Outriders has been released on April 1st for PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Stadia. The title was developed by People Can Fly (Painkiller, Bulletstorm, Gears of War: Judgment) using Unreal Engine 4 and published by Square Enix’s (NieR, Final Fantasy, Tomb Raider, Life is Strange) European subsidiary. Read on if you’re curious about our review of Outriders.
Just to be clear on the scope of this game from the start: Outriders is a third-person looter-shooter. The overall objective and motivation is to grind for better gear in order to face stronger enemies, which will, in return, you guessed it, reward you with better loot. In such games, the story elements are often not that great, but on the other hand, there are high expectations on multiplayer features. This is especially true for online-only titles, of course.
Outriders had an unfortunate debut. Upon launch, many players weren’t even able to connect to the servers in order to start the tutorial, which doesn’t even have options to run coop with other online players. The initial reviews from games were, therefore, negative, as they basically couldn’t play the game. Even those who got lucky got disconnected from the server after a short time. This period of facing too much server load was going on not for minutes, not for hours, but to some, for days. However, this problem has now been resolved, and the service provider was able to add sufficient resources into the pool to allow the popular title to be played without outages.
If I had to compare the quality of the story of Outriders to other looter-shooters, such as The Division 2, Borderlands 3, or Destiny 2, I’m feeling confident to say that I found the plot a lot stronger. Despite the post-apocalyptic sci-fi setting, I found all of the lore and happenings rather realistic. The story writers did a great job here, and if someone said that they had used a movie or book as a source for all this, it would seem plausible to me. Since the story is not a key element to many games of this genre, I didn’t expect it to be this good, but I am happily surprised. This is certainly setting a mark for future games that aspire to compete with Outriders.
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So what actually happens in Outriders? Certainly, I don’t want to spoil you too much, but it might be safe to say that the setting feels a bit like a mix of Mass Effect: Andromeda and Destiny. Planet Earth is no longer habitable, and so the last few chosen humans build a spaceship that takes them to a new planet, which they hope to be their new home, as the passengers are kept in cryo-sleep. Naturally, once they arrive, they are facing heaps of problems, and that’s where the Outriders come in, which would be you and your coop-friends. Even if you don’t care for looter-shooters in general, the game is still worth playing through in easy-mode just to experience the story if you ask me.
Characters and vibe
You can create your own character in Outriders, but the customization options are somewhat limited. You can choose a gender, select from some of the preset faces, change hairstyle and accessories, but this is about everything you can do. As far as character creation goes, this isn’t bad, but there is room for improvement. All cosmetics can be changed at any given point in time after the tutorial, but the character class that you select will be permanent. You can use one out of four classes which are either a long-range expert, a mid-range allrounder, a close-range speed-stealth expert, and another close-range melee tank.
One thing I didn’t like about Outriders was that you basically have no say in what happens and how the dialogues are carried out. You cannot make decisions, and you can’t choose what your character is supposed to say when talking with an NPC. I understand that this could also be a mechanic, in which the game designer tries to reduce the control over what is happening, but I feel that regardless of what happens, the player should at least have an option on what they want to respond in a dialogue.
Beyond that, the overall feeling of Outriders is rather cold. It feels like every character is unkind and grim. Of course, this could be again a part of the game design to reflect the despair, but at least the protagonist should have an option to act in a friendly way. The environment is very cruel if you think of what’s happening in Outriders. We are basically seeing the last existing few humans walking about, and still, their lives are basically worth nothing and get decimated without even thinking about it for a split second. Once more, it can be as per design, but this is the only thing I find hard to believe – facing the extinction of mankind.
Once the tutorial drops you into the battle and cold reality of Outriders, you quickly learn how to handle yourself among bad guys and aggressive creatures. As you venture through this new world and complete quests, you earn experience points on two separate pipes. You got personal experience gain which helps you level up your character and earn new skills on the one hand. On the other hand, you gain experience points to move to the next world tier. A world tier basically is a dynamic difficulty level that lets you choose how easy or how hard the game is on you. If you keep on your maximum world tier difficulty, you can get better loot, but you’ll also lose more sweat on the way. If you just want a carefree and casual gaming experience, you can take the world tier level down a few notches and enjoy the game with a little less stress.
Between missions, you can rest in your camp, check out new items that you picked up along the way, or even go deeper on configuring your equipment. You can change mods on your gear and make everything match your playstyle. If you really liked a particular piece of armor or weapon, you can keep on leveling not only yourself but also level up those items to grow with you. In order to do that, you need resources that are gained from disassembling loot that you didn’t like or as a random drop during your missions. There’s currently no transmog feature to items, but maybe they will add something like that later so that you can separate function and cosmetics as far as your equipment goes.
The idea of multiplayer coop in Outriders is basically a drop-in and drop-out gameplay experience that focuses on the host of the session. The concept of how this is supposed to work is fine, but there are still connection issues that might be related to the server performance, your own Internet connection, or the connection of other players in your team. At times disconnects can be very frustrating, and it generally takes a long time until you found a good session with friendly players.
Frustrating bits can be if you try to join open sessions, and they just kick you out after the loading period without any reason. The only thing worse than that is when someone intentionally kicks you from the game after helping them with their quest, but before you had time to collect your rewards. I think there are currently points of frustration with how you play with others, and crossplay complexity is a part of that, but given that the game has only been released, it’s also very likely that the overall experience will improve as they proceed with patches and game updates.
I think Outriders was a pleasant surprise. I didn’t expect a lot, but the story and atmosphere were great. I am not sure how well they do to keep gamers playing the game after they finished the main story, but this remains to be seen. I think the game could be a lot better if the developers would have considered an open-world setup, but considering their earlier titles like Bulletstorm, this is already a strong improvement.
I am done with the campaign now, and I am presented with the option to keep playing to grind for better gear, but I felt a hit to my motivation in doing so. This is, however, a natural aspect of any looter-shooter and nothing I want to criticize here. I am sure that everyone can enjoy this title and even more so if they can use the crossplay function to play with their friends who might be playing on other platforms.
If you want to get a better feeling for the game, feel invited to check into our gameplay video below. There might be spoilers, but everything you can see there is very early in the game, including character creation, tutorial, and the early parts of the story.
YouTube: Let’s Play – Outriders [Gameplay, No Commentary]
Photo credit: All images shown are owned by People Can Fly and Square Enix.
Editorial notice: The author played the game on Xbox Series X and completed the story before writing this review.