Outcasters First Impression

Outcasters is a whimsical, frantic, fast-paced, easy to play and hard to master isometric arena shooter where you curve your shots for the ultimate trick shot. Outcasters is exclusive to Stadia, developed by the United Kingdom-based game developer Splash Damage (Gears Tactics, Halo MCC, Gears 5) and published by Stadia Games and Entertainment.

Fact box

Game: Outcasters

Developer: Splash Damage

Publisher: Stadia Games and Entertainment

Release date: December 3rd, 2020

Genre: Party, Adventure, Arcade

Platform: Stadia

Store: Stadia

Play: Stadia

How Outcasters performs

Outcasters is a great title when it comes to visual performance. It’s not the most demanding in terms of graphics, which currently is a great thing as Stadia has been given its fair amount of criticism in the looks department for its games so far.

Stadia has no issues providing a fluid 4K (2160p) 60 frames per second stream with gorgeous and exploding colours, as long as you have the required hardware (4K monitor or TV), subscription (Stadia Pro) and internet connection (35 Mbps or more). The 1080p 60 frames per second stream really isn’t bad either.

There’s a few net code issues present in some odd matches, but it’s nothing too horrible - besides shots not registering on hits and players warping slightly here and there. I’m confident this will be fixed quite rapidly.

Outcasters is a multiplayer-focused game, it has a matchmaking system in place for finding matches for you to enjoy. You can currently only queue to one mode, which is “Play all”. Even if you’re in a party you can experience being matched into Last Caster Standing (one of the game modes, more about that later). Matchmaking is currently fast-ish, from seconds to a couple of minutes to find a match. I imagine this is due to the game being very new, it’s available for free to Stadia Pro subscribers, and it has been released in a small window where there are not tons of other games to compete with on the platform.

The average length of a round is roughly 5 minutes. It’s quick, it’s intense and it’s a lot of fun!

Outcasters does also utilize a few Stadia features, namely Crowd Choice and Crowd Play. Google has been hard at work pushing Stadia recently, rapidly improving marketing, alongside subscriber heavy YouTube content creators flinging out live stream after live stream with said features in full use. I predict a good and steady growth for both Stadia and Outcasters over the coming months because of these moves. Do not quote me on this.

How Outcasters plays

Let’s tackle the way you decide to control your caster in Outcasters first, either by the controller or the more traditional keyboard and mouse.

Mouse and keyboard

If you play with mouse and keyboard you’ll essentially lay up your shots with what is referred to as click and drag. You click your main mouse button in, find the curve you want (this will be visualized by a curving arrow on the screen) and release to shoot off your lethal ball of doom. The right mouse button is a straight forward button mash, where every shot goes in the direction your caster is standing.

Controller

This is a fun one and the one I would personally recommend! If you play with a controller, Outcasters is referred to as what’s known as a twin-stick shooter. What the floogenherb is a twin-stick shooter you might ask? A twin-stick shooter is, in a few words, a game where you move and shoot at the same time, now let’s drop the main mechanic or feature, if you will, of Outcasters on top of this: you can curve your shot while it travels. Your enemies won’t know what hit them once you get the hang of this! The controller also has two gamepad input methods, the first being twin-stick, the second being a virtual cursor which tries to mimic the drag shot when using a mouse. Both inputs work fairly well with a controller, but I always go back to twin-stick.

Needless to say, Outcasters gets fairly intense rather quickly. This is one of a couple of reasons that this is a deeper and more skill-based game than what the cute and whimsical art style might make it out to be on first glance. Don’t let the pink, goofy Ice Cream (the one that looks like an.. ice cream) fool you, it’s a trap!

Let’s dive into the reasons why Outcasters might be more demanding, and have more depth than you initially think.

Abilities

Abilities give your caster an active ability that can be used in tight spots or to gain an advantage in the situation you’re in. The ability has a 10-second cooldown timer when used before it can be used again. Use it often and use it wisely! There’s currently a total of 8 abilities in the game.

Leap

Leap towards your aim point, bypassing attacks and obstacles. Look at ‘im go!

Push

Push all nearby opponents and projectiles away from you. Neo style!

Sprint

Greatly increase your movement speed for a time. Run Forest, run!

Vortex

Absorb projectiles, pull power-ups and slow enemies in a cone in front of you. I said freeze!

Claw

After a short delay, move an opponent in the target area away from you. Ooooh, aaaaaaah!

Dash

Quickly move a short distance in your movement direction, deflecting any incoming shots. I can go really fast!

Switch

After a short delay, switch places with an opponent in the target area. Now I’m here, now I’m there!

Wall

Place a wall to block opponents. Can be destroyed by attacks. I swear there wasn’t a wall there earlier!

Power-ups

Power-ups modify your shot and bring in a whole slew of fun variation! You can power-up your shot by a total of three power-ups in total. You can combine various power-ups together for a mean concoction, or stack power-ups up to two or three times. The more you stack, the harder the power-up splits/bounces/travels/pierces/knocks. There’s currently a total of five power-up types in the game.

Split

1 power-up: On hit (environment or enemy), shot splits into 2 projectiles.

2 power-ups: On hit (environment or enemy), shot splits into 3 projectiles.

3 power-ups: On hit (environment or enemy), shot splits into 4 projectiles.

Bounce

1 power-up: On hit (environment or enemy), shot bounces on 2 surfaces.

2 power-ups: On hit (environment or enemy), shot bounces on 3 surfaces.

3 power-ups: On hit (environment or enemy), shot bounces on 4 surfaces.

Speed

1 power-up: Shot travels fast.

2 power-ups: Shot travels very fast.

3 power-ups: Shot travels super fast.

Pierce

1 power-up: On hit (enemy), shot pierces through 1 enemy.

2 power-ups: On hit (enemy), shot pierces through 2 enemies.

3 power-ups: On hit (enemy), shot pierces through 3 enemies.

Blast

1 power-up: On hit (enemy), shot knocks the enemy back a small distance.

2 power-ups: On hit (enemy), shot knocks the enemy back by a medium amount.

3 power-ups: On hit (enemy), shot knocks the enemy back by a large amount.

Game modes

Last Caster Standing

Game goal: 8-caster battle royale where you compete to be the last caster standing in the arena.

Team Battle

Game goal: two teams of four, first to 10 eliminations wins.

Gold rush

Game goal: Two teams of four racing to be the first to bank 50 coins.

Progression

You level up your profile by playing matches. This awards you with content like new profile cards, voice packs, stickers (that’s laid down when you die or just feel frisky), dances and last, but not least abilities. There’s currently a total of 590 (highest unlockable, the Disco King voice pack) levels to gain.

You customize your caster by gaining tickets from completing daily and weekly challenges within the game. This is strictly for looks, you gain no advantage over other players even if your caster does look like the bomb, a werewolf, or Yoda. You can also purchase various customization packs for your hard-earned money. The customization is fun and varied, with a total of 7 equipment slots to make a truly unique caster. You can change the colours of the equipment, and rotate the equipment for even more variety! You start unlocking casters in what’s coined as Planetoids, there’s currently a total of 11 Planetoids to reap customizations from.

(Let’s call this one) Story

Once upon a time, there was Ice Cream, then Kosmo happened and everything went to Cow. A few days later Bones turned up and was horribly and profoundly confused at this strange scene that presented itself… Outcasters don’t really have a story or stories, we might get bits and pieces from the developer over time, especially on the casters themselves.

The Outcasters Twitter account though, let me tell you, that’s a star in the making and the running. You can thank me later!

What the reviewer thinks

I really like what Outcasters is so far. It’s a cute little game that packs a mean punch. Splash Damage (the developer) is keeping a keen eye on their social media channels, taking feedback, flinging jokes and generally having a jolly good time! I’m quite sure this game will take leaps into becoming even better in the near and quite possibly far future. That’s it for now, see you in the arena, caster!

Summary

Pros

  • Instantly gratifying gameplay.
  • Easy to play, hard to master.
  • Fun and colourful visual style.
  • Great and entertaining music and sound effects.
  • Genuinely fun game modes. Give us more!
  • The highly addictive gameplay loop.

Cons

  • Time spent in matchmaking is varied.
  • You can only queue to “Play all”, even with a party.
  • Lack of progression beyond cosmetics. Do I smell a season pass or a skill tree?

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