Hello, Ninja Refinery readers. It’s Josh from FULLSYNC here. I’ve had the pleasure of thoroughly dissecting the terrifying world of The Outlast Trials over at fullsync.co.uk. Now I’m thrilled to share my insights here with you.
The Outlast series has taken a dark and twisted turn with its new installment. Red Barrels, known for the harrowing experiences of Outlast and its gut-wrenching Whistleblower DLC. Plus the sequel Outlast 2, has ventured into uncharted territory with their latest outing.
The new game shifts its focus from the solo player experience and introduces a new multiplayer model. Setting the stage for a different kind of horror.
Setting the scene
The Outlast Trials presents players with an eerie narrative. Blending survival horror with psychological thrills that the series has become renowned for. Red Barrels remains true to the heart-pounding essence of the series while introducing a unique twist to the gameplay.
This latest installment serves as a prequel, set within the grim confines of a clandestine Cold War experiment. The plot is shrouded in uncertainty and suspicion. With an underlying sense of dread that pervades every moment of the game. Here, the conventional Outlast atmosphere of intense horror is intensified by an innovative multiplayer element.
This new feature not only elevates the level of tension, but injects a dose of fun into the chilling gameplay. Whether you are an established Outlast fan or a newcomer to the series. The Outlast Trials offers a harrowing, yet thrilling narrative that stands out in the genre of survival horror games.
But does this new multiplayer element work? Let’s take a look at some of the core elements of how the game has changed by bringing multiplayer action into the mix.
Everyone is different
The concept is fresh and innovative. You can now team up with friends or brave the terror with random online companions. But rather than being thrust into a game where every single person is the same, Red Barrels have ensured that players can stand out in their own ways.
For example, each player can equip different RIGs, an ability you can equip once you’ve reached level 5 in the game. There are four different ones to choose from, each with unique benefits such as stun mechanisms for escaping enemies or healing capabilities. Players can have the same ones or different ones, but it’s definitely helpful to have a mix in your ranks to make the most of what each one does.
Then you have the ability to customise your character, known as a reagent in the game. From changing the way your face looks to hair styles and clothes, there are lots of options available. And the more you play, the more you unlock. You can even kit out the room you stay in between games, changing wallpaper, carpets or putting up posters and ornaments.
One aspect of the game where you still keep your individuality was The Outlast Trials’ grading system. After each trial or challenge your performance is graded. You’re praised for successes and penalized for taking damage or triggering traps.
The first grade you’ll see when a trial is over, win or lose, is the group grade. If it’s low, don’t be too disheartened. This is because despite the group grade, you also receive an individual grade, which goes on your personal record.
This system adds a layer of replayability to The Outlast Trials, as grades can motivate you to hone your skills and strive for a better score. They can also bring out some competitive fun between friends as you all see who can do the best, and belittle the member of the team who is the weak link. Which wasn’t me as evidenced by the photo I humbly show you below.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Teamwork is a crucial element of survival in The Outlast Trials. The occasional need to use a teammate as bait to lure away the menacing foes opens up tactical possibilities we’ve never had in previous games.
And as mentioned, each player can equip different RIGs. We do recommend each character selecting different ones, because it allows everybody to have a unique role in the team, almost like a class system.
For example, having a healer is particularly useful on levels where healing items are scarcer. The Stun and Mine RIGs essentially do the same job, so you can maybe make do with either or of them. The X-Ray RIG allows you to see through walls. We didn’t find it that useful, but it does help highlight enemies around the map. It may be helpful if you get scared and can’t play with the sound on.
There are also some elements in the game that require two people, or become easier with two people. Breaking down larger, more secure doors requires two people. As does being able to give fellow players a boost to platforms above, and they can also return the favour to pull you up. However, you can lift shutter doors, or even saw a man’s legs off with a saw by yourself, but having a buddy to do it with certainly speeds things up.
Bye-bye reliance on jump scares
With the new format comes new scare tactics. As a fan of the series, I was initially skeptical about how the introduction of multiplayer would affect the fear factor. After all, the previous Outlast titles thrived on the isolation and the vulnerability of the player character. My apprehensions were soon quelled.
Jump scares have been used tactically. Gone are the solitary scares; instead, the terror lies in the presence of menacing foes with unique personalities. The unsettling prison officer with his stun baton and peculiar behaviors, or the hulking, naked giants who show no mercy, ramp up the fear factor.
Could there be room for improvement?
Sharing the trials, challenges, and exams with friends has certainly elevated the gameplay experience. However, there are still some solo parts to the game.
The solo tutorial is a fitting introduction to the game, which introduces you to the majority of things like how to move, hide, about traps and using items. And it’s understandable why this would be a solo experience.
But the final trial which you complete to earn your freedom, left me wishing for more cooperative gameplay. While I found the solo mode engaging for the narrative, helping a scared partner in distress added another layer to the experience. And having been through everything with my other half, it felt like we were being forced to be separated at the end.
Plus, while she has improved through practice and my shouting at her (probably didn’t help all that much actually), she was too scared to tackle the game by herself. So I ended up doing the tutorial and final trial for her.
This game is in Early Access though, and things can change. And the prospect of future trials from the twisted minds at Red Barrels is tantalizing. So maybe one day we will get a trial where we can earn our frredom together.
Do The Outlast Trials new multiplayer mechanics work then?
A resounding yes. The new multiplayer format brings a breath of fresh air to the Outlast series. It beautifully marries the familiar world of Outlast with innovative gameplay elements.
The cooperative play and team tactics add depth, and the horrifying foes provide a unique, refreshing challenge.
Red Barrels has managed to keep the spine-chilling Outlast spirit alive while exploring new horizons, and I, for one, can’t wait to see what’s next.