The next title in the Outlast franchise is available for Early Access, but with a twist. Unlike the usual single-player horror experience, Red Barrel’s The Outlast Trials lets you survive with friends. Just like the title says, in this co-op survival horror game, you’ll be experiencing unique and horrifying Trials to earn freedom. Although you can do it alone, going in with others makes the experience evermore entertaining.
While my experience with The Outlast Trials so far has been positive, there are still some setbacks. Luckily, Red Barrels decided to put this out in Early Access first. This gives me hope that there’s time to improve the shortcomings. Otherwise, I’ve had a good time with the Trials I’ve attempted, and I’m excited to see what comes next for The Outlast Trials. If you’re unsure of whether or not The Outlast Trials in Early Access is worth buying, keep on reading this preview.
Before you get to experience this game in co-op, I highly recommend you play through the tutorial section first. Anyone who boots up The Outlast Trials for the first time will get to see the prologue section. This not only sets up the interesting narrative that ties the Trials together, but teaches you how the Trials will run. If you have any worries that this latest Red Barrels game won’t be scary, put them aside.
I can say just from the tutorial section that I was pretty frightened. Your nerves will get a little less jittery if you play with others, but that doesn’t take away from the eeriness of the game. But what is this game really about, and what are the Trials? Basically, during the Cold War era, the Murkoff Corporation takes people involuntarily for subjects of science. Unlike the propaganda posters say, they aren’t performing ‘miracles of science’ on you. Instead, you’re brainwashed, strung to the brink of your sanity, and tested morally.
How do you escape?
You and other players online are stuck as prisoners to be experiments for the Trials. The Murkoff Corporation promises you therapy and freedom, after forcing you to destroy all public documents of yourself. If you’re used to Outlast, most of the core concepts are still around. This isn’t about killing the enemies, it’s about avoiding them until you can escape. You can hide in several places, there are numerous useful items to carry, and skills to unlock.
The more Trials you complete, the more Vouchers and Credits you earn. Credits can buy you things to decorate your prison cell or to wear on your person. That’s one other thing to note, you can customize your character for the first time in any Outlast game. It’s not very in-depth, but it’ll do the job. Vouchers, on the other hand, can earn you Prescriptions, which act as skills, or Rigs for your loadout. Each member of the Trial should strive to have a different loadout for balance.
It’s deeper than you think
Don’t be too worried that The Outlast Trials is devoid of narrative. Throughout your time in the Trials, you can collect important Evidence. These are documents you want to collect that can be damning against the Murkoff Corporation. It also explains backstories of some of the characters you meet, whether they’re workers or enemies in the Trials. There are also documents that can explain what happened to Reagents—prisoners like you—when released back into the world.
The story is fascinating, dark, and disturbing. Better yet, The Outlast Trials is darker than any other Outlast game before it. There’s much more gore and much more disturbing occurrences. Also, the locations of each Trial are carefully detailed and interesting, despite the fact that I’ve gotten lost many times. These maps are quite large as well, meaning you can lose your friend’s location easily.
Everything’s better with a friend
Speaking of friends, the best thing about The Outlast Trials has to be the co-op factor. Are you getting grabbed by one of the enemies? Have your friend kick them off of you. Bleeding out or going into psychosis? Have a friend give you their healing Rig and hand you an Antidote. If you’re playing with random people online and are a bit shy, not to worry. There’s a small ping system that lets you communicate with no voice chat needed.
I did find that the ping system could use some upgrades. When I decided to play with strangers online, I tried just using the ping system with no voice chat. It got difficult when I wanted to ping asking for an Antidote or for Health and I couldn’t. Otherwise, it wasn’t too difficult communicating for other things like pointing out danger or thanking someone for helping me.
How bright of a future ahead
My only issue with The Outlast Trials so far is wondering how bright of a future ahead this game may have. I really believe that people will be playing this game for a while, due to the very positive rating it already has on Steam. But my worry is that eventually, the Trials may get tedious, or players may get bored. Red Barrels plans to release more content with its full release, but also plans to hike up the price point.
Of course, the last Outlast games were worth their price point, but some people may find paying 30-40 dollars for an online game is outdated when many online games are free-to-play. That’s not to say that I would rather this game have microtransactions and be free-to-play. I’m very glad there aren’t any pay-to-win tactics or loot boxes, it wouldn’t suit this game at all. But some players may find the Trials difficult, due to their length and possible frustrations.
In my very first game, I played with some fellow writers, and it took an hour to do a Trial. While you can certainly play Challenges that are shorter, having such a long Trial can be frustrating if you’re close to the finish line and end up all dying. There were times when I got myself free of psychosis and full of health with my newly charged night-vision goggles. In the next few minutes, my goggles were half-dead, I already needed an antidote, and I was running from an enemy with low health. It does take time to learn the game, so I’ve gotten better, but there are still some worries when it comes to the longevity of The Outlast Trials.
Worthy of a hundred jump-scares
Overall, to the question of The Outlast Trials’ worth, I can say for certain that I think this game is worth your time and money. No Outlast fan will be disappointed. I think Red Barrels has done a great job creating something narratively strong, and also co-op friendly. This game also keeps the survival horror factor to the max, while also being on brand with past Outlast games with its night-vision goggles and hiding-from-enemies tactics. It will be interesting to see where this game goes in the future, and what players will think once it’s fully released.