'Outriders' Is a Great Game When Its Servers Aren't on Fire

The illustrated pitfalls of always being online

Key Takeaways

  • If you like 'looter shooters' like Borderlands or Destiny, Outriders refines that style of gameplay to its essentials.
  • But the entire game comes off like a stress test for its own servers.
  • It's still fun, but Outriders mostly exists as a warning at this point.
Outriders cover art

Square Enix

Outriders is one of the most fun, least stable games I've played so far this year.

When it's working, Outriders is an addictive third-person shooter with an elaborate system of powers that invites you to turn yourself into a superhuman engine of destruction.

In Outriders, you are the nightmare scenario that other people are planning for, capable of taking on battalions and winning.

The issue, however, is that it often doesn't work. Outriders still feels like it's in beta in a lot of major and minor ways. Worse, it's been designed to require a connection to Square Enix's servers, even if you're playing solo, so there's no real offline mode.

It's a good-to-great game that's a lot harder to play than it needs to be.

"It's a testament to how much I like Outriders that I'm still playing it, despite the bugs, crashes, and always-online annoyances..."

Post-Post-Apocalyptic

It's the 22nd century. Earth is dead. Somehow, things got worse after that.

The last remnant of humanity has found a new home in the distant, hostile world of Enoch. You were one of the Outriders, the recon team sent to scout out a landing zone for the first wave of colonists, but ended up injured and slung into cryogenic storage.

Thirty years later, you're accidentally defrosted to discover that what little is left of the human race has galvanized into two camps on opposite sides of a civil war.

At the same time, a relative handful of people, including you, have been empowered by Enoch's local phenomena, becoming half-crazed superhumans nicknamed the "Altered."

At the start of the game, Outriders is a cover shooter, with your Altered abilities as an occasionally useful edge. As you gain new powers and better gear, you gradually go from a slightly better-than-average soldier to Godzilla with a machine gun.

A screenshot from 'Outriders.'

What makes Outriders distinct from similar games like Destiny and The Division is that you're supposed to be overpowered in Outriders. Your abilities have short recharge timers, are all broadly useful, and can be modified for extra power or additional effects. They're there to be used.

It's only a power fantasy if you keep the difficulty low, however. Outriders features a mechanic called World Tiers, which determine the power of the enemies you're facing and the quality of the loot they drop.

You can change it at almost any time from the main menu, allowing you to choose on the fly just how challenging you want the game to be. It's a great system, and ideally, it should be the most influential thing about Outriders.

An Unstable Game About Unstable People

It should be noted at some point that Outriders' plot is undeniably a downer. Your character is a cynical, world-weary soldier who went through the wringer back on Earth, and then you wake up in the middle of what's essentially a science-fiction spin on World War I.

Everyone in the story is crazy, scarred, post-traumatic, murderous, or desperate. It can be a lot, although it does get a little better as you go.

The real issues with Outriders are all technical. So far, most of my play sessions with the game haven't ended when I quit, but rather when it randomly crashed to the desktop.

I've also had a few missions end in failure because a door refused to open, an object inexplicably wasn't interactive, or a necessary target spawned on the other side of an impenetrable wall.

A screenshot from 'Outriders.'

The biggest problem, though, is that Outriders is always online. You can't play the game at all if you aren't connected to Square Enix's servers.

This would be annoying under normal circumstances, since you can't really pause it even if you're playing solo, but Outriders launched simultaneously on several different platforms, with cross-play, including the Xbox Game Pass.

The result was a tidal wave of server issues that kept Outriders offline and unplayable for much of its launch weekend. That's since been fixed, for the most part, but the game still instantly drops if your Internet connection happens to stutter.

It's a testament to how much I like Outriders that I'm still playing it, despite the bugs, crashes, and always-online annoyances, but it's hard not to see this as a cautionary tale.

Outriders is an entertaining video game, but between its stability issues, server problems, and needing to stay online to play it solo, it simply does not feel like it was ready for release.

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