Outriders is a game about balance, but it’s not always finely balanced. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the game’s revive mechanic, which is seriously biased toward players of the game’s cooperative mode.
If you’ve played Outriders by yourself, you’ve no doubt encountered the absent revive. You’re doing your thing (turning baddies into bloody pulp with space magic). All of a sudden, you’re gunned down in one shot (probably by, let’s face it, a sniper) and kicked back, generally, to right before the fight that took you out. All of the enemies you killed come back, too. It’s frustrating, but it’s also how the game is designed.
But in cooperative mode, you can revive yourself. Like most coop games, you have teammates who can bring you back from the dead by holding Square or X or whatever. But that’s not all: Once per battle in coop play, you can also revive yourself the same way.
If anything, I think this should be reversed. Coop players have two forms of revival, while solo players have zero? What gives?
I’m by no means the only Outriders player flummoxed by this. “Give a god damn solo self revive. AT LEAST 1,” reads the headline of one popular post on the Outriders subreddit. Others on social media have pointed out similar concerns, with one even going so far as to describe the design choice as “bass awkwards.”
I’m not even the only person here at Kotaku who thinks this way. Weekend editor Zack Zweizen told me, “I understand the idea behind wanting to slow players down and make them play more carefully, but I also just hate having to restart an entire long mission because a sniper popped me through a wall. Self-revives would allow a bit of wiggle room in hard fights, something this game needs.”
So, what’s the rub? Why is Outriders designed like this?
The short version: It’s about conveying different levels of intensity between the game’s solo and multiplayer modes.
“Single player is intended to be a bit less intense than multiplayer, and we wanted players to take a different approach to combat,” a representative for developer People Can Fly and Square Enix told me in an email. “We like presenting combat arenas as a sort of combat puzzle for players to solve. If we were to introduce self-revives in single player, it would allow players to use that mechanic to power through fights without having to really think about it, whereas we want them to stop and consider the fight, the enemy composition, their build and skill setup, and potentially make a few runs at it.”
Revives weren’t even originally part of the game. But People Can Fly learned, through iteration, that the mechanic was essential for the game’s often hectic coop battles.
“We didn’t have [self-revives] to begin with, but in play-testing we found that, because of the intensity of the action, players often weren’t able to help their teammates in time because they’re under a lot of pressure and too busy fighting,” the Square representative wrote. “We didn’t want to reduce the intensity of the combat, so the limited amount of self-revives were put in place to soften that slightly.”
As frustrating as it is, I get it. For the time being, I’m rolling through Outriders with three separate characters, and have somehow kept all three at parity in terms of character level and narrative progress. With one of those characters, a Devastator, I’m playing through the whole game with a friend. I’ve played my second character, a Trickster, both alone and alongside friends, while I’ve saved my Technomancer entirely for solo play.
I’ve found that, whenever I play solo, I tend to play far more conservatively than I do with a friend. Instead of charging into battle, I’ll toss out a turret or retreat behind cover. I lean more toward long-range weapons than shotguns and SMGs. Battles take longer, but I don’t have anyone to resurrect me, so it’s better to play it safe. (I’ve also found that my World Tier is lower among my solo characters than my coop characters. In Outriders, your World Tier, a secondary leveling system that dictates difficulty, decreases a bit every time you die.)
And, look: Outriders shines as a cooperative game. The way revives are currently structured incentivizes cooperative play. If you’re stumped at a certain section, what would you do: Live, die, and repeat, which might reduce your World Tier experience? Lower the World Tier, which means you’ll miss out on better loot? Or call in another player, preferably one with a top-flight set of gear? (Just this week, Zack, as an extremely buff Pyromancer, has helped me through multiple tough spots. Thanks, Zack!) In no small part because of the way revives work, I’ve found myself wanting to play coop rather than fly solo.
The catch is that, since launch, Outriders’ multiplayer has been iffy, to say the least. On day one, some players would get dropped mid-session, even when playing solo. More insidiously, Outriders has been plagued by a bug that apparently wipes inventories clean, and most reports suggest this bug occurs during matchmaking or multiplayer sessions. (People Can Fly says a fix is incoming that will restore gear of epic tier or higher for affected players.) Still, some players have found themselves losing hours of hard-earned progress, so it makes sense that some players might want to steer clear of the multiplayer mode—no matter how many self-revives it grants—until this issue is fixed for sure.
Earlier today, People Can Fly released a patch that purportedly addresses the inventory-wipe bug. The developer is “confident that the patch will prevent inventory wipes in future,” but that’s of course something to keep an eye on in the coming days and weeks.
At the end of the day, whether you love it or hate it, Outriders’ revive system won’t change any time soon. As the Square representative put it, “The self-revive mechanic is working as intended, and we have no plans of introducing it to single player.”