Out of Gas — Outriders Review

Altered
Outriders is a third-person looter-shooter set in a sci-fi future where humans have abandoned a dying Earth in the hopes of finding a new home out amongst the distant stars.

Upon arriving at the planet Enoch, the first to set foot on the planet are the members of a special forces outfit, The Outriders. Things look safe and secure at first, but a sudden storm shreds everything and everyone, leaving a few individuals imbued with new powers.

A battle ensues when the commanding officer orders an attack on the Outriders. Mortally wounded, you — the last Outrider — are placed into stasis for 31 years.

Upon awakening, the world has changed — much for the worse. The storms have gotten worse, decimating the human population which has split into two warring factions fighting over scarce resources. Technology is on the unreliable due to the storms, and other Altered have taken up sides.

As one gifted by the Anomaly, you are humanity’s biggest hope against threats known and unknown. It is up to you to find a way to the other side of the Anomaly to contact the mothership and have it deliver the last of its precious supplies.

Outrider mechanics
Outriders plays much like Gears of War if you took out the roadie run and added some extra meta-human abilities.

The cover mechanic lets you sit behind protection or move from barrier to barrier as you maneuver and wade through the battlefield and a constant stream of bullets. Aiming your gun with the targeting trigger lets you peek out of cover to return fire. Firing without aiming lets you blind-fire, but it’s inaccurate and can be a waste of bullets — which you’ll find are in short supply.

The game offers you one of four classes to choose from once you’ve reached a certain point in the story. The Technomancer, Pyromancer, Devastator, or the Trickster each have unique abilities and a life-gain skill attached to a style of play. Life-gain is a huge part of your survivability and will shape how players approach combat and gearing up.

For players who like it up close and personal, the Trickster and Devastator offer you a chance to hit your enemies with melee and short-distance attacks in order to activate life-gain.

The Trickster is an agile and hard-hitting ninja with time powers that allow them to teleport into the fray and freeze enemies. Tricksters are pretty squishy, but quick and close kills will also add a shield on top of their life bars to soak up damage.

The Devastator also relies on close-range kills in order to heal, but their main purpose is to tank and take the focus off their teammates. Though it was considered the worst of the classes at launch, players have found ways to make them a formidable presence.

The Pyromancer is the game’s midrange mage, capable of lighting the battlefield on fire and turning enemies into exploding bombs. Pyromancers mark enemies with burn or ash, and killing marked enemies is key to a Pyromancer’s survival.

For support, the Technomancer plays the role of healer, sniper, and gadgeteer. Relying on turrets and grenades, the Technomancer can add more targets and distractions while poisoning enemies. Any damage done refills the Technomancer’s life gauge.

Each Outrider has several abilities that are earned at certain levels, and any three of those abilities can be hot-keyed for use in battle. For example, out of the Pyromancer’s seven available skills at level 30, the three I’ve got in rotation at the moment are X, X, and X. At any time, as long as you’re out of battle, you can swap abilities in and out to mix and match them to your liking.

Each character also has a skill tree where points can be added to really solidify the direction you want to go. For the Pyromancer, players can choose to increase weapon damage to burned enemies or buff explosive abilities.

The key word is synergy, and players can reset their skill trees at whim without spending resources or having to visit a particular NPC.

Gearing up
To maximize and take full benefit of your skills, damage output, and overall survivability, you’ll need to pay close attention to the various stats and mods on your weapons and gear.

Each item comes with a main stat. For gear, it’s the armor stat, which in higher numbers prevents a higher percentage of damage to your Outrider. Weapons have a firepower stat that tells you how powerful your gun is by the game’s metric, which takes into account the various attributes of your weapon. This one is a bit more abstract than the armor stat because a powerful one-shot sniper rifle that deals a ton of damage on hit might not be as useful as a light machine gun with 150 bullets that will produce a steady stream of damage.

There’s armor for your head, shoulders, chest, legs, and feet. And like the weapons, each piece of armor comes with up to three randomized stat-lines that can be upgraded to scale attributes, like damage output, healing, status effects, and other details in your character sheet.

In terms of armament, your character has three weapon slots — two main and one sidearm — and you’ll have to choose which loadout is best for you. Will you carry a shotgun with a breach variant for closeup damage paired with a sniper to get those hard-to-reach sharpshooters, or will you go double assault rifles for a run-and-gun approach?

Each of your main guns also has a variation that can be changed at the smith which will toggle attributes like rounds-per-minute, damage, and load speed. Right now, assault rifles with the tactical variant shoot in burst-mode fire and do exceptional damage.

Weapons and gear also have critical mods that will make or break your game. The Pompeii mod for Pyromancer armor gives you one more activation of your Eruption ability, and Ash Blast tunes up your Ash skill by increasing damage by 48,462.

Mods come in tiers, and the more powerful mods can be found on rarer items. Scrapping gear permanently adds those crucial mods to a list that you can pull from when you want to replace mods on your favorite gear piece.

Scrapping items also gives you shards used to increase those random stats, but each item only gives you shards on one of those stat-lines. You will have to tread a fine line between selling gear and scrapping as the endgame will require you to have shards, mods, and money in order to progress.

Looter shooters thrive on dropping loot in different rarities, and Outriders has five levels of rarity. White is basic, green is uncommon, blue is rare, purple is epic, and orange is legendary. Items up until epic-tier can be upgraded to a higher tier. Green items upgraded to blue give you a choice between several random mods, which is great for mod-hunting or building items to spec.

Be careful about swapping mods — items with two mods on them will permanently lock the mod not swapped out. That makes upgrading a potential workaround that lets you potentially grab one mod you like at blue or purple. Even if only one of the mods is useful, you can swap out the other mod and lock in the one you want to keep. The unlocked spot remains open for swapping out mods, so feel free to experiment a little.

Items also have levels, which can be raised with materials. The higher the level, the better the stats, and you can see what will change before you hit that okay button.

Let’s play
There are a lot of things to like about Outriders and a lot of things that desperately need fixing at this moment.

Gameplay can be a beautiful chaotic mess with hordes of enemies covering the field in bullets or bodies. Human foes will either sit back and snipe, take cover behind barriers and lay down a blanket of fire, or rush you with melee weapons. All of this may be happening at the same time, and while it’s almost impossible to escape unscathed, you’re going to have to rely on your class’s life-gain abilities in order to stay alive. This forces players to remain active and be a willing participant because your character’s life will depend on it.

The creatures of Enoch have an entirely different approach — instead of taking cover, most of them prefer to swarm you. Perforos will gang up on you if you’re not paying attention to your radar, and their alpha versions will jump in at the worst moments. If you don’t barrel roll out of the way in time, they will stun-lock you and slash you with their scythe-like appendage for huge damage.

Poisonous perforos spit venom, soaking you in dots that will keep you on the verge of dying as you try to outheal the poison that’s sapping your gauge. A brood mother or three might enter the fray with various abilities — the hardest to deal with being surge, which can trap you in painful area of fire.

Ending the game
Once you’re finished with the game, you’ve now entered Expedition territory. Though you’ll still have your character level maxed out at 30 — the game now has new Expedition levels along with their own difficulty tiers that forego your world tier difficulties. So, if you’re completely done with side quests or hunts, the only thing left to do is start on the new levels in order to get through the hardest difficulty. An incentive for beating the hardest Expedition tier will open up the final story level that brings the game to closure.

The Expedition map can be accessed at the camp. Only a few levels at a time will be open — this is to prevent players from farming one level over and over. By beating a level on the most difficult Expedition tier, players get access to the next tier until they arrive at tier 15. Higher tiers give players better loot types and drop rates, so you’ll need to find the right tier for you to maximize loot gained per level and time.

Once you’ve chosen an Expedition level, you will start at a gate. You will have to rush through enemies to the supply drop at the end, racing a clock that will determine the quality of your awards. Swarms of enemies will try to keep you from getting to the final area, so you will have to pick and choose when to fight and when to sit in cover.

Some levels have an obelisk that must be charged by simply standing in the obelisk’s area to slowly but surely drop the obelisk into its base. Enemies entering the circle will stop progress, so it’s up to you to clear enemies quickly and completely.

With the help of my BIL, we reached tier-15 in a matter of days. The last story mission is opened up at tier 15, but we’re nowhere near beating it as it will take three of us, fully geared, to sit at our obelisks and fight off the hordes.

Grinding my gears
Outriders provides for some adrenaline-inducing moments when you’re in the thick of things, but the unfinished state of the game leaves a lot to be desired.

First, the online-only nature of the game makes it impossible to play if you don’t have an Internet connection. For a story-based game to not have an offline single player mode seems like a huge mistake, especially considering some of the game’s current limitations. I understand it’s to keep players from cheating and finding exploits for gear — but the lack of a growing endgame means that once you’ve finished the Expedition levels, there isn’t much else to do as there is no roadmap for any DLC.

Having spent the past few weeks since launch experiencing frustrating connectivity — trying to get into a multiplayer game and having connection errors, getting dropped from other games, not being able to connect at all to my brother-in-law who was just in my game and then got dropped — the game really makes playing with others a sort of game in itself. Though fixes have been frequent — at the time of this review, random connectivity drops have getting squashed — but some players are still waiting on a patch that gives them back all the equipment that was deleted during a glitch that completely wiped their inventories.

Once you’re in a game, and things are working smoothly, it’s all about the gear. I mean, seriously, it’s ALL about the gear. Single abilities and raw weapon damage will only get you so far, and if you’re maxing out on world tier, you need to tune your character for synergies. That means finding items that buff your gunplay or your Anomaly powers and setting mods to help scale damage for abilities that work together. Though it wasn’t too much of a chore to get the exact stats on items that I wanted, I learned that the game requires specific legendary items if you really want to progress.

And to this day, I have not found a legendary outside of a quest reward or Expedition drop crate, which means I’ve had to grind it out in the game’s end content.

It’s during grinding that I discovered that the classes are not equal. Now that my brother-in-law and I have found ourselves working through the endgame Expeditions, we’ve seen how huge the divide is between our damage outputs.

Mind you, we both started the game at the same time and played almost exclusively with each other — my BIL who plays the Technomancer support class does about 200-million damage with his build. My Pyromancer, on the other hand, does about 25-million damage. His character is much easier to set up, and I’ve had to pick abilities in order to buff his damage, which isn’t what I signed up for because that makes me the support character.

For a couple weeks, we both farmed legendaries in order to get me set bonuses that would make me the ultimate weapon. But since I’ve almost 100-percented the game’s achievements, and there’s nothing to look forward to past the Expeditions, we’ve pretty much stopped playing. A new patch gave us both a reason to jump back in, but we’ve sort of plumbed the depths of the game already.

Riding out
Again, without some sort of roadmap from the developer regarding DLC and other endgame plans, it’s plain to see that Outriders isn’t a Destiny replacement as much as a distraction.

There are things it does right — combat is heavy and requires players to shoot, roll, and ability their way out of some thick situations. The looting is addictive, and there are a lot of ways to customize your character up until the endgame.

But once you’ve reached the last bits of the game, everything sort of stalls into a mindless repetitive grind that doesn’t feel rewarding. Legendary drops aren’t class-specific, so finding that one last piece you need for the set bonus may take you hours upon hours. It’s especially daunting when you find legendaries you already have or weapons that are actual downgrades because you can’t change the variant of the gun at that rarity.

There are also a lot of rough edges that create mucho frustration — frying in a brood mother’s invisible surge and trying to roll out of it to no avail because you can’t see where the safe spots are gave me fits. It’s also not a lot of fun when five alpha perforos come out of nowhere and perma-stunlock you to death.

After the Cyberpunk debacle, I’ve been especially wary of purchasing unfinished games. Outriders was a game I walked into based on word of mouth that seems in part like a happy accident — admittedly, for the past month I had a lot of fun despite the intermittent connectivity issues, freezes, glitches, and uneven endgame difficulties requiring a grind-mentality that borders on work.

In the event things get better, let me know. I’d be happy to see where the Outriders go next.


Outriders (2021)
Genre: Third-Person Action/Adventure
Developed by: People Can Fly
Published by: Square-Enix
Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X

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