Outriders is a third-person looter shooter developed by People Can Fly and published by Square Enix. Set in a dark sci-fi world full of dangerous inhabitants and wildlife, the game takes place on a planet called Enoch, where hostility and lawlessness thrive. You’re handed the obvious task of saving what’s left of humanity amidst an ongoing conflict.
The narrative is more or less an excuse for you to indulge in the game’s activities. It’s a B-grade post-apocalyptic sci-fi story that’s entirely forgettable, and the dialogue doesn’t do it any favors either. The game’s lore does a far better job of fleshing out details and offering insight into the politics surrounding the conflict, positively contributing to its world-building. It’s told via collectible journal entries that are scattered across the game world for you to discover.
People Can Fly isn’t new to shooters. The studio was behind games like Gears of War: Judgement and Bulletstorm, and their influence shows in Outriders. You move from arena to arena, taking out enemies along the way and using the terrain to your advantage in combat. It’s easy to confuse Outriders as a typical Gears of War clone early on – your advanced class-specific abilities aren’t available for use and, therefore, you’re more dependent on stop-and-pop cover-based firefights. The comparison doesn’t do Outriders any favors, as the cover system isn’t particularly great. What makes the looter shooter stand out is a combination of decent gunplay and class-based tactical elements that form its core game loop, making the combat unique and engaging.
There are a total of four available character classes to choose from at the beginning of the game. Technomancer is a long-range support class that deals with ice or poisonous damage through deployable gadgets. Pyromancer is a medium-range conjurer class that deals with fire damage and is generally effective for high DPS builds. Trickster is a close-range hit and run class that deals with electrical damage and has the ability to controls space and time. Last but not the least, Devastator is another close-range class that serves as a tank that can take heavy damage.
Playstyles will vary across all four classes, and different builds and tactics can be developed based on your choices. Each class is distinct and serves a unique purpose. That said, even though Outriders is designed as a coop game, it scales down well to solo playthroughs, as they’re equally as viable. Should it still prove to be too challenging, the difficulty can be adjusted by dropping to a lower World Tier level. Although this does decrease the drop rate for legendary gear, it gives you the opportunity to take on the tougher enemies of higher World tiers with better stats and equipment.
Outriders’ progression system further sets it apart from a third-person shooter like Gears of War and brings it more in line with other looter shooters like Destiny or Borderlands. There’s an RNG-based loot system, and players need to report to in order to get new quests. You’re free to customize your equipment via a bevy of options. Weapons can be modified with new accessories that have the potential to significantly alter their stats and functionality. In addition, the gear looted from missions can be dismantled to gain resources that open more avenues for customizations and upgrades. Gathering resources can be quite the grind, however, as you’re encouraged to do repetitive tasks. That said, taking on the wildlife roaming about Enoch can still be an enjoyable experience.
Furthermore, you have access to eight different abilities for your character, although it’s only possible to assign three of them for use in combat. They can be switched over at any time, though, even in the midst of combat. There’s also a skill tree that allows you to use earned points to unlock passive abilities pertaining to your class to further boost your stats. It’s this kind of in-depth customization that makes your character build unique, even compared to other players that use the same base class.
The end-game is one of Outriders’ biggest strengths. Where games like Anthem faltered with the lack of a satisfying end-game, Outriders excels by offering several great activities to participate in. In addition to the various manhunt or monster-hunting missions, you get the opportunity to take on an activity known as expedition, in which you’ll team up with other players in the coop and complete challenge missions in order to gather resources and powerful gear. The difficulty of these missions is determined by the selected challenge level, and it also ties into the kind of loot you get. This mode is particularly great for seasoned veterans of looters shooters, who tend to stick around for end-game activities in pursuit of new builds and gear.
Despite being able to do most of the game’s activities solo, Outriders requires an internet connection at all times. This comes as an odd restriction, especially given the server issues that plagued the game at launch. It’s not smooth sailing in the here and now, either. Playing in the coop is a troublesome experience due to random connectivity issues with other players, particularly in a party of three. The experience is notably worse with players who join your party via crossplay from PC or Xbox, although this feature is labeled as a beta for now.
When it works, Outriders is one of the most compelling looter shooters out there today. Despite not being revolutionary, it feels like a complete experience rather than one that’s delivered to you in parts via a GAAS model. This is ultimately what separates it from other games in the genre. A rich end-game experience is of the utmost importance to a looter shooter, and People Can Fly has succeeded in delivering on that front. It’s a shame, then, that the coop experience is marred by technical issues and doesn’t hold up as well as the rest of the game.