader who decided to order the global landing of humanity against the orders of the Outrider captain and you. People die. Lots of people die. Your captain gets killed (no real reaction here either of note). It does seem to drive you into rage and your new mission is to go confront him. You now are battling fellow human soldiers who are being told you are contaminated and need to be purged. So you fight back. You don’t try to do much with the asshole leader as confront seems to just become ‘execute’.
Then next thing that happens, you’re thrown back into cryosleep and you don’t awaken again until 31 more years have passed. I don’t have a real clue why or what wakes you but things have changed. The paradise you know as Enoch is now an apocalyptic hellhole. Humanity has degenerated into two warring factions. And there are now Abnormals, who are basically humans with varying levels of magical powers based on a specific element such as water, fire, air etc.
So, now you’re alone and basically have to fight your way towards what you perceive as the good guys on the other side of No Mans Land. This means more combat. You get through and then find a couple of old friends there trying to run the show and you seem to seamlessly decide to throw your hat in. It’s just clunky and weird. Its crying out for better flow. After all this, you’d think I hated it, right? Weird story. Weird flow. Choppy cut scenes. Lack of depth for any character thus far etc. Actually, I kinda liked it despite all those things.
Combat has a mix of Borderlands, Gears of War and Destiny. Its closest to Gears with its heavy cover mechanic, but the reload timer mechanism is thankfully gone. So is the clunky grenade throwing (no grenades at all in the demo) yet oddly the enemies throw grenades that seem a LOT like the Gears grenades lol). Cover moving seems smoother than Gears. You definitely move more like Call of Duty than you do like a Gears operator. There are 4 paths you can choose (like the 3 classes in Destiny) and you can try them all out in the demo for different characters. You cant switch once you choose your path. Technomancer. Necromancer. Trickster and Devastator are your choices.
I chose Trickster for my demo play and after no real tutorial, I found the powers a blast to use. You can have up to 3 active at a time, and later powers can be subbed in and out as needed. One maps to each bumper and the 3rd maps to both bumpers. Easy. Additionally, each of the 4 paths have 3 specialties which you can spend skill points on. This basically improves various abilities (too many to list) but gives you yet more customizing options. You can respec the skill tree (no clue if it costs anything to do). The combat was entertaining. Ammo wasn’t hard to come by, and the loot drops were what I assume to be similar to Destiny. In fact, the inventory screen looks very Destiny esque with gear and weapons easy enough to equip. There is a couple of tough fights against Elites and another Abnormal but its not too bad. Especially if you use the map, use your abilities etc. You basically heal by killing enemies, so kill the adds when you need health regen. I am sure there are other ways to heal with skills or abilities later on.
So, will I buy this? To be honest, I want it to be more polished. A little less beta-ish. I wanted to feel like I cared more for the characters and the main character. She (I made my char a female) lacks any real substance so far. Whether she improves remains to be seen. I hope so. The drop in and out option is very Destiny and definitely scales loot and difficulty. There is also a world tier (think game difficulty) that also works in the same way. Play on a higher world tier and you get harder fights and better loot etc etc.
I think this might shine with a group of friends. If you can enjoy the combat, the leveling, the looting and the mechanics, perhaps the story line can be overlooked. Maybe it will even get better. The demo did what it ultimately was intended to do – it gave me hands on time with a new game system and piqued my interest. I’ve played demos where I turned it off and lost interest entirely. I did not turn off Outriders as the combat was fun. I will say it doesn’t flow seamlessly on my older console though. It seemed to have a little loading issues but that may also be demo related.
My advice here is – check it out. It doesn’t cost you a penny to try it, and if its your kind of game, maybe you will want to buy the full game and hope some of the demo’s failings get improved (or if they don’t, you are fine with accepting them for the flawed elements they are). Outriders will be available on April 1st for Xbox console and on Game Pass for Xbox.