If ever a game deserved hype and didn’t receive it, it was Outriders. I found Outriders to be a rollercoaster ride into the eye of a storm, albeit with a couple of hiccups along the way.
Developed by People Can Fly and published by Square Enix for PlayStation, Xbox and PC, when the Outriders demo dropped prior to release, it blew me away. You could tell immediately that People Can Fly drew a lot from its previous work on Gears of War: Judgement. Outriders is a hybrid third person looter shooter with RPG elements, set on the planet Enoch and released on April 2, 2021. This shadowy sci-fi tale with Gears of War-esque humour hits you in all the right places with its combination of lethal weaponry and over the top elemental magical powers. You will definitely have many hours of enjoyment on this hostile world. At the time of this review, I still experience lengthy sign-in times and some server issues and drop outs which, according to the r/outriders page will be patched shortly. The game has come a long way since release which is a credit to the development team as I’ve been enjoying Outriders immensely, as have others in the Game on Aus team.
The story takes place on the planet Enoch, humanity’s new home world after Earth has become a wasteland and its resources have been depleted. It felt like the same old deep space colonisation gone wrong trope that is used time and time again in science fiction stories and in Outriders, the story ends up being a lot darker in the second half of the campaign. It is easy to immerse yourself in the landscapes on Enoch, from Rift Town in the valley to the Eagle Peaks mountains, the level design is some of the best I’ve seen in a third person shooter. However, even though the game gives an open world vibe, once in a mission it felt very linear and straight forward. I found the voice acting of the characters good however, I felt that Dusan Dukic and Mylene Dinh-Robic voices didn’t seem to fit some of the Outrider character faces, and dialogue often bounced between cringe worthy clichés and being over the top camp.
Rift Town is where you start off after the prologue; it’s a bustling little borough with vendors, a couple of side quests and exposition of characters. My immediate thought was this was going to be the hub to which you return from each mission – oh how I was wrong! The prologue does a great job of setting up the characters, the world, and the mechanics that you will ultimately use in the game. It is a smooth tutorial level with a good amount of character interaction. As you progress through and complete the prologue, you must choose your path where you make a choice from one of four classes, each with individual strengths, weaknesses, and elemental abilities to continue your story and progress through the game.
Technomancer: Ideal support character suited for long range play styles with its use of gadgets, turrets, and healing skills.
Pyromancer: Mid-range fire elemental mage-type character. Although they can still use weapons, their strength lies in their skills and abilities.
Trickster: Suited for up close and personal combat. With their manipulation of space-time, it’s easy to jump in, assassinate a target and return to safety.
Devastator: The tank of the outfit, built for defence and heavy hitting. Manipulation of ground and earth skills just adds to this defensive powerhouse’s arsenal.
All classes have the ability to heal themselves using their skillsets and playing through the campaign with them all, you could clearly see their strengths and weaknesses in action. The immense satisfaction I got from freezing a giant spider and shattering it with a proximity mine was the best! The game also introduces you to multiple different scaling systems. These are world tiers which scales the difficulty as you progress through the game and in-turn, adjusts the loot cap accordingly. The higher the world tier goes, the better the loot drops become. You do have an option to turn off auto world tier scaling, and you can drop back a tier or two if you are finding the current area too difficult or overwhelming. Your character levels up which unlocks abilities/skills to swap between your three primary slots, and grants access to higher weapon levels.
Although the game looks like a live service game, it has a Mass Effect series feel with the expansive story and RPG progression, and a decent load of gear and loot modding. You will take on the world of Enoch with weapons ranging from pistols to shotguns, SMGs and everything in between. All weapons and gear have different ranks – common, rare, epic and legendary. Every chapter has its own base camp where you start missions and side quests from, buy, sell and craft items, and customise the look of your vehicle. There is some backtracking to turn in some side quests at previously explored areas. Once you get the ability to mod weapons though, it is frustrating that you need to return to base camp to do so and cannot do it on the go which I found was a missed opportunity.
Speaking of missed opportunities, the fast travel system this game employs is laborious at best. The game has you using either your banner or the Outriders logo to fast travel around the current chapter, and then the truck to fast travel back to other hubs. I feel it could’ve made do with just one of these methods for fast travel. Controls felt fluid but I sorely missed the use of a jump button, as this could have helped with traversal instead of some of the backtracking, looking for stairs and ramps to get to higher floors in certain levels. Also the way the Outrider moves to cover and with the overall controls, you could see the inspiration from Gears of War. The only thing that was missing was Marcus Fenix yelling, “Hurry the damn hell up!”
Gameplay felt balanced with a mixture of human and creature enemy types, although it was getting repetitive towards the endgame with stronger versions of the same enemy types and no real variety or challenge added. Whether it was human or creature; it seemed like the same three archetypes – cannon fodder, a brute and an archer/sniper type. With that said, the boss fights were unique and challenging, I found myself mixing up my skills and weapons just to get a leg up on the bosses, and the creature design is absolutely fantastic! One bug I came across multiple times was enemies shooting through cover, which made for a frustrating experience and I hope it gets patched out soon.
Where Outriders truly shines is with cross play and multiplayer. I personally have not had any issues connecting to servers for cross play or multiplayer. The developers have worked extremely hard to get cross play working properly. I found great enjoyment playing through a few chapters of the main story and some side quests with friends. The different character classes complimented each other and you could easily get a feel for each player’s strengths and weaknesses. I think game really excels with the post game and expedition missions. These serve as an epilogue to the game where you are pitted against some of the toughest enemies from the main story with your best gear and weapons.
The expeditions are designed to be savage; but there is some freedom in how you complete them. Challenge tiers replace world tiers and scale the difficulty in the same way. I have found that expeditions are best experienced in multiplayer, although it seems challenge tier scaling doesn’t factor in the number of players taking part in the expedition. If you are planning on taking part in an expedition solo, get ready for a rough grind. It is a lot tougher but it is possible to complete expeditions on the maximum challenge tier with a bit of research into your class’ favoured talents specialistion.
Overall, Outriders has been outstanding. From demo to main campaign, to endgame and epilogue, I found Outriders to be a rollercoaster ride into the eye of a storm, albeit with a couple of hiccups along the way. These hiccups, in no way, detracted from the overall gameplay experience and I highly recommend this for looter shooter fans.
Written by: @blustreak81