We played the fourth character class in People Can Fly's loot-shooter, which is all about bringing poison and other debuffs to a gunfight.
War is raging on the planet Enoch in Outriders, and you're the secret weapon for the good guys. As a titular Outrider, you not only have expert training in weapons, tactics, and survival, you also have superpowers thanks to the unpredictable effects of a storm called "the Anomaly." Your powers might give you control of fire, or the ability to teleport behind enemies to stab them in the back, or the capacity to create devastating seismic waves. With Outriders' final character class, the Technomancer, you can create gun turrets out of thin air to seriously mess up your enemies' ability to fight back.
If you're not familiar with Outriders, it's pretty much one part Gears of War, one part Destiny 2, and one part Mass Effect 3. Combat has you balance taking cover to avoid incoming gunfire and pressing the attack with your superhuman abilities, ripping apart enemies and healing yourself through victory. The game is structured like an action-RPG, with hub towns full of characters to talk to for story beats and side-missions, and twisting maps full of enemies to fight and stuff to discover. As you play through the game, you level up your character to unlock skills and perks in expansive skill trees, all while chasing better, rarer loot to make yourself more powerful.
We previously got a sense of how Outriders works, and recently spent a few more hours playing with the game as the Technomancer, whose powers are somewhat more support-focused in comparison to the other classes in the game. It mostly relies on creating gun turrets that employ different effects--one can freeze enemies and leave them vulnerable, while another sprays toxic sludge that damages and slows them, and a third launches rockets that can rip past cover. The Technomancer is at its best when paired with teammates, excelling at controlling crowds before they become overwhelming, or hanging back and picking away at distant enemies while other classes get in close for the dirtier work.
Though there are only four character classes, Outriders' co-op works because of how distinct characters can be from one another, even if they're the same class. Our hands-on time with the Technomancer was actually a cooperative experience as we fought through a few side-missions and main story quests, where each of us played the class. Developer People Can Fly provided us with a bunch of skill points to dump into our characters, and the huge skill tree of each class means there's a lot of opportunity to specialize your build.
I played a Technomancer that relied on sniping and turret defense, getting big bonuses for headshots and amping up the debuff qualities of my turrets. My colleague, GameSpot video producer David Ahmadi, went for a more aggressive approach, dumping points into closer-range abilities like a bomb you can drop that freezes enemies near you, a mine you can plant in your paths, and the ability to summon either a rocket launcher or a minigun while midair.
"From a lore perspective, we wanted to create this class which matched the human technology, in a twisted way, using the Enochian Anomaly," explained game director Bartosz Kmita. "So in this way, we started creating these crazy constructs and other tools. And then we adjusted how to fill the role of the character. But in our game, diversity is a key, so we're not changing that with the Technomancer. In the beginning, it's a more long-range, maybe more of a support character role. But very early on, finding the proper items and making the correct decisions in the skill tree, you're able to adjust the Technomancer to your play style and your fantasy."
All your special character abilities are on a cooldown, so managing combat becomes a dance of taking cover to keep yourself out of trouble before using your powers at key moments. The synergy between us--even two characters of the same class--was pretty impressive. Outriders allows you to specialize in significant ways to meet your playstyle, while allowing you to respec your character for free as well, so you're not necessarily stuck sniping for the entire game or in situations where it's not the ideal way to address a fight. Cooperative play was a pretty good time as we leaned into our roles and worked through hordes of opposing soldiers and groups of charging monsters. Working together, we could bait enemies into choke points to get poisoned by my sludge turrets and his freeze turrets, before we both turned rocket launchers on them to finish them up. And with all the Technomancer's abilities unlocked, we could easily switch our capabilities as the situation and our team strategy dictated.
Though we played a fair amount of Outriders, we only got a taste of how the game will play out when it's available. We saw some top-tier gear after starting with a slate of Epic-level equipment, much of which had special perks--like a sniper rifle that could freeze enemies to make it easier to land a second hit if the first wasn't a killshot. You'll constantly be chasing loot in Outriders, but as you progress through the game, you'll also gain the ability to increase the rarity and capabilities of weapons you're particularly fond of.
The demo gave a good sense of how loot progression will work in Outriders. You'll spend time completing missions to get yourself better guns at a pretty constant rate, but your loot grind is also about finding cool, interesting weapons that serve your character build. The freezing sniper rifle I started with was a go-to weapon for our entire play session because it fit the character I was building, but a ludicrously powerful shotgun that popped up randomly along the way eclipsed it later on--and once I had a gun I liked that blew people apart, I shifted my character's abilities to compensate.
We got brief looks at a few other elements of Outriders in this session, including opportunities to hunt down "Altered" superpowered enemies and to chase down big monsters in side-missions, but it was the team synergy that stood out the most. Outriders seems to be a huge game with a lot of RPG leanings, but it was in specializing characters and in working together that it really seemed to hum along at its best. Even playing two of the same kind of character, we were able to dispense plenty of pain on our opponents. It suggests that Outriders will be at its most fun when you have the opportunity to match your character with a couple of teammates in fun and creative ways, tearing through waves of enemies by pairing your capabilities with your friends' in a world with no end of poor soldiers to freeze, poison, and explode.