Looter shooters try hard to keep you locked in its progression system and, to some extent, its plot. Essentially, Outriders manages to overcome the repetition and boredom that comes with killing enemies that take more than just bullets to silence but that’s only stretched as long as you pay attention to its space colonization story. Which is to say, you will manage to stick around till the end of the game if you’re interested in a Gears of War-like combat and story mashed with a Destiny-like loot system.
Outriders’ main campaign is nice, tolerable to say the least. People Can Fly studio has put in the effort to build a world filled with intrigue and secrecy which will push you to put 25 or so hours into completing its main campaign. Your character is part of an Outriders team that sets foot on a new planet before everything goes completely berserk and you were put into cryosleep. Fast forward to 30 years and your character wakes up from their cryosleep to find out that the planet was infested with a life-threatening weather system called the Anomaly. And as most looter shooter story tend to navigate their premise, here too you’ll find humans fighting one another for power and resources. Although in Outriders they’re are also trying to fend off or join forces with folks that are affected by the Anomaly. Folks that are affected by the Anomaly receive supernatural powers, your character included obviously.
The dialogues definitely need some work. Nearly everyone tells you that you’re not going to come back alive from any place they send you for a mission. I was immediately rolling my eyes back when I heard my character say “I’ll look into it but no promises” for the one-millionth time. Ok, that’s a bit of exaggeration but you get my point! Intriguing plot, but dialogues and voice acting needs work.
Much of the world and its design reminds me of Avatar. Remember the movie with blue aliens and lush fauna? Yes that, but I was not impressed with the number of enemy types. Sure the Anomaly affected bosses had their quirks. Some used teleports to pull you closer from your hiding spot and the others simply buffed their gun-wielding colleagues. There was some variety in the humanoid enemies but the natural denizens of this new planet were same-y. Monsters lost their charm after the first 10hours into the game because we’d seen it all. Outriders needs big boss baddies and mammoth bosses different from the previous ones to keep things fresh. Even trophy hunting side missions had literally the same monsters throughout our 25-hour campaign.
The Gears of War-styled cover shooting mechanics don’t always work well with Outriders. It’s always satisfying to watch enemy heads explode when you get a kill with a sniper rifle from afar but when enemies push you out of your cover, moving from one cover to another is clunky and annoying. Outriders can feel a bit fast-paced in its combat, and for a cover shooter to thrive, bullet-sponge enemies are not always fun to deal with.
Of course, you can jump in with a friend and also balance out the world level as you desire. Difficulty can be increased or decreased at any time depending on how much ammo you want to exhaust while killing bosses. The level-based tier system is quite fun to play around with, do you risk time and effort into fighting high-level bosses to reap higher-level rewards? Or do you simply tone it down to complete the story and be rewarded as low as the level you’re on? It’s a great system but one that needs a wee bit of fine-tuning to stay balanced in a not-so-full squad. It might seem a bit unfair if you play solo or duo. We would recommend joining into full teams of three and taking on bosses because with two people in the party, the boss battles stretch for way too long and in the lower tiers the reward doesn’t feel worth the effort.
Aside from the joy of playing with friends you also get to see other character classes in action. There are four character classes to choose from. The Trickster can manipulate time, the Devastator is for wreaking havoc, the Pyromancer is for people who love to play with fire and the Techonomancer uses ice turrets and other gadgets to inflict damage. All classes are fun to play but you cannot swap between them mid-game. Each class also has a massive skill tree and a small selection of abilities to use. Each of these abilities will change your playstyle a little. I chose the Technomancer for freezing enemies and giving myself some breathing space to inflict damage from the cover. The Trickster and Devastator are meant for people who enjoy close-range combat.
Inventory management is also important. Managing level based weapons and armour is essential in all looter shooters and Outriders is no exception. It reminds us of Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 but a wee bit easier to manage and with less repetitive and redundant drops. Weapons and armours also have mods that can be collected from dismantling unwanted loot and plugging them onto equipped items. What we didn’t understand is the shard system in the inventory menu and how it is calculated, and also why we can only change one mod per weapon? Answers to these questions are lurking somewhere in the depths of Reddit and Google but it would be nice if the game explained it.
The game does have some server issues. We would drop out of games sometimes but it’s all patched up since the launch date. It’s also very pretty and impressive during combat. Your weapons and abilities not only change the way you play but each one looks different and quite flamboyant. The Tricksters time-warping abilities reduce the enemy to a skeleton structure mid-combat and the Technomancer’s ice turret can freeze enemies, even if they’re mid-air! We tested the game on our benchmark RTX 2080Ti and we got around 70+ frame rate on 2K resolution with DLSS enabled. The DLSS performance on Nvidia’s latest GPUs is quite stable, even when you push the settings to 4K. We even plonked the game on our Dell G3 and got similar results on medium to low settings.
PC storage used for review: WD Black SN750 NVMe M.2 Internal SSD
No matter how much I play Outriders, there’s a sense of boredom in its combat. For some reason, Outriders doesn’t hit the sweet spot of risk and reward. The game really punishes you for not staying in cover, and the clunky movement doesn’t help either. If you’re on the higher tier difficulty, enemies will somehow find a shot at you even though it seems like it shouldn’t be the case. Aimbot, maybe?
That’s just one of the many reasons Outriders felt like it needed a bit more polish. Enemy variety is also limited, and after the main campaign is done, we had little to no reason to push for the side missions.
It’s still a pretty and imaginative game. A looter shooter at heart, but unfortunately might get swept under the rug soon enough.