Review: Outriders

As another massive shooter enters the arena, there’s one thing to consider: is Outriders worth playing? With time being a precious commodity and finite, I’d say yes, it is worth your time and I’d even say this is an investment of your time. With so many video games seeing delays this year, I’m banking on People Can Fly’s five-year project as a worthy candidate to keep me busy for the next several months.

Outriders succeed not because it does anything particularly new, but because it takes existing elements and genres and does something fun with them. You’ve played this game before, be it as The Division 2, Destiny 2, or another looter shooter with role-playing elements. That’s all fine and well and it’s usually a great genre that interests me. With review code only going out the day before launch, I’ve done my best to use expand upon what we’ve played during the open beta period and also post-launch day and so far, it’s been a blast, server issues notwithstanding.

Outriders, reporting in!

For myself, investing time into a game like this is a treat since these games often offer a challenge while also rewarding consistency and continually playing the storyline. Outriders is basically People Can Fly’s take on the looter shooter and over the last week or so, has been my most played game. I went in with very few expectations but came out at the end of the beta period with a hunkering for more adventures on Enoch.

Square Enix Presents

The writing is a mixed bag and after spending dozens of hours in this universe, what I thought was interesting writing at the start of the journey, went on to be flat and sometimes corny dialogue. That isn’t to say the narrative isn’t worth your time, it serves its purpose and gets you into the next wave of enemies. Years after Earth has been left to die, humans have taken to space and discovered another inhabitable planet called Enoch. It is here your story begins and it’s here you’ll explore this untamed world full of secrets, dangers, and mutants out to get you. As your people arrive on Enoch, things quickly worsen and due to unforeseeable circumstances, you’re placed in cryostasis only to be brought back decades later.

And, because you arrive on an alien planet, you’re quickly faced with the Anomaly, an event that triggers massive energy storms across the planet and also what gives you your supernatural abilities. With these powers in mind, you are free to choose from one of four classes: Devastator, Pyromancer, Technomancer, and Trickster. All four classes are distinct, each with its own strengths, weaknesses, and specialties that made choosing my starting class harder than it needed to be. For the first time in ages, Outriders makes choosing your class a difficult decision because of how much fun each class is – and how much fun they are when paired with other players.

Choose Wisely

Each class has their own way to heal in battle, which means you don’t need to manage health items. Pyromancer’s skills simultaneously interrupt enemies, immobilize them, and heal you. You recover health by dealing with the damage and killing enemies with your skills creating a satisfying loop that often sends you to the brink of death and back again.

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The cherry on top is how much fun the abilities are to use and the fact you’re free to chain them together to slaughter your foes is often thrilling when up against the odds. Destiny offers one super that builds up over time whereas Outriders gives you three super abilities to use on a whim and the cooldown is nearly instantaneous. To put it simply, you’re a badass Altered who on the drop of a dime, can turn the tide of a battle thanks to your growing arsenal of abilities.

Combat is for most of the time an exciting experience and thanks to the experience the developers at People Can Fly have by working on the Gears series, the gunplay feels good and you feel the influence it has when shooting at enemies. You’ll spend almost all of your time battling factions, monsters, and mutants and for the most part, the enemy variety is good. And, you’ll come to learn each enemy has a series of patterns you’ll need to learn to defeat them. Humans may flank you or rush you, snipers will keep distance and left unchecked are formidable, grunts will absorb most of your bullets while others will descend upon you.

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Battles you come across at the start of Outriders feel awkward partially because of the lack of available weapons and skills. As you unlock and discover these abilities, battles ramp up and often these events turn into strategic but frantic battles where cover and spread are needed to survive. Too many times early I’d find myself swarmed by enemies when I thought it was safe to push forward only to lose the battle and beginning all over. Learning to master the covering system is crucial to surviving Enoch and all the dangers you’ll face but and when other Altered enemies make face, the adrenaline kicks in and survival is your only goal.

And if you do end up dying in battle, Outriders thankfully sets you back to just before your current encounter, leaving you with the flexibility to try new strategies against enemies.

The stronger they are, the better the reward

There’s also a level of difficulty the game offers that is tied to the World Tier you’re playing on. Beginning at World Tier 1 up to World Tier 15, each Tier offers several modifiers including increased enemy level, higher loot rarity, legendary drop rate, and this is based on how many enemies you kill, which increases the World Tier. If you end up falling in battle, your World Tier progress resets, losing your experience points each time but never downgrading to the previous World Tier. Thankfully, the lenient nature of the system allows you the freedom to select a lower World Tier while simultaneously earning experience for your highest level World Tier.

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Some issues plague the game and bring the experience down a notch. Minor annoyances like having a loading screen when jumping a gap or moving to a new area. Movement sometimes feels floaty and some areas offer shortcuts to move about a stronghold but instead are invisible walls that should be climbable obstacles. It’s frustrating in a game that delivers some great mechanics across several systems but minor loading screens and invisible objects block obvious pathways across Enoch.

Did I mention that the cover system has some kinks in it? My biggest issues lie with what happens when I try to pop up from cover and start engaging the enemy. Far too many times throughout my 50-hour playthrough, I’d pop out and forget that my character will stand there once I decide to act against the enemy. If I press L1, R1 or both to initiate my abilities, my character Simone ends up being damaged to the point she’s almost done for. I’m used to games letting you peek, shoot and then duck back into cover but in Outriders, it doesn’t feel right not having your character move back into a position where bullets aren’t landing so easy.

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In a game like Outriders, you’ll spend time in the menus be for crafting gear, dismantling it, or trying to upgrade your character’s current loadout. To say it is serviceable is about all I can do, the menu design and UI is an issue almost every game in the genre faces and I’m not a fan of it at all. There’s too much shuffling between menus, backtracking, and second-guessing what I was looking at in the menu at critical times.

Gear for everyone!

People Can Fly also added tons of branching quests that often produce the best loot. Some might task you with returning to an area and finding a missing person and often these branches serve to expand the lore, learn more about the characters and most importantly, get better loot. You’ll earn some great pieces across the campaign but you’ll need to branch out to earn even better, legendary gear and upgrade those pieces.

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Gear is extremely important in Outriders and can make or break you at any time. If you go into a story path without being properly equipped, things will and tend to go awry. Gear ranges in rarity from common to unusual, rare, epic, and legendary. Mods are also available for weapons and armour, and mods can even alter how your gear’s abilities work in battle.

Mods are brilliantly implanted in Outriders. As you earn and find new weapons, you dismantle them and in turn, use them to mod your existing weapons. There is one catch though as only one of the two given mod slots is free to be changed, so you’ll need to make it count when you do. Speccing weapons is also a ton of fun; adding higher rarity, higher damage, higher defence and even how much healing a gun offers.

We’re going on an Expedition!

I’m working my way through Expeditions finally and so far; they feel a bit empty for endgame content. Granted, we’re just two weeks into launch but with a lack of PvP, there’s not much else on tap. The idea is to damage the enemies that appear in waves, the most important aspect from my time with Expeditions is ensuring you deal enough damage before the timer runs out.

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Diving into the 14 missions available from the camp, you’ll pick your destination and head off to your location. These areas are brimming with enemies that will frustrate you but the reward you’ll get is worth it as some of the best loot is found here. The faster you clear the mission, the better you’re rewarded at the end of it.

While all of this is fun, I’ve found that in matches, where Devastator builds, are included, things tend to awry as the build is clearly not meant to play Expeditions. When the mode focuses on DPS with a timer, it’s clear you’ll need to get through each wave as quickly as possible. At the end of each match, stats are broken down and signal who did what and what they contributed. I’ve seen people booted because of going in with the wrong class and I hope this is addressed in the future because you’ll leave a good portion of players out of the fun when using the Devastator class.

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Outriders may not excel at anything in particular but it does enough right to keep things interesting. The gunplay is good, the core loop of finding new gear is fun and exploring Enoch with friends (or solo) is a blast. You’ve played a video game like this before and that’s okay, what works is how interesting the world of Enoch is, how satisfying the guns are to use, and how each of the four classes offers a unique experience. The story falls flat and isn’t anything particularly of note but we’re here for loot and lots of it. Outrider delivers when you’re going up against a trove of mutants and humans with only your powers and quick wits. While Outriders isn’t being touted as a live service game, it’s much too early to tell how long players will stick around but People Can Fly has a sturdy base at launch and it’s enough to keep coming back.

[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]

Reviewed on: PlayStation 5