When the Outriders demo came out nobody seemed really excited about it and it wasn’t on my radar at all, but when it was announced it would be coming to Game Pass on day one the hype intensified and it was truly special to be able to take part in the release day festivities. I had been looking to get into a game like this, so it was great to be able to join with a fresh new audience alongside me. I look forward to more Day 1 Game Pass releases in the future.
The visuals in this game looked great, with characters, enemies, and environments that all work very well together. Sound design in this game also stands out and really adds so much to the experience. Guns and explosions all sound great and the audio cues from opening chests, activating abilities, and reaching checkpoints are all so well thought out.
Outriders in online-only even when playing single-player, which leads to some frustration. The first week especially there were huge server issues locking players out of playing the game entirely. Now that these are fixed, online-only can still lead to frustrations even at its best. One big issue for me is that it does not allow for quick resume, meaning the time from opening the game to getting into the action is much longer than for other titles I have gotten used to on the next gen systems. I have also run into cases while in a party of not being able to shoot and other issues, but they would typically resolve themselves.
This game looked to be an amalgamation of modern-day shooters, taking cues from Borderlands, Gears of War, The Division, Destiny, and more all rolled into a package without a compelling hook or its own identity. It appeared to be another game as a service in a genre oversaturated with failed games such as Anthem and Avengers (which also came from Square Enix), while specifically marketing itself as not being a service game. Everything pointed to this game being a mediocre generic shooter, but a couple of hours in I was ready to state this was the most fun I had playing a video game in a long time.
The moment-to-moment combat has not failed to entertain me in all of my hours playing Outriders. The locomotion and gunplay feel like Gears of War, which makes sense coming from People Can Fly, although taking cover and vaulting were not always intuitive. However, instead of being a typical third-person cover shooter, waiting behind barriers, the healing mechanics incentivize coming out from cover and being aggressive. The Outrider can only gain back health by dealing damage or killing enemies, so staying out of cover and in the action is sometimes the better option. Like Gears, there is not much verticality to its levels, with the Outrider not being able to jump or climb. However, there is still a ton of variety in how each set piece plays out and so many ways to approach each fight.
There are nice quality-of-life considerations in combat as well, with ample ammo restocks scattered throughout maps and with side arms never running out of ammo I rarely found myself searching for help.
The skills of each Outrider class unlock even more options in combat. Three abilities can be unleashed at the click of a button, each having cooldowns. It might sound generic but finding the best ways to combine these skills with my two main weapons and sidearm was a new challenge again and again at each new set piece and as more skills and guns were unlocked. In my campaigns I have found there was never a blanket best loadout or strategy and I truly had to put both my planning and combat skills to the test for many missions.
Progression and World Tiers
Killing enemies and finishing missions gains experience that level up the main character. Leveling up increases the Outrider’s maximum health and their anomaly power – which increases the damage from skills and melee. Leveling up to certain levels also unlocks new skills that can be equipped and class points that can be spent on a class tree. Each class’s skills and class tree are different and builds within classes can even vary widely.
Again, the quality-of-life considerations are a nice touch in the progression systems. Class trees can be reset at any point at no cost, meaning respeccing my Outrider for different situations was always an option. Failing missions again and again also still gave experience points, meaning I could still level up when failing a tough fight, eventually making it easier the next time around.
Another smart thing the game does to make tough missions easier is allowing me to change the world tier at any point. This basically equates to the difficulty. At world tier 3 (normal) enemies and loot all match the main character’s level, while each level up from there increases enemy and loot levels by one as well as increasing the chance of acquiring rarer loot. While challenging myself led to better loot, it was simple to tone down the difficulty at any point and I was not punished for doing so.
Looting and Crafting
Speaking of loot, this looter shooter truly delivers when it comes to discovering tons and tons of new guns. Time and time again I would find a new weapon that was better than what I had and made me reevaluate my strategy, my class points, my skills, and everything in order to maximize that weapon.
Higher rarity weapons and armor not only have their own attributes, but come with perks that improve skills, enhance bullets, or add exciting new aspects to combat. Crafting then allowed me to change these perks and customize all of my gear to all coordinate toward a certain gameplay. This only got more and more exciting as the game went on, with higher level perks truly changing up how I played the game. Extra gear could either be sold to buy new weapons or scrapped for materials to pay for upgrades. All of this was rewarding, but even if everything was well planned out, I could find weapons in the next area that would change those plans entirely. And again, even when I died, I would keep the loot I attained which avoided the bad feeling of losing loot and allowed me to grind even when I was failing.
Loot was also plentiful in the world, with weapon crates and material mining points hidden around every corner in every path and building. Simply stepping off the beaten path usually led to a reward which incentivized being creative in how I approached each battle.
Outriders follows a linear story with main mission and optional side quests that reward rarer loot etc. It is not an open-world game but there are branching paths in each area that lead to the areas where side-quests are completed. This is one aspect of the game that I felt like was unnecessary. All main missions and side quests were the same, simply going into a new area and killing all enemies. The game kept this fresh with new environments and enemies, but since side quests did not change the formula, I felt like there was no need to even have them. The game would be much cleaner and simpler if it progressed forward one main quest at a time. The side quests allow for grinding, but the option of replaying main missions was already there. And since enemy levels are tied to Outrider levels there was never a scenario where I could be under-leveled. These optional missions could have just been saved for those looking for post-game content.
Another great quality-of-life consideration, though, is a quest guide that draws an arrow to exactly where I need to go for the next part of each quest. However, there are a crazy amount of cutscenes, not only for story points but for going from one area to a side quest area. This can be annoying and feel unnecessary but also seemed broken a lot. I think that the levels were designed intelligently, with branching areas mostly being tied to different side quests, but many times I would try to return to an area I have been only to be locked out, or I would try to return from a side quest only to not know where to go, as the guide marker would lead somewhere I couldn’t go or to a fast travel point without it being clear where to travel to. The map is not well explained and having to travel back to Jakub in order to travel to a past area makes sense but again seemed unnecessary and a waste of time.
All this to say, again, that the side quests possibly caused more problems than they were worth, even though I do appreciate the added content in a game that felt fun to play no matter which mission I was on.
The story of Outriders is pretty forgettable. In an Interstellar-like situation, we are exploring a new planet to inhabit but our civilization gets stuck here on a planet that is more dangerous than we could have imagined. The main character is an Outrider than gets “altered” by this planet and is frozen for 30 years and returned into a war against themselves and against the planet. It is easy to get muddled at points in this story with who I was actually fighting at any point and why, and with so many cutscenes it can be tempting to skip them and get back to blasting. Especially since the acting does little to help keep me invested in the story. Overall the plot did enough to keep things interesting even though it was really the gameplay and the loot grind that kept me going forward.
Having 4 different Outrider classes means this game begs to be played again. I have two characters already, a Pyromancer that I am playing solo and a Trickster that I am going through the game as with a friend, and each class is so deep and has so many of its own perks and skills and builds that I could not get tired of toying with. With my main character I am excited to experience the end game content and excited to see what DLC may be in store, but no matter what even the main game has enough to keep me entertained for plenty of time.
Appearing as a generic third-person cover shooter with no truly novel hooks or concepts, Outriders aimed to break through an oversaturated market. Being bogged down by online-only gameplay on poor servers and having a forgettable story and side-quests, this game was set to be dead on arrival, but it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable gaming experiences I have had in a long time.
The moment to moment gameplay is exciting and challenging, while the progression and crafting systems allowed me to think very deeply about how I wanted to utilize each skill and weapon that I had. This all combined to give set piece after set piece that had me exploring every route and strategy leading to the rewarding loot at the end. This loop never grew old and new skills and weapons made the gameplay deeper and better as the story went on. Whether I was experiencing it on my own and taking in all of the story and nitty gritty of the RPG elements, or whether I was just running and gunning through enemies with a friend, this game was simply a blast every step of the way. It isn’t without its issues, but it is what I would be at the top of my recommendations for anyone just looking for a fun time.
Fun and rewarding gameplay
Thoughtful skills and RPG elements
Easy to pick up and play alone or co-op
Buggy online elements
Superfluous side quests
Mediocre story and acting