Bottom line: Outcasters isn't the stellar killer-app that Stadia so deparately needs, but it offers enough to pad out the Pro subscription for Google's cloud gaming service just a little bit further. It's an extremely fun game that delivers on the promise of being easy to pick up and play but difficult to master.
- Instantly entertaining gameplay
- Mastering the curve is rewarding
- Unique visual style with great sound and music
- Genuinely fun game modes
- Addictive gameplay loop with short match rounds
- Matchmaking seems spotty
- Three game modes that aren't too distinct
- Limited map selection
- Lack of meta progression beyond cosmetics
Slowly but surely, Google is building out a library of quality Stadia games. With recent examples such as Destiny 2 and Super Bomberman R Online both going free-to-play for anyone and everyone, the ecosystem should be thriving with new users. That's why it could be the perfect time to launch an addictive and fun new competitive game like Outcasters.
The premise here is pretty simple: You dress up your little squishy blob character in different outfits, shoot fireballs at each other, and unlock new customization options along the way. It controls like a twin-stick shooter and has just enough quirky charm to feel like its own beast, but it's still lacking enough depth and variety to get a wholesale recommendation.
Outcasters Gameplay and Game Modes
In a lot of ways, Outcasters feels like a Fall Guys alternative that you can play on your phone, on your TV, or in a web browser at any time. It's simple, it's fun, and it gets the job done — just don't expect much else.
There is no story to speak of in Outcasters. This is pure, unadulterated mayhem where you take control of a squishy blob person and shoot out fireballs at other squishy blob people. There are three different game modes, a small assortment of maps, various cosmetic options, and a selection of power-ups and special abilities to round things out.
It takes a bit of getting used to things, but once you spend time with it, curving and controlling your shots in Outcasters is fun. Basically you shoot out a fireball by pressing R2 in the direction you're facing and then arc that shot through the air using the right analog stick, all while still moving and controlling your character with the left stick. It sounds complex, but it becomes second-nature quickly. This all comes to a head in the thick of combat because you can cancel out enemy shots if you hit them with your own, which results in exciting stand-offs with deflections, dodging, and curving fireworks as the spectacle.
However, it's a bit frustrating not being able to move the camera much. It's always at a locked isometric perspective and subtly shifts to provide more visibility in whichever direction you're facing, which is nice, but it's also annoying because you can't see behind you. Sometimes I'd cautiously walk backwards just to keep an eye on enemies arcing shots at me from behind.
After you finish the tutorial, which explains the various power-ups and puts you in a handful of situations to help you get the hang of curving your shots, you're plopped back at the Main Menu. You can either queue up to play online, which forces you into a playlist of all maps and all three game modes, or you can pick a specific game mode to try out in the Practice tab. You can have a party of you and your friends, which is nice since the two team modes are both 4v4.
The three modes in Outcasters are Last Caster Standing, which is a free-for-all with no respawns and an ever-shrinking circle to force engagement. These matches are super fast and super fun to play. There's also Team Battle and Gold Rush. Team Battle is just 4v4 Team Deathmatch.
Gold Rush, however, is the most unique of the bunch. There's a bank that opens up in various spots, sort of like a control point, where your team must deposit coins collected from around the map and from getting eliminations. The catch is that you can only deposit coins while your team controls a bank spot. In this way, it's like a combination of King of the Hill, Domination, and a collectathon all at once.
Teamwork is crucial in both of the team-based modes, but playing solo is still fun. While playing with a friend we realized a powerful strategy is to position someone as the aggressor and someone else as the deflector that responds to and cancels out enemy attacks. Going full aggro and bombarding enemies with two shots at a time from opposite angles is a great strategy.
Outcasters Difficulty, Progression, and Customization
Outcasters does a good job of being easy to pick up and play but difficult to master. Every few levels you'll unlock a new ability, with all abilities on cooldown during matches. The abilities let you do things like leap across the level to clear gaps, swin rapidly to push back enemies and projectiles, or even throw up a temporary wall for defenses.
Since the abilities are level-gated and require you to grind through the ranks to get them all, the matches themselves also have a progression component with the power-ups mechanic. Spread around each level you'll find five different power-ups that do things like increase the speed of your shot, split it into multiple shots after contacting a wall, or even pierce through enemies to hit multiple successive enemies. You'll get to mix and match various power-ups together during a game, but you lose them when you die and have to go collect them all over again to regain power.
Other than unlocking new abilities as you level up, the main hook to keep you playing in Outcasters is the relatively deep customization system. Instead of just unlocking skins, each set of cosmetics is split into multiple pieces. You spend credits to unlock a random piece within that set until you collect them all and you can mix and match however you want.
You want your squishy blob guy to have a dumb smile, blue skin, top hat, and glorious ice cream cone nose while wielding a candy sword? Go for it. There are lots of pieces to collect and unlock, which should give players a lot to grind for. Hopefully they can keep releasing cosmetics consistently over time.
Outcasters Stadia Performance, Platforms, and Features
Outcasters is expectedly not a very demanding game. The bright, colorful aesthetic is quite easy on the eyes and other than the sometimes gratuitous particle effects that pepper the screen during tense moments, there isn't usually a whole lot going on. As a result, using Stadia Pro, Outcasters played very smoothly for me on all three platforms: Chromecast, browser, and mobile.
The first few days I played Outcasters pre-release my Wi-FI was spotty and I noticed textures got blurry on the characters themselves, but that fixed itself by the following day and was probably more of a connection issue than a game streaming one. I never noticed any lag other than maybe a small stutter when beginning or ending matches, but it didn't affect gameplay at all.
Actually getting into a match is another story. Hopefully since Outcasters is included for free with Stadia Pro that means servers will be active. You can play in Practice matches against AI, but that doesn't give you credits for cosmetics or XP for leveling up at all. Queuing for a match can result in waiting for upwards of 3+ minutes to then sometimes still get matched with bots. Luckily if you have a bot match this way, it does give you credits and XP.
I spent most of my time playing on browser using a Stadia controller, but it plays well with mouse and keyboard as well. WASD movement substitutes the left stick and instead of controlling your fireball after you shoot it, you have more input over the trajectory before firing. Using the cursor you can click a spot on the level and if you hold the mouse button down, you can then arc the shot in a new direction by dragging the arrow path. In the heat of combat using analog sticks is far more intuitive and quicker, but getting the hang of arcing with the mouse is really useful with practice.
That being said, the game really shines on a larger screen or monitor. Outcasters isn't a super challenging game to play on mobile, but you absolutely need a controller since it requires twin stick movement to succeed. Contorting your hands into an awkward claw shape for that isn't easy when trying to use touch screen controls and even with a gamepad the smaller screen makes it tougher to anticipate projecticles and curve shots around corners.
Outcasters also includes Crowd Play features and Crowd Choice support for livestreamers. I didn't get to test either of these out pre-release, but it should work similarly to other Stadia titles with the features.
Outcasters Should you buy it?
If you already have Stadia Pro, Outcasters is abolutely worth checking out. If you can round up three other people to play with it's genuinely a good time and can lead to some intense PvP moments. It could also be a great game for streaming with its quick matches and heavy focus on competition and addictive cosmetic reward system.
However, I've got the feeling that this will eventually be free on Stadia for everyone to play, just like Super Bomberman R Online eventually was. This doesn't seem like the kind of game Stadia wants to let wither away in a few months and die. If developers positioned this as an entry-point game and added more cosmetic microtransactions with a mission pass system, it would be a solid free-to-play title to get people into the Stadia ecosystem.
3.5 out of 5
Outcasters is a fun game with a solid gameplay hook, but it doesn't have enough depth or variety to really keep you playing for weeks or months on end. It's a fun option for Pro subscribers, but I really think this will eventually go free-to-play for everyone soon which makes it a hard sell at $20 for non-Pro subscribers.
Last blob standing
Not quite a killer app
Outcasters isn't the stellar killer-app that Stadia so deparately needs, but it offers enough to pad out the Pro subscription for Google's cloud gaming service just a little bit further.
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