I’m kind of a sucker for cooperative shooters, especially ones that involve powers. They tend to be fun experiences to have with friends, even if lacking in good story. It’s kind of a guilty pleasure to just “shoot some shit”, and Outriders came at the perfect time to scratch that itch. Despite what seemed to be a generic story with lackluster environments, the gameplay loop seemed fun enough to reel me in.
People Can Fly bolstered Outriders release by adding a demo a month in advance where progress can transfer over upon release. Even with this, the narrative around Outriders was “eh, I’m not going to rush to play it but it’s kind of fun”. Then bringing it to Xbox Game Pass upon release gave many gamers no excuse but to try this game at no extra cost, especially during a time when not much else was coming out. Outriders is the perfect example of why Game Pass is a consumer friendly service that can help a game do well, while also giving gamers an opportunity to try something new without the risk of paying full price for a product they wind up not enjoying. Moreover, if Outriders came out weeks later when game releases started ramping up, I suspect it would have been buried.
That saying, had the masses paid for Outriders they definitely would’ve been demanding refunds. There were issues connecting to the servers, along with a surplus of bugs (i.e. inventory wipes) that persisted a month after the games release. The team definitely kept in touch about changes and seemed hard at work to fix them, and gamers only really accepted it because most of them didn’t pay an extra penny for the product. The game still has issues as of writing this review, but so much has been fixed. I probably would have had this review done sooner if I didn’t have to spend an hour minimum to log into the server up until a month or so ago.
Although crossplay was unavailable at launch due to the persistent server issues, I did try it during the beta and it uses a code system that’s pretty seamless. I can’t speak to how well it’s evolved since launch because I only played with another PS5 player. Nevertheless, at this point crossplay is still a novelty that’s quickly becoming a requirement, so kudos for the development team for implementing it.
People Can Fly clearly looked at other “looter shooter” type games and very smartly made the decision to not make this as a games as service. Somehow that messaging went in many ears and out the other, because it’s constantly compared to Destiny and The Division. While I definitely see the comparisons in terms of the core gameplay, Outriders not being a games as service sincerely managed expectations. You play the story and that’s it. No expansions and no DLC planned or proposed. To maximize your time, you can do side quests and bounties.
There are also some end game activities called Drop Pod Expeditions that offer better legendary loot, opportunity to max out world tier, and continue looting and shooting. People Can Fly left it at that and no one can be upset because they never promised Outriders to be a games as service. Maybe, they’ll eventually add content as a surprise depending on reception and if they muster up something worthy of releasing. For now, this is it. This is an approach that a game like Anthem would’ve severely benefitted from.
What Outriders offers is all we needed: a satisfying gameplay loop that you can enjoy solo or with friends. This is a third person shooter that handles like Gears of War with powers, which makes sense as People Can Fly worked on Gears of War Judgment. In Outriders there’s an intuitive cover system like Gears; but what makes the combat feel a bit disjointed, is you’re rewarded for getting in enemies faces and being aggressive to regenerate health kind of like Doom. It felt a bit inconsistent having so much cover available when the game wants the player to get in the enemies face to survive.
The cover didn’t by any means take away from me being aggressive and was instead a saving grace for reviving teammates, for taking a breather when my health was critically low, or if my abilities needed to finish their cooldown — all just to run back into the chaos to regain health and clear the map. Although the combat messaging was a bit inconsistent, I still enjoyed the aggressive gunplay.
Combining abilities is where Outriders feels more like Destiny where depending on your class, you can equip abilities unique to that class. There’s four classes:
- Pyromancer for midrange DPS via fire.
- Devastator for close ranged tank.
- Technomancer proposed to be long range support which is kind of true, but this OP class was actually a cryogenic class that can freeze enemies and can also deploy turrets that can heal on kill and an ability to heal teammates.
- Trickster (my class) for close ranged DPS that served like a rogue character with teleportation and abilities to slow enemies down or turn them into skeletons.
As you progress, you unlock several different skills that you can switch on the fly. For example, as the Trickster I would switch between a tornado ability when fighting beasts because it staggered them and helped with crowd control. When fighting humans I would equip teleportation abilities to run in and do major damage, then quickly retreat back to safety. Having a variety of skills to mix and match made the combat always feel fresh; you can also combine your abilities with your teammates to add a whole new layer of fun. If you really want more freshness, you can play as all classes. Players can easily switch classes from the main lobby but your progress and inventory don’t transfer over.
Supplementing these abilities is a skill tree that branches in three paths (anomaly, health, and weapons). You can mix and match or focus on one tree path, but the best part is you can respec at any time and for free! Can more games do this?
Like any other shooter, you’re given a variety of weapons (e.g. sniper, smg’s, assault, shotgun, side arm) of various rarity (common, rare, epic, legendary). The quality of your loot is dependent on your world tier, which serves as the difficulty setting. Playing at max world tier will reward you the best loot; the better the loot, the more perks you can equip. There are so many different perks you unlock from dismantling gear that ranges from health on kill, inflicting fire damage, increasing shield with class specific abilities, and so much more. These perks can also be applied to your gear.
While my gear may have been extremely useful in getting through max world tier missions, I barely ever looked cool. I had a cape once and quickly found better gear to swap it our for. A simple transmog system could have aided this but instead I was stuck with a bunch of ugly ponchos. There’s other cosmetic unlocks you get for your truck, for your checkpoint flags, and for emotes. You mostly unlock these when you complete certain objectives to earn attribute points. For example, you’ll earn attributes by killing 100 enemies with an assault rifle or with a class specific ability.
Going back to the world tier difficulty system, I really liked how you could change it on the fly and playing on the highest world tier made most encounters feel like a combat puzzle. Retrying often involved moving strategically around the map because enemies quickly flank around and you can easily get overwhelmed.
While I truly loved the challenge, there were two specific encounters on the highest world tier that almost made be lower it down a bit. I didn’t, but it was painstaking. The difficulty spike felt unbalanced in these encounters when compared to the rest of the game. The worst of it being the last boss which felt completely different than the rest of the game and had unforgiving checkpoints. Thankfully, the game doesn’t force you to struggle. Just my pride.
What made the combat extra satisfying aside from the smooth gunplay and cool abilities is the enemy variety. Too often these type of games rely on bullet spongey, rinse and repeat of a few enemy types, but I was pretty impressed with the enemy variety offered in Outriders. There’s a handful of human enemies that have a range of weapons and behaviors. There’s elite humans, which are usually altered like your character creating magical obstacles to avoid like lasers, fire, or giant orbs. There’s different types of beasts that inflict various status effects and elite beasts that take a lot of dodge rolling and gunning to defeat. I fought creatures like mutated spiders, birds, bugs, and other alien creatures. I never got tired of fighting because the combat is satisfying and the enemy variety kept things fresh.
Notice I haven’t said much about the story and environments, well that’s because they feel like an afterthought. The set up seemed cool like an old school sci-fi comic book where earth became inhabitable thus leading survivors to another planet called Enoch. Enoch is overcome by The Anomoly, which infects, kills, or in your characters case, alters. Here you face many alters, gain allies, and try to survive. Sounds cool, except I never once felt connected to any of the characters including the one I created. Everyone was just overly dramatic and the dialogue uninteresting. There wasn’t a single second where I was wondering what happened next. I just wanted to shoot some shit.
Enoch had various biomes but they all lacked detail and exploring wasn’t fun because the map system is confusing and navigating to objectives felt unclear. This confusion is surprising considering the game has a button to create a waypoint path, but even this feature was often misleading.
For a game that lacked so much polish and had less than satisfactory world and story, I still had a lot of fun playing with friends. The combat is so satisfying and the gameplay loop didn’t get stale even after “platinuming” it. The biggest win for Outriders is not being a games as service and releasing on Game Pass. This way no one can complain about the lack of expansions, but if People Can Fly decides to add more content, then cool. Everyone wins. 3.5/5 Whiskies.