Over the past week or so I’ve sunk about 25 hours into Outriders—on top of the dozen-ish I spent repeatedly running the demo. And yet, I still haven’t committed to a main class. That’s not indicative of indecision on my part (okay, fine, maybe a tiny bit). That’s a testament to how awesome all the classes are in this game.
The loot-shooter Outriders, officially out last week for everything but the Switch, casts you as an interstellar mercenary tasked with charting ground on a possibly habitable exoplanet. After an overwrought prologue—which runs you through an hour of paint-by-numbers third-person shooter gameplay—you’re able to choose from four distinct classes, each of which imbues you with a different type of frankly over-powered space magic. That’s when the game gets good.
I’m currently rolling with four characters, three of which I’ve kept at roughly the same place in terms of story and level progression. I am at a total loss as to which one I should focus on.
The Trickster is clearly the coolest, or at least the most novel. By choosing this class, you can instantly teleport behind enemies, or whip out a blade and spin like a dreidel, slicing everything in your path. One power allows you to create a bubble that slows everything in it, save for your character, to a crawl. It’s a lot like cordoning off a small swath of the battlefield and saying, “This space is now The Matrix.” Such a blast. I’ve been rocking this Trickster solo sometimes, but more often in cooperative sessions with Kotaku’s Zack Zweizen (well, when he deigns to take the time to play with me).
There’s also the Devastator, basically the Outriders version of a tank. Choose the Devastator class and you can encase yourself in a layer of stone, nullifying incoming damage. A mid-level ability allows you to put up a forcefield that reflects bullets. You also unlock a move that’s literally called Impale. (It functions exactly how you’d imagine.) I’ve been playing this one with a friend who’s a Trickster. The two classes go together like baked brie and fig jam; once you get a taste, it’s sad to imagine one without the other.
For solo play, the Technomancer seems the best. When People Can Fly showed off Outriders last spring with just three classes, saying an unnamed fourth would show up in the finalmain game. That turned out to be the Technomancer, an Inspector Gadget type who can lay down turrets, toss landmines, summon rocket launchers, and heal on command. Every class in Outriders restores health via various combat parameters. (For instance, Devastators heal a bit when you kill enemies in close combat.) In this regard, Technomancers are superior: All of the damage you dish out will heal you.
Finally there’s the Pyromancer, who can hurl flames and otherwise immolate enemies. I’ve spent the least amount of time with this class, partially because fire powers are very been-there-done-that in video games, and partially because of circumstance. I created my Pyromancer during the demo, when crossplay between PC and consoles somewhat functioned and I could play with a PC-bound friend. On the heels of some launch weekend server woes, developer People Can Fly temporarily disabled crossplay between console players and PC players. In a tweet this week, People Can Fly said that full crossplay functionality will be included in a future patch. I’ll likely wait until it’s turned back on—when I’ll be able to team up with my friend again—before revisiting this character.
So, yeah, I’m in somewhat of a bind.
My indecision has funneled me into a situation in which I’m playing the game three times through simultaneously. I’ll power through one region—all side-quests included, because that is how my brain functions—then switch to a different character and run it again. Most of the missions follow the same structure, in that you simply press forward and shoot everything you see. But I haven’t been bored for a moment, mostly because the four classes are so distinguished, almost like I’m playing a different game with each one. The same mission can feel like a typical cover-based shooter while playing as one class, like an up-close-and-personal action game as another, and like something from the bazonkers Platinum Games oeuvre as another.
Whether it’s Destiny or Borderlands, in loot games, it’s natural to laser-focus on beefing up one character before starting fresh with a second. In Outriders, at least for me, it’s less straightforward. I’m flummoxed, unable to decide, juggling three interstellar badasses I love equally. As far as problems go, though, I suppose that’s not a bad one to have. We’ll see how I feel after another region or two.