LOS ANGELES – Outriders Worldslayer has the potential to bring a lot of lapsed fans back to the game. When Polish developer People Can Fly released cooperative looter-shooter Outriders last year, the company earned a lot of accolades for avoiding microtransactions, daily login bonuses and other predatory multiplayer mechanics. However, this also meant that when players finished the campaign and the endgame content, there wasn’t much reason to go back. Outriders Worldslayer, the game’s first big expansion, could change that.
I went hands-on with Outriders Worldslayer at Summer Game Fest, and it wasn’t long before I remembered why I had such high praise for Outriders back when it launched. Like the base game, Worldslayer is a third-person shooter with extremely tight shooting mechanics, and satisfying extra abilities. I played as a melee-friendly Devastator, who could stomp, stake and air-pound enemies into submission, restoring his HP by doing so. But the other classes – Trickster, Pyromancer and Trickster – are equally fun to play. For purposes of the demo, I played solo, but Worldslayer, like the base game, is best played cooperatively.
In terms of moment-to-moment gameplay, Worldslayer has exactly the same gameplay as Outriders. The big difference this time around is the kind of environment you’ll be exploring. Rather than blasted deserts, swamps and outposts, you’ll be exploring an icy wilderness. This means that the game’s palette leans much more toward blues and whites than browns and grays, giving the game a more colorful vibe than before. There’s also much less cover, which means you’ll have to rely on your dodges and timing your cooldowns much more so than before.
During my demo, I went through the standard array of Outriders activities. I planted a banner, I fought my way past a bunch of smaller enemies and I confronted a boss: a huge, menacing brute with two swords, who stayed within melee range the entire fight. It wasn’t until I stopped to upgrade my character that I noticed where Worldslayer’s new features come into play.
PAX Points and Ascension
While Worldslayer doesn’t raise the game’s level cap, it does give you two new ways to upgrade characters: PAX Points and Ascension levels. Of the two, PAX Points are more powerful, but also much scarcer.
During the campaign, as well as during the endgame, you’ll have the opportunity to earn up to five PAX Points. These precious points let you invest in a new skill tree, and each branch represents an enormous upgrade. For example: My very first PAX upgrade increased all weapon damage by 20%. Like the main skill tree, you can reset PAX points at any time if you want to experiment with different builds.
Ascension levels, however, should make the hardcore Outriders crowd extremely happy. As you play through the campaign and endgame, you’ll gain Ascension levels, which are more akin to regular levels during the main campaign. Each Ascension point provides a slight boost for a single statistic – max health, weapon damage or cooldown timers, for example. To max out the Ascension board, you’ll have to play for dozens, or hundreds of hours.
I spoke with Łukasz Osiński, associate lead balance designer on Outriders Worldslayer, who explained that the goal wasn’t to ensnare more casual players. Instead, the dev team noticed that a small but significant number of gamers want to sink hundreds of hours into Outriders, and the team wanted to give them something to work toward. In fact, the main campaign in Worldslayer will take somewhere between six and 12 hours, depending on your difficulty settings and skill level.
Pleasing the fan base
I asked Osiński why Outriders players, who might not have touched the game since finishing the campaign, would want to come back to Worldslayer.
“Because we have more!” he explained. “We take another step in the story, we take another step in the world, we take another step in the difficulty, we take another step in the worldbuilding. There is more to explore.”
I also wanted to know how Outriders had held up in the interim, even though it doesn’t have the same kind of systems that most looter-shooters do. Unlike some other multiplayer games, which demand some of your time every day to stay current, Outriders tends to let players go at their own pace.
“People keep the game going by themselves,” said Osiński. “There are so many types of players, people who look for different things in the game. If you want to explore the story, Outriders will be a single playthrough for you. Worldslayer will be a condensed experience. A lot of people enjoy combining mods, experimenting and challenging themselves. Those people keep coming back … For every player that there is, we are providing something.”
“We didn’t really need to provide a constant stream of fresh seasons and everything – we don’t need to do that,” added Lucy Hale, host of the Outriders broadcast and a video creator at publisher Square Enix. She also added that having crossplay built in helps the game maintain a steady stream of players. “You can text your friend, say ‘do you want to hop on Outriders?’ and there you go.” Not every multiplayer shooter offers that feature, she pointed out.
More than anything else, though, I maintain that Outriders works because it’s a shooter, and the shooting feels excellent. I asked Osiński how People Can Fly develops its shooting mechanics, which also stood out in games such as Painkiller and Gears of War: Judgment.
“[We took] the whole team, about 50-something people, into a shooting range, and gave them the weapons toa actually feel how it should look, how it should sound,” he said. “It was my first day at work, and I have to say, I really remember it very fondly.”
Outriders Worldslayer will launch on June 30 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and Stadia. The expansion costs $40 for players who own the base game, or $60 if you want to buy the base game along with it.