Outriders is available on PlayStation 4/5, Xbox Platforms, and PC. I reviewed the game on an Xbox Series X while always playing on the highest world tier available.
You can find a video version of this review Here
Outriders is a third-person looter shooter that you can play in co-op with your friends as one of four super-powered classes on a foreign hostile planet. The planet itself is tainted by a mysterious anomaly that causes widespread disaster and mutates the wildlife. If that weren’t bad enough, several douchebag humans, go full human by being absolute bastards that you will also have to fight and…
I’m getting serious deja vu here… I feel like I’ve played and reviewed something with a similar concept… Right down to the strange unexplainable space magic doing weird shit. Except I think you used mech suits instead of mutant powers… Hmm…Oh yeah, Anthem.
The good news is, Outriders is actually good! Anthem and Outriders share the same DNA. But much like the twins Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, one became a super-powered independent badass, and the other is…dead.
Seriously though, Outriders knocks some gameplay concepts out of the park. To the point that playing it has retroactively made other looter games worse in my eyes. It’s not a perfect game by any means, however. Stick around, and I’ll show you both sides.
Early Story Spoilers Present.
I was initially fascinated by the game’s lengthy intro sequence. Even though it was quite a while before I got pick my class. It begins with your character and a group of Outriders stepping foot onto Enoch for the first time to perform some final checks before calling down the rest of humanity.
I was enthralled, not many games do the brand new planet thing, at least with any degree of care. I wanted to learn about and explore Enoch at the same time as my character, and I was interested in the cast. Sadly that feeling of discovery was very brief before the game fast-forwarded 30 years into a post-apocalyptic future.
It’s a waste of the entire concept. Aside from humans, monsters are one of your biggest adversaries, which are mutated wildlife following the apocalypse. Okay Outriders, you do realize since I never got to know the actual wildlife of Enoch that there’s no difference right? Alien wildlife would have been just as alien to me as mutants because I have no point of reference for what was mutated in the first place!
The likable characters interested in the new frontier either die or turn into cold hard jackasses which also make up 90% of the entire cast of the whole game. Enoch and everyone in it sucks. Except for your character…mostly.
Outriders goes halfsies on how to handle the player character. You create and name your character, but you don’t make dialogue or moral choices for them. They are a pre-established persona. Instead of making them a fully developed character, Outriders opted for generic badass instead. They neither feel like your character or an established person.
Your character has no personality outside of being a badass and it makes it really hard to connect with them. There are definitely a few lines that made me go, “Okay, I do wish I was that cool”. Other times they use words like Dunder Head, and I changed my mind.
Enoch itself is gorgeous, and you do explore a wide range of environments from Snow-covered Mountains, Lush Jungles, Desert Towns, and Old Ruins. The lore, plotline, and world remain fascinating despite my griping, and I was curious about what was going on the whole way through. A few twists even managed to catch me off guard and I did end up liking a few of the characters.
It ends in a satisfying manner while leaving room for additional story content. However, once the curtain is pulled back on what happened on Enoch, it most certainly feels like an overused cliche.
Outriders is a third-person cover shooter that doesn’t feel anything like a cover shooter, and it’s kind of brilliant. Each of the four classes plays significantly different from one another and can be played and built several ways within each class.
Your use of cover depends highly on your class and playstyle. This is partially due to how Outriders handles healing. Each class heals a different way, but they all benefit from being aggressive. This is not a shooting gallery game. A Pyromancer heals by killing enemies marked by their abilities, this generally means they were on fire.
A Trickster generates shields by killing enemies up close while the Devastator regenerates health by doing the same thing. A Technomancer simply gets a boost to life steal from all damage they do.
I played every class, but my main was the Devastator, a tanky class that wields earth and gravity. My partner’s main was a Technomancer. Watching us play together looked as though we were playing two different games. She used cover, sniped from a distance, and used gadgets like a Cryogenic turret.
I on the other hand only took cover for brief respites. I was gravity jumping on top of enemies, catching bullets with a magnetic shield and rhino charging through their ranks.
The combat is intense and visceral. There is a lot of feedback as enemies react to being shot, either by flinching or being knocked down. Enemies can be frozen, exploded, shattered, and otherwise gibbed in an explosion of gore. The variety of effects from your Outrider’s powers manifest in speculator ways. From burned enemies poofing away like Spider-Man, to the Trickster straight up imploding them through time-space shenanigans.
The combat is smart despite the fast pace. Different enemies require different tactics from snipers, armored foes, or even captains wielding random assortments of superpowers. The game also throws hordes and hordes of enemies at you. It strikes a clean balance between making you feel like a powerful beast cutting through swaths of fodder, and handing you your own ass if you get arrogant.
A large part of that balance is the brilliant world-tier system. You slowly increase your world tier by playing on the highest available. Each world tier increases the difficulty but also yields higher rewards. Anytime you die, you lose some progress toward the next tier.
Die too often, and it’s probably a sign that you are biting off more than you can chew and need to dial it back until you get better gear.
The tier system constantly plays push and pull with the players. You will gear up and begin cutting through your enemies like butter, and you can enjoy feeling overpowered. Just when that novelty will start to wear thin your tier will increase, and you will have to fight hard to win again. That cycle repeats for the entire game.
If the difficulty pushes too hard for your tastes, there’s nothing stopping you from dropping the world tier back down. It’s a clever implementation that I really enjoy and it’s a bit more meaningful than just easy, normal, or hard.
Outriders isn’t all great Marvel’s however, there’s a bit of D.C mediocrity in there. No seriously. My partner and I contended with numerous disconnects throughout our playtime together.
Enemy variety also leaves something to be desired, there’s actually a lot of enemy types split between human and monstrous enemies, and the boss fights are awesome. But Outriders features a lengthy campaign and meaningful end game. Combat is really the one thing you do in Outriders, and your gonna fight those enemies, a lot.
It becomes really frustrating when you factor in the variety of “factions” in the game. You fight several human factions, all of which are very different from each other thematically.
Gameplay-wise, they are mostly the same. They have the same enemy types, just with different names. They occasionally have a quirk or two, such as one faction using poison grenades instead of normal ones but are otherwise the same. One late-game faction makes this incredibly disappointing, as they should be completely different compared to the others. The moment you fight them, you’re gonna roll your eyes.
I also have to pick on the concept of self revives. In multiplayer, you can self revive yourself one time per combat. You can’t do it at all in single-player, so it really comes off as catering to low attention spans. As if it’s completely taboo that your brain isn’t being masturbated to the shiny effects and spray of gore for a whole 10 seconds for your team to either revive you or die.
As someone with ADHD, it’s almost insulting. If someone can’t wait a bit because they died without deleting the game from their hard drive, that’s a personal problem. Catering to it really throws the game’s fine balance out the window.
My partner and I opted to never use it because it trivialized the game. Giving each person on the team one free life completely alters how you play. You can be completely reckless and know that you’re essentially invincible the first time. Your teammates can already revive you an infinite amount of times so it’s a silly mechanic.
The self-imposed restriction worked fine for us, but it also limited our ability to play with others. Since trying to impose it on others would be a real dick move on my part. I’d rather have it universally imposed on everyone by it not existing at all!
I know that sounds more dickish. But there’s a difference between wanting a balanced game and me waggling my finger at a stranger for using something that the developer put in the game, even if that thing is stupid.
Looter in the Shooter
Where Outriders puts the competition to shame is the loot and character build system. Loot is meaningful, with awesome and tangible effects. I know I may have said that in a few other reviews of games in this genre, but Outriders didn’t exist yet. Now that it does, I’ll now look at other loot systems with an upturned nose and superior arrogance.
All loot comes with random statistical values and while those might not be exciting, they actually have a great deal of influence on how you build your character, especially combined with the massive branching skill trees of each class.
Skill points are very limited, so you have to pick and choose wisely, but you can respec at any time and try out new ideas with any new loot you might have acquired. I built a mega tank Devastator with massive melee damage. Then I built another version where I stacked and healed myself through bleed, and a third build where I focused on the power of my earth abilities.
But beyond mere statistics is the massive array of mods that can appear on weapons and armor, and you can gain these mods by dismantling the item. This allows you to place them on other pieces of gear to mix and match for however you want to play.
Mods can have all kinds of effects, from bullets that freeze foes, ones that make them explode when killed, leech life for you, or even alter your classes’ abilities. For example, my partner had a Technomancer build that focused on freezing enemies and could convert her toxic spewing turret to ice instead.
You can level up pieces of gear. Or convert them into variants of the same weapon, such as a burst or full auto assault rifle. And you can change the mods or increase any stat boost they already grant. One time I went for a straight firepower and weapon leech build by focusing on those stats. You definitely feel the difference between builds.
The combinations can get rogue-lite levels of crazy. It’s a ton of fun and the variety is huge. Furthermore, armor changes the appearance of your character, and the coveted legendary weapons look crazy. The end game of Outriders is all about those.
You go on timed drop pod missions to earn a currency specifically for buying legendaries, and it’s a great end-game mode. It still suffers from a lack of enemy variety. But by the end game, the character building and the modding system are blown wide open, and you can really flex your muscles on it.
Being able to respec your skill tree is fantastic. I wish it were as easy when it comes to other classes. Sometimes I’m tired of the rock and roll of my Devastator and just wanna light things on fire as the Pyromancer.
It’s a long marathon to catch a second or third class up to your first one. Cutscenes never show your character using specific powers, so your choice isn’t canon. I’d have liked to be able to switch between them. It’s the one thing I believe Anthem did better.
In many ways, Outriders is the perfect example of how a co-op looter shooter should be. The crafting and character build system undoubtedly raised the bar for any to come in the future. The combat is thrilling, unique, and a blast to play. The visceral action and superpowers, simply feel good.
The game’s campaign is lengthy, and the end game is satisfying. The four classes all play significantly different, and the build variety within each one is off the charts.
It’s a shame the enemy variety is so limited, especially when the game pits you against several different factions that all feel the same. That’s the largest thing holding Outriders back. The action simply gets repetitive.
The story is also a mixed bag. your character is too one-note to be interesting by themselves, and you don’t make any choices to truly make them yours. The world itself is interesting but falls in a lot of common cliches.
The four classes are so different, you’re missing a huge chunk of the game if you only play one. But having to level each one individually is painful, and makes enemy variety issues stick out far more. Also, screw that self revive multiplayer mechanic, seriously.
The bottom line is Outriders is still a great game. In a lot of ways, it’s the absolute best iteration of the looter shooter genre out there. The repetition is a bummer, but the combat, class, and loot system is worth riding it out for. The amount of playstyle customization you have access to is a true anomaly.
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- Four classes with very different playstyles
- Visceral, weighty, superpowered combat
- Incredibly deep crafting, modding, and character-building system
- Lengthy campaign and solid endgame
- Interesting World
- The world tier system is a great implementation of push and pull difficulty
- Boss fights are rad
- The loot changes your appearance, that’s a nice touch
- Variety of great looking environments
- The setting swaps from interesting new frontier to post-apocalypse early on, that’s a bummer
- Limited enemy variety can get repetitive
- Your character’s personality is bland, generic, and one-note
- The self revive mechanic is silly
- Classes must be leveled individually, it’s a pain
- Disconnecting issues in multiplayer were often and annoying