Outriders: Preliminary Review

I’ve been playing Outriders steadily on my Series X ever since it launched (thank you, Xbox Game Pass!) and so far I agree with most reviews and would give People Can Fly’s latest offering a solid “B”. Unlike most games in the looter-shooter genre, Outriders wasn’t made by a AAA studio and it shows in both its simplistic map design and mediocre graphics. That said, it’s a very competent shooter with satisfying gunplay and some nifty powers — it’s probably a lot more fun when played in co-op, too, but I’m going through it solo for now.

If I had to compare Outriders’ gameplay to something, I’d say it’s somewhere in-between the original Mass Effect trilogy and Borderlands: it’s a third person, cover-based shooter with powers (with three out of an eventual eight powers mapped to your controls), but you’re also looting gear and guns with increasingly cool perks as they go up in rarity.

It’s also strikingly reminiscent of another couple of Bioware games, story-wise — a blend of elements from Mass Effect Andromeda and Anthem — but if you like those “space colonization gone cataclysmically wrong” plots, it’s kind of intriguing. What sets Outriders apart from those games, however, is its consistently bleak and cynical tone (and liberal use of f-bombs), which is only slightly offset by a dark sense of humour. While this does lead to some unexpected and subversive quest endings, it’s your own personality that will ultimately dictate if you find those twists amusing, frustrating, or just tedious.

My biggest criticism of Outriders — and I may have to revise this once I’ve seen more of the game — is that it comes across as very repetitive at first, largely because of the slow pace at which you’re introduced to new biomes and enemy types.

I’d guess I’m maybe 30-50% of the way into the game and, so far, I’ve spent the majority of my time trudging through muddy battlefields inspired by WWI and the trench warfare it’s synonymous with. While fighting human enemies through wooden trenches, brutalist concrete bunkers, and hollowed-out buildings isn’t necessarily a bad thing in a video game, it is a far cry from what I hoped for (which was to be exploring an alien planet and fending off exotic monsters left and right).

There have been a few different biomes, of course — I’ve been to icy mountaintops, dropped into a volcano, and am currently in a jungle — but the alien monsters are introduced a little too gradually for my taste and, other than boss fights, they don’t look or fight that differently from each other. Again, this could simply be due to it being a AA game: designing and animating a variety of distinct creatures is a lot of work.

In sum, Outriders’ repetitive nature doesn’t give you much of a sense that you’re progressing through the game, but I’m satisfied enough by the gameplay and sufficiently intrigued by the story and prospect of exploring more of the alien planet that I’m happy to keep shootin’ and lootin’ my way across Enoch for the time being.

– The Pixel Tourist


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