Perfected: Outriders. When less is more and in the end not enough.
That I played Outriders at all was a pure coincidence. An intuitive decision, against my dread of Loot-shooters like Borderlands and Destiny 2. But my friend Alex convinced me to play the demo and the experience was indeed convincingly awesome enough to buy the game at full price on release day 1.
Or maybe this was just a desperate decision, in a situation when there is just so much work and other obligations to care for, and no time for gaming without a bad conscience at all. Maybe I just craved to have at least sometimes one of those relaxing co-op experiences at night, to let my mind drift somewhere else, escape to an alien world, when everything else is closing in at night.
And so I did – to my own surprise – 100% complete a game, I did not want to play at all. But how come and maybe even more to the point: The hell, why? And why Outriders?
Let‘s start at the beginning and the beginning is, as so many beginnings are … a tutorial with your good ol’ trusty action-hero intro-narrative: „Good morning unfrozen one and welcome to planet Enoch. This is your new world, these are the interesting people you would want to talk to. This is the guy, who will fuck up everything early on and these are the guys who will die early on. This is the signal, that is a strange signal, and look! This is an anomalous storm that is an anomaly. This is when you will be back in your cryo-pod almost dead until some other guys wake you up some decades later.“
„Good morning welcome (again) to Enoch! This is how the new world has gone to shit and these are the people that pulled the flush – here is mankind doing what mankind can do best – killing each other.“
“Mkay, and what about me?” – “Well, how about you find your way around by starting with the killing too.”
But wait. There is more to tell, and it is worth telling. The game pronounces itself free from any Games-as-a-Service mechanics, cash shops, and an endless grind for progress bars across seasons (Spoiler: Yes, but no – it just redefines the context of ‚endless‘). Honestly, this really makes the game a better place to be, because you know there will be a point in time, where you will reach the end of the story. So offering less is indeed providing more of a game experience here. Also, I can freely change the looks from my character as well as my truck from the start and any time later in the game. That I have to mention such a thing at all, is actually ridiculous.
The main reason for me to stick with the game and also complete it was mainly the good delivered story. And your milage may vary here, on what a good delivered story really is. Being the child from the 80ies and 90ies that I am, the story itself was plain and uninspired and very linear, which was also fine. Remarkably, the density of awesome cool-action-hero-lines-delivered-per-minute was at such a high and enjoyable level – I really found that amazing and funny. Not often, that I spontanously giggle or laugh when playing a game anyway…
So, we start our journey and become stronger by killing and looting. There is no other option. We travel through several biomes and we discover all the freak people, which includes ourselves now called Altered, that make the world the garbage place it has become. The story is delivered through a lot of fully voiced and fancy cutscenes and many many codex entries. Since Dragon Age: Origins I have not experienced many games, who integrated codex entries as a natural and interesting base knowledge- or storyline. From the ones I remember right now and have played: Anthem and Cyberpunk 2077 were terribly uninspired, Mass Effect ok‘ish and Assassin‘s Creed Origins painfully uninteresting and useless.
But Outriders manages to capture interest and also extends entries, when you have more information. Sometimes it is a bit too much to read, but this information almost always helps to close knowledge gaps and provide a richer saturation of what is going on and why people behave like they behave or have become what they have become. This is by far not the best way of story-telling, but well enough delivered to keep me reading and the settings and their pacing were dense enough to look for more.
All dialogues are voiced and voice acting is not always the best, but sticking to my B-action movie anchor from before, fine enough; these movies back then hardly had good actors anyway. The main characters‘ male and female voice was best delivered through the image of a very vocal, and definately not silent, tough-as-titanium protagonist. When she had to shout, curse, and was stressed out, it was pure gold. I really loved Mylène Dinh-Robic voice acting reaching top-tier in scenes, when shit hit the fan and she was just so incredibly pissed and angry about all of it. The more relaxed the situation, the less convincing her voice acting has been though.
So while killing, cursing and delivering edgy lines in edgy and bloody situations, the story picks up and continously invites you, including all side quests, to proceed and move further and further. Two times we thought we were almost done, but the story continued. Later in the story, the maps become more standardized though, with opponent-types also repeating themselves. The action remains convincing enough and you too often feel like an unstoppable god, as long as you keep up with your gear; alternatively moderating the world tier would be an option, which we did not do.
We moved further up the escalation and story line with our troupe of misfits in a truck with free customization options to follow traces of what this signal and the anomaly is. Like in Apokalypse Now, we move further and further into the deepest and darkest recesses of mankind and explore, what we humans are capable of. Beside the action, there is quite something to be told in those codex entries and seen in the final areas of the game; if you care to stop and read, listen, and look around. If not, you can also just kill everything until the credits roll, and meet us back in the camp, where we can start the endgame of Outriders, which is called – Expeditions.
When I read Expeditions, I expect progress. When I interpret the meaning of the word Expedition, I interpret progress. As we reached expedition level 15, there was no progress anymore. Not in any direction. And this turns an, until then, quite enjoyable grind for power completely upside down. When we ran expeditions in gold times, you have a 25% chance of receiving a legendary item. No problem, when nothing drops once, or twice, but the third time in a row this is destroying any motivation to move on. What drops out of the pod is also completely random, which makes loot targeting (like via a loot-table) impossible, and there are quite a lot of legendaries to choose from. So we ran and ran expeditions, got nothing at all, sometimes one, rarely two, and almost never three legendaries. Unfortunately, the legendaries alone are just not viable enough for running a build or a sort-of-a-build. Tier 3 Mods are just so powerful compared to lower tiers, that it makes no sense to stick with violetts – you need those legendaries.
This is when it happenend and everything collapsed. We tried for several weeks, all in all around 25 hours playing expeditions, and always gave it another shot, but all with the same frustrating outcome: Trashing the loot we got. Time after time. In addition, I have also chosen the probably most gear dependent class of all, the Devestator, who in combination has substantial problems with burst damage; an early viable built is a bleed built, so stuff takes time. The lack of usable items just became more and more dramatic, and even by changing to other build archetypes, the situation did not improve much: Damage in Devestator builds mainly scales-up and is unleashed when you have those crucial Tier 3 mods on your weapon or your armor. And yes, these mods are found on legendaries. This turned into a waste of time.
I stopped playing. Alex stopped playing. We both moved on and we did not complete Eye of the Storm (the final challange), which is a pity. We really enjoyed playing Outriders though and we were really engaged in the world and story building, so this decision is a reluctant one. In the end, we completed the achievments though, which was a satisfying finale at that.
Time played: 72h | 100% completed.
Outriders is an awesome power fantasy, with an engaging story and freaky characters in an interesting world. The meta-game allows for a lot of builds, but to be viable in endgame legendaries are too important for overall progression into the final challenge.
Let’s see what new content is coming up, and maybe there will be changes later or some redesign of loot works what will be coming up.
But for now Enoch is 100% completely at peace. And my mind with it.The Incompletionist