Outriders is a solid, co-operative shooter with some unique ideas, old-school (if we consider pre-live-service-and-micro-transactions old school) sensibilities, and, unfortunately, a painful launch weekend.
And crashing. Lots of crashing.
First, let’s get the growing pains out of the way.
Outriders could barely keep its servers up for much of the launch weekend, making it a painful process to play at all. Launch the game? Easy? Sign in? No. Not so much.
From menu to gameplay, getting the thing to work was a headache.
But okay, it’s not launch weekend anymore. It’s the week after, and things are significantly improved. No longer are game sessions shut down by internet connection errors. Now they’re shut down by errors. Lots and lots of errors.
Fortunately, developers People Can Fly have been very forthright with updates on server statuses day by day, providing some semblance for when it’s game time (even if it’s not). No doubt they’ll continue to keep us abreast of how fixes are coming.
My crew of three (the party cap) went from having to relaunch the game as often as once every twenty seconds of gameplay to, mm, a combined three times per night. To say that makes a world of a difference is an understatement, because over the weekend it just meant not playing and now it means minor headaches and, sometimes, life-saving glitches.
More on that in a minute.
The headache is mitigated enormously by (mostly) no loss of progress. “Get dced, lose nothing” is a god-send for a game where getting dced is as regular as loot. Hyperbole aside, the crashing sucks.
But Outriders does not.
The game had its hooks in me when it was first announced, because it came with news that it wouldn’t have microtransactions and it wouldn’t be a live-service game.
(But it is always online.)
I’m a run-and-done kind of gamer. I play a game until I’ve beaten it and move on to the next thing. It’s hard (or impossible) to keep up with too many live-service titles. Even expansions often pass me by, since by the time Love, Guns and Tentacles comes out for Borderlands 3, I’m on Satisfactory.
So having a co-operative game that’s designed to be finished when I am sounded pretty enticing. Even more enticing? No microtransactions. For a loot game, that means every cosmetic upgrade is unlocked via gameplay. Adjusting your car, banner, or character takes gameplay achievements, enriching the gunplay instead of emptying our wallets.
Outriders isn’t just promises of a complete game at launch (ahem, server issues and crashes aside). It’s a fun looter-shooter RPG with actual plot, characters, and RPG depth. The writing isn’t flawless and the characterizations aren’t all likable, but what’s here is simple, fun, and more than a little intriguing.
Basically, Earth sucks and everybody is trying to kill each other, so a lucky few hundred thousand (probably undeserving) people rocket themselves up into space to escape and create a second chance.
Well, that second chance still has people, so when they find Enoch, everything goes wrong and it’s Earth 2.0. Everything sucks and everybody is trying to kill each other.
Except for you and a handful of decent folk, who are going to risk it all with guns and glory.
Some of the world-building is pretty cool. For reasons I’ve yet to discover in my first weekend of play, the planet’s ecosystems are rapidly evolving to kill us all. An electronic-frying storm that kills people makes daily life a struggle, but offers some improvement for lucky individuals (like the player) who are granted powers. Then there’s an organ-melting fungus, which is in the way between you and a potential solution to all this resource scarcity.
All of this, of course, is in service to the looting and the shooting.
Each gun and piece of equipment in Outriders has its own rarity (the usual) and mods, which offer a surprising (if you haven’t been paying attention to the developers during the wait until launch) array of effects. Right now, I’m running a brand new, legendary LMG that, on killing an enemy, spawns a “singularity.” Shooting that creates an explosion which does considerable damage in an area of effect that basically wipes mobs, no problem. My equipment is set up so that I gain armor when I roll, when I kill burning enemies, and when I kill enemies when aiming down sites. I also get armor when I sprint, armor when my Tremor skill is active (I’m a Devastator, one of the four classes), and, well, probably more armor I’m forgetting.
I’m definitely fulfilling a role. And you know what? It’s working. My brother may do three-to-six times my damage, but I have become all but unkillable.
The only dreaded enemy left? Crashing.
The mods are sick, and the ability to move them around different guns is even better. The potential for different builds is endless, when you combine the different abilities, skill trees, and mods. My own Devastator class can focus on guns, abilities, or tanking on the skill tree before further specializing with mods. They don’t exist in a void, either. I don’t apply burning myself (I could, with the right mods), but my brother is the Pyromancer, which means, basically, everything is always on fire. He could also apply Ash instead, and I could select mods that made me more effective in tandem.
There’s real depth here, and the ability to respec weapons and skill trees at any time makes experimenting all too inviting. Today, I am a super tank. Tomorrow, I may feel whimsical and try going a freeze-based gun build. Or go all in on my offensive spells, increasing their range, damage, and effects with my mods. Or our entire squad may try to build around toxic damage thanks to a new legendary sniper.
Who knows? The point is, the customization on display is top-notch, first-in-class kind of stuff. If you like fiddling in RPGs with different builds and have gotten this far in this article, I can almost guarantee you’ll like Outriders.
Next up, World Level.
As you play through Outriders, your success earns you experience towards increasing your world level. A better world level means stronger foes, but it also means better loot. If you have a higher world level, you can equip higher level gear than you would otherwise have been able to.
Struggle too much on a world level (i.e. die), and your world level experience will go down. This system dynamically adjusts your difficulty as you play, stopping you from steam-rolling through everything. You can still select your own world level, of course, if you’d rather play with lower-level equipment but still have your shotguns feel satisfying.
In effect, as we play, our gear starts to catch up to our difficulty. We begin to get comfortable. Our snipers do significant chunks to enemy health bars, and (at last), the boss foes aren’t as much bullet sponges.
Then the world level goes up.
Standard enemies start to pummel us. Our guns almost instantly feel weak and shortly get replaced. But the new gear jumps in value, sometimes as much as a thousand points at a time. When you go from 3.8k to 5k, it’s pretty hard to ignore.
It’s not always easy to just trade out gear for bigger numbers. After all, we’re not likely to head back to camp anytime soon, and I really don’t want to lose my 55k armor. (Not that we can’t head back to camp at anytime.) But when I start tickling enemies and it takes three trips to the ammo crate to kill a a monster (not to be confused with three magazines), sometimes I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.
“More on that in a minute,” I promised. For the perfect culmination of genuinely fun gunplay, quirky, if frustrating glitches, and the rubber-banding of the World level, I present to you my squad’s experience with what should have been a simple battle:
We were on a hunt (a side mission wherein we kill a boss monster and deliver its head to a bar). Having just reached World Level 11, we weren’t exactly prepared and quickly got our asses handed to us.
No problem, it’s easy to try again. In we went. Except it wasn’t all of us, because Player 3 had failed to load in properly.
Sometimes, a player will be invisible. They’ll be unable to move, but able to run in place, roll in place, and use skills in place. Typically, we wait until they finally join the party proper (which can take a full minute or more).
We just didn’t know it was happening, this time.
Two of us entered the arena. The third, when he finally loaded in, was stuck outside. He couldn’t enter.
This worked entirely in our favor.
90% of the melee-monster horde beelined for the Player 3. He stared them down through a crack none of them could move through. But his bullets could. So while the rest of us were basically being one-shot by the remaining monsters, he unloaded clip after clip after clip into his aggravated assaulters.
This went on for a not-insignificant amount of time. Player 2 and I (if I may be so bold as to call myself Player 1) had middling success against the rest of them. He died. I combined all my armor passives in order to survive, running circles around a rock until Player 3 was able to provide firepower support to my problems.
Then the boss spawned.
The truth is, we would not have survived the encounter if we had all loaded in properly. And if you’re worried Player 3 wasn’t able to pick up his loot once the beast was slain, don’t worry: in Outriders, pressing down on the D-Pad picks up all loot in the game. It’s just one of the many conveniences that Outriders gets right.
After just one weekend with Outriders, I’m already excited by what’s ahead. The RPG elements are fantastically implemented. The world level keeps us on our toes, and the abilities at play mix and match in exciting ways. Not everything is great, and not everything—oops, I crashed again.
But hey, all my new gear is still waiting for me, right?
The server issues are (knock on wood) currently fixed. You can wait for a few more patches to hopefully ease the crashes, but otherwise Outriders is here, ready, and waiting. Especially if you have GamePass.
Note: We are playing on a Playstation 4 copy of the game, engaging in Crossplay with a PS5. Flawlessly, unless that’s where the crashes stem from.
Images are a combination of in-game screen captures by writer and media-provided shots.