Outriders – Review

Release Date
April 1, 2021
Publisher
Square Enix
Developer
People Can Fly
Platform
PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC
Reviewed on
PS4 (Pro)
Review copy provided by
Square Enix

It’s become a common occurrence for live service games nowadays to be riddled with issues at launch. It’s not an intentional happenstance, mind you. Of course, not. It just happens way too often that it’s something we, unfortunately, need to expect and get used to at this point. We don’t want it, but it is what it is. Outriders fall prey to this unfortunate happening. Despite this, the game manages to be one of the most decent live service titles in recent history, if you can overlook its faulty server, that is.

Outriders is a live service action RPG developed by People Can Fly and published by Square Enix. A demo of the game was published months before the official game’s release. I actually did get the chance to play that demo, and I have to say that I enjoyed that thoroughly. Thankfully, this game allows you to continue your progress if you did play the demo beforehand.

Let’s move past the issues of the game for a second and talk about the overall quality of the game itself. The demo of the game showed a lot of promise, and the game in its entirety manages to fulfill those promises completely. First things first, let’s talk about the actual gameplay.

In this game, you choose one out of four classes: Pyromancer, Trickster, Technomancer, and Devastator. I got the chance to try out every single class during the demo, but I decided to stick with my Trickster character for my complete playthrough. Each of these classes is incredible in its own way. The abilities each offer are so much fun to play around with. You can never fully confirm that one is better than the other. It will always depend on your play style. As for me, I chose the Trickster because it encourages fast-paced movement. A playstyle I’ve always preferred.

Aside from the abilities that you can earn from each class, another aspect of Outrider’s gameplay system is gunplay. The balance between the gunplay and abilities is perfectly sublime. The abilities are never too powerful that you’ll feel the need to constantly rely on them. Their countdown is also never too short nor too lengthy. On the other hand, the guns are reliable enough to keep the waves of enemies at bay without using your powers.

Later on, you’ll unlock more abilities and more powerful weapons to aid you on your journey. During the final moments of the game, you will fully realize how to balance both of these advantages. You’ll know how to abuse your abilities, and at the same time how to be fully effective with the weapons in your inventory. The game also offers so many weapons, including Legendary ones, that you’ll spend hours and hours farming for the best weapons in the game. To me, this handling of immersion to instill in the players considering the main character has actual superpowers is very effective.

This game could have absolutely worked fine without the abilities, but it wouldn’t be as much fun. It is such a delightful addition to this game’s already fun combat mechanic. The perfect union between the game’s gunplay and abilities mechanic is really what makes this game incredible.

The game’s difficulty is also fairly challenging if you opt for World Tiers 3 and up. In this game, instead of the usual choices of easy, normal, or hard difficulties, you’re instead given the option to switch between “World Tiers”. Essentially, the higher your World Tier is, the more difficult the enemies are. Concurrently, you’ll also receive better loot and higher XP. You can change this anytime you want in the game’s menu. I found this mechanic to be very brilliant. This way, the game rewards those who are willing to take the more grueling route. It makes the ordeal more fulfilling.

Switching around the World Tier mid-game might be something you’ll need to do at first because of how smart the enemies in this game are. The enemies’ AI in Outriders is very intuitive. They know when to surround you and flush you out. They know when to flank you and when to take their time. Ranged enemies always know to stay behind the lines and damage you from afar while they allow the melee types to rush towards you. It is both inspiring and infuriating how intelligent these enemies are. They also don’t suffer the “Stormtrooper Syndrome” either. The snipers, most especially. 9 times out of 10, a sniper will always hit you once you’re in their crosshairs. This will force you to always be mindful at every single battle encounter.

The level design in this game is fairly decent. The game will take you to various landscapes, from lush forests to dry deserts and mystical camps. All of these areas are designed very well. However, certain areas feel very artificial, especially where combat is concerned. Some areas are specifically designed for combat encounters and the game is far from subtle about it. Because of this, you can often anticipate when a fight is coming. The cover system is also hit-or-miss because of how intuitive the enemies are. It’s almost as if the cover system is only useful for when you haven’t been spotted yet or when you’re reloading. It is close to impossible to simply stick to the cover system because of how much you’ll be forced to move around. That’s just something to take note of if you’re used to that type of gameplay.

Another surprising aspect of the game was its story. I went into this game fully expecting the narrative of the game to be… generic. As I progressed through the game, I slowly started to realize just how deep and rich this world is and how well laid the narrative is. This game makes a couple of brave decisions with its story beats. While some of them may be predictable, so much more took me by surprise. A few characters are also very memorable and likable. One of them, though, goes through development, and the game’s way of going about it is somewhat abrupt and forced. It didn’t feel earned. The others, though, are decent characters overall. I was in awe of the game’s story, especially during the later parts of the game, and I have a feeling that many of you will feel the same way.

While the story is surprisingly superb, the campaign progression, on the other hand, is very generic and dull. A drastic contrast to the game’s overall story. The missions essentially go as follows: Go here so the path will open to get to the next area, or collect these so we can progress, or do this errand for me first so I can allow you to pass through this. It does work sometimes, but more often than not, it can be very dragging. Thankfully, the overall story makes up for it, which makes the pacing a little bit better.

Those are the things about the game that really worked for me. On the other end of the spectrum, there are also a couple of things that dragged this game down.

One of the issues a lot of people had with the game, even during the demo, is its overuse of “shaky cam” during the cutscenes. In this game, they added a “Camera Smoothness” slider in the game’s menu to remedy this issue. However, I found that choosing this will instead make some scenes laggy. So, you either have to choose from watching an earthquake simulator or scenes that have a single-digit frame per second at certain cutscenes.

The transition between gameplay and cutscenes also isn’t very seamless.
A lot of scenes are spliced very weirdly with one another. The same issue can be said for traversing between areas. Crossing between multiple areas in the game will result in a fade-out-and-fade-in transition, which was also present in the demo. I thought this was something the developers of the game were going to change up for the game’s official release, but it’s still the same process. It’s not exactly a major problem but it merits mention for a game that came out in 2021. It also pulls you out of the immersion for a bit.

With that said, the game’s worst and most glaring problem is its server issues.

I often had trouble signing in. I often stare at the sign-in screen for about 5 to 6 minutes, sometimes 10, and no, that’s not an exaggeration. Getting into the game alone is problematic. I realize this is something a lot of live service games have in common but that still doesn’t make it okay. On top of that, a lot of times, you won’t even be able to successfully sign in to the game at all. You wait and wait only for the game to send you back to the title screen because it losses its connection.

Once you do get into the game, you’d think it’ll be smooth sailing from there. Unfortunately, that’s not the case here at all. The game crashes more than a dilapidated vehicle that is without brake fluids. You combine this with the fact that getting into the game alone is already tedious and you have an awful experience in your hand. A game that crashes way too many times while also takes forever to sign in is nothing short of painful.

Because of the nature of its gameplay, the game almost encourages you to play multiplayer, but the matchmaking system of the game is utterly broken. Not once have I ever managed to join another party. The game will either take forever to search for a party for me, or it’ll simply give up and crash.

The game also has a number of bugs and glitches, which should be easily fixed in future updates. However, one bug in particular almost made me quit the game entirely. I encountered one game-breaking bug that disallowed me to progress. I essentially had to reload to a previous point and redo everything thrice in order to finally progress.

It’s these type of things that makes potential players drop the game, return it to the store, and replace it with something else. Something that’s at least working. This fact is unfortunate to admit because the game has incredible gameplay and an engaging story. Sadly, a lot of people will be unwilling to power through it because of the game’s current state. Quite frankly, this game could have benefited from an offline mode. This would have just allowed the player to play the game solo and experience all the great things about this game, which it has an abundance of. Unfortunately, it also has an equal amount of destructive contrivances that make this game unplayable at certain points.

If you have the patience for it, I highly suggest that you give this game a try. Its combat mechanic is one of the best in its genre in years. Unlike its contemporaries in the same field, which are stereotyped as having vanilla storylines, this game’s story is engaging and awe-inducing. When this game works, it will send you on a fantastic journey worth going through. As soon as it fails, however, it fails tremendously. If that’s something you don’t have the patience for, just wait for a couple of months for updates and for the game’s server to become stable.

Outriders – Review
Score Definition
You better have to choose if it’s worth spending your spare cash, because it might not be the game for you and it might be for others.
Pros
The combat gameplay properly balances gunplay and abilities
The story is surprisingly great
Great difficulty mechanic
Intelligent enemy AI
Great visuals
Cons
Server is down most of the time
Multiplayer matchmaking is still broken as of writing
Cutscenes are shot and edited poorly
Quest progression is generic
6.5
Justified