The Outlast Trials

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The Outlast Trials


The Outlast Trial certainly puts players through the ringer, but the content drought needs to be addressed throughout Early Access.

EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
Since its debut almost a full decade ago, back in September 2013, Outlast has carved out its own sizeable niche within the horror game genre, thanks in large part to its grotesquely unique take on body horror. The gore-filled thrills and chills have never been for the faint of heart, evidenced once again in this newest iteration, The Outlast Trials. However, while the first two games reinforced the all-too-frequent theme of isolation that comes naturally within a single-player context, The Outlast Trials seeks to reinvent this approach with a conversely multiplayer-focused formula.

Watching your step often is the difference between life and death

Anyone already familiar with horror films like Saw will find themselves uncomfortably at home here in The Outlast Trials. You and up to three other players are forced to work together to complete the assigned objective, with your progress monitored at all times by morally-questionable researchers who seem philosophically allergic to the Hippocratic Oath of "do no harm". Harm indeed is something that may likely await you behind every door, if you're not careful.

The thematic aesthetic of each map you play on does an excellent job of contrasting what would normally be mundane surroundings, (such as a police station, orphanage, an amusement park,) with ominous overtones that are so melodramatic that they border on the verge of dark comedy. The singular main objective for each match can include examples such as:

-Pushing a payload (specifically, a bound and blindfolded man strapped down in a metal holding chair,) down a linear path, (pausing at certain scripted checkpoints in order to find keys to progress,) before ultimately delivering him to his final destination.

-Locating and using gas cans to refuel a generator that powers up the exit door.

Something wicked this way runs...

Each map contains a variety of horrific experimental monstrosities that will more than willingly go out of their way to ruin your day. As a game almost entirely devoid of either offensive or defensive weapons, your feet and your wits will ultimately prove the key to escaping enemy pursuit. Most enemies are fairly persistent and will follow you through multiple rooms, and will even climb over or under obstacles barring them from you.

Even hiding in lockers or other full-concealment objects isn't a foolproof measure, as enemies will simply rip you out of your hiding spot, throw you on the ground, and then things will only go downhill from there if you don't quickly run off at the first immediate opportunity. The enemies assembled wildly range from being truly intimidating to being mildly annoying at best.

A Maze of Hostility...

One of the few problems with the maps at present are their respective layouts. Many of the maps often feature rooms that are highly similar, bordering on neigh-identical, save for the larger rooms and corridors, which usually stand out as set pieces tying into whatever that map's theme is. This can cause beginners to waste needless time trying to find their bearing. As this game is designed with replayability strongly in mind, it's worth noting that veteran players will have a notable advantage.

The problem is that, as the end-of-match individual and team player scores are determined partially by playthrough speed, newcomers will effectively be punished for slower completion time, and as this presents a hazard to the team score, veteran players will be strongly incentivized to kick new players from their matchmaking party from the outset, rather than work with them to succeed. In a game all about teamwork as a thematic overtone, the scoring system does not seem to take these factors into account.

Home sweet home at last...

The lobby area in-between matches definitely goes above and beyond any minimum expectations, providing players access to NPC vendors capable of providing varied upgrades to your gear and passive abilities, a customizable private cell that the unseen narrator is quick to reassure you isn't meant to look like a prison cell, despite that being exactly what it is, and even multiplayer minigames such as arm wrestling.

Final Thoughts:

The Outlast Trials is everything one would expect from a typical AA-scale Early Access game. There's a decent amalgamation of replayable content, a decent progression system that gives you at least some incentive to play through each level more than once in order to unlock new abilities and cosmetics, and an intriguing overall gameplay formula and story premise. Its biggest problems at present is the limited amount of content, and a ton of minor bugs and glitches that never become game-breaking, but certainly at times will break the player's immersion. With a bit of long-term developmental effort, The Outlast Trials can stand on its own two feet as a perfectly-legitimate successor to this longstanding franchise.

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There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.

Hooked Gamer's Steam Early Access forecasts are intended to help you differentiate between Early Access games that have the potential to blossom and those more likely to fail. We look at the team's ambitions, their track record, and the state of the latest build to predict if opening your wallet will help fund a potentially great game, or is better used to light other fires.