As Time Goes By – Outriders

An unfortunate trend in this day and age is the release of broken and buggy games. It seems there isn’t a month that goes by without at least one anticipated title being released in a busted state. But all is not lost and with the wonder of the internet, a great game is often only some time and a patch away. This is where “As Time Goes By” comes in. We look at these once broken games a few months (or years) on and let you know if they are now worth your time, helping you decide once and for all if the game is finally something to be purchased or a title to be forgotten forever.

As Time Goes By - Outriders

Outriders, I feel, was a victim of two things. The first was poor marketing. It seems that Square Enix’s promo team just didn’t know how to sell the game. Was it a Destiny style live service game? A co-op action title? A narrative adventure? It seemed in the lead up to release pretty much everyone was clueless as to what Outriders actually was. The reality turned out to be that it was closer to Gears of War than Destiny. A third-person shooter that had a beginning and end, that gave some extra missions and endgame activities for those that wanted more after the campaign had finished.  This immediately put a lot of players off, especially those going into the title expecting a live service, evolving online world. The second major problem was bugs. Not just tiny little graphical glitches, but game-breaking, inventory wiping bugs that crippled the game’s first month and really put it on the back foot. 

Fast forward a little over 12 months and Outriders is back in the gaming consciousness. With the recent head-scratching Square Enix western studio deal and the announcement of a brand new expansion for the game, I felt like now was time to dive back in and see how far the game had come in the 12 months since its troubled release. To be honest there seems to be quite a bit that has changed under the hood, without massive changes to the game itself. In fact, if I wasn’t looking for the changes I probably would have missed them. 

The first thing I noticed is the balance of the game. When I reviewed it pre-release there were some insane difficulty spikes that seemed to appear at random, causing endless frustration as the game forced players to drop the difficulty to get past choke points. As rewards are tied to difficulty in-game it was doubly frustrating. This seems to be a much smoother curve now and while there are still the occasional spikes, in general I found I was able to keep up with the game’s rising difficulty without resorting to dropping the world level down. 

I can’t speak for consoles, but on the PC at least, the graphics have received a bit more polish over the 12 months since release. This could be because of improvements in DLSS technology but for the most part, there are now very few graphical glitches, instances of pop-in or general graphical inconsistencies. There are some truly stunning vistas in this game and the enemy design is great, so the fact there are fewer issues to take away from that is good news for all. It is important to note that the game is also super smooth, with no framerate drops or stuttering, something that is essential to a game such as this. 

It almost goes without saying, but I will say it anyway, the game-breaking bugs are gone. There are no more instances of inventory loss or any other catastrophic glitches that could send players into a fit of rage. That being said, some of the littler issues still persist. In my playthrough, I came across multiple instances of mission markers pointing to the wrong location and quests not triggering properly. One of these left me scratching my head so much I was forced to Google a solution. Turns out I wasn’t the only one that had experienced it. I understand the need for the developers to focus on the big-ticket issues, but after 12 months it feels like this sort of thing should be sorted. 

Now it wouldn’t be much of a look back if I didn’t mention the state of the endgame. For me, the endgame is fine. It is just some more stuff to do at the end of a quite satisfying 30ish hour story. But for many (and thanks to the mixed messaging prior to launch) the thinking was that the endgame would be where the bulk of the fun would be had. The comparisons to Destiny really did the game a disservice here and created expectations that should never have existed. People expecting the sort of deep and ongoing live service offered by Destiny would of course be upset with what amounted to a string of co-op focused short missions whose only goal is to get better loot. Not a development problem, but a marketing one in my eyes and one the game never recovered from. I do find it hilarious (and sad if I am honest) scrolling through Steam reviews of the game that say it has nothing to do while the reviewer has 120+ hours of game time. 

Outriders, for all its faults and issues, is still something of a unique beast in action gaming. A cover-based shooter that really wants players to get out of cover is an enjoyable twist on well-worn conventions and one I enjoyed playing through a second time. The whole game still feels like it was developed by a team that needed a 5% increase in resources to truly achieve their dream, but that ambition is what is appealing to me. People May Fly really swung for the fences with Outriders and while they didn’t quite nail it, what is here is still worth playing for action fans everywhere. Hopefully, the new expansion, which promises to be for both newcomers and veterans, fixes the final issues with the game and we are left with a polished action experience that is like nothing else on the market. Outriders is worth your time and despite the current news surrounding People May Fly and Square Enix, it feels like it has a bright future, one that is worth checking out. 

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