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If you search "Outriders" on Google," one of the top headlines is, "Square Enix's Outriders looks like Destiny by way of Gears of War." With art that seems like it could be a mash-up of the two games; always online gameplay; loot, and a focus on co-op, it certainly fits the description. People Can Fly, however, says it isn't trying to make another Destiny or Division.
"Outriders is not games as service, so we're not even thinking about that," creative director Bartosz Kmita says bluntly. "The endgame is important to us because we know some people enjoy those aspects. But we don't want to be a game as a service. We're not saying that a game as a service is bad, because for some games it's clearly working. But we wanted to have a game that you would start and finish. A game as a service will chop the content into parts, but we didn't want to do that."
That means Outriders won't rely on live events, passes, or any of the other trappings of modern service games... at least not in the way that we're used to. It has no roadmap, lead writer Joshua Rubin says. "Our roadmap is releasing the game in 2020."
Instead, People Can Fly says Outriders will be a more traditional, story-driven experience. Rubin, who has written for Assassin's Creed 2, Minecraft: Story Mode, and Destiny, calls it a "really dark, brutal story," variously comparing it to Apocalypse Now, Heart of Darkness, and Joker. Rather than release the story as a steady drip over the course of many months, Outriders is featuring everything up front.
"Games are not cheap. It feels very old-school and the right thing to do to simply release everything in the package. It's the full story, it's the endgame, it's everything you want in the box," Rubin says.
"We Want the Story to be Really Deep"
On the face of it, Outriders does in fact look very much like "Gears of Destiny Andromeda"—a third-person shooter that tries to frankenstein together all the most successful features of previous games. It's a cover-based shooter with the class system of Destiny, including unlockable combat skills and an extensive skill tree. It will have loot, and an endgame, and it's getting a massive rollout. It really does feel like Square Enix is trying to position it as the big looter shooter of the PS5 generation.
Kmita pushes back against that assumption though. "Looter shooters have a connotation that they are all about the loot, which is not correct in our game. We want the story to be really deep and important in our game. It's an RPG shooter."
Despite that, Outriders shouldn't be mistaken for a traditional role-playing game where your choices actually matter. While Outriders will include dialogue options, they will mostly exist as an opportunity to get some story exposition. There will not be multiple endings, nor really any sort of RPG storytelling in the normal sense, outside of the requisite sidequests.
What's more, while it will be possible to play through the campaign by yourself, Outriders is clearly designed with online co-op in mind. It requires an online connection to play in order to prevent hacking, and its individual classes—Trickster, Pyromancer, Devastator, and a class that has yet to be revealed—have a distinct whiff of Destiny about them. Add in the fact that it's very much built around loot, and has legendary weapons to boot, and it's hard not to make comparisons to Bungie's infamous online game.
The main difference, apart from potentially featuring a more ambitious story, seems to be in the lack of a grind. Kmita says "repetition is not in the core of the experience." It will be possible to repeat sidequests, he says, but it will be mainly to provide an opportunity to play with friends.
But that doesn't preclude raids of some sort. After all, what good is loot without a solid endgame to use it on?
The Weirder the Better
In a way, Outriders is actually refreshing. When I checked out Ghost Recon: Breakpoint last year, Ubisoft talked about having a half-dozen or more live missions every single day. All the conversation was about content, content, and more content. That's all well and good, but if you just keep pushing it out, it starts to feel repetitive and numbing.
In putting everything in the box at the very start, Outriders won't be putting itself on a imposed timeline where it's forced to just continually crank out quests for the sake of quests. That will almost certainly result in the community complaining about a lack of things to do once the main story is complete, but that seems like a risk that People Can Fly is willing to take. Of course, it all depends on what Outriders' proposed endgame looks like.
Whether Outriders lives up its billing as a "shooter RPG" will mostly be down to whether the story is as cool and weird as People Can Fly claims. I'm all for a strange, messed up journey that takes you deeper and deeper into the heart of an alien planet—one that reveals the dark heart of humanity in the way that Apocalypse Now once did. The weirder the better.
The alternative is that Outriders is a deeply cynical attempt to crib from the popular games of the moment, all while claiming that it's actually deeper and smarter than all that. It's extremely derivative art style certainly doesn't inspire a lot of hope in that regard.
I suppose we shall see once the new console generation gets underway. Outriders will be out later this year on PS5, Xbox Series X, PC, PS4, and Xbox One.