Looter shooters are one of the more beloved genres nowadays, beginning with games like Borderlands and becoming mainstream with games like Destiny. Even though the loot concept was perpetuated by RPGs and games like Mass Effect, the genre has been redefined over the years. Some games tend to try and redefine what players can do and revolutionize environments, methods of playing, and ways to gear up. Unfortunately, Outriders does next to none of this. While Outriders has a relatively fun gameplay loop that is designed to be co op’d and can be as challenging as you’re comfortable with, it is marred by a nonexistent story, incredibly basic level design, and basic progression that is only helped by build variety, which still turns into specialization optimization for the late game.
Outriders started out with a beautiful environment, a mysterious backstory, and some cool characters that you’re able to converse with to try and uncover what happened. It seemed like an interesting start to an exploratory shooter, mapping a new, undiscovered environment that might be hostile. Sadly, this doesn’t end up being the case. In typical shooter RPG fashion, you end up as the last survivor of your squad and receive your powers. From being a single soldier, you now have the strength of a hundred men. This happens after a time-skip, and the beautiful environments are completely destroyed, leaving the game’s environments in different shades of gray. It’s incredibly easy to mistake this game for any normal wartime game with how the environments look and are set up. It’s honestly generous to say the level design is serviceable, as it’s all incredibly linear with only the most basic cover placement and vantage spots. Outriders doesn’t seem like it cares much about how the combat arenas are set up, more so just killing enemies and making the game more challenging with large health pools.
Where Outriders genuinely shines is the class system. The entire game is a power fantasy, and Outriders is especially good at making you feel powerful as an Altered. Playing as a Trickster I had absolutely no issue just running and gunning people down, and have had little issue even as the world level has gone up. World levels are how the game differentiates difficulty, loot spawning, and enemy health. As the world level increases, you get better loot with more difficult enemies. It’s an incredibly similar system to the Mayhem mode from Borderlands 3, just without most of the random augmentations. This is further aided by not only the co op systems, but the fact that building a character is surprisingly in-depth. While you can play vanilla and just figure out what you’d like to do as a playstyle, there undoubtedly are optimized builds for different types of content, and some classes might be more desired in groups than others. While that might be the case, solo content has been relatively entertaining with how often I’m able to use my powers. If necessary, I’m able to forego guns in general and melee kill people just because my class is a bit more tailored to that. A great power trip, but one that will definitely falter as enemies become more health-spongey at higher levels.
As far as performance goes there have been no complaints. Some NPC pathing is strange, and have had issues with collision and camera shaking more than I’d like to admit, especially in the preliminary segments. That being said, combat is actually fun, and feels almost like Gears of War. Gunplay is smooth, and flows very well with the powers you’re given. Being able to tank through waves of bullets and stomp enemies that the story is actively telling you are inferior is a great feeling. As an Altered, you genuinely feel cut from a different cloth and are able to enjoy that sensation to the fullest. While the performance is good, the environments are incredibly plain unless some vast alteration has taken place, like everything levitating with neon blue energy. Aside from very select segments, it’s all super plain and gray. Nothing inspiring or evoking of any emotion, just very plain.
Outriders is actually fun to play if you can get past most of the shortcomings. I don’t have many positives to say about the story or level design, but the looter-shooter aspect of it as well as character progression are all there. It has the makings of a game that can last a while and can be fun in co op, should they not go the way of Anthem and rebalance everything while disregarding player feedback. This is definitely a pick up if you’re a fiend for character progression and endgame content, but not for any type of story substance of anything revolutionary.
Score: 7 out of 10
Reviewed on PlayStation 4