Now that Outriders has been out for a good half a month, many players have already begun to dig deep into its end game and uncover all of its secrets. Players seem to love People Can Fly's take on this genre of game, but that familiarity is ever present. Few seem to bring it up as a negative thing though, so what exactly does this strange nostalgia mean and where does it come from? These are questions that are difficult to answer, but they are important in understanding why Outriders is simultaneously remarkably fun and wholly unremarkable.
Before getting into all of the things that Outriders adapts from the games of yore, it's important to recognize what new things it does bring to the table. For starters, its world building and the planet of Enoch as a whole is interesting. It may follow some common tropes at times, but players will enjoy exploring Enoch and it isn't difficult to imagine it as a real place. As previously mentioned, there's also the concept of World Tiers that dictate both the difficulty of the game and the rewards received from playing.
The classes are also a breath of fresh air. While there's no shortage of class-based shooters in the market right now, the simple nature of these ones works to its advantage. Players can choose between fire powers, earth powers, time powers, or techno powers, providing a refreshing mix of both the expected and unexpected. Finally, the class that players choose also determines how their character heals, baking in a very specific playstyle for each one. Although players may instinctively want to take cover and defeat enemies from afar, this approach won't work if they're playing the Trickster class, for example.
One common notion when the Outriders demo was still fresh was that the game felt like an Xbox 360 era game. Harkening back to classics like Gears of War or Army of Two, players may get a sense of Deja Vu as they dart from cover to cover in every encounter in the game. Although the combat is invigorated to a degree by the unique abilities that each character class can harness, it always falls back on this familiar gameplay loop. The combat isn't the only thing that will take players to the past, however.
Around the same time as those other games, the Mass Effect franchise was just getting started. This series took players to a vast array of alien planets and provided a story full of sci-fi shenanigans. Outriders has elements of this too, with its many sci-fi elements being used to hold together its loose story. Again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it allows the game to be as simple or as complicated as the player wants. Those desperate to make sense of everything can do so by reading through journal entries and such, but it's just as fun without any of that context.
The important thing to note is that Outriders isn't a clone of any of these mid 2000s games that it resembles so heavily. It brings with it its own personality, character, and story, and never reaches the point of feeling redundant. While it may not provide anything groundbreaking, it takes this familiar type of gameplay and polishes it to a level that makes it fit in with current generation gaming. It's hard to find any other modern experience that feels the way Outriders does, with the closest examples being Destiny or Borderlands, each having distinct differences that still set them apart.
This brings up an interesting discussion about what gamers expect from developers that make modern games. There's often a push for games to be inventive and creative, pushing the boundaries of what gamers thought was possible with every new release, but this doesn't always need to be the case. Sometimes this lofty ambition leads to a game's downfall, as the disastrous launches of games like No Man's Sky and Cyberpunk 2077 can attest. Instead, it should be okay for games to stick with what's comfortable and instead use that time and those resources to refine what's already there.
There are some franchises that already take this approach. Aside from minor changes, when was the last time a Mortal Kombat game felt drastically different from the last release? Obviously graphics improve and a few features get added here and there, but these games are largely the same. On a similar note, games like Pokemon or Monster Hunter continue to use the same formula year after year, simply adding or refining features to make the experience stay fresh and enjoyable.
In a sense, Outriders feels like this but in reference to an entire genre rather than a single franchise. These third-person, over-the-shoulder shooter games that gamers in the mid 2000's grew so familiar with have made a return in a slightly different way. There's just enough change to make the system feel fresh and new but not too much so that it loses its integrity. In this way, Outriders proves that developers don't always need to focus on making huge technological leaps or drastic statements. In most cases, it seems that players would prefer a polished and enjoyable game over an overly ambitious one.
Outriders is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X.