On the surface, it’d be easy to look at Outriders as just another live service looter-shooter to add to the ever-growing pile… but no, it’s a lot more than that. Sure, you’ll spend plenty of hours chasing loot and shooting away at baddies, and yeah, there’s a heavy focus placed on co-op play and tackling additional activities once you’ve beaten the main campaign. What’s different here is that Outriders feels so complete, with the story having a clear beginning and end and no unnecessary in-game purchases required or need to play with others online to have the most fun. It just feels more straightforward and, in turn, more enjoyable (at least for me anyway).
It also just so happens to be a damn good game to play, albeit one with a few issues here and there. Do they prevent it from striving towards gaming greatness? I don’t think so – in fact, I’d go as far as saying that Outriders is my favourite game that I’ve played for some time.
Outriders takes place in a time where Earth has been destroyed and humanity has to colonize on a different planet, with Enoch destined to be the new home for the human race. With a foundation that’s similar to Earth and a whole host of beautiful sights to be seen, it seemed like the perfect fit.
You head to the planet as part of a team of Outriders to help establish the new home and ensure that the planet is safe, with everything seemingly running smoothly to begin with. That is when the Anomaly hits. An unknown force of energy engulfs the area and wipes out everything that the humans have managed to establish so far, with the wildlife of the planet seemingly mutating and growing in aggression towards those that pose a threat. Yep, that means the humans.
Somehow, you survive the event but find yourself waking over thirty-years later after being placed in cryosleep. What do you witness upon your awakening? Well, Enoch has taken a turn for the worst, with the planet engulfed in endless wars and both humanity and the dangerous creatures that roam the land threatening the well-being of those that hoped to make it their home. It’s up to you to help fix this and maybe find out what caused all of the problems to begin with – fortunately, the Anomaly gave you some interesting new powers to help with this…
The team at People Can Fly have done a good job in establishing a narrative for Outriders that’s easy to invest yourself in, though it never does anything particularly unpredictable to help it stand out in the crowd. A hostile environment that’s full to the brim with baddies that want to take you out? Yeah, we’ve seen that one before. It’s not a bad thing by any means, but I did find it hard to feel overly intrigued by the happenings of Enoch.
However, it is interesting to look at the bigger picture and how humanity manages to seemingly ruin anything that they touch. Would Enoch have remained peaceful and safe if the humans never landed there? It’s hard to say, but it shows that maybe it wasn’t Earth that was the problem with the human race, but actually the species itself.
Either way, you should expect a tale that doesn’t do anything out of the norm or introduce any characters that you’ll find particularly endearing, but that adds a decent enough context to all of the shooting to make you feel invested in what’s going on. And believe me, it’s with all of the shooting that Outriders REALLY shines.
At its core, Outriders is a third-person shooter that’ll see you navigate a selection of fairly large areas, ranging from the likes of luscious forests, chilly mountaintops, and peculiar ruins. Enoch certainly has an impressive landscape to explore and it certainly sets itself up as the perfect battlefield for intense and strategic shootouts. The basics of these include things such as running, gunning, taking cover, rolling out of the way of attacks, and so forth, so anyone who has played a third-person shooter before will feel right at home. It gets all of these fundamentals right and it never stops feeling satisfying to face off against a group of foes in a shootout, but that’s not where Outriders shows off its greatest strengths. Instead, it’s with the four different classes that it offers that allows the player to become a truly destructive warrior with incredible abilities.
Outriders features four different classes for players to choose between that bring with them their own strengths. The Devastator is a close range tank, the Pyromancer is a medium range conjurer that utilises fire-based abilities, the Technomancer offers a long-range tech role that focuses on support, whilst the Trickster is a sneaky close-range fighter that will bend the laws of space and time to strike. It’s worth noting that you can’t change your class after picking it and have to stick with it for the entirety of the game, but you can have multiple character slots if you decide you want to try each one out.
Whilst I have tinkered with each of the classes, I stuck with the Trickster for my main playthrough. I mean, come on, who wouldn’t want to be able to bend the laws of space in order to assassinate their opponents with ease, right? Ultimately, your choice will come down to how you want to play the game, with no ‘right or wrong’ options when it comes to playing through Outriders.
The Trickster brought with it an array of abilities that could change the tide of battle, with up to three able to be equipped at a time. Whilst some of these abilities simply dish out damage (like the ‘Twisted Rounds’ which add an anomaly-attribute to the bullets you shoot), others can affect your movement or de-buff enemies. ‘Hunt the Prey’ will let you automatically teleport towards an enemy to strike up close for example, whilst the ‘Slow Trap’ will inflict slow on enemies in your vicinity. One of my personal favourites was the ‘Time Rift’ that would suspend enemies in mid-air to make them easy targets – I might have only been able to equip three abilities at a time, but this was one that I always made sure I had at my disposal. That being said, it was also cool to be able to damage, paralyze, and de-buff enemies by using the awesome sounding ‘Temporal Blade’, so there really is plenty of play around with.
Each of the four classes brings with them different traits that can affect how they play, with the most significant being based around how they heal. As the Trickster, any enemy you kill in close range will recover health and shield, making it imperative that you focus on taking out enemies that are closer to you. Naturally, this is something that is complimented by the abilities of the class, with the game essentially offering a ‘correct’ way to play as each character that will reward players with health for doing so. It’s a clever idea and one that encouraged me to do more than simply shoot at enemies from afar or behind cover, but instead head straight to them to take them out up close. On the flip-side, it also put me in unnecessary danger if I was low on health and WANTED to play safe, so it does have its downsides that saw a few deaths occur during my time playing.
You’re able to upgrade your character as you level up, with the skill tree offering a wide range of different bonuses to increase your capabilities. You can shape these as you please, with each offering boosts that tie in closely with the specific skills of each class and the abilities at their disposal. Again, it’s satisfying to play around with and really allows players to shape their skillsets to their own play styles.
However, whilst these are fundamental to your progression, it’s the loot you gather that is the most important in Outriders. As with similar games in the genre, you’ll collect loot as you complete quests and take down enemies, with new weapons, gear, and mods the reward for your progress. Naturally, certain weapons will be more effective for different classes; the Trickster is well-suited for shotguns thanks to their focus on close range for example, whilst rifles suit the more distance-orientated Technomancer. You’re not limited by what you can actually equip though, so there’s plenty of freedom for players to use what they want.
On the other hand, utilising the mods you collect can be essential to making the most of your character’s abilities. Each mod brings with them something different, whether that’s to provide more attacking power, inflict more de-buffs to enemies, or simply give the player more protection, so swapping them out and ensuring they compliment your loadout can be the difference between life and death. Some of the mods are especially designed to play towards individual classes too, with these specifically powering up individual abilities. Do you want an ability to last longer or bring with it more strength? Finding and equipping these mods will help you.
Again, it shows the level of depth to be found in building your character in Outriders, with the freedom offered never growing overwhelming but instead remaining satisfying throughout. I’ve played plenty of loot-focused games where I simply tire of gathering new gear, but I welcomed every drop with open arms here and found myself excited to see how it could help me out in my next showdown.
It helps that Outriders is just so damn fun to play. The shooting of the game is tight and satisfying throughout, the level design opens itself up to plenty of neat set pieces, whilst the range of abilities you have at your disposal compliments all of the action taking place. There’s plenty of room for strategy by co-ordinating the use of your weaponry and abilities in sync, whilst the power of your capabilities ensures that you’re never at a disadvantage if you use your skills efficiently. Whether you’re playing through the main story or simply tackling the unlockable Expeditions that come after it to improve your character loadout and power level, there’s a REALLY good time to be had in Outriders.
One thing I haven’t touched upon is the multiplayer of Outriders, with up to three players able to play together in co-op action through the entirety of the game (post prologue). Given how fun the gunplay and abilities of the game are, this has made for some incredibly satisfying moments for me and my buddies where we have been able to use our different characters and their varied abilities in tandem to unleash hell upon our enemies. Outriders already offers plenty of strategy when playing solo thanks to the variety of the move set that each class brings, but when playing with additional players that bring something different to the fray, the possibilities are endless. Be warned, though: whilst you’ll definitely feel a LOT more powerful, the enemies will become more difficult to compensate for the extra players. Of course, you can decrease or increase the difficulty in-game with ease if you want more or less of a challenge, with this affecting the quality of the loot you earn along the way.
Whilst the multiplayer brings with it plenty of strengths (including cross-play between different platforms), Outriders has seen a pretty rocky launch right now that has caused plenty of issues for players. I’ll admit, there have been times where I have seen the game completely crash on me mid-mission due to a server issue, whilst there have also been times where I haven’t even been able to boot into the game. It’s something that has improved over the weekend (and it won’t affect my score in any way), but it’s definitely worth pointing out – especially since the single player mode has to be connected online too, with the issues also seeing me struggle to simply progress when playing solo over the weekend.
Other than the server issues, I’ve had a blast with Outriders. Sure, the missions can be a bit guilty of being linear in design and the environments do lack a bit of originality, but the action that occurs across them remains top-notch throughout. The enemy variety is great thanks to its blend of human foes and mutated creatures, whilst the boss battles provide some real spectacles that’ll really test your skills. I’ll admit that I would like to see a little bit more variety to the Expeditions to keep me coming back to the game post-completion outside of gathering loot, but as it stands I can see Outriders being a game that I’ll be spending a LOT of hours with in the near future.
Outriders is an absolute blast to play, with it easily standing out as my favourite game of 2021 so far. I won’t deny that it has some issues (the early server problems being the most obvious), but they’re easy to look past when the combat mechanics are so varied and fun, building your character and unlocking new loot is satisfying, and sharing the experience with friends brings with it a rewarding sense of strategy. It’s brilliant.
It doesn’t re-invent the looter-shooter genre in any way and there won’t be anything on offer that you wouldn’t have seen done before, but it doesn’t matter – especially since all of the things it offers are of a high quality. Everything Outriders does is done well and it makes for a super fun experience because of it. There might be a few teething issues right now, but I’m excited to spend more hours with my friends taking down the baddies that are roaming across our new home of Enoch…
Developer: People Can Fly
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC
Click here to visit the official website.