Updated: Aug 9
Outriders is Square Enix’s addition to the growing list of looter shooters, with players already spending hours of their time grinding away at it. A lot of people’s first impressions upon seeing the games familiar tropes has been to disregard it, rather harshly, as simply a clone or some Destiny/Gears frankensteins monster. And whilst there are undeniably some areas which did cause some raised eye brows with just how familiar they were, the initial moments of the game with the menu and character creators almost made it feel like they had copied Bungie's homework, it is a discredit to a lot of the great work done here and unique elements to simply dismiss Outriders as ‘another one of those’.
The sci-fi adventure starts you out on a science expedition as part of a team colonising a new planet named Enoch. Unsurprisingly this quickly goes wrong but I was impressed by exactly how the story sets up the game world. After the prologue the narrative takes an interesting turn and the lore that is built up around the planet, characters and the powers your character subsequently gains is done well enough to make you want to learn more. The planet itself provides a decent backdrop and does have some nice variety, the usual areas of grassland, Ice and fire are all here and it does keep things from becoming stale but it is also a rather bleak place to be, intentionally so. It’s well executed but it’s sort of a double edged sword in that, unfortunately, I did feel that it was lacking a touch of beauty or grandeur to really make you ever want to stop and take it in. If you are looking for the game to showcase the visuals on these next-gen consoles I don’t think this is the one. It is the story itself that makes you want to see what this world has to offer rather than any of the landscape or vistas on offer.
Your powers are dependent on which of the four available classes you choose. I went for pyromancer, and you can unlock different abilities as you level through the game to fine tune it to the way you prefer to play. These abilities are core to the gameplay due to the way they link in to your health. Using your abilities on enemies and getting kills tops up your health and is the primary driving force in how the game wants you to play. Whilst I can’t speak to any of the other classes, I did find pyromancer to be very satisfying. Especially as you progress and unlock some more abilities. They do a strong job of making you feel powerful which is great.
At a basic level it is a cover shooter, you will find yourself ducking behind cover and popping up to fire off a few shots often, but it doesn’t let you stand your ground for very long. Enemies rush and bombard you with frankly an excessive amount of grenades which forces you to constantly be on the move. It encourages you to get up close and personal with the foes and utilise your abilities as much as possible. This high tempo format is Outriders biggest strength. It’s effective in creating engaging gameplay moments were you are swarmed by enemies and, at its best, can leave you feeling tense like you are treading water. Your health always borderline depleted, having to go on the offence straight into the danger in order to stay alive. However, as enjoyable as I do find it, I couldn’t help but feel the combat is still lacking something. The character movement doesn’t have the same sort of weight you get from say Gears of war, were everything feels a bit more solid and impactful. It’s all just a little floatier thank I would prefer, and not in a Destiny zero gravity kind of way, it feels almost mushy. I also wish that there was a bit more enemy variety, with pretty much everything you fight just being a target to dump bullets into them till they go down.
What does deserve special mention though is the granular difficulty settings of the game implemented via its world level system. As you progress you unlock higher world levels which increases the enemy difficulty with better loot rewards to match. This can be changed at any time so should you hit a sticking point it enables you to drop things down a level to push through. I found it a very useful system and one which I think helps the game maintain momentum and not a chore. In elements like this you can see the craft that’s gone into Outriders and actually makes me excited to see a potential sequel down the line where they can refine their formula.
As for the loot, I have found it to be more quantity than quality so far. You get a whole lot of it in different tiers but too much of it feels the same. I spent most of my time sticking to assault rifles which all felt very similar apart from the numbers. That’s not to say what you get is necessarily bad, the guns are all plenty satisfying to shoot and finding a new item still delivers on the dopamine hit all good loot based games need. The problem is the new gear doesn’t leave you excited enough to want to find more. Without the potential that you are going to find some truly gameplay altering items why spend the time chasing it down. You simply need better gear for higher hit points to take down stronger enemies. I will stress though I haven’t reached the end so hopefully this improves further in. But in the early stages, like a lot of the environments, it just feels a little bit bland and doesn’t have some of the wow factor that make sci-fi such a fun genre.
Outriders becomes a difficult game to summarise. I am enjoying my time playing it which ultimately is the most important thing. It’s a fun third-person shooter set inside an interesting sci-fi story with a narrative hook of a disastrous situation on an alien planet. It’s this story in fact that makes me want to see it through to the end more than anything. That and the intrigue for how the skill trees develop and what awaits in the end game. But there is the nagging feeling whilst playing that it’s just missing a little something to make the experience a bit more stellar. Everything is very solid and the developers have definitely added enough elements to make it a unique experience, but I do wish there was just that little bit extra to make it a more exciting one.
Have you played Outriders? Let me know your thoughts on it below!