Outriders, the latest game from Polish studio People Can Fly, set its sights on providing players with a robust cinematic story told through a cooperative looter shooter. While Outriders doesn’t quite stick the landing, there is plenty to admire about this game.
Set on the planet of Enoch, Outriders is a tale of humanity’s last chance at survival after fleeing Earth. When they arrive at Enoch, humanity quickly learns that this planet is not the haven they thought of, but in fact, a deadly wasteland destroying everything in its wake.
Your player-created character is put in Cryosleep and emerges thirty years later to find humanity is scattered across the planet and barely hanging on. After coming in contact with the Anomaly, which has been creating energy storms killing anything in its path. Your body fuses with the energy, and you become “Altered,” thus giving you powers far beyond anything human.
This is where you get to choose from the four classes available in the game. I played as a Pyromancer throughout the entire campaign. Each class offers unique skills (bound to the shoulder buttons). These skills synergize both with your own abilities as well as teammates of differing classes, which create engaging and unique combat situations.
For instance, as the Pyromancer using Volcanic Rounds to light up the battlefield and igniting your foes on fire is great, combine that with the Overheat ability that deals blast damage to every foe on fire range and you being to see how these work in tandem.
A robust class tree complements the skills. The upgrade nodule on each tree feels meaningful when deciding between more health, weapon damage, or anything in between. The smaller nodes are connected to larger, more game-changing abilities that help specialize each class.
As the Pyromancer, the more prominent nodes have passive abilities such as “Activating Ignite skills increase your armor by 45% for 10 seconds.” This might not seem like a huge deal at the time, but when you start to build your gear and skills around these passive upgrades, it becomes game-changing.
When thinking about gear, there is a lot to think about. Every piece of rare, epic, and legendary gear has mod slots that are all customizable. The higher the rarity of gear the more mod slots can be equipped onto a piece.
Early on in the game, you’ll be introduced to the upgrade system and honestly, it’s one of the most experimental friendly systems I’ve seen in a loot-based game. Every time you dismantle a piece of gear with a mod, that mod becomes permanently unlocked.
This means you can slot any mod into any piece of gear, opening up so many possibilities for weird and unique weapon combinations. Now when you pair this system with the skill tree you can really fine-tune your build to play exactly how you want it to.
Every piece of gear in the game can be brought up to max level by using the same upgrading interface so if you want to invest heavily in a gun or armor set you like, the game lets you have that freedom.
While Outriders gives players the freedom to play how they want to play, it doesn’t do so in the story. Sometimes, during a side quest, my Outrider would be cold, cruel, and calculated when talking to an NPC. Which, hey sometimes it’s all about survival; however, other times when speaking to quest givers, I would catch a glimpse of warmth and even a smile.
The game is tonally inconsistent with who my Outrider is to the world around him. Is he a mercenary just looking for what’s in it for him, or is he here to help humanity survive? The game never makes it clear, and often it feels like motivations turn on a dime.
In one side-quest, your Outrider meets a descendant of your old Outrider crew. After showing respect and talking to the now down on his luck survivor, you agree to help him pay a debt owed. You do this by using your Altered powers to cheat at a game of Russian Roulette, now forcing the other character to shoot themself.
That’s not what my Outrider would have done, but the game has a different path for him. It’s moments like these that happen throughout the game that feel so inconsistent with the game that it left me questioning what the Outriders even stood for.
As for the main plot in Outriders, I can’t say it’s any more consistent than the example I gave above. It’s a sci-fi story based on finding a magical MacGuffin. While it’s not a physical entity, your crew is looking for a radio signal broadcast in hopes of being able to find a life beyond the storm.
While I won’t go into story spoilers, it’s a pretty safe story we’ve seen before in other science fiction work. It pulls on exciting threads of the universe but ultimately never delivers a satisfying conclusion to any of them.
Once you wrap up the main campaign, there is a hefty postgame set up for players who want to continue getting loot and increasing the difficulty of the game. Outside of the Outriders World Tier system, which lets you increase the difficulty for increased rewards (much like Diablo’s Torment system), the game introduces Expeditions. These allow you to go into challenging encounters with the hopes of walking away with powerful and unique rewards.
Complete enough of these and reach the highest Expedition level, you’ll be able to fight the true final boss of the game and journey into the eye of the storm. This is the loop you’ll have to play with as your progress further and further after wrapping up the story.
Overall, Outrider’s gameplay and customization are enough to satisfy the loot-hungry players. While its story misses the mark on multiple occasions, it’s gripped me enough to continue pushing through the post-game content.
If you’re a fan of third-person cover shooting and loot-driven gameplay, this is an easy recommendation, just don’t get your hopes up too high for the narrative.
- Customization options for Gear
- Fun gameplay both Co-op and Single-Player
- Interesting Armor and Weapon Designs
- Inconsistent Narrative Tone
- Repetitive Side Quests
- Plot Threads never receive meaningful wrap up