From the get-go, developer People Can Fly has always maintained that Outriders isn’t a “games as a service” game. That it has a proper campaign, with a fully realised story and no incessant grindy to artificially tempt you back to it while the next expansion releases. For some reason, being as jaded and cynical as I am, I just didn’t believe them. But having spent some major time with Outriders already, while it’s admittedly early days, it’s clear that this game is trying to do its own thing and not riff off of its grindy contemporaries. In fact, it feels like a satisfying mix of combat inspires by games like Doom mixed with the loot system of a game like Diablo, which is a hard offer to decline.
From the get-go, it’s worth noting just how effortlessly simple the process was to import my progress from the demo. After booting the game and logging in, the game just let me select my character from the demo as if I was just continuing a save file. It’s rare that these online-only games work so well at launch, and so many games have issues with importing progress, so it was refreshing to just log in and keep playing as if I’d had the final game the whole time.
Booting into the game, picking up where I left off in the demo, it was exciting to head out into new locations. It became clear from that point that Outriders employs the “hub and spoke” design style for its levels. Each level is rather big, has its own encampment as well as several fast travel points to unlock along the way. Each level also has main quests to finish and push the story forward, as well as side quests that often have you wandering off the beaten track. Taking this approach means that Outriders doesn’t feel massive to the point where it’s soulless, but it also doesn’t feel small to the point where it’s insignificant.
Jumping into combat, it’s clear that Outriders is set on doing something a little bit differently. In the demo, I was taken aback by just how much the game tricks you into playing aggressively – your class has some form of that directly correlates with your damage output in some way. Anybody who looks at Outriders would understandably assume it’s a cover shooter.
But it’s really not.
The way that the game regenerates health coupled with the way the powers work makes Outriders become an entirely different beast. Instead, you’ll find yourself constantly up close to enemies and the pace of battle is remarkably frenetic. This is why I liken it to Doom, and its glory kills previously – it entices you to get out there on the battlefield and get your hands dirty. It’s a game balanced entirely towards aggressive play that encourages you to combine your abilities, your melee attacks and good old-fashioned guns to come out on top.
If you listen to The Press Start Podcast, you’ll know that I always have concerns about these games and the (usually low) levels of variety it provides. But in my twelve or so hours with Outriders I’ve come out rather impressed. They could’ve easily slapped the same few human enemies throughout each of the maps. Recolouring them and altering their powers ever so slightly and filling the game with these recolours repeatedly.
Instead, there’s a wide variety of enemies on offer here, all of whom are designed to use their abilities to get you from outside of cover – enemies rushed me constantly when I got a little too comfortable in cover, so I thought I’d be clever and prioritise those enemies first. Then other enemies would flank me to try and push me out of cover too. Finally, the Elite class enemy in that area would summon a flame-filled vortex that would track me everywhere. There’s a lot going on at any given point in Outriders and, much like Doom, it really encourages you to stay on your feet and be constantly moving.
So yeah, it’s a third-person shooter that forces you to not take cover through both the design of your abilities and powers, and the design of your enemies. Whether you choose to take advantage of that dynamic in the combat and flip things in your favour is really how you’ll be successful in Outriders. If you don’t – your enemies will.
I’d be lying though if I didn’t say that my eyes rolled a bit when the game introduced its crafting system to me. But crafting does feel a little bit different from other games. Rather than just leveling up your equipment, you can choose how it levels up. Increasing the rarity to improve the overall stats of the item is a bit of a given, but it’s also possible to level up the abilities attached to each weapon or even change the abilities entirely with mods.
It doesn’t feel like something you have to do, mind you, so if crafting isn’t your bag then you can do away with it completely. But perfectly complementing your abilities with the modifications your armour brings is bound to be important as the post-game content.
Looking to the future, I’m excited to dive into Outriders some more and see what the game has to offer beyond its main campaign. Games like this really live or die on their post-game offerings, and Outriders is promising 15 expeditions, with the final one unlocked after completing the rest. Given the strength of the combat and the aggressive nature of the gameplay loop, there’s definitely a solid foundation to be built upon for some incredible post-game content.
Add this to a sturdy online foundation that performs rather admirably, with all the bells and whistles, including cross-play and very seamless drop-in and drop-out coop, and Outriders is doing everything right from the outset.
But for now, in the early days of my journey on Enoch, I can without a doubt say that Outriders is certainly worth a try and most certainly worth your time.