People Can Fly includes a background in gritty, gory, and over-the-top shooters. It’s a brief history that began with Painkiller and led to Gears of War: Judgment and Bulletstorm. Now the team is leveraging their experience to craft a cooperative looter shooter with Outriders. All sorts of things … mixed. In lots of ways, People Can Fly flexes their strengths and delivers a pleasurable, superpowered third-person shooter. That said, there are several ways in which Outriders works against itself, lessening the need for joy present in certain instances. Opinions will undoubtedly be divided on this game.
Outriders envisions the next where Earth is no longer viable for human habitation. The only option would be to traverse the vastness of space hoping buying Enoch, a planet positioned as humanity’s saving grace. As fate would have it, the alien planet is way from peaceful. The vision of Earth 2.0 quickly fades from view as a violent storm, known as the Anomaly, rips with the interplanetary colonists.
One of these individuals, a combat proficient Outrider, survives environmentally friendly energy event, albeit wounded. But the wounds aren’t the one thing left behind by the incident; the survivor has now become Altered, humans imbued with power by the Anomaly. Prior to the newfound powers could be adequately explored and enjoyed, the Outrider-turned-Altered is positioned in cryostasis. 3 decades go by before they reawaken and the already foreign world manages to be much more unfamiliar (and desperate) upon return. The journey to understand the Anomaly, identify the signal behind it, and combat every hostile force, human and alien alike, waiting in the way in which starts here.
The concept itself is engaging, but Outriders’ opening moments provide a poor first impression. The introductory cast of characters being churned with the proverbial grinder are as flat because they are foul-mouthed. Sure, I’d be grumpy, too, basically put all of my eggs in Enoch’s basket which basket ended up being burning. But the writing for that characters fails to hit the mark because the game is throwing a slew of foundational events at the player before whatever reason of looking after continues to be established. Everything is seen is really a bunch of assholes reluctantly dealing with other assholes, all while trying to kill or do not be killed by different assholes. That about covers the variety of personalities inhabiting Enoch. The softer centers of our grimy, battle-hardened cast aren’t glimpsed until several hours later. And that’s about the same point the story improves, whether or not the dialogue doesn’t always support it properly.
The environments fare a bit better. Although not immediately apparent in the first couple of hours, Enoch hosts beautiful and varied landscapes. Over the course of the campaign, which clocks in around 25 hours with side quests, the player will traverse snow-covered volcanoes, ancient forest ruins, plus much more. It’s a shame the map design is largely restrictive, with areas made up of connecting corridors. I often found myself staring past the confines from the map in the beautiful backdrops fleshing the world. And they were entrancing sights to behold. The linearity of the level design can be off-putting at first, but eventually a rhythm is located.
You see, while we have discussed the Syfy™ quality script and semi-restrictive level design, neither would be the reasons players will discover themselves coming back for more. Outriders is all about looting, shooting, and liberal use of powerful skills. People Can Fly have cherry-picked aspects of Destiny and Diablo in developing this title, that is NOT a live service. What we should have this is a complete product, at least when it comes to content. No battle passes, seasons, and so on are begging you to definitely log in daily or risk passing up on rewards or story bits.
Outriders goes all in on its four distinct classes — Devastator, Trickster, Pyromancer, and Technomancer — coupled with heavily modifiable weapons and deep skill trees. The classes steadily access new powers, three which can be equipped at any given time. The Trickster is a master of space and time, disrupting both as it teleports over the battlefield and helps to create temporal fields. The Devastator, on the other hand, rips the rock in the ground to encase itself in protective armor or impale its enemies. The powers may not reach the amounts of insanity based in the developer’s previous work, Bulletstorm, but they're wild nonetheless.
Coupled with the slew of shotguns, revolvers, LMGs, assault rifles, sniper rifles, etc. dropping with each encounter and coming out of every chest, it’s simple to get sucked in to the power fantasy People Can Fly have presented. The continual showering of loot means there will always be materials and mods to strip in the items that don’t suit the targeted playstyle. An ample crafting system allows the simplest looking weapons to suddenly mirror Mjolnir, bolting enemies with lightning when achieving critical hits. Outriders is firing on all cylinders in those moments where carefully selected skills are synergizing with collected weapon mods to create insane effects and shred enemy health bars in an instant.
Eventually, enemies will be the ones doing the shredding and also you won’t find a health kit around the corner. Outriders may feel just like a title developed for the PS3 and Xbox 360 console era at times, but it is actually forward-thinking in its approach to combat and health. Rather than breaking from the action to hunt down health packs or idly sit behind cover as health regenerates, Outriders awards health for being aggressive. There's a (janky) cover system, but it's hardly used (thankfully). Each class receives health for killing enemies within certain ranges or dealing damage in general. It’s a bold shift from shooter norms.
Thanks to World Tiers, a similar concept to Diablo 3’s Torment levels, the experience can be scaled to the player’s ideal state. Looking to simply tell you the storyline and close out the mysteries of Enoch? World Tier 1 is Story difficulty. Maybe your loadout is decimating forces too easily and you're simply in need of more formidable cannon fodder. From World Tier 4 and up, enemies are put over the player’s current level. There are 15 World Tiers in total, each widening the level gap of hostile combatants whilst increasing loot and level rarity and legendary drop rates.
Although Outriders is a complete package, a welcome shift in today’s industry, it still wants to place itself in your everyday rotation. Jumping in and grinding out World Tiers to test the potency of new mods and gear creates an exciting loop. Becoming broken is a journey that will resonate with those that enjoy drilling recorded on MMO and RPG stat sheets. Which game certainly offers up lots of ways to transform the classes from operable to OP.
There is no better place to assess builds than the endgame Expeditions. Following the story has ended its major plot points, Expeditions become available. These post-game missions are where players will truly be tested. Challenge Tiers, outside of World Tiers, are brought to further amp up the difficulty. This is where build refinement and gear farming will primarily be housed, unless RNG was kind to you throughout the campaign.
Now, take many of these areas and multiply it because Outriders is a multiplayer game. Up to 3 people can participate in around the story and Expeditions. It’s think about master self-contained synergy between weapons and skills, but it hits an entirely new level when three separate courses are cooperating to pay for the battlefield in bullets and standing effects. Learning when to use interrupt skills or combo having a co-op partner’s build opens up deeper avenues of build exploration.
Cooperative play would be a good deal better if it wasn’t for a bevy of connection issues. Matchmaking is currently a mess and despite being billed like a crossplay title, that feature isn't being employed as intended. Actually, the problem isn’t solely tied to multiplayer; single player is bound by the always online requirement, too. The reasoning behind this is to deter cheaters, however in a game title without PvP or any live service content that could be lessened through exploits it doesn’t make much sense. Being ripped from experiencing the campaign while playing alone due to a server disconnect, a semi-regular occurrence through launch week, became increasingly frustrating.
It’s a problem that has resulted in some player inventories being completely wiped. Having the loot facet of a looter shooter threatened by the instability of the unnecessary connection requirement certainly acts as a deterrent. Within my play time, I did not encounter this issue, however the looming threat accompanied each server disconnect or game crash with a small cardiac arrest.
As the palpitations subsided, it became clear that issues are still intertwined with the experience, especially the controls. Controller deadzones and aim acceleration force the player to adapt to these uneditable settings, making those first couple of hours an adjustment period. Other oddities included jarring cinematic transitions with a few cinematics being replaced by a black screen altogether, irritating micro-stuttering on PC, and irregular gear application effects (ex: health being decline in half).
Outriders is really a back-and-forth experience. All that is brilliant is usually undermined by a system or function that holds the title back. And it really is an intense bet on tug-of-war between these areas. It’s no wonder that People Can Fly’s newest offering is turning to be so divisive.
Despite the issues of Outriders, I kept coming back. People Can Fly are on to something here. The aggressively-focused gunplay is really a welcome change of pace from usual cover shooters. It generates a sensation of joy as a build finally clicks and World Tiers are conquered. Not every one of the problems noted can be fixed via patch, but several of the biggest offenders could be smoothed in future updates to create the knowledge nearer to the intended vision. Outriders has a way to go to sit down up with looter shooters like Borderlands, but similar to Borderlands it has the framework in position because of its sequel to smooth its rougher edges and shine as a mainstay IP for Square Enix.