LifeisXbox’s Outriders review | You and I know that people cannot fly without a proper means of transport. But it didn’t prevent the Polish studio People Can Fly from doing it. Since its establishment, which dates back to 2002, PCF has been delivering remarkable gaming experiences with names like Bulletstorm and Gears of War Judgement (this last one co-developed with Epic Games) among their ranks. Today, we’re going to take a look at their most recent (and by far the most ambitious) project. It was a game that has been in development for the last six years and flew absolutely under my radar until its beta hit the media last February. This, my friends, is Outriders.
Published by Square Enix, Outriders is a looter shooter that stands out in the genre. It offers terrific visuals, superb sound design, and a deep and engaging world that you don’t wish to leave. In this game, you play as an Outrider, a mercenary responsible for protecting a human expedition to the planet Enoch. This planet has been selected as the new home for humankind after we (yes, we!) have condemned Earth. Now it’s your duty to grant the safety of the first humans to step on it before the arrival of the other chosen ones that wait inside of a massive spaceship, floating on Enoch’s orbit. But something went wrong down on the surface of the planet.
A strange and unexpected phenomenon hit those exploring the surface of Enoch, killing or mutating those who got in contact with it. You are one of the few who survived this anomaly and developed some extraordinary abilities – with immortality among them. But different from others hit by this anomaly – who are now called Altered – you didn’t lose your humankind. Thankfully, your friends were able to put you back into cryo-sleep as they would try to find a cure for your injuries. And maybe this nap of more than 30 years kept you from impersonating the role of demigod of this planet – a role that other Altereds proudly embrace. Now you wake up to find this world thorn by war, in a situation as terrible as the one you left back on Earth. Prepare to discover more about your new powers while exploring this world and, if it weren’t enough, maybe save humanity. Enough talking, outrider! Gear up and let’s go!
Rafa played Outriders for more than 30 hours on his Xbox One X. This game is also available for Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Stadia, Steam, Epic, and GeForce Now. Sorry, Switch 🤷🏻♂️
What we liked!
- The story | Without spoiling too much from it, Outrider’s story is one of a kind! It has some insightful takes on what we’re doing to our planet and ourselves, suggesting what would be the ultimate alternative for our survival. As mentioned above, humankind screw up the planet so badly (not so different from what we’ve been doing in the last decades) that we needed to leave Earth. And when I say we, I mean only a bunch of important people – 500.000 of them – who were taken in a spaceship to a similar planet where they could survive. Yes, there are high doses of sci-fi fiction in it. Still, as I talked to NPCs to know more about them and read (a lot of) documents about what happened on our planet, it somehow hit me and made me think a lot about what we are doing with our home. The characters in this game and the conflict between Enoch Colonization Authority (ECA) and the Insurgents felt so real and plausible like few games have felt before. And this is just the background of the game. Kudos to the team for creating such a unique and engaging story!
- Visually astonishing | There may be some wizards or alchemists in People Can Fly ranks because what they achieved with Outriders, from a visual perspective, is not from this world! The scenarios of Enoch are some of the best I’ve ever seen in my Xbox One X – and I can’t even imagine how incredible they shall be with ray tracing running on a Series X! Prepare to embark on a colorful, highly detailed, and immersive trip like few I’ve seen before. The impressive level of talent shown by the studio (easy perceived on the contrast between light and dark places, the visual effects on particles, explosions, electricity, and – especially – the fire) makes it a visual experience worth checking for everyone who enjoys a pyrotechnical show! And let me not forget about a small detail that may look unimportant to you, but I really appreciated: the possibility to examine your weapons individually on the inventory, allowing you to see how rich in details they are. Please hold your breath: we’re just starting this review.
- Sound | As previously mentioned in our intro, the sound in Outriders is something over the top! Jealous about who can experience this game on a proper surround home theater system (although my RIG 400 with Dolby Atmos is not disappointing me 😉). The music and all of its soundtrack are amazing, but I need to tell you how jaw-dropping the voice acting and the sound effects are! They help build the charisma of characters – friends or foes – and the desolated atmosphere of this planet. And they achieved it with mastery!
- Characters and enemies | It may seem a little odd to create a topic to talk about characters and enemies, but they earned their spot in my review. All individuals – and when I say all, I really mean it – are incredibly detailed and exquisitely animated! Ok, there’s a vast number of clones wandering around (enemies wearing a mask and using the same vests pattern), but their overall visuals are impressive. And when in the wild, Enoch’s fauna is well-supplied with monstrosities that sound as terrifying as they look. The atmosphere created through the visuals and sound effects of its inhabitants is something exceptional.
- Co-op Adventure | Although it can be entirely played solo, Outriders offers the possibility to face the perils of Enoch with two more friends. If you are in different parts of the main quest, no problem: you can replay previous missions painlessly. Needless to say, the game becomes much more enjoyable when you have friends to play along with. Still, to make things even better, People Can Fly and Square Enix included cross-play in the title, allowing players from all systems and platforms to combine forces and explore Enoch together. No console wars on this planet, baby!
- Combat system | Among my friends and the many groups of gamers I’m part of, Outriders is being compared to various other heavy hitters like Bungie’s Destiny series, Xbox’s Gears series, or Ubisoft’s The Division series. And they aren’t all wrong to say so, but I feel these comparisons are incomplete. Yes, Outriders is a loot-shooter like the ones mentioned above. It has some (many) similarities in its combat system with those games. Still, the combination of these elements didn’t create anything particularly new. However, its developers achieved an almost perfect balance that made me feel familiar while still challenged to keep going further! And this, my friends, is the recipe for its success! You can fire from cover like we do on Gears and The Division, but you can also run to your enemies and use your special powers as we do on Destiny. You can be a tank, going for an all-or-nothing against your foes, hunt ’em down with swift moves, or fight from afar with long-range guns. You can trust in your weapons to keep your enemies at bay or use your powers to decimate your enemies – or find a perfect balance between those two, like People Can Fly did with the game.
- Classes and specializations | When the anomaly first hits your hero at the beginning of the game, you will need to select one of four classes for him/her – and this is the most critical decision you will have in Outriders. Each of the four primary classes gives you access to three subclasses (or specializations, if you prefer) at the cost of progress points in your class tree (more about it later), offering even more possibilities to customize your hero. Finding the class that best fits your playstyle may take some time, but it’s totally worth it. Now let’s take a closer look at each one of the classes present in the game:
- The Devastator, a tank with increased armor and maximum health that specializes in close combat and skills based on earth and rocks. Its subclasses comprehend the Vanquisher, specialized in boosting weapon damage; the Warden, specialized in boosting armor and health; and the Seismic Shifter, specialized in boosting skill damage.
- The Pyromancer, a medium-range combatant with the ability to control fire. Its subclasses include the Ash Breaker, specialized in boosting weapon damage against marked enemies; Fires Storm, specialized in boosting armor and health; and Tempest, specialized in boosting skill damage.
- The Technomancer, a long-range support class that uses ice skills and gadgets. As subclasses, it counts with the Pestilence, focused on boosting damage from weapons and toxins; the Tech Shaman, focused on boosting damage from your gadgets and your health; and the Demolisher, which has no particular focus but boosts damage from all your sources.
- The Trickster, a close-ranged combatant with a focus on time and space manipulation. Its subclasses include the Assassin, with a boost to weapon damage while in movement; the Harbinger, with a boost to your health, armor, and shields; and the Reaver, focusing on skill damage and health leech.
- RPG elements | Outriders offers plenty of RPG elements that enhance your experience through Enoch. We will begin with leveling up your character. Every combat and mission you complete in Outriders gives you valuable experience points. By accumulating enough of them, your character gains a level, increasing some of his/her status (like maximum life and armor) and – sometimes – giving you a class point to learn a new ability from your class’s skill tree. Two nice things about it: the first one is that you can buy skills from any of your subclasses branches, mixing your Technomancer into a Pestilent Tech Shaman, for instance; and the second one is that if you are not happy with your character, you can reset the points already spent and start a new build for free. And now, about how the status effects play a huge role during the combat. Both you and your enemies can apply and suffer from status effects like burning, freeze, toxic, bleed, and more. To inflict such statuses on your enemies, your equipment must have the necessary mods attached to it. And now we touched the subject of equipment…
- Your arsenal | Now about the looter-shooter aspect of the game. First, I want to emphasize that each piece of equipment on your character changes his/her visuals, which is very cool! Your Outrider carries two primary weapons plus a handgun (which has unlimited ammo). Your arsenal options include rifles, assault rifles, sniper rifles, light machine guns, sub-machine guns, and shotguns. Every weapon category still has some slight variants that change its maximum ammo, fire rate, and damage. In the defensive department, we have head, body, hands, legs, and foot equipment that changes how your character looks and increases his status. Both defensive equipment and weapons are divided according to their rarity from unusual to rare, epic, and legendary (needless to say that the higher their rarity, the most powerful they are). Weapons and gear can have mods equipped on them, increasing your defense, skills’ effectiveness, or adding elemental damage to your guns. Equipment pieces also have their own levels (which can be upgraded, increasing its stats), making crafting another critical aspect of the game. So, besides making your Outrider a killing machine, the right equipment can make he/she looks like a killing machine!
- The economy in Enoch | You can find new pieces of equipment frequently in the game (remember this is a looter shooter, after all) in chests or from fallen enemies. As most of them will be weaker than your current equipment (or because they don’t fit in your strategy), you can always sell them for some scraps in stores, making them the primary source of money for your Outrider. Only a few locations still under the control of the ECA offer stores where you can buy and sell weapons and equipment (that I wouldn’t dare to call new at all) using scrap, the currency of this world. But most of the time, I found myself dismantling unused items to gather resources for one of my allies, Dr. Zahid. He is a weapons specialist who can modify your items and increase the level of your weapons and equipment using these resources (iron for weapons, leather for armors, and titanium for rarer items). He can also use anomaly shards (another one of the resources you will collect) to increase your equipment attributes. Finally, he can also change the mods in your equipment, giving you profound control over your gear.
- Character customization | Outriders offers a good number of options to create a genuinely badass character. The character creation system present here is nice, but after playing Code Vein, the game that may have the deepest and complete character creation system ever created, Outriders’ system felt a little… shy, if I must say. It’s nice that you can change your character look in-game whenever you are in the mood – and for free – but after seeing some other Altereds in the game, I wish I could put some of those mutations in my character.
- Mission accepted | Besides the main quest, there are some other activities to keep you busy in Outriders – and I must say they are pretty interesting. Each location you visit offers a few side missions to accomplish. They take you to different areas of the level where you usually play your Dovahkiin role (message and delivery services), fight more enemies and a boss at the end. There are also hunt missions where you will track some beasts from the planet. The wanted missions come next, where you will look for some hard-to-beat enemies in places previously visited. Finally, the historian missions, where you will collect reminiscent items from Earth and take them to an NPC in Rift Town that keeps a small museum to remember how our life used to be. She has some lovely objects in her collection, like a Beastie Boys vinyl that’s already rare to find nowadays. After completing each mission, you can select one of three pieces of equipment as a prize. Except for the hunt, wanted, and historian missions, side missions can be replayed as many times you wish to increase your character level and get better loot. Thanks to their variety, it’s nice to go after all of them to get to know Enoch better, but their repetitive nature will soon drop by to say hi.
- Too many levels to keep track of | Even after a few hours deep into Outriders, I still felt a little confused about its many progress systems. First, we have our Character Level, which we have already talked about. Then we have the Accolades, which level up as you accomplish in-game tasks like ‘eliminating 350 enemies with headshots’ or ‘killing 500 enemies with an Automatic Sniper Rifle’. Leveling up in this rank gives you new cosmetics to customize your banner and your truck and new emotes for your character (for those of you who enjoy floss dancing in the multiplayer). There’s also the World Tier, the difficulty level of your enemies that increase as you progress in the game, keeping areas previously visited still challenging for revisiting. But if you feel things are too challenging for you, you can always decrease the world tier level to make things easier. And last, the Challenge Tier from the Expeditions (endgame mode), which works exactly like the world tiers, but only in the expeditions. So, here we have four different levels you need to keep track of (or not) during your gameplay. Although the game explains most of its mechanics, understanding how each progress system works was a little too complicated.
What we disliked
- Bugs | I’ve only seen a few bugs and glitches in the game: enemies that can shoot me from behind walls, enemies floating, my character’s hair appearing even though he was wearing a full helmet, and other things that didn’t impact my gameplay, except for the connection issues during the first two days with the game. But I’m aware there are players still suffering with it and, what I think is worse, losing equipment when loading the game. I’m sure all these issues will be addressed in upcoming patches, but it’s important to mention them in this review.
- The endgame | No, no… I’m not talking about Marvel Cinematics Universe’s Endgame. Still, this one is as meaningful as the one caused by Thanos on the silver screens. Since my first contact with Outriders, I’ve been worried about what it would be from its endgame. We’ve seen dozens of great titles suffering from a poor endgame. Of course, some studios have mended this issue, adding more and more content to their titles, but most solved it by listening to their fanbase. This way, the first The Division’s Dark Zones and Conflict turned into a new faction with tougher challenges in the endgame of The Division 2, for instance. In Outriders endgame, you will be presented to the Expeditions, 15 new missions with a new progressions level (the Challenge Tier) that take you to new areas of the planet to keep fighting more enemies and acquiring new loot. It is a little disappointing, if I may because all you will do in these areas is the same you have been doing during your time in Enoch. Not that it is a bad thing, but the repetitiveness keeps knocking on my door when I think about it. I wish they could add some more variety in the (almost certain) upcoming DLCs, or the game will be over after players finish its story mode. Of course, you can always start it all over with a different character, but I can see only a few people doing so.
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With a history of gaming that goes from his old man’s Atari 2600 to his Xbox One, Rafael or RAF687, our Brazilian editor, has a love for games as old as he can remember. He has already spent countless hours in many consoles (Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega Saturn, PS1, PS2 and Xbox 360) and is always ready for more (as long as his wife is asleep). Raf has been writing for LifeisXbox since 2017, with a passion for games of almost all genres – though we know he has a special place in his heart for RPGs, racing games and anything that includes pixel art. Writing about games has always been a childhood dream to Raf, dream that he has fulfilled reviewing games for you here. You can drop him a message at Twitter, Facebook or Xbox Live at any time.