Outriders isn’t Destiny. Outriders isn’t Diablo. Outriders isn’t Borderlands, or Gears of War, or any of the other multitude of things it could easily be compared to. Outriders is simply and unapologetically Outriders. It makes you the hero. It lets you craft the way you want to play. It makes you feel powerful without artificially limiting or taking away that power. And yet it still feels challenging, a high risk, high reward game that can feel soul crushing one moment, and have you whooping and hollering with delight the next.
Outriders‘ story is a good amount of over-the-top sci-fi end-of-the-Earth action. After Earth is ruined by humans, a scant few survivors take the stars and head for Enoch, a planet that is supposed to be the next bastion of life; a place where humanity can restart. Of course, things don’t go as planned, the planet shows a previously unforeseen hostility, and a mysterious anomaly grants a select few powers while eliminating everyone else in its path. Oh, and it wipes out advanced electronics too, rendering them entirely useless.
You are an Outrider, one of the frontline forces sent down to the planet ahead of everyone else and left in cryo for decades after its hostility was discovered. You awake to a situation not much better than Earth, with not only the planet’s open aggression, but the remnants of humanity fractured and warring over what little resources are available for survival. With your newfound anomaly powers, you are a reluctant hero, understanding that your powers allow you to come to the aid of the people who are trapped, threatened, and have none.
I loved the story, not necessarily as this grand masterpiece of storytelling, but as a great vehicle to deliver the kind of over-the-top-action that Outriders was aiming for. I was consistently interested in the world building through sidequests—understanding more about the plight of the survivors on Enoch. I loved building up my crew as we ventured further away from the safety of the city and farther into the unknown. Sure, the delivery is sometimes schlocky and absurd, but it felt like it accomplished precisely what it was intended to be: an at times serious, at times ridiculous science fiction story filled with absurd action. In that respect, the story really speaks to and supports the crazy gameplay.
Outriders Review – Run for Cover…or Not
At a glance, Outriders is a third-person cover shooter that could immediately be compared to any number of other games in the genre, except for one key difference: cover is actually an impediment to your own gameplay. Outriders wants to encourage players to utilize the skills and abilities of their chosen class, so healing is based on leaning into those class specifics. It might feel counterintuitive in most games to throw yourself into the middle of a group of enemies when your low on health, but that’s exactly what Outriders wants you to do. Cowering in cover as the Trickster—who uses time-based and movement skills to get into advantageous positions close to enemies—is more apt to get you killed than simply getting behind an enemy and turning them to mist with a well placed shotgun blast.
Each class feels quite different to play and requires different play styles. I selected Trickster as my main, but have taken the time to play around with other classes as well. Outriders’ gunplay is almost secondary to the suite of abilities you unlock for each character. Relying solely on your weapons is a good way to never get past any encounters. Knowing this, ability uptime, particularly if managed well, is consistent, and makes fights against swatch of enemies feel fun, fast-paced, and varied. Outriders aims to reward the risks you take to play to the advantages of your class, not just sitting in cover plinking away at distant figures.
In doing so, the game vastly shifts the perception of what a third-person shooter can be. It wants players to feel powerful. It wants failure to be put squarely on the players’ shoulders for not managing their own skills and builds well enough. And it wants to make optimizing an encounter to an eventual victory feel like a triumph. And that’s the reality, is that despite being this god-like figure, you will die, a lot; Especially as you start to gain World Tiers, which make enemies more difficult, but the loot more valuable. But even the simplest adjustments to your builds—switching out a perk for more ability uptime, or changing to a weapon with a different perk, etc.—can have a drastic effect on what can seem like insurmountable encounters.
It was always amazing to me how tinkering with my build upon understanding a fight better allowed me to really get a sense for my character, their abilities, and how I could overcome the challenges in front of me. I personally never resorted to turning down the World Tier level to ease the difficulty (I wanted that high-tier loot!), though that’s also an option if things do get too tough. There’s a lot of freedom in Outriders to play your way, both in build optimizations across weapons, armor, and abilities, as well as through tweaking the state of the world.
When things get tough, there’s also the option to call in some friends or join a random group. Up to three players can play Outriders together, and ability synergy, whether among different classes or varying abilities in the same class, can entirely reshape how an encounter plays out. While the whole game is perfectly manageable solo, it’s clear that a lot of energy went into making the co-op feel really fun and engaging too.
Overall, Outriders manages to strike a fine balance between giving players an unending power fantasy, yet still making content and encounters feel challenging and rewarding to overcome. Outriders isn’t always an easy game, but you’ll always feel like a superhero-like god, even when you’re failing to overcome what the game throws at you.
Outriders Review – Not Just Another Looter
Again, at a glance, Outriders seems like it shares a lot of elements with other looter games. Diablo, The Division, Destiny, Borderlands. There are no shortage of looters out there. But Outriders doesn’t crib those ideas in pursuit of being any of those games. It simply takes what works best for itself in pursuit of just being Outriders. There’s a solid gameplay loop of earning and dismantling gear, modding your equipment, and generally crafting exactly what and how you want to play.
You don’t have to be content with the archetype of a weapon. You can level up your favorite guns to keep them with you. You can mod specific perks into your armor. All of this requires earning gear and dismantling it for certain materials, points, and unlocking the perks in your perk library to use later. It’s a fun way to keep even the useless gear relevant, because no matter what, you are earning something. In that respect, Outriders feels a lot more like a Diablo than a Destiny or Borderlands. Precise aim is less important than general build crafting involving the synergy of your gear and your abilities, which can have a much more drastic impact than pure skill.
Outriders also bridges the idea of a single-player game with the format of live-service games. Despite not being a live-service title—there won’t be events to keep up with, future content will be completely self-contained, etc.—Outriders is still always-online and has the “endgame” pursuits of a live service type of game. But at least it’s nice to know I don’t need to “keep up” with it. If you miss a week of playing Outriders, you aren’t out anything. But you still get the feeling of being able to pursue and build up your character, just with the freedom to play however much or however little you want.
Of course, that always-online nature comes with a good share of bugs and issues that have plagued the first week of the game’s availability. Server issues prevented people from even playing the game early on, crashes were abundant within the first week, and a few unlucky players have had their entire inventories randomly wiped, or characters completely deleted. During our review playtime, we didn’t encounter any of the inventory wipe bugs, but did have a grip of crashes and server issues that impacted our ability to even play the game. While things have seemed to get steadily better over time, it’s worth calling out. In addition, there seem to be minor bugs with pathing for objectives when you have multiple quests and other smaller issues that are more easily overlooked.
Outriders is simply and unapologetically Outriders. And that’s what, despite its flaws, makes it stand tall. Because it owns its flaws and rough spots, all weathered with pride through a launch period that was as rough as the Outriders first landing on Enoch. Riding out that storm offers an experience that is simply fun to play, and its something that I consistently can’t wait to get back to. High risk, high reward gameplay and crafting very tight and specific builds leads to an endlessly engaging gameplay loop. Balancing the power fantasy with challenge for players is a difficult task, but Outriders manages it well. It’s far from a perfect game, but it’s so undeniably honest in its pursuit of being exactly what it is that there’s nothing else quite like it out there. And that itself is what makes Outriders so compelling. Because Outriders is just Outriders.
Outriders review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS5. For more information, please read our Review Policy.