Welcome to the 20th installment of the Game Design Spotlight! This column is your weekly dose of my analysis of game design elements across many multiplayer titles, such as Splitgate's wall portals and the anxiety players get from The Cycle: Frontier's environments and sound effects.
Last week, I discussed Synced's mixed adaptation of battle royale and PvP/PvE multiplayer games and how those aspects unify around its companion Nanos mechanic. As for today, I'm introducing a new game to the weekly column, Outriders, and analyzing how playing aggressively throughout the looter-shooter keeps you alive in the long run.
In Outriders, the motif of antagonism from everyone and anything capable of virtually killing you is a running theme. Heck, the opening hours recount how hostility and greed led to the ruin of humanity on Earth, with the remnants of that world stumbling into even more hell on the planet they found called Enoch.
There, humans found constant anomaly storms hurling bolts of hazardous energy. Those phenomena eradicated pinnacle technology and machines that were supposed to help humanity lead a better life.
The civilians in cryostasis during space travel felt betrayed by those in charge that decided to land - stuck on a planet out to kill them at the odd hour of the day. That decision spurred decades of Mad Max-level insanity between faction groups, with your character, an Outrider, stuck in the middle.
It's crucial to lay out the setup for People Can Fly's looter-shooter because its perpetual concepts based around aggression bake into the combat. Due to your Outrider getting struck by an anomaly storm and gaining death-defying freaky powers, you effectively live and die by how aggressively you play.
From a gameplay perspective, an Outrider's health bar fills as the player fulfills different circumstances involving harming others to stay alive. That means players won't be able to depend on health potions and the usual health recharge seen in other shooters. With a collection of skills and weapons while minding the limitations of your type of Outrider, how you manage to come out on top as waves of enemies populate the map always boils down to being offensive.
Pick Your Poison
At a certain point at the beginning, players must pick one of four types of classes, which eventually peel off into sub-classes specialized around a quirk. Pretty standard. Though, things go unusual in how each class manages to build health in combat.
For Technomancer, the long-range support specialist with debilitating turrets and other gadgetry, dishing out damage naturally allows them to leech a portion dealt as health. Their healing mechanic is simple, unlike the rest, but sticks to the theme of playing aggressively to a T.
Devastator is your stalwart tank-like class capable of shifting the ground to protect and send devastating shockwaves. With you being the point person at the head of any rag-tag group, staying in the thick of things is best for your team but always good for yourself.
That's because the Devastator's healing mechanic requires them to be near their slain enemies to recover 24% of their maximum health. In a way, I see Devastator as a selfish tank that ravages the battlefield and blows through lines of enemies to fill its livelihood.
Trickster is another close-range class but operates more like a hit-and-run assassin that can bend the laws of space and time. By appearing out of thin air to nail an enemy at close range, Trickster earns its health back and gains a portion as an active shield that mitigates 5% damage. Out of all the classes, it feels the most aggressive and built around this risk-reward health-recovering unique mechanic in Outriders.
And finally, the Pyromancer is a medium-ranged class controlling - you guessed it - fire. Pyromancer commands flames to incinerate their enemies, with some skills marking adversaries for 15 seconds. If the fire-slinging Pyromancer kills a Marked target, they will gain 24% of their maximum health. With a strong focus on its skills tied closely to its health recovery, the class performs more niche than the rest yet still drives home killing everything in sight to stay alive.
Whatever class you choose, falling into their different methods of ensuing harm to enemies is a violent rhythm where you never seem to stop being on the offensive. The cover-to-cover gameplay supports that by how you're always moving forward more often than backward. Quickly, you must pierce enemy defenses and create choke points where your skills can truly shine. However, enemies won't let you steamroll over them, so you'll need to measure how aggressively you play.
During my hands-on experience with Outriders, I kept thinking about Doom: Eternal and the loop of players stomping out the lights of demons to gain resources to continue shredding more demons. Two very fundamentally different games, but similar in how being on the offensive is rewarding. Though, like in Doom: Eternal, you won't always be able to force your way ahead as a killing machine. Eventually, you'll need to take a breather and assess the situation.
Consider how a unique mob in a crowd of melee-obsessed enemies may cause trouble if you don't take them out. Plan your approach if your current cover doesn't put you in the best fighting position. Estimate the best way to recover health when you're down, and determine which enemies would be perfect for getting back in the ring.
As you play aggressively, strategizing must also be on your mind. With both methods of play working in tandem, you can stay alive longer despite the overwhelming opposition.
That concludes another week of the Game Design Spotlight! Do you enjoy how aggressive you must play in Outriders? Is there anything you would change about the healing in this game? Let us know below! Also, feel free to comment on games you would like me to cover for future stories if you have any suggestions!
About the Author
Anthony Jones is a gaming journalist and late 90s kid in love with retro games and the evolution of modern gaming. He started at Mega Visions as a news reporter covering the latest announcements, rumors, and fan-made projects. FFXIV has his heart in the MMORPGs scene, but he's always excited to analyze and lose hours to ambitious and ambiguous MMOs that gamers follow.
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