Outriders is an explosively chaotic looter who draws on the best of the best previous games from People Can Fly, while also offering a new story that takes some serious wild turns. Despite connectivity issues on launch day, I was unable to turn Outriders off and after doing two full character builds through the main story and endgame content, I’m happy to say that this game met all of my expectations and hopes.
I love shooters and role-playing games and Outriders perfectly combines these genres. The entire adventure is macabre with dark narrative focused on survival, adaptability, and travel to prove that you are the biggest badass on the playground. This plot is more haunting than I expected, and while it takes about an hour for it to really take off, it eventually turns into a cacophony of in-your-face action. This plot coincides with a story that rests in the science fiction fantasy, but with a minimum of truth about human instincts and how we react when there is nothing left to lose and everything is to be lost at the same time. It also has the subtle, dry humor that People Can Fly is known for, especially for Bulletstorm fans.
Outriders begins his adventure with a cutscene that heralds the arrival of humans on a new planet called Enoch, a world that should be their salvation, one that is full of promise as a new beginning for humanity. While the opening sequence goes all-in with the plot, the real beginning of the story kicks in soon after, straining the fight or flight instinct in a new world that challenges what it means to be a survivor. The fast-paced, action-packed moments instill the need to keep moving, and those moments are even worse thanks to the pre-storm story sequences that introduce the characters along the way. The characters feel very different, with some offering a return of innocence to this world and others showing the brutal reality of what it’s like to stay on top when the rest of the planet wants you dead. The intermittent scenes of normality add a depth that enriches the game.
As with other People Can Fly games, Outriders is more about the feel than the looks. This distinction is clear in all aspects of the game, from the class variant to subtle grins and annoyed looks between speaking characters. From combining an epic attack against the final boss to dealing with the little gimmicks of your cohorts, the adventure of Outriders is full of dimensions. That nuance can be felt in combat, leveling, and story, with characters becoming more and more convincing as the narrative progresses.
Moving up in Outriders is rewarding and easy to manage. The Skill Tree obviously takes inspiration from the Diablo franchise, but there are other influences like Path of Exile as well. The four classes each have three branches to perfect their fighting style. I love charging into battle like Leeroy Jenkins, so the Pyromancer and Devastator classes are my favorites, and I specialize in the more offensive branching skills of each. There are also more strategic branches that take on a full defense, or a hybrid approach, all of which are tweaked in a way that isn’t overwhelming and doesn’t leave me questioning if I’ve made a wrong choice.
In terms of the four classes themselves, Outriders has a style of play for everyone and that excited me to play it all over again to try out the different types of combat. With the Trickster you can teleport behind an enemy if he is paralyzed for a knockout. It feels satisfying to the touch and nothing compares to slowing down time yourself to control the battlefield. Destroyers are the tank of all tanks and the backbone of every group. Destroyers are strong, meaty, and can control gravity, which gives them a protective advantage by drawing fire from your crew and sending enemies into the abyss. Pyromancers are a medium-range class that specialize in AOE damage using the destructive power of fire. The firewall capability plows through enemies in a particularly satisfying way. A Pyromancer’s explosive arsenal may not be as durable as other classes, but it’s the perfect addition to any group grappling with the world of Enoch.
Finally, the Technomancer is a great class for those who love tech specs as it makes good use of technology to rain damage from the sky. Incredibly versatile, this class takes on the role of support with the ability to heal teammates while dealing massive damage.
Gear in Outriders is important, which some loot-based games couldn’t master. People Can Fly did a great job providing a variety of weapons of all types that have a significant impact on moment-to-moment action. This adds a layer of immersion and thoughtfulness that many looter-shooters have not offered. This is also one of the many reasons franchises like Borderlands continue to be a standard in the genre. that and his off-the-wall humor that Outriders has too, although it doesn’t really shine until later in the story.
There are also different levels of gear, including the coveted Legendaries. Some of these designs are insanely detailed and impressive. Outriders has some of the best weapon designs of any game, including a weapon that looks like it popped straight out of Bloodborne. Another looks like he came straight from Egypt. A shotgun looks like an Apex Legends character who threw pure radiation against a wall and decided to turn it into a weapon. The creative team clearly had a lot of fun designing this aspect of the game and kept me motivated to hunt down legendaries. While the statistics weren’t particularly important to me, I wanted everything I could find to see what other elaborate designs the team came up with.
But like I said, Outriders is a lot more about how the game feels than it looks, and the gunplay feels just as impressive as the aesthetics suggest. The base weapons themselves all feel very different. The recoil of a shotgun, the recoil of a sniper rifle, the rapid fire action of double pistols; Each weapon type feels unique, just like they should, but they also feel weighted enough that I remember how the shooting game felt in Gears of War Judgment, another People Can Fly title.
Weapons keep getting more powerful over time, but players have the option to further customize this fighting style using equipment mods. Mods help promote this customizable experience with different gear options to achieve a specific build. Mod types include buffs, ways to improve current skills, and how to improve your offense and / or defense. They’re not the be-all and end-all of character art, but like fate – they’re an integral part of taking your character to the next level. Some even help you heal faster in combat, which is especially helpful for those exploring Enoch solo. Fire damage, decay, leeches, there are tons of different mods that are divided into three tiers.
Another positive aspect of Outriders is that this game has no microtransactions. While it’s always online (something I wish I didn’t because I don’t want to be tied to the state of servers), it’s not a live service game. There are no paywalls, no banned content, but there is still more adventure to discover even after the main campaign is complete. When the story is done there are additional quests called expeditions which are so much more fun than I expected. Endgame quests are often a little difficult or can feel meaningless, especially after completing a storyline that has developed dramatically. I was really happy to see that expeditions weren’t treated as an afterthought. It’s obvious that People Can Fly wanted players to feel like the journey didn’t have to be over when the credits rolled in, and it did a really good job of doing that. If you’re an equipment hunter like me and have a never-ending FOMO regarding the best of the best, the 14 missions within the endgame content will help you get better drops. These high-end missions feel rewarding as they are time sensitive challenges designed to make players sweat. They are handcrafted new levels that not only recycle content from the campaign but are something unique with their own challenges and game mechanics.
As an obsessive Destiny 2 player, I can say the endgame is nowhere on this level, but Outriders content feels meaningful in a way that attracts dedicated players without the casual gamer feeling like they’re missing out. The campaign and endgame are thoughtful and balanced in a way that does a profound service to the looter shooter genre.
Outriders are not revolutionary and neither do they try. Outriders is a well-designed shooter with expertly tailored RPG twists. It’s a fun ride that is infinitely enhanced by playing with friends, but it’s also not inherently hurt by solo running. This game takes the best parts from other looters and the best aspects of sci-fi RPG and combines those elements into an experience that is well worth immersing in due to its high replayability, customizable playstyle, and fun story. I’m already buckling up for another run.