Developer: People Can Fly
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Stadia, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Windows (Reviewed)
Release Date: 1 April 2021
Price: $59.99 USD/ $99.95 AUD – Available Here
Polish developers People Can Fly finally released a new IP after a decade of working on Fortnite, Gears of War, and Bulletstorm remasters. Outriders is a fast-paced shooter/RPG hybrid offering four classes and a ton of class specialization options. The game supports 1-3 players with crossplay.
The writers struggle to establish an identity for Outriders. At first, the game is campy, almost rivalling People Can Fly’s most beloved hit Bulletstorm. The player is far from the perfect hero, and the game doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously. The main story tends to be a little more serious, but the side quests is where the writers really let loose. The characters are one dimensional, and the plot is extremely predictable though. The initial campiness makes the boring writing seem like it was all part of the joke. The writing becomes more serious around the mid-point and exposes the weak writing for all to see. Outriders would have been far better served to lean into the campiness as it not only covers up the weak writing, but also matches the over-the-top spirit of the game better.
Outriders is a loot and shoot RPG that is reminiscent to action RPGs like Diablo and Grim Dawn. The first part of the game is a short story-based campaign that will take most characters to the level cap. End game consists of repeating or finishing campaign quests to attain max world level and completing time-based expeditions for loot.
Outriders feels more like an RPG than a standard shooter due to the high level of build customization. There are four classes in the game. Each class picks three active abilities from a pool of eight. There are three skill trees with a few options for players to cross over into other trees. Finally, each piece of equipment has two mod slots with a large pool of mods to collect. This is an excellent game for build tinkerers as there are tons of opportunity for synergy, and some incredibly fun builds have already been crafted by the community.
Combat is extremely aggressive as enemies hit very hard and are constantly pushing players out of cover. The game almost requires players to be so aggressive that the player can outheal and dodge incoming damage with the correct spec. The cover mechanics don’t feel very responsive compared to the competition as movement is slightly nonstandard and some environmental objects actually aren’t cover. Luckily, cover is only used for short bursts. The third person camera angle can be a little tough at times when zoomed in, especially against ground-targeted spells. There is a blue area of denial fire that is already difficult to see when zoomed out and is nearly impossible to see when zoomed in. Some UI tweaks to make telegraphed indicators more obvious would be helpful here.
Gunplay is tight for the most part. Guns are organized into three broad categories, and all the types gamers come to expect are covered. While most of the guns are reasonably balanced, there is still work to be done. Sniper rifles pale comparison to their unscoped counterparts at end game because of the slower pace. Pump action shotguns are in a similar boat, as they fail to strike the right balance of range, ammo capacity, and damage.
The campaign is linear in nature with plenty of side quests. The level design is good for the most part, but there are some infuriating sections where the difficulty spikes up significantly compared to the rest of the game. The world tier system is a good idea, but not particularly useful. Players gain world tier levels as they play the campaign at the maximum available world tier to unlock better loot and harder enemies; however, it’s simply more efficient to just power through the campaign at a low world tier to get to the end game where loot comes at a faster pace in expeditions.
End game is really where Outriders shines right now. It consists mainly of time-based expeditions involving set levels and enemy spawns. Expedition difficulty uses a challenge tier system similar to the world tiers. Higher challenge tiers and faster clear times result in more and better loot. Combined with the endless spec tinkering, Outriders delivers an incredibly addictive end game so far. While it’s hard to say how well the end game will hold up in six months time, I can easily see the end game keeping me occupied for the next three months.
The game is designed for co-op. The single player features feel completely ignored. Solo play requires an active internet connection. The resurrection system feels like active hostility towards solo players. Campaign checkpoints are spaced far apart. Failing expeditions means players need to start from the beginning. In co-op, players get one free self-revive per checkpoint and unlimited assisted revives. In singleplayer, players simply die. Combined with the connection issues that currently plague the game, solo play is a miserable experience.
Outriders excels at the small quality of life features. Item management is almost perfect. There are lots of filters to destroy or sell items by rarity, and it is clear what items will improve stats or add skills to the modification library. The modification library allows weapon fire modes to be swapped for a small fee. All items can be picked up from the ground with a key press, and there is a rarity filter. Respecs can be done in the field for free.
There are a few quality of life issues. The main map is passive and has little detail. The mini-map has more active information but can’t be zoomed out. Information about equipment mods is poorly presented. Unlike stats, there’s no way to see all mods currently equipped in one central location. The mod library is a grid of icon that requires players to hover over each mod until they find what they need. A list view is desperately needed here.
Artistically, Outriders looks like Mad Max and Mass Effect had a love child. The guns are more modern with a post-apocalyptic twist. It’s unique enough to give Outriders an enjoyable style. My only issue is with faces. There’s something oddly unrealistic that doesn’t fit in well. Tiago’s face looks especially bad, looking downright cartoony compared to the rest of the game.
The audio experience is decent. The music is solid. The sound effects are good, though the sound of distant gunfire sounds a bit off. It sounds more like a rattle than far off gunfire. The voice acting is a mixed bag. Most of the main characters are done well, but some of the minor characters are poor. Jakub feels like the completely wrong casting as soon as the game ditches any attempt at campiness as his voice actor absolutely butchers his lines.
My relationship with Outriders is challenging. It was admittedly a slow start to the relationship. In the beginning, I felt like the game was a run of the mill sci-fi shooter. When the mid-game rolled around, my interest grew as specs became more important, and it developed into an intense love/hate relationship at end game. When Outriders isn’t buggy and I can find random players who stick around, it’s an incredibly addictive gameplay loop. But the plethora of bugs, connection issues, and miserable solo play just breaks my heart.
Right now, I can only recommend Outriders to fans of shoot and loots who are willing to put up with a lot of frustration and to gamble on People Can Fly patching the game in the next couple of months. To their credit, the patches have been coming out at a quick pace since launch, but serious problems still remain. If People Can Fly can iron out the issues and start adding some post-release content for a long term end game, I will definitely be making a case to my gaming friends to open their wallets and come play Outriders with me.
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