Developer: People Can Fly, Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Reviewed on: Playstation 5
Also available on: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC
Release: 1st April 2021
“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. Two massive colony ships, the Caravel and the Flores, are built, each holding 500 thousand colonists. Despite the Caravel exploding in the middle of construction, the Flores successfully reaches Enoch's orbit after an 83 year journey. The first humans to set foot on Enoch are the Outriders, a team of elite soldiers tasked with scouting the landing zone and paving the way for the colonists. However, the Outriders quickly discover the Anomaly, a massive and deadly energy storm. The Outriders attempt to warn the ECA to abort the colonization, but the ECA leadership instead send their own security forces to silence the Outriders by purging them. One of the Outriders, having survived exposure to the Anomaly, is mortally wounded during the fighting and is put into cryo stasis by Shira, an ECA scientist for a later coup.
The Outrider is awakened from cryo stasis 31 years later, where they find that the ECA's attempted colonization has failed, with the Anomaly destroying all the colony's advanced technology and trapping all the colonists within the confines of a single mountain valley. Beset by hostile alien wildlife and left with dwindling resources, the colonists split in a massive civil war pitting the remnants of the ECA against the Insurgents, militant rebels who seek to overthrow the ECA. In addition, people who have survived exposure to the Anomaly like the Outrider have become "Altered", mutated humans possessing supernatural powers. The Outrider manages to reunite with Shira, who is now the de facto leader of the ECA, and she tasks him/her with fighting against the down trodden Insurgents and eliminating their Altered.” - Wikipedia
At the very start of the game, you begin by creating your character, complete with your character’s class. There are 4 classes to choose from, each with unique abilities and play styles. The four classes include ‘The Trickster’, which has the ability to manipulate time; ‘The Pyromancer’, which can manipulate fire; ‘The Devastator’, which can unleash seismic attacks; and ‘The Technomancer’, which uses turrets and other devices. Like any other shooter concept, you kill and loot to gain XP, while also furthering your game progression. You use the XP and skill points to improve your character and unlock new abilities, improving your odds against the ever increasing and sometimes overwhelming forces you face.
On paper, Outriders is great, and the time I spent playing it was thoroughly enjoyable. Positively, it included a unique, yet familiar storyline and a fast paced teamwork oriented combat. However, the downside is that Outriders is far from a polished game in my opinion. While it's good and enjoyable, I just feel like there's a lot missing for a 2021 release. Especially on next gen consoles!
Graphically, the game is good and in some ways it's fantastic; but it is let down in other components. The environments are very populated, detailed and the draw distance is really cool. One thing I did notice, which you don't get to see very often, is that the environments that can be seen in the draw distance is in fact the different parts of the game you've already played through and/or are going to play through. Most games just have some image of a generic environment pasted up there to save on rendering etc. Outriders don't, you can look into the distance and recognise a landmark and part of the map that you visited a few hours ago. This feature really adds to the feeling of immersion; like you're really inside this mysterious world. The biggest downfall for me in terms of graphics was the lack of ray tracing. I mean you're in 2021, releasing your game on next gen consoles and you don't even have water reflections? This REALLY disappointed me to say the least. Another issue I had was the lack of attention to detail. Things just didn't interact with each other the way you'd expect them to with a brand new release. One example I can give you, is the ice. There's one scene in particular, one that I bet everyone that has played the game will know exactly what I'm talking about. There is a moment at your base camp where the random soldier off to the side is blasting some icicles with a flamethrower. As you'd expect, these icicles melted….. WRONG, these “icicles” didn't even flinch. Not even a drip below them. This inconsistency is something that I wouldn't expect from such a big name cross gen release title, and it’s something that other games have been nailing as standard for years now.
Gameplay wise, as I’ve said it is fun; it's very much “Gears of War” rather than a “Destiny”. Utilising your environment is absolutely the most important aspect of the game and one you'll have to learn to master before being able to progress too far. The gameplay is very much geared towards teamwork; playing solo is doable, but is definitely much less enjoyable and much more frustrating. In fact, the only way that I found I could play solo, was to drop down a world tier or two, just to stand a chance against some of the bigger hordes or more stubborn bosses. When facing hordes of enemies, you'll quickly notice that unlike a lot of shooters where enemies get into cover and stay there, Outrider enemies are actually very tactical. Some stay in cover trying to draw you out of yours, while the bigger enemies will actually rush to you and even attempt to flank you; if that happens, you're in trouble. Gameplay wise, I can't fault it. It was fun, challenging and it really encouraged working well as a team. I just think that maybe it was a little too hard sometimes, especially when playing alone.
The biggest issue of this game and one that most gamers can relate to, is the server issues. Being a live service/always online game, you need a constant internet connection to play Outriders, even when playing solo. Well I am just going to come right out and say it….. I HATE LIVE SERVICE GAMES! In my opinion, every game should have the option to play offline, it just doesn't make sense to me that a game that I want to play alone is cut short because I'm having internet issues or because the servers are down. I could continue to vent...but, back to the server issue. I must pretence this with the fact that I played the game on release day and had zero issues. I simply booted the game up and played, just as you'd expect. So I was shocked to see on the Gaming Australia Facebook community page over the following days, that people were complaining about the servers and issues loading into the game. That was until I tried to load in again a few days later. Since then I've probably spent about 3 hours closing my app, reloading and still getting stuck on the damn “signed in screen”. Needless to say, this has led to me playing a lot less of the game than I usually like to before writing a review. On top of these issues, I was also affected by multiple game crashes; which of course led to another 20 minutes of closing my app and trying again. Very frustrating indeed, but hopefully something that is fixed very soon.
The game does a great job of the whole “looter” element of the game. Having the adjustable world tier levels and plenty of “bosses” to kill along the way, you are constantly rewarded with loot. Obviously the higher your world tier, the better the loot you receive. Whilst previous looter shooters have you collecting loot, find a setup or a build that you like, and are forced to change it again when a better piece of loot drops. What Outriders does really well is that every single piece of loot or equipment is completely upgradable. You can upgrade an item's rarity, level, mods and much more, making it much easier to find a build that works for you and keep that build for the duration of your playthrough.
The key to success with Outriders, is building a well rounded squad to play through it with. This means having a squad of 3 or 4, each one having a different class with its different unique abilities and knowing exactly when to use them. I use trickster as my main, spend most of my time running in and slowing down time for the enemies, while my teammates unleash fury to different degrees of success. Fine tuning these skills is what will really allow you to flourish.
*The current server and drop out issues have not been taken into account when finalising my review score of the game. This is because I am hoping, and assuming, that these issues will soon be resolved.
Overall, Outriders is a great game. Whilst ever so slightly dated in the graphical sense, it well and truly makes up for this in its gritty, well rounded gameplay and looter system. Outriders sets out to be a looter shooter concept, and it excels as both a looter and a shooter. While I don't think it's a game of the year contender, I think it's a solid game and definitely one that a lot of people will enjoy for a little while yet.
It's also very important to mention that Outriders is available for free on Xbox Game Pass. It’s definitely worth taking advantage of that offer! If you don’t already have Xbox Game Pass, then I have to say, why don’t you? You’re missing out big time, as it is absolutely the best value subscription service in the video gaming world; as demonstrated by Outriders being free to play from day one! I definitely recommend checking that out and seeing for yourself.
(Our copy of outriders was provided for the purpose of a review by Square Enix)