If nothing else, Outriders is a polarizing game. Sure, People Can Fly’s loot-shooter has been plagued by some serious launch-window turbulence, but the issues are merely unpleasant set dressing for a fundamentally terrific game. Two of us on staff—weekend editor Zack Zweizen and staff writer Ari Notis—can attest, as we’ve both been playing more or less nonstop since the game came out. We caught up to chat about what we like (and don’t like) about the game, where it’s at right now, and where we’d like to see it go.
Ari Notis: Welcome, Zack, fellow Outrider/Altered/space-wizard-who-wears-ugly-armor. You and I both have been playing a lot of Outriders over the past week and a half—err, well, y’know, when we can play. It’s such a fun game but, man, these server issues are something else, huh. Have you found that pushing through the issues is worth it to get to the good stuff?
Zack Zwiezen: Hello! And yeah, those servers...woof. It’s a shame because I’ve mostly enjoyed my time with this game, but with this lingering threat that at any moment I could get disconnected and lose progress. Or more!
Ari: Yeah, it’s a lot like being in a relationship with someone who has “free spirit” written in their Tinder profile: such a blast, but you have no clue when it’ll stop working all of a sudden. You’re in the endgame, right? Without spoiling the (surprisingly good!) plot, can you describe what it’s like to me, a lowly mid-game player?
Zack: The main endgame loop is collecting stuff (no spoilers) by doing different missions in new areas. The faster you complete these expeditions, the better loot you get, and you move up your expedition rank, letting you complete harder and harder endgame missions. It’s...okay? I fought through a lot of bullshit to get to this point and now I’m not sure how much more I’ll play, which is a shame because I like the game, but the endgame isn’t clicking with me at all. If I had a co-op buddy to play through with, that might change. But right now I’m nervous to play co-op and lose all my gear via that nasty bug that doesn’t seem to be fixed!
Ari: Yeah, that bug is really freakin’ scary! It seems to only affect multiplayer games, which is a total bummer, since the game is exponentially more fun when you’re playing with a friend or two. Like, whenever I do my little slow-mo bubble and then you blow up every enemy stuck inside it with your fire powers? That literally never gets old.
Zack: Never. The co-op is a lot of fun, but what’s impressive is how well this game works as a single-player shooter, too. I wish this game had an offline mode. It would be so nice to let people jump in no matter what server issues were happening to play what is a solid, fun-as-heck shooter. But, instead, loot and other stuff is all tied to servers. Here’s something I never expected to say: I wish this was a live-service game like The Division or Destiny. I know that some folks will get mad at me for this, but I want more stuff to do and play!
Ari: Dude WTF? Also, is it…not already a live-service game? And isn’t that where all of these woes stem from?
Zack: This is the debate, right? The devs at People Can Fly say, “No, it’s not a live-service game.” And it isn’t in the sense that there is no roadmap of new seasons or free expansions or battle passes. On the other hand, it’s always online and can be quickly patched to balance guns, loot, et cetera, which feels like a live-service game.
Ari: Right, yeah, exactly, they implemented balancing tweaks (okay, fine, nerfs). That seems like a hallmark of a service game to me!
Zack: And that’s the thing. If you are going to do stuff like that and force people to be online, even if they are playing solo, why not just make that final leap and be a service game? Because I would love for new content to be added to this game as often as it is in Fortnite or Genshin Impact. I’d be into that and it would make the online woes more tolerable because I would at least get it, you know? Like, “Ohh, that’s why it’s always online. It’s a big live game. Got it. Fine.”
Ari: I mean, we don’t really know for sure what shape this game will take, right? It’s only been out for 11 days. People Can Fly hasn’t completely ruled out the possibility of expansions. (Wasn’t there that recent interview where one staffer said that DLC would, if it existed, show up as meaty campaign expansions?) And that endgame you described sounds like something that’s ripe for weekly or monthly challenges or whatnot. Plus there’s the always-online requirement, the loot caches, the drop-in-drop-out co-op, the in-game vendors selling gear on a timer…Seems to me like the only reason that Outriders isn’t a service game is the simple fact that People Can Fly says it isn’t.
Zack: Oh sure, we might get some stuff. But that’s the difference. This game doesn’t feel alive like Destiny or The Division. In those games, you log on and feel like you have stuff to do, new things to see, new checklists to complete, and so on. I feel like I log into Outriders and get sad that it seems so static. I also don’t understand why this game didn’t ship with a horde mode! The combat is soooooo good. A horde mode would have been such a great thing to include. I’d be playing that right now!
Ari: Holy shit. I didn’t realize how badly I want that until you just mentioned it. That’d be so fun!
Zack: Yeah! And in The Division 2, it felt like we could one day get that mode, because it was that kind of service game that got stuff like that. In Outriders, I’m not sure we ever get that mode. Maybe? I mean, I know they have uh...bigger things to deal with right now, but still!
Ari: I’d pay full price for that, without question, but yeah, game development is hard enough, let alone when you’re trying to balance a game that released to a massive playerbase—during a pandemic, no less. Anyway, you’re at the end, and you’re burnt out on it for the time being. Do you think you’ll start a second character? Would that spark the fire in you again?
Zack: I’ve been thinking about that! I want to but I’m not sure yet. I almost fear that I’m going to build up a cool character only for more nerfs to strike and make it bad. I know you are rocking multiple characters, how’s that going? That seems like a lot of work!
Ari: It sounds like that, but it’s really not nearly as much of a slog as I thought it’d be, and it’s actually why I think you’ll find new love for the game if you start fresh again. Right now, I’ve got a Devastator, a Trickster, and a Technomancer all around the same story point (the Trench Town-to-Quarry stretch). And I’ll say, it’s a completely different game with each one. If you were to start from scratch, who would you go with? I know you’ve got a buff Pyro right now…
Zack: I was thinking Devastator! I want to be a big, nasty tank boy.
Ari: Oh yeah, the Devastator is really fun. You should give it a try! But that’s another sign of just how fine-tuned and well-crafted this game is: All of the classes are amazing to the point where I truly could not choose a favorite. Compare that to, say, Borderlands or Destiny, where it’s so natural to gravitate toward one over the others.
Zack: Yeah, the star of this game is really the combat. It’s a lot of fun, especially once you get some cool powers, weapons, and mods. No matter how bad the servers were, or how annoyed I got by the sign-in bug, I would keep playing because the combat is so satisfying. Even within one class, I found changing my powers changed everything. I played a long time with the fire wall ability and, when I switched to lava bullets, I found myself playing a totally different way. I started using different guns and mods, too. It almost felt like a new class. It’s a wild amount of variety to put into each class, especially when you consider most folks will probably never even finish the game as one class let alone play as multiple ones.
Ari: Yes! And that’s another way in which Outriders is head and shoulders above the competition: how rarely it locks you into anything. You can respec at any point at no cost. You can reslot weapon and armor mods for practically nothing. You can shake up your skills on the fly. It boasts all these little quality-of-life touches that make the game so easy to access, which makes it extra frustrating when you literally cannot access the game.
Zack: Yeah, it’s a great point in the game’s favor that, after all the server bullshit and inventory wipe bugs, I’m still logging on and trying to find the fun in the endgame. (And it might be in there! I want to spend more time with it.) Other games, I would have bounced by now. But I’m still wanting to play this game. And it’s so frustrating that it’s still in such a wonky state.
Ari: That’s the big question facing Outriders right now: Can it weather these woes? Or do you think its image is permanently tarnished, and that players won’t want to either come back, continue playing, or start playing for the first time? Or even personally, how much more of the wonky state will you be able to put up with?
Zack: Hmmm...I think it’s sort of stuck with this image for the time being. This shit sticks with you. (Remember how long people made fun of No Man’s Sky even after it got all those great updates?) And because Outriders seems to be more static than most games today, with no plans for DLC or big seasonal updates anytime soon, I see a lot of people bouncing once they get their fill and having no reason to come back. And there won’t be enough big updates hitting to change the perception of the game or to win folks back. Personally, I’ll start a new character and play more, probably with my brother or some friends. (Or people like Ari. He’s okay.) But I also think the moment a big new game comes, I’ll be done with Outriders. And with no big DLC update coming, I might not be back anytime soon, which sucks! I want to play more of this. I do!
Ari: That seems to be another point for Outriders: that it came out during somewhat of a release drought. I’ve seen some people say, either fairly or unfairly, that some of the game’s success can be attributed to the fact that, yeah, there’s like nothing else out right now, or for a while. Do you think that argument holds water?
Zack: Sure! I think it’s a fair point. But I also think it’s a good example to all the publishers out there that, yes, in fact, there are other months besides September, October, and November when you can release your big AAA game and find success.
Ari: Yes! Whatever else, I’ve been so, so thrilled to have this massive, enjoyable—if uneven, sure—game to sink my teeth into during the spring. It’s a rare treat.
Zack: Yeah! Especially as the pandemic is still a thing and I’m still stuck at home most days. It’s been nice to have a big, fun shooter to play all by myself or with some friends.
Ari: Or, y’know, some guy who’s just “okay” :wink:
Zack: Yes, Ari. We can play some Outriders tonight. Assuming the servers are up.
Ari: Hey, if we’ve learned nothing else today, it’s worth trying.