With games as a service and looter shooters coming to dominate the gaming industry, it takes something special to stand tall above giants like Destiny. However, it is looking like People Can Fly’s Outriders may be able to rise to the occasion.
Outriders presents a rather interesting narrative, fluid combat, and a deep skill tree that will keep looter shooter fans engaged for weeks to come. Most games have some kind of downside, though, and Outriders is no exception. Weighed down as it is by repetitive missions, bland environments, and archetypal characters, not everything is right with the design of Outriders.
As I first booted up the Outriders demo, I was shocked to find myself thrown straight into the game’s world and lore. I had been expecting nothing more than a fun shooter that allowed me to craft gear and pick up better weapons. So to be drawn into the game’s world building within the first few minutes of the demo was a welcomed surprise.
The setup is that humanity fled a dying Earth and have been searching for a new home. Unfortunately, once landed on the promising world of Enoch, all hell broke loose and the titular Outriders were forced into a 30 year long cryosleep. The player’s character awakens to find Enoch in complete chaos, with multiple factions fighting one another and the planet tearing itself apart. Thus, it falls to the player to ascertain what happened in that 30 year period and make sense of their newly emerged powers.
The narrative is conveyed through some gorgeous cutscenes with stellar character models and solid voice work. Each mission fleshes out the time between the prologue and the first act at a steady pace that strikes an admirable balance of action and story. The main plotline has hooked me thus far, but two of the available side quests I have undertaken have also done well at connecting the central narrative concerns with the larger world.
Outriders’ lore also gets just as much attention as the main and side quests do. I was surprised to see just how much People Can Fly added, as most of the lore bits have to be sought out in the form of collectables. Each collectable adds to the world and presents further value for those players trying to get the most out of exploring Enoch.
At first glance, Outriders presents itself as just an average cover-based third-person shooter, but it turns out to be a little deeper than that. Each gun offers a different way to play, pairing well with the four separate character classes for a fun and thoughtful gameplay loop.
Once players complete the prologue, they are given a choice between four classes: Trickster, Pyromancer, Devastator, and Technomancer. Each class has distinct strengths and weaknesses, and the player is locked into whichever class they have chosen for their character.
I started off with Trickster and feel that it is still my favorite way to play. Trickster is meant to get the player as close and personal with their enemies as possible, carrying with it some incredible skills to boot. When first becoming a Trickster, the player is presented with an ability that allows them to strike enemies with a sword made of the very fabric of time, aging said foes to death.
Pairing this with the power to teleport behind enemies and take them out from behind made combat feel exhilarating. When in danger Tricksters are also able to slow down time, not only allowing for a short moment to catch their breath but also offering some spectacular visuals like enemies’ gunfire slowing to a crawl.
Once I unlocked the four skills available to me in the demo, I moved onto the Pyromancer class, which I found to be a little lackluster. If you enjoy area of effect and mid-range combat, then this class is a perfect choice. It’s worth noting that throwing up firewalls and immobilizing enemies did have me cracking a smile, and I believe this class will excel in a team setting.
Devastator is the tank class; if you want to inflict a great deal of damage without suffering much yourself, this class should be your focus. The Gravity Leap ability lets players leap across an arena and slam down on multiple foes, with the entire maneuver being both gratifying to perform and gorgeous to witness. Paired with the Trickster’s time slowing powers, this can make for quite the powerful combo.
The Techomancer is for all the support players out there, but if you plan on soloing Outriders you will be happy to know that Technomancers can still hold their own. While being the only class with team healing abilities, players are encouraged to fight from a distance by setting up turrets and freezing enemies.
With a team of four friends, each using a separate class, players should be able to discover some rather unorthodox combos to turn the tide in battle and deliver a feeling of satisfaction often missing from these sorts of games.
3-Equip/dismantle in field
One of my biggest issues with the games as a service design model is the player has to slog through menus after picking up new gear. Anthem and the vanilla version of Destiny were among the worst offenders when it came to this problem, slowing the action to a crawl and making inventory management more tedious than exciting. Outriders fixes this issue by allowing players to take one glance at the new gear and determine if it’s worth their while.
Once equipment is dropped, players will find a pop up menu listing the item’s various statistics, such as its defense or attack capabilities. From there, they can quickly decide whether they want to pick up the item, equip it, or scrap it outright for currency to spend in the shops. This goes a long way towards speeding up the moment-to-moment gameplay and keeping people engaged.
World Tier is a new concept for me and I really enjoyed experiencing it. As the player progresses through missions, they obtain world experience that serves to “level up” the world, making enemies harder but also drop better gear. Another great inclusion to the World Tier is the ability to lower it whenever it seems as though things may be a bit too tough.
I myself made it to World Tier Five on my own and only felt overwhelmed in a few areas of the game. I wasn’t able to find anyone online to play with, though whether it was the time at which I was playing or just a server issue I am not certain. It did, however, fill me with pride when I defeated a particularly troublesome mini boss without lowering the World Tier.
Similar to any given looter shooter, the primary way to obtain gear in Outriders is to fight through a gauntlet of enemies during missions. As each mission can be replayed at one’s discretion, it’s recommended to play on a higher World Tier than before, in order to obtain loot of increasing quality. Every gun, helmet, coat, and pair of pants attained were all obvious and immediate in their visual differences, to say nothing of the impact made on player stats.
Outriders does a great job in rewarding players with useful gear that is also interesting on an aesthetic level. I am still farming for some legendary loot by replaying missions and having a blast. Farming doesn’t feel like a chore thanks to the great combat loop and fair delivery of loot drops that never disappointed.
5-Lack of Mission Variety
With the five or so hours I have spent with Outriders, I have yet to encounter a single mission that deviates from the standard objective of “kill a bunch of enemies”. This didn’t damper my fun too much but it did take away from the overall experience.
Once I started a new character, however, that is when I really took notice of just how little variety there was to the mission structure. Once the full game releases, I do hope there will be more to missions than just “go to a place, take out some enemies, rinse and repeat.”
Pretty as Outriders is with its particle effects, gorgeous lighting storms, and well detailed character models, the environments themselves feel rather bland. When the player first arrives on Enoch, they are greeted with lush forests teeming with wildlife. Once past the prologue, it becomes clear that players are trapped in a grey world ripped straight from the drab military shooters of the 2010s.
Outriders feels behind the times when it comes to the matter of world design. Having each individual mission and side quest locked behind separate doors and areas didn’t encourage me to go out of my way to explore once I was out of the mission area.
To be honest, this approach reminded me of older Monster Hunter games, where each time the player left an area they were greeted with load screens. Thankfully the loading didn’t affect the gameplay, but it did mess up the pacing and force me to start at a boring static image for a while.
It’s strange that Outriders’ world building feels as though it had so much love and thought put into it yet the characters come across as something of an afterthought. The player character doesn’t have much of a personality to them, while every secondary character just functions to serve the story and spout dialogue at the audience. The voice acting was well done but won’t leave any lasting impressions, leaving me wanting a bit more where characters were concerned.
1-Potential Falling Out
My final issue with Outriders is that I can see many people falling off not long after trying this demo. Though the combat is fun and the details of the world seem interesting, I am hoping that people stick around afterwards to experience the full story. After my time experimenting with each class, I found myself wanting to move on to something different, feeling as though my time might be better spent elsewhere.
That’s not to say there is a lack of content, but there are the dual problems of a repetitive mission structure and not much diversity in the enemies until reaching the bosses. Plus, with each character class not adding much to the narrative side of the game, Outriders may be best experienced with three other players. As stated before, though, I wasn’t able to find other players despite the demo being in “the top ten most downloaded games on steam”.
I do hope Outriders is able to get past the initial rocky start that plagues the launch of most looter shooters and get long term support from the developers and fans alike. Overall, I had a blast with Outriders and I am looking forward to playing more once the full game launches on April 1st for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One X, Xbox Series X, and PC.