Outriders hands-on preview: People can fry

Square Enix and People Can Fly are exploring a new world with Outriders, a co-op RPG shooter that looks to scratch the Destiny itch without the 'games as a service' tag. Shacknews grabs our pyromancer and goes hands-on.


People Can Fly has had a long storied history in the gaming industry, going all the way back to their work on 2004's Painkiller. There hasn't been a lot coming out of the Polish studio, largely because of a 2012 acquisition by Epic Games. The studio had largely been working on Epic projects, including Fortnite, but there soon came an itch to return to its roots as a game developer bringing their own visions to life. So after branching off from Epic, People Can Fly (now several worldwide studios strong) got to work on its first major post-Epic creation. That creation is the world of Outriders.

Outriders was first revealed at E3 2019, a project falling under the umbrella of publisher Square Enix. Little was known about the game's details, other than it would see a team of players explore an uncharted world filled with perilous environments and even more dangerous creatures. Recently, Shacknews had the opportunity to go learn more about Outriders and what the story entails, as well as check out some of the cooperative gameplay that awaits.

Outriders preview

Outriders begins with a colony of humans escaping an uninhabitable Earth and exploring an uncharted world called Enoch. The titular Outriders are a crew of military pioneers tasked with exploring the planet and helping prepare it for human habitation. However, a strange anomaly suddenly begins devastating the planet's surface and wiping out all surrounding technology. The player is struck down by the anomaly, forcing him/her into cryostasis in order to save their life. The anomaly continues tearing through the planet, to the point that nobody returns to turn the cryo pod off. That means a whole 30 years pass before the player wakes up, leaving them in a war-torn world filled with hyper-evolved flora and fauna, a still-raging anomaly, and colony factions all fighting amongst each other.

Outriders can pick up different firearms and use them to bring the fight to enemies, but they'll hardly be the only way to fight. The anomaly has also left Outrider characters with different powers. This leads into Outriders' class system. Players will have four different classes to choose from, three of which were available during our hands-on time. Here are the three classes that were on display:

  • Trickster: It's time for something different with the Trickster and its temporal-based powers. The Trickster is all about gimmickry, able to use their powers to slow time. This allows them to move around the battlefield quickly or slow enemies to a crawl. Their Temporal Slice melee attack can kill foes quickly and leave them nothing but dust in the wind.
  • Pyromancer: Focusing on area-of-effect attacks, the Pyromancer can burn multiple enemies at once or break their defenses. They can get tricky with moves like the Thermal Bomb, which turns an enemy into a bomb that explodes upon death, taking any surrounding foes with them.
  • Devastator: The Devastator will be your tank class, able to use the earth to aid in their defenses. The earth can also be used to knock enemies down, thanks to a powerful ground pound.

What's intriguing about the various classes is that all of them have different healing methods. So it's possible to recover health in the middle of an intense battle, but each class will have different ways to do so. The Pyromancer, for example, recovers health after using their fire-based powers to finish off any enemy.

Outriders preview

Enoch is a wide planet ripe for exploration and it's possible to join up with friends to do so. Outriders will support up to three players for online co-op play, with the option in place to engage in the main story or a myriad of side quests. While our hands-on time was mainly kept to a massive battlefield filled with warring human factions, Outriders will look to expand to different areas and bring players along for the ride in their own customizable vehicle. As friends join togehter for sessions, they'll be taking their convoy across Enoch in pursuit of the strange signal driving the main story or in search of new side quests.

All of this would seem to imply that Outriders is a Destiny-style "games as a service" online adventure. In a pleasant twist, that's not what People Can Fly is aiming for. They are adamant that Outriders is not built in the vein of games like Destiny, insisting that the full story and the full experience is included inside the box. That's not to say there won't be elements of these games in there, mainly involving a deep character customization system, modded and upgradeable weapons, and a detailed skill tree. However, don't look for loot boxes or pay-to-win items, as People Can Fly will leave those to other games.

Even with a few hours of gameplay under our belts, it feels like we barely got a fraction of what Outriders could potentially offer. We explored the First City, completed a side quest, and got to take on a powerful boss (that we were ultimately unable to defeat), but didn't get to go beyond that. The promise of deeper characters, varied environments, and great challenges is something we can only hope Outriders will keep in its final version.

People Can Fly is ready for the next generation. Outriders has a Holiday 2020 release window and will release on PC. It's also set to release on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, along with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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