I’ve enjoyed my fair share of looter shooters over the years. I’ve put plenty of hours into Destiny 1 and 2, I’ve played all the Borderlands, I just finished The Division 2 a few weeks ago, and yes, I even gave the ill-fated Anthem a shot.
Even though I enjoyed those games, they’ve often felt like a chore to play through. They’re games where I know if I want to get the best loot and armor, I’m going to have to sink a significant amount of time into them, and a lot of times I feel these games just don’t respect my time.
Having to travel back to social hub areas over and over again in-between missions to pick up new bounties or missions.
Having to repeatedly traverse the same pretty but ultimately empty open-world space just to get to the next mission.
Having weirdly limited inventory space that forces you to spend a bunch of time clearing out unnecessary loot.
I often feel like I’m living in menus for half of the time I’m playing looter shooters.
Outriders is one of the first looter shooters that I’ve played since Borderlands that seems to have finally learned from its peers and is a game that I feel genuinely respects my time as a player.
Instead of a needlessly large open world with empty space, Outriders is a mostly linear experience with a few optional missions or loot to find off the beaten path that you hardly even have to look for while playing. Every inch of Outriders‘ levels is used for something.
Instead of having to waste time traveling back to a social hub area to manage your loot, craft, upgrade, or change your cosmetics, your truck acts as a mobile base of operations that you return to in-between missions while still continuing your forward progression. Better yet, all the vendors are within arm’s reach of one another.
A lot of looter shooters, at least for me, lose their momentum when I have to keep going back to the same locations and cycling through the same menus just before setting out to do my next objective. It becomes increasingly tedious to the point that games like Destiny or The Division feel like there’s a list of chores to complete before the player is allowed to have fun again. Meanwhile, Outriders is focused on getting you back into the action as fast as possible, and I very much respect People Can Fly’s restraint in not making the game anything more than it needed to be.
The focus of Outriders is explicitly on the action and the loot. It’s one of the main reasons I’m enjoying Outriders so much and not dreading all the “extra” work I have to do to get to the next story mission or side missions. A lot of this most likely has to do with the fact that Outriders isn’t built on the games-as-a-service model that is designed to keep players around as long as possible, creating artificial grind and barriers to entice the player to spend money on premium currencies to unlock things faster in the game.
With the simplified experience that Outriders offers, you as the player are always progressing in some way — in character progression, in finding new loot, in hitting the next story missions, etc. The game’s World Tier system further supports this as the game’s difficulty adjusts as you play, and playing at higher tiers provides you with higher rarity in rewards. Better yet, there are 15 World Tiers to get through in the game, so once again, there’s always a sense of forward progression as you play the game.
The game doesn’t ask you to keep replaying the same missions at a different difficulty level just to obtain that next piece of gear; it just organically begins to drop better and better loot the more you play and progress through World Tiers. I’ve put about 15 hours into the game so far and am nearing the end of the game’s campaign, but I have yet to feel that “loot fatigue” that often comes with these games. The loot variety in Outriders has been consistently satisfying, and while there are some duplicate items, the rate at which I’m finding new pieces of equipment to work with feels much faster than that of most of its peers.
I’m not done with Outriders yet, but I really do think it’s resonating with so many people because it’s simple in design and strips out all of the MMO-like bloat that so many of its peers include. As you play the game you’re always progressing in some way, and it’s all done through actual gameplay rather than menu surfing. Whether it’s advancing World Tiers, leveling up your character, or finding increasingly powerful loot, everything you do is keeping that forward momentum. It’s refreshing to have a game in this genre that truly respects the player’s time again, and I hope other developers take note in the future.