After over 6 years of faithful service I’ve retired my old rig and am now the proud owner of a flashy new AMD Ryzen system sporting a RTX 3070 (along with a whole new suite of peripherals, including a new Alienware 38″ ultrawide). After putting it through the usual paces to ensure that everything was working correctly I wanted to throw a few games that really stressed the old rig out to see how they fared on the new, sleeker system. Coincidentally I had just finished my playthrough of Outriders and figured it’d be a solid comparison, even if it wasn’t the graphical benchmark like Cyberpunk is trying to be. Of course the new rig blitzed it and now I’ve been wondering how much of the negative experiences I had with Outriders might’ve just been due to my rig nearing the end of its useful life.
During the middle of the 21st Century, Earth has passed the point of no return as climate disasters grow more frequent and dangerous, surpassing humanity’s ability to mitigate them. The major governments of Earth combine their resources under the newly formed Enoch Colonization Authority (ECA) in a last-ditch effort to preserve humanity on Enoch, a distant Earth-like planet. You’re an Outrider, the ones who will be tasked with paving the way for the rest of the colonists when you finally arrive at your destination. However when you go down to land a powerful anomaly strikes, causing all sorts of chaos and gravely injuring you. Your crew puts you into cryosleep so they can get back to heal you up once they finish dealing with it. The next time you wake up however it’s 30 years later, and the world you’re in now isn’t the new Eden that everyone was hoping for.
You can readily see the influences that the cross generation, cross platform release has had on the game’s graphics; striking a balance between eye candy and performance so that there wasn’t a whole load of optimisation required across all platforms to get them running smoothly. Of course part of this lack of high end eye candy is also due to the fact that they’ll be sending giant mobs of enemies at you and, given your class abilities penchant for particle effects, you can quickly overwhelm a high end system if you’re not too careful. I will say though that the upgrade from my old rig to the new definitely made me see the game in a new light as everything that felt a bit off and sluggish before suddenly became incredibly smooth. I can understand the reasons behind the multiplatform and generation release but still, I think the game could have benefitted from ditching the old so they could really flex some new fangled graphics.
Outriders is a looter shooter, taking a grab bag of mechanics from all the popular ones in the genre and blending them together to form something that’s not really unique, nor is it particularly run of the mill either. The weapons and gear all have random rolls, much like The Division, you have a class system kind of like Destiny, and there’s the normal tropes of a semi-open world with crafting, mods and the usual campaign/side missions that we’ve all come to expect. I was asked a couple times what it’s particular draw would be and, honestly, it really doesn’t bring anything new to the table here as everything it does has been seen elsewhere before. However that doesn’t stop it from being a fun game though as whilst it might not be blazing any trails it does do some of the things quite well, even if they were marred by some rather serious launch day issues.
Combat is a mix of the usual infinite regen third person shooter combat (I.E. hiding behind chest high boxes every so often) and spamming whatever abilities you have to take care of a large number of mobs that have just been sent your way. I was playing the Pyromancer class so your mileage may vary a little bit, but the game does seem to favour sending more enemies at you over…well doing pretty much anything else to make things more difficult. This being said it is incredibly satisfying when you manage to pull off a certain combo that just wastes an entire wave, giving you a lot of breathing room to deal with the next one that’s coming.
Towards the latter end of the game you’ll have unlocked all your abilities and a good chunk of the talent tree which then means its time to start min/maxing your build for ultimate effectiveness. The game doesn’t do a great job of introducing just how this works though and so you’ll probably have to do a bit of googling to figure out how things interact and how best to make use of them. Primarily it’s going to center on whatever class ability works best for you and then building your items around it. For me this was Volcanic Rounds which just seemed to shred enemies and generally make the game a lot less grindy than it would otherwise be. So my build then focused on maximising that ability’s uptime by augmenting it directly and trying to use other clever mechanics to not have to reload (and thus keep the ability up). This worked pretty well but it did usually mean I’d have to play hide and seek when it was down as my other two abilities were an OH-SHIT heal and an AOE ability to clear mobs.
I did like the progression system overall, save for the world tier system which always seemed to be somewhat out of step with where I was in the game. It wasn’t so much of an issue during co-op, indeed the game seems to be largely balanced around playing it that way, but definitely when doing things solo it seemed like I needed to be a tier or two below my current maximum lest I hit a brick wall in progression with a boss or particularly challenging mob. Similarly there’d always be a definitive point in time where I’d be completely over the current world tier but wouldn’t have really done anything to put me over the edge. Given that you can manage this yourself it’s not too bad but it does feel like it could do with a bit more single player tuning to really dial it in a bit better.
Sadly the game wasn’t without its issues on launch day with it being a rather glitchy and messy affair for all concerned. Playing it in the early days was a bit of a hit and miss affair, with random desyncs between me and my mate happening pretty regularly through the couple hours we spent together. These did get better over time but then the other, more game breaking bugs started to hit. I was lucky enough to not get hit with any of them but I can definitely say that, if I lost all my gear after completing the campaign, I would not have been a happy camper. I was also going to complain a little bit about the game’s overall performance but that largely seems to have been an issue with my old rig more than anything. Sure, it could play it, but I was probably averaging 30~40 fps at most and the times when it really struggled are when I remember it having the most issues.
The story is also pretty run of the mill and I’m honestly pretty tired of post-apocalyptic fiction as a genre at the moment. It doesn’t help that your character isn’t particularly likeable right from the get go, seemingly doing a hard right turn towards asshole right after the game’s introduction. Of course not many players will be playing this for the story and lore, they’ll just be doing the usual purple chasing that we all eventually do when we get to the endgame of these things. Still I do enjoy it when looter shooters put a bit more effort into their narratives, even if they end up being an also ran.
Outriders might not be the out and out hit that People Can Fly was hoping for but there’s a solid base of good stuff in it here that’s definitely worth exploring if you’re a fan of the looter shooter genre. The progression systems, combat and loot are all done well, even if they’re just uninspired copies of things that have been done a dozen times over before. To be sure there’s been some teething issues as well, but they have largely abated as far as I can tell. So is it worth playing? Sure, but it’s probably not going to be that game you play for a couple hundred hours as you grind out the perfect build. For the most part I enjoyed my time with it and, should a new update bring something interesting to it, I think I may find myself back at it again.
Outriders is available on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and Google Stadia right now for $89.95. Game was played on the PC with a total of 14.1 hours of total playtime with 53% of the achievements unlocked.