Outriders is a cooperative, third person online looter shooter game from developer People Can Fly and publisher Square Enix. Similar to games like Destiny or Borderlands, Outriders core game play is centered around the item drops that a player can earn from playing the game, but also centers around a third person cover system similar to Gears of War. However, there is a lot more going on in Outriders then this, so let’s take a deeper look with our review of the game on PC.
The story in Outriders centers around the destruction of the Earth due to massive climate and environmental damage. The Earth’s governments pulled together to create two massive starships, the Flores and the Caravel, to take part of humanity to a new planet called Enoch. However, before the journey could begin, a fatal error occurred on the Caravel, causing its destruction. This left only the Flores to complete the trip to Enoch.
Once the Flores arrives at Enoch, the forward exploration teams were sent to the planet to retrieve the forward probes sent by the Enoch Colonization Authority (ECA). This forward team, called outriders, arrived at the planet surface and found that Enoch was not as habitable as earlier thought, as a storm called the Anomaly rampages across the surface, decimating most of what it touches. In some cases, humans touched by the Anomaly are not killed, but changed and become Altered, humans with superpowers. You play as one of these Outriders who survived your first contact with the Anomaly, to become Altered. Your team heads back to base camp to warn the others about the Anomaly and want to hold off the landing, however, you and your team are branded as traitors and enter into conflict with the ECA, who are moving ahead with the landing as it cannot be stopped. You are wounded and placed into cryosleep in hopes that this will save your life. The game really begins with you waking up almost 30 years later, with the face of Enoch completely changed due to a massive civil war between the ECA and the rest of humanity called Insurgents. Your mission is to try to use your new found powers to find the last probe, and hopefully make Enoch the paradise that is was supposed to be for humanity.
Outriders first felt like every other future space dystopian shooter out there, with little to differentiate itself from games like Destiny or Borderlands, but that feeling didn’t last long for me. Outriders story is easily it’s strongest element, and we will get into where the game falters a little more down the road, but let’s sing some praises first. The world and it’s characters feel lived in and real. You will reconnect with old characters that had to change and adapt after 3o years of conflict, while meeting new characters that have never known anything different. I enjoyed how my Outrider interacted with people, and his mannerisms, humor, and cynicism seemed appropriate to his character. I had no desire to skip any dialogues scenes between my Outrider and the world around him, which is unusual for me.
Outriders also is very generous with journal entries and items that can be found throughout the game that helps tell the story of Enoch and the civil war. These entries can either be given to you when you encounter something new, or can be found as floating blue pages while exploring the world. Either way, you gain a new journal entry that will tell you more about Enoch and its’ inhabitants. The mythology, history, and world building in Outriders offers a lot to anyone who is willing to do some reading, and really makes the world feel much more lived in and real as you play through the campaign.
So, Outriders has a great story, but how does it play? Let’s go ahead and talk about the elephant in the room first, shall we? Outriders is considered an online only game, meaning that it must be connected to the internet to play it. If you do not have internet access, you cannot play Outriders. The sad part is, there is no reason for this online only trait for the game at all, until you get to end game and choose to play in the expedition raids. Normally, I would not care if a game is online only or not, but when a game has such bad connections and server issues at launch, like Outriders did, then it matters greatly. Outriders was almost unplayable for the first few days after launch, even wiping some of my progress. I was actually disconnected right after a boss fight in which I got my first legendary, then had to replay the fight just to have zero legendaries drop the second time. The dev team has been working on stabilizing these servers, and it is much better today, but this still needs to be addressed as a huge design flaw for the game.
Outside of that, the core game play for Outriders is to work your way through a series of arena and sections of maps that are all connected by fast travel points, completing various main and side missions to progress through the story. Along the way, you can complete contract work, such as bounties or collection quests, that will reward you with better weapons and armor. Outriders is not an open world game, so each section is centered around your camp of allies that will take care of your basic needs. These include storage access, vendors, place to mod your equipment and vehicle, and ammo refill stations. You can fast travel between travel points on the map that you are currently in, or use your vehicle to travel to another campsite or town to turn in quests.
Outriders does have some elements of an rpg here for character design. As you level up, you have 4 main classes you can choose from: Trickster, Devastator, Pyromancer, and Technomancer. Each of these classes have distinct advantages over the others. I chose to play as a Technomancer for my first play through. The Technomancer is the long range fighter, who is also the support class and uses gadgets. Then each class has 3 subclasses you can gain skills in. For the Technomancer, those were Pestilence, Tech Shamen, and Demolisher. I followed the Tech Shaman path for this character and loved the way he played. There is a lot of customization that can be done to your character, and having these many options is a great way to play the game your way.
Combat feels mostly like a Gears of War game. You will walk along your pathway, then see an open space with cover set in an obvious pattern to suggest combat is coming. As you enter the space, red dots form on your mini map, and you grab some cover to kill everyone in your path, then open up the next area, rinse, repeat. Some arenas are much more open, especially when you are fighting larger monsters or completing the beast contracts, but whenever you fight humanoid enemies, the arenas are incredibly obvious when you enter them. This is the most tedious part of the game, you really do just move from one arena to the other, killing everything in your path, then moving onto your next objective. I wanted to progress the story and see what happens next, but having to do the same thing over and over does kill the joy I have for Outriders.
The enemies you will face will come in a few different flavors, but can all be identified visually to help you predict their behavior. You have your common minions, who will hide behind cover and shoot at you, and your common snipers who will sit in the back and fire at you with single shot rifles. Next up, you have a couple of rushers that are designed to keep you from staying behind your cover for too long, one heavily armored and one that isn’t. These are incredibly annoying and will force you to change up your game plan. Your first move will be to fall back, however, the game will only allow you to move back so far before it resets the conflict, which is frustrating to say the least. Finally, you have your mini bosses and bosses, which are all Altered and have special powers, which can sometimes be interrupted. Fighting these guys solo means you need to manage your interrupts to help you through the fight, but sometimes these powers cannot be interrupted, which then means you are screwed, plain and simple.
Lastly, I wanted to touch on the world tier system for Outriders, which I thought was brilliant. You begin the game at World Tier 1 and, as you progress, you will earn experience not only for your character but for your World Tier. When your World Tier levels up, you gain access to a new world tier and some rewards to go with that new access. The World Tier sets the difficulty for the game, so the lower the World Tier is, the easier the game will be, but the less impressive your loot will be as well. I was able to level my World Tier to six before I started to run into significant issues, then would play the game mostly between World Tier 3 and 4, but would go lower if I was having specific issues with a particular boss. Having this scalable difficulty level is fantastic and is a great addition to the game. Players can play and whatever level they feel comfortable with.
The aesthetics for Outriders is all over the place. I loved the voice acting, especially from the main male character, and thought that the voice acting really helped create three dimensional characters that I cared about. However, some of the armor sets and items looked positively strange on my avatar. There was something about how my wrists would look like they were boneless is certain gloves, or how my arms would look too long in certain sets. My hair would also pop out of certain helmets, making it look like moss on top while I was wearing a full face covering.
I also ran into quite a few graphical glitches during game play. For a significant run in the middle of the game, the enemies refused to fire their weapons at me, but I was still taking damage and getting hit. This did work itself out, but man for a few hours there it was hard to get through the game when you can see who is shooting at you.
The scenery and environments are outstanding, and looked great at Ultra settings, though I did run into some fuzziness sometimes but a quick reload and that cleared up. You have the ability to kind of customize your Outrider, but the character creation isn’t very robust. You get to select sex, face, hair, and a few details, but your character still feels like they tower over everyone else and is just oddly proportioned.
Outriders is a hard game to pin down. Do I like the game? Yes, sorta. Is it fun? Yes, kind of. I feel like my opinion on the game is pulled into a few different directions when I think about how much I either like or find tedious. There is a lot going on here in Outriders, I feel like they took all of their ideas and implemented every one of them into the core game play. I think the game could have been made better by focusing on a few core ideas and really polishing those to perfection. I love the options for classes and the subclass trees and I love the World Tier system. I love the voice acting and the character development along with the main story line. I found the cover to cover arena style game play to be tedious, as well as the arbitrary invisible wall system when I try to fall back. The always online aspect of the game is stupid, and does nothing for someone like me who is playing the game solo. Overall, Outriders is a good game, despite it’s tediousness and bugs. I would still recommend the game for anyone who enjoyed Destiny, especially. Outriders is available now for $59.99.