If you’ve played any shooting game released in the past five years then you’ll know exactly what you’re getting from Outriders. Large maps with multiple cover spots, a horde of enemies to gun down, endless loot drops, skill trees, character customization… you know the drill. What differentiates Outriders is its World War I-inspired environments and earnest attempt to tell a story.
While the latter’s execution isn’t perfect, the narrative contains more depth than others in the genre. With that said, an emphasis on narrative can’t hide the fact that Outriders is a largely derivative title. However, if you’re looking for something entertaining to play with a group of friends, Outriders fits the bill.
Taking place in the far future, the story centers around Earth’s last survivors leaving their homeworld behind and taking to the stars. Their new home, planet Enoch, appears idyllic at first, with its vast stretches of untouched natural beauty. Things break down shortly after the intro when a mysterious cosmic storm rips through the planet. Enoch becomes worse than the destroyed Earth the humans left behind. The survivors battle one another for resources while Enoch’s twisted ecology does its best to kill everyone on the planet. It’s rough out there in space. As an Outrider who gains strange powers from the storms, it’s your job to find a way to restore peace on Enoch and ensure humankind’s survival.
The central plot moves along at a good pace and is fairly consistent. You understand character motivations, and plot threads are resolved in a conclusive manner. Enoch’s backstory is revealed over the course of the game while twists and reveals keep you guessing. There is nothing functionally wrong with the tale. Unfortunately, the unconvincing acting hampers it.
Having characters delivering flat dialogue during what should be emotional moments yanks you from the experience. Your main character’s inconsistent personality doesn’t help matters either. One minute, they’re sympathetic to people’s suffering. The next, they’re cold and pragmatic — doing things purely for their own survival. Again, there’s a solid story here, but the delivery feels stilted and uninspired.
Instruments of pain
The four available character classes: Pyromancer, Technomancer, Devastator, and Tricker come with their own unique and devastating attacks. Turning foes to smoldering ash as a Pyromancer or taking them out from long-range as a Technomancer is extremely satisfying. You’ll absolutely crush enemy hordes if you’re in a full party of four. The game does an exceptional job of balancing character powers. For example, a Trickster can slow enemies down so a Devastator can jump into the middle of their ranks and tear them apart with earth-based attacks. The different powers not only pummel foes, but provide a visual feast as their individual effects flare on-screen. Generous cooldown periods ensure you’re not stuck using normal weapons for long.
The weapons in question include handguns, assault rifles, shotguns, and sniper rifles. As the game progresses, you’ll find deadlier variants of each. At first, all guns simply shoot standard bullets. Later on, you’ll receive mods that add effects like burn and slow. Some bullets will even heal you. You’re also free to craft stronger weapons to better handle the increasingly deadlier hordes. This aspect isn’t useful during your first playthrough since enemies and environments provide you with better tools of destruction. But during the endgame, you’ll need to upgrade your preferred weapons (and armor) to get the best out of them. Weapons deliver satisfying impact when fired, each feeling chunky and dangerous, and the visceral impact guns have on foes is rewarding.
You gain experience points by defeating enemies, completing missions, and progressing through the narrative. Each new level raises your character’s base stats (strength, defense, etc) and grants you the skill points necessary for unlocking new abilities. You can only equip three abilities at a time. As such, you’ll have to consider which skills are most useful to you. A balance between short-range and long-range skills is vital. You’ll gain levels consistently which gives you a chance to try out all of the deadly abilities available to your character class.
World tiers are Outriders’ version of difficulty levels. You’ll unlock higher World tiers as you gain levels and complete missions. The difficulty gap between tiers can be grueling and seem insurmountable. This is the game’s way of telling you that you need to replay previous missions to obtain better armor, mods, and weapons to survive. Of course, if you manage to complete higher World tiers (especially if you’re underpowered), you’ll be rewarded with better loot than you would at lower tiers. You can lower the World tier whenever you want if things become frustrating.
In Outriders, you’ll face many types of baddies. There are standard grunt soldiers who stick behind cover and shoot you from a distance. Crazed knife-wielding berserker-types run at you, forcing you from your own cover. The same is true of the too-precise snipers and grenade throwers. Seriously, how are these guys so good? You’ll also have to contend with mini-bosses possessing superpowers like yours. These are often bullet-sponge foes that take a lot of damage. Boss battles pit you against others with powers like yourself in fights that are a highlight since bosses’ attacks and behavior patterns are unlike those of other opponents.
Since you’re on an alien planet, numerous monsters will also try to end your life. Unlike human foes, aliens almost all rush at you, forcing you to stay on the move. Alien grunts come at you in great numbers but are easy to bring down. Some aliens spit acid from a distance while bigger brute types try to stomp you to death. Monster bosses are a bring spot in the same way human bosses are one of the game’s main highlights. Fighting a giant volcano spider or towering mountain troll force you to utilize different strategies. Alien monsters are one of the few things that makes Outriders stand out from similar games, especially if you’re a kaiju lover.
For some, finishing the campaign is only the beginning. Endgame content consists of Expedition missions, which are combat levels where the goal is surviving against waves of enemies to obtain rare loot. Like the campaign, Expeditions also dole out rarer gear at higher difficulty levels. Those who love crafting the perfect build will find a home in Expeditions since they’ll need a finely-tuned character to overcome the odds. Expeditions become repetitive after a while since you replay the same maps in hopes of obtaining specific pieces of gear. But because you’re free to ignore Expeditions after finishing the campaign, you won’t miss out on much. Those in it for the long haul will salivate at the grind-centric nature of Expeditions.
Outriders’ levels conjure images of World War I’s chaotic and claustrophobic trench warfare. The first few stages in particular feature moments where you’re fighting enemies within narrow, mud-covered ditches. One section even has you “going over the top” and gives you a small sense of what real soldiers faced when trying to gain ground in that deadly war. It’s something you rarely see in games and it works convincingly well. Add in strange alien jungles, deserts, and mountain tops to the mix and Outriders becomes one of the most distinctive-looking shooters around.
You won’t need a super-beefy PC or laptop to play Outriders. At a minimum, the game requires a rig with an Intel i5-3470 CPU, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 750ti GPU, 8GB of RAM, 70GB of system storage, and Windows 10. The game ran great on my gaming PC, with its Intel i7-4790 CPU and GTX 1080 CPU. I consistently saw frame rates hover between 70 to 90 fps in both indoor and outdoor environments with unlocked frames. I preferred locking the frames to 60 to keep things as stable as possible.
Strength in numbers
One of Outriders’ biggest strengths is that it has no microtransactions whatsoever. You get a complete package right out of the box. Considering how most multiplayer games nickel and dime players with superfluous add-ons, it’s refreshing to see a title completely avoid the Games as a Service (GaaS) trend. Another commendable aspect is crossplay, which allows players on Xbox, PC, and PlayStation to play together.
My time playing Outriders passed without incident, but many have and continue to suffer connection issues. Having a game drop on you during the middle of a co-op match is frustrating, but when it happens while playing solo is worse. Yes, Outriders is always connected to the internet, even if you’re playing by your lonesome. Stabilizing the servers would help, but so would providing a pure offline option. Perhaps there’s a technical reason for why the game has to always be online, but I can’t think of any. I just hope a future update will remedy this problem.
Outriders won’t set the gaming world ablaze, but it delivers a solid looter shooter experience. Considering the relative dry spell we’re currently seeing in gaming, Outriders should tide people over until more games drop in the coming months. It’s also possible to see it grow into the next looter hit. I’m sure People Can Fly will release additional content if there’s demand for it. If you’re burnt out on the looter genre then Outriders won’t do much for you. But if you can’t get enough of grinding for loot, you’ll find a lot to like here.