Outriders preview: Fun abilities and co-op barely balance out a forgettable world

Set in futuristic outer space, Outriders presents a world where Earth is no longer habitable after war and climate change. In the year 2159, humanity attempts to find new ways to survive by leaving its home planet behind. It’s a story we’ve heard countless times in science fiction and games, making the world of Outriders feel stale. The gameplay feels familiar, too: With solid, cover-based shooting comparable to Gears of War, UI and aesthetics similar to Destiny and some powers that could be biotics abilities straight out of Mass Effect, Outriders feels like a mash-up of games I’ve already played.

I only saw a small slice of what the world has to offer — I visited a planet with a dystopian vibe — but it didn’t feel particularly memorable. The characters also all seemed similar to one another, with a gruff voice and no-nonsense attitude. They rang hollow, and didn’t capture my interest.

Although Outriders struggles to mold an identity of its own, its fun abilities are one instance where the game stands out.

After a short prologue, you choose a class: Devastator (a tank character), pyromancer (fire abilities) or trickster (close-range with time-bending powers). During my demo, I tried out the trickster class and had a ball slicing enemies open with a holographic melee weapon and dramatically slowing down enemy movement in a time-slowing bubble, allowing me to pick them off one by one. Although I didn’t get to try it myself, I was told that teleportation is another ability available in the trickster skill tree (and there are many!) so you can sneak behind unsuspecting foes and take them down. Low cool-downs mean you can swap between these powers quickly, bringing a frenetic-but-fun pace to fights.

With up to three players for co-op, friends can drop in or out of the campaign, though you can also go solo. Having played a part of the demo with two others, the co-op experience is where the game shines. Coordinating with your teammates, who may be playing different classes than you, requires some thought. Each class plays differently: Some are best at close-range while others are long-range, for example, so it’s important to make a plan of action accordingly.

Outriders won’t be a live-service game, developer People Can Fly has confirmed, so players can expect a full package when it releases around the holidays in 2020 for current-gen and next-gen consoles.

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