The birth of a new IP is a difficult one, but that is what is happening here with Outriders.
Coming from People Can Fly, they behind one of the best shooters in the shape of Bulletstorm, comes a new entry in the looter shooter genre; a genre that is currently dominated by Destiny, The Division and Borderlands. It’s obviously brave to try and muscle your way into a genre dominated by such names. And for a while, it looked like it was a dodgy pitch – there were some truly bad days with the Outriders servers at launch with multiple game drops. People Can Fly though have been very good at keeping the player base apprised of what is happening though and, after a patch, things have improved no end. So come with me, as we head to Enoch and the glories of the Outriders.
The story of Outriders is probably pretty well-known by now. Humans have pretty much killed the Earth, and have discovered another planet way off in space, called Enoch; a planet that looks like it should be just the ticket. Two colony ships are made, the Flores and the Caravel, before being loaded up with the brightest and best of the surviving people. Sadly, the Caravel had an accident, and so the Flores was sent out on its own. The colonists were placed into suspended animation, and the Outriders, of which we are one, are tasked with being first to the planet and setting up a beachhead as it were. However, we find that the planet is wracked by storms, and not ordinary ones either. You see, these storms will kill many, in fact, the majority, but they also have the power to transform others – we are one of these “lucky” ones, becoming “Altered”.
Now, Altered are superhuman in many ways, and fall into one of four categories. Pyromancers control fire, and control the battlefield with status effects and abilities that can interrupt enemies. Tricksters are close range fighters that control time, able to slow enemies down. Devastators are, as the name suggests, the tanks of the game, all focused on close range damage and being up in the face of any foes. Last but not least, the Technomancers are long range and support characters, throwing turrets and helping their allies with support skills, such as healing.
Outriders looks great, there’s no two ways about it. The different areas that you get to visit are varied, ranging from deserts to lush forests, from a town under continuous bombardment to a wide, open battlefield. The detail in the backdrops, and that of the design of the enemies is all top notch, as is the way that the enemies not only move, but also seem to run a tactical route; watching as they try to flank you is very impressive indeed. The sound is also top notch, with booming guns, shouting foes and screeching monsters all competing for your attention. The way that the cutscenes are changed, depending on what your Outrider has equipped, is also pretty cool, and while some of the armour sets are nothing but odd, every item can be rendered in the cutscenes so you are never left doubting that the character you are looking at is yours. A rare departure from this next gen shininess occurs in certain areas, such as the trophy wall of the guy who asks you to do hunts for him. Every time you turn in a trophy, the camera pans across the wall yet scrolling is jerky and horrible.
It all plays out as a third-person cover-based shooter, with strong loot elements. There are crates to find to open up for fresh gear, either armour or guns, and loot is also dropped by enemies, or gained for completing side quests. As an example, there are a series of hunts for stronger monsters that can be undertaken (more than once, if you are feeling brave), and when you complete all the hunts, your reward is that of a Legendary item, the very top tier of loot. The loot that you obtain is traditionally colour coded, with green items being uncommon, blue being rare, purple being epic and finally yellow/orange being legendary. So far, so Diablo or Destiny, right? Well, as a whole Outriders is pretty much a mix of Destiny and Gears of War, to be honest, with a surprisingly deep customisation system built in.
It is different from the others, though, and in other titles the way that you heal is by hiding, basically; taking cover and trying to engage enemies from afar is by far the safest way. In Outriders, this is turned on its head by requesting you to be more aggressive, and to play to the strengths of your classes. For instance, by using a Pyromancer, and in order to heal efficiently, you have to affect enemies with some of your abilities, such as Heatwave which sends a wave of flame across the battlefield. Once an enemy is affected, shooting them will heal you a little, whilst further mods for weapons and armour can increase the amount of healing you get. The Pyromancer also has an ability that can pull health directly from enemies to heal you; running about, shooting, waiting for your abilities to come off cooldown makes for some seriously tense encounters.
This is only exacerbated by the World Tier that you are currently on, which dictates how tough the enemies are. As you get stronger and kill enemies, new World Tiers open up – the higher the Tier, the tougher the enemies you face. Each Tier gives an idea of what will happen should you select it with some of these good, such as an increased chance to find Legendary gear, and some are bad – the enemy level will increase to your level plus a certain number. As an example, World Tier 11 equates to player level +8. It’s a bit simpler than it sounds, and forces you to keep stretching yourself, as while you can take in the whole game on Tier 1, the loot you get will be nothing short of rubbish. Soon, the slight tweaks that you make to your build will begin to make all the difference.
The RPG elements of Outriders systems is well-worked. As you level up, you unlock skill points that can be used to follow one of three skill trees that each character has. Of course, mixing and matching on all three trees is also possible, and as you can respec your points at any time, a certain amount of experimentation is rewarded. As you level up, you also unlock new abilities that can be equipped, and again, following the descriptions of the abilities and trying each one out to try and find a mix that works for you is all part of the fun; a personal favourite is that of Thermal Bomb for the Pyromancer – hit an enemy with it, and then kill them, and you’ll find that they explode and damage their pals hiding nearby. As this ability goes through cover, it’s very useful indeed.
The other side of the RPG coin relates to the gear that you get. As they increase in rarity level (and lower items can be upgraded when you get the ability to craft), gear gains mods that can be swapped. Only one mod per item can be changed, but it can be switched as many times as you like. With mods geared to not only letting you do more damage but to power up your abilities, it’s worth going through your mod setup as you change abilities. Finally, each weapon and piece of armour has a number of attributes attached to it, and these can be upgraded to increase the effect. Obviously, attributes like “Increase Max Health” or “Bonus Firepower” are very useful indeed, but cooldown reductions and health recovery are also appreciated. As the rolls of the kit are random, again reviewing your gear on a regular basis will pay dividends.
Following the story is the best way to get to grips with the controls of Outriders, and with drop in/drop out co-op on offer playing with friends can be a lot of fun. Having a strong friend comes in handy too. Once the story is finished (which is pretty awesome, by the way, but no spoilers here) there are Expeditions to tackle. These are the end game content of Outriders, and are really a stern test of not just your build, but also your ability to play with others. Joining a random team is sometimes okay too, but there are a lot of folk out there who will only accept perfection; expect to be kicked by teammates if you don’t quite live up to expectations. Still, in Outriders the majority of players, even on cross play platforms, seem decent enough and are willing to help out in order for progress to be found. And as the Expeditions go up in tiers, and the faster you finish, the better the gear that you get.
Outriders on Xbox is a great game, almost despite itself. The decision to include cooperative opportunities instead of working with a nailed on PvP mode is a great choice. The story is engaging, gameplay works very well and the Expeditions are just about challenging enough. In fact, People Can Fly have ensured that shooting, looting and running away from powerful monsters has never been so much fun.