A solid looter shooter with high ambitions. It'll be interesting to see how it fares in the next year.
Outriders is a game that will divide players.
If you doubt this, hurl the phrase “Outriders” into a search engine and see what comes up. People Can Fly’s latest game has been praised from the rooftops, kicked up and down the street and been met by a lot of players with a resounding ‘meh’.
For this review’s money, the appraisal lies somewhere in the middle, but leans towards the positive. Outriders is a game that leans very heavily into the last gen, but it has enough moxie to convince players it is an experience worth investing in.
Outlanders? We’ve been here before
First, the plot preamble: players take on the role of an ‘Outrider’, essentially the muscle for the landing force on an alien planet. Earth has been nuked (the details are messy) and humankind has arrived on a planet called Enoch, which promises a new start.
In short order it’s revealed that Enoch has its own problem, namely The Anomaly. Imagine an electrical storm that obliterates everything in its path. After an incredibly bad opening section, The Anomaly strikes, hits the player and then they’re put into cryo-sleep for 30 years. Once they wake up, it becomes quite apparent that between The Anomaly and human nature, Enoch has gone to hell.
On the upside, The Anomaly has gifted the player’s character with a set of powers – making them ‘Altered’ – which cut across several classes; Devastator, Trickster, Pyromancer and Technomancer. If you want details on each class, check this video out, but the way it breaks down simply is; Tank, Stealth Tank, Mid-Range Fighter and Sniper.
So much for the plot, and the characters, which are pretty unremarkable. The world Outriders inhabits isn’t particularly interesting. The dialogue isn’t much to write home about. The level design has been done to death: players enter a space that either has chest-high walls or hardly any cover at all – they’re arenas that scream ‘confrontation’. It’s all been done before and – in some instances – better; Outriders’s third-person-shooter mechanics are nowhere near as slick as say, those of Gears Of War. The first Gears Of War.
On top of all that, players can’t pause this game. Even if they’re playing solo. Single player campaigns are connected to servers in the same way co-op sessions are. In both cases, if the servers crash – which happened a lot over the Easter weekend – players are booted straight out to the main login screen. Like many Triple-A launches, Outriders has had its issues.
Down the Outriders rabbit hole
That said, what Outriders nails is the appeal of its core experience – shoot-and-loot. At the outset this is simply a morsel to lead players on. By the time players have hit higher levels, Outriders is near-impossible to let go of.
It may sound like damning with faint praise to say that Outriders relies on every player’s desire to level up, but People Can Fly has made this less of a desire than a need. The game’s progression leads players along by the nose, promising more power, more weapons and more rewards as time goes on. Players who are prepared to invest in the game will get a so-so story, bland dialogue and characters that are just slightly more appealing than those in Watch Dogs: Legion.
But eventually their investment will end with them feeling like a demi-god.
And that appeal should not be underestimated. Once the first four or five hours have been cleared – during which players will feel like they’re playing a TPS with very floaty and, at times, janky mechanics – one’s character is on the way to turning into a walking slaughter-house. This is where the real fun starts.
At high levels, players will find they can enter a combat arena – once again, telegraphed by a bunch of chest-high-walls or a large open space – and be utterly confident that the deck is stacked in their favour. It’s possible to clear these encounters without using cover, without even using weapons; powers will suffice.
Whether they’re torching enemies as a Pyromancer or cutting behind them and then cutting them down as a Trickster, Outriders offers players a seductive power-trip, provided they’re prepared to work for it. Once they find themselves utterly unchallenged, they can kick things up by moving to a new Tier (read: toggling the game’s difficulty level).
Bring your friends
Levelling does require some grinding through side-quests. However, as is the case in a lot of other games boasting busy work, the side-quests in Outriders are generally engaging for the most part. Rather than ‘go-here-do-this-come-back’, each provide a decent narrative. This isn’t exactly ground-breaking stuff, but it goes a long way towards justifying the time investment required.
And this all before players get into the reason Outriders was seemingly developed in the first place: co-op. Because the more players one teams up with, the more fun this game becomes.
If you’re lucky enough to join up with players who have chosen a different class to you, it soon becomes apparent how well the different classes compliment each other. If you land in a group where everyone has chosen the same class, it’s still fun. In fact, it can be hilarious. Playing in a group of Pyromancers felt like playing a game that was a cross between Gears Of War and Backdraft.
Outlanders – Verdict
Is Outlanders worth investing in? Sure, if you’re not married to the likes of Destiny or The Division. It’s easily a game that could eat up weeks of your time – perhaps more once the planned DLC drops – and unless you’re committed to another game of its ilk, you should give it a try.
It won’t be the best game people will play all year. But it will be one of the most engaging. And isn’t engagement a big part of what video games are supposed to be all about?
- Outriders was reviewed on an Xbox One
- A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher