Ever wanted to take off from Earth? Maybe go explore an alien planet? It’s a nice thought sometimes, especially when an acquaintance starts to talk at length about Baby Yoda and you’re looking for an escape. Outriders, the new shooter-RPG from developer People Can Fly (Bulletstorm, Gears of War: Judgment), gives you a chance to make those dreams come true.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean everything’s going to be sunshine and rainbows. That “shooter” in “shooter-RPG” is there for a reason, after all.
Earth is, as always, in a bad way. This time it’s in such a bad way (thanks to worldwide riots, overpopulation, pollution, the usual suspects) that it’s time to hop into a colony ship and leave. The good news is that our race has found a new homeworld in Enoch, a far-off planet that looks especially cozy. The bad news is that Enoch turns out to not be all that cozy at all. Thanks to a bizarre storm called the Anomaly, there’s all kinds of crazy stuff that happens on Enoch.
Most of that stuff is lethal, and it’s going to be your job as an Outrider, a sort of sci-fi scout empowered by the Anomaly, to keep the remnants of humanity safe after society falls apart yet again.
Outriders is what you get when you combine People Can Fly’s efforts with the Gears of War series and a more typical lootin’ shootin’ game like Borderlands. You’ll be doing a lot of hiding behind chest-high cover, a lot of popping out to shoot at baddies and a whole lot of picking up the loot they drop hoping for a much-needed upgrade. These turn out to be two great tastes that taste great together; that addictive dopamine rush when you find new goodies is present and accounted for, while the tense cover-based gameplay that used to saturate every shooter on the market remains just as palatable here.
As you’d expect from an RPG, you’ll choose from one of four classes. These determine your character’s overall power set, aesthetics and even what weapon types they’d prefer to use, though there aren’t any class locks on weaponry so far as we could tell. You’ve got your fire-blasting Pyromancer, your time-warping Trickster, your turret-building Technomancer and your frontline-tanking Devastator, with each offering several different viable build types. If you want a Devastator that stands back and demolishes enemies with earthquakes and ground spikes from afar rather than tanking, go nuts!
As for gear, there’s plenty of options to choose from. Weapons range from rifles to shotguns to LMGs, while armor comes in numerous styles. One of Outriders’ standout features is gear crafting, which functions more as a way of tweaking your stuff to your liking. More unusual equipment comes with powerful Mods that adjust how your character and their skills function, and by deconstructing pieces you don’t need you learn to apply those Mods to other items.
This allows you to change up your equipment to suit your needs, making even trash loot an exciting find since it might have a Mod you need. Combining mods and powers makes for great fun – take a power that lets you do additional damage until you reload your gun and then add a mod so you never have to reload, for instance, and you can keep it going forever!
You’re encouraged to engage with Outriders’ RPG elements thanks to the World Tier system. Character levels and skill points allow you to enhance your Outrider, as expected, but you’ll also earn Tier progression as you complete battles without dying. This, in turn, increases your World Tier, dramatically boosting the game’s difficulty while also offering improved rewards.
Progressing through the World Tiers is your initial challenge in Outriders once you’ve completed the game’s plot; that’ll run you eight to ten hours, though you’ll almost certainly need to take breaks to grind for levels and gear, extending the runtime significantly.
Once all that is done, you can move on to Outriders’ endgame, a series of timed Expeditions that play out a bit like the Rifts in Diablo 3. It’s a great time, especially with friends, and you’re bound to find plenty to sink your teeth into.
Outriders’ presentation is also pretty solid. Initial areas fall prey to the “real is brown” trope from back in the day, but as you progress though Enoch you’ll find newer and more colorful environments ripe for the blasting. This was obviously a high-end title and it shows in terms of both graphics and sound. On the technical front, well…Outriders struggles a bit from time to time. Recent patches have helped a bit, but there are still plenty of crashing issues and odd bugs here and there.
None of these issues are enough to keep Outriders from a recommendation, though. It’s a quality loot-and-shoot-’em-up with plenty of goodies to find, foes to fight, and story to experience. If you’re playing solo it’s a perfectly reasonable time, but if you can manage to scrape a couple friends together then Outriders is not to be missed.