Outriders’ brutal and bloody combat combines frenetic gunplay, violent powers and deep RPG systems to create a true genre hybrid.
Publisher: Square Enix
Reviewed on: PC (Ryzen 5 2600, RTX 2070 Super, 32GB DDR4)
Also available for: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Cast: Dusan Dukic, Mylene Dinh-Robic, Marcel Jeannin, Dmitry Chepovetsky, Matthew Kabwe, Lina Rossler, Catherine Berube, Kwasi Songui, Avaah Blackwell, Pascale Bussieres, Tim Post
Developer: People Can Fly
Studio Head/Lead Producer: Sebastian Wojciechowski
Creative Director: Bartosz Kmita
Lead Writer: Joshua Rubin
Art Director: Bartosz Bieluszko
Technical Director: Jaroslaw Surowiec
Although the pitch is somewhat confusing, Outriders is not a live-service looter shooter in Destiny or The Division’s vein. Instead, it’s a straight-up co-op incentivised campaign that you can play solo or with two friends. The opening hour is a slog, which also happens to be what developer People Can Fly chose to release as a demo, but after you’re through that, the game just sort of clicks. I reached a point where I sat back on thought to myself, “oh, this is Diablo meets Doom.”
If you’re coming for a story, you won’t find much here. A bombastic opening sets up a ship of Earth’s remaining humans landing on the planet Enoch. Things go wrong pretty quickly as an electric storm kicks up, combusting many where they stand, and your character is placed in cryosleep for 30 years and hopes for the best on the other side.
Would you believe 30 years later, things are only worse? The remaining humans are at war because, well, because humans do that, and you’ve awoken with new-found ‘anomaly powers.’ You’re one of a few special ones that survived being hit by the storm and came out the other end like a superhero. However, everyone else who has these powers are using them for evil, so your character decides to form a motley crew and head out across the planet looking for a way to stop the storm and answers to lingering questions from the day you landed on Enoch.
Outriders’ narrative is mainly filled with gruff-looking characters doing bad-ass grunts or one-liners. You’ll know if you’re down for paying attention to it or skipping all the cutscenes. At 20-25 hours to beat the campaign, the story does pick up in the latter half, just in time to leave a nice cliffhanger for a potential sequel.
You are really here for guns and powers, two things that Outriders does very well and with style. Whether it’s solo or co-op, Outriders leads to some intense and thrilling fights where all of your abilities and guns feel powerful.
The first few missions are somewhat slow as you play the game as a regular third-person cover-based shooter. You can find the usual suspects when it comes to guns, be it a machine gun or a shotgun; you work your way through enemies with a spray of bullets. When you’ve levelled up a couple of times and started to unlock your character class abilities, that’s when Outriders truly begins to shine.
The four classes in Outriders each have distinct abilities and play styles. The Devastator is a tank that can create shields and blast enemies from below; Pyromancer uses fire spells to engulf foes in heavy damage and immobilise; Technomancer favours long-range with support abilities including a turret; finally, the Trickster is an assassin class that can blink behind enemies and out again while slowing time.
As you reach the mid-game, you’ll realise that your class can be built to focus on key abilities. My max level 30 Pyromancer is concentrated in the Volcanic Bullets ability. This skill turns my magazine into literal fire as I pierce enemies and set them alight. Picking the right skills means I can increase my base gun and burn damage from my Volcanic Bullets. Placing skill points in the wrong place or for builds you’re no longer focused on isn’t a problem either, as you can clear and replace your skill points whenever you want for free. Much appreciated People Can Fly.
On top of the skill and spec system, Outriders also contains a fantastic weapon mod system where you simply need to have scrapped a weapon containing a mod once to be able to place it into whatever weapon you want forever. Finding and stacking the right weapon and armour mods once you reach mid-game and above is essential. Picking up a nice piece of high gear loot is excellent, but if its mods are for abilities or guns you’re not using, you may be doing yourself more harm than good.
Paying attention to your character build is less important if you keep Outriders on a lower difficulty. But there’s no fun in that, and Outriders takes a page out of Diablo’s ‘Greater Rifts’ system. Choosing to play on higher World Tiers will increase the enemy levels and the chance you’ll earn rare and legendary weapons. Playing through the entire campaign solo, the highest World Tier I managed to get to was WT8 before dropping it down for the game’s final bosses. Playing solo on the higher difficulties is far from a breeze, but it is possible. However, I can already see hardcore players attempting to beat the game with the highest WT level as a solo player, and I’m all about seeing that flex.
My Doom comparison earlier is because Outriders pushes you to make plays to gain health back. Each class has a passive way to earn health, and abilities and weapons can be modded to gain health from enemies. You cannot play Outriders like a typical third-person shooter sitting behind cover for hours. In fact, playing Outriders like it’s The Division is straight up the wrong way to play the game. The enemies will be using cover more than you — you have superhero powers! You must get aggressive to trigger your passive, or at least shoot enemies to leech their health. I love this system, and it encourages a different kind of playstyle; being on low health constantly is a thrilling aspect of this game.
When you finished the campaign, you have those aforementioned side quests available, and you can always replay missions to increase your WT level. The focus in the end-game is Expeditions, of which there are 15 to play. These are demanding missions that throw a ridiculous amount of enemies at you with no checkpoints. The first couple, I managed to be able to solo, but after that, I’ve had to jump into matchmaking — which I’ll touch on in a minute. The reward for completing these missions is, of course, high-level gear. You get better drops by completing these missions in gold, silver or bronze times. For gold rankings, the game is genuinely testing your DPS build, and as such, Outriders may stifle a team of tanks in the Expeditions.
Okay, so matchmaking. I cannot dismiss the server issues Outriders had in its first 72 hours. Although things seem to have settled now. Being in Australia with no local servers has proven to be a pain with a super-high ping and network latency issues getting me killed more than once in an Expeditions. You also can’t pause Outriders as the game is always online; this means a connection issue, even if you’re playing alone, will see you sent back to the game’s main menu in the middle of a boss fight. People Can Fly should enable an offline mode, and I’m not sure why they haven’t already.
There is crossplay between consoles and PC with Outriders, which is an excellent inclusion. Although I haven’t tested it, I assume the game’s network issues I’ve had wouldn’t favour it, and it’s currently a feature that’s offline until an upcoming patch. There’s no cross-progression just yet, which is something I’d love to see implemented in the future, but maybe get that crossplay working perfectly first.