After Outriders, Will The Looter Genre Look Any Different?

In case you missed it, I reviewed the recently released Outriders last week. In it, I gave People Can Fly’s Looter Shooter a 77/100, a score mostly dragged down from an 80-90 by pretty terrible performance across the board. The rundown of the score says this:

“Outriders is a game stricken by performance issues and a poor narrative that will no doubt distract from the excellent gameplay People Can Fly have crafted. A top tier loot system, stunning combat encounters, and satisfying co-operative gameplay elevates Outriders above most of its peers. When it’s working.”

Thing is, in a turn on the looter genre overshadowed by behemoths like Destiny and Diablo, People Can Fly have developed Outriders as a standalone game. This does away with the formula made popular by many games like Destiny and Division, in that there is no steady onslaught of content planned. There are no optional season passes, or weekly bounties, or daily objectives. There are no raids or dungeons, at least in the standard sense. 

A game that is almost entirely story driven, Borderlands 3, even released with a complete content schedule that dwarfed the games before it in the franchise. There hasn’t been much explanation from the developers as to why Outriders launched as it did; a start to finish campaign with some fairly simple end game activities, but this is one of the reasons I liked it as much as I did.

Don’t get me wrong, I LIKE the live service model that many games rely on. Games like Destiny, Fortnite, Valorant, and Overwatch do a great job feeding new interesting content to their player base over time, increasing the size and scope of their game at the same time. I like constantly having new things to do. Destiny is the premier example of a live service looter, constantly releasing new gear, events, tasks, raids, seasonal content, and more on top of that. 

But the side effect of a never ending stream of content like this is that you can’t have a week off. Sometimes, you can barely have a day off. There’s an inherent feeling of ‘FOMO’ – the Fear Of Missing Out. Destiny 2, a fantastic game that is probably one of my favourites of the decade, is one that I will go months without playing because I simply don’t have the necessary time to constantly keep up with the new power caps, or take part in the new raids, or anything else. When I do have the time, I love it and can’t get enough but, as I get older, that time becomes harder to find. 

So, one could consider Outriders the perfect storm. I didn’t touch on the endgame in my review simply because I don’t think the vast majority of players will engage with it that much. Expeditions, Outriders versions of the Rifts found in the Diablo franchise, comprise of tiered time trial levels that you and your team will need to clear for rewards. Unlike the rest of Outriders, drop chances are outlined before you enter, giving you an easier method to grind for better gear should you want it. 

Thing is, Outriders finds itself in that situation where the endgame feels pointless. You’re getting better gear, to do better in expeditions, to get better gear, to do better in expeditions, so on and so forth. In something like Destiny, I gear up to compete in high level Nightfalls, complete Raids, and take part in the top tier PvP areas of the game. In Outriders, I’m gearing up for…. Well, nothing really. I’ve completed the campaign, and beyond the Expeditions there’s not a lot to do after that. 

Don’t get me wrong, the expeditions are pretty good. They’re quite challenging for anyone but the 1% who can min-max their heart out, and they’re rewarding given the chance, but it’s not like you’re putting the new gear to use anywhere but in higher level versions of the Expeditions you just completed.

Outriders launched as a game strongly opposed to being a live service experience. The undoubted plus side of this is that you get a ‘complete’ game for your money. A long campaign, a discernible start and finish, and that’s it. But, with the systems and mechanics that the game employs, it’s arguably a game that would be more enjoyable WITH regular content drops and updates. 

I know, I know, ‘live service’ or ‘game as a service’ is a moniker that is sniffed at by gaming elitists everywhere, but the simple fact is it works. When done correctly, it keeps me coming back, keeps me engaged, and keeps me wanting a bite of the carrot that’s dangling annoyingly out of reach. 

As it is right now, I’m coming to the realisation that I might be ‘done’ with Outriders. Sure, I’ve played it for 50 hours which is great in all reality, but I have zero interest in a gear grind for gear grinds sake. Expeditions are likely to keep me around for a little bit longer, just due to how hard they are, but once that novelty wears off I have nowhere to point myself. I don’t have a Crucible to jump into, or a Raid to try and perfect. There’s no announced expansions to look forward to, or even an event to enjoy for a day or two. I’m just chasing the extremely low chance that any loot that drops is going to be better than what I currently have. 

This is just my opinion of course, but now that I’ve completed the campaign I don’t know what else to do. Getting a full legendary armour set for my Pyromancer would be nice, but once I’ve got it where or why do I use it? Repeat runs of expeditions that all largely feel the same anyway? Probably not. With Diablo 3, the easiest comparison to Outriders, you could repeat the campaign dozens of times on higher difficulties from the start (like NG+ but not), repeat the randomised Greater Rifts, and take part in seasonal grinds trying to rise through the leaderboards. Outriders doesn’t offer most of that and, seemingly by design, gives itself a finite lifespan.

But nonetheless, my grievances with the potential lifespan isn’t relevant. Outriders did what it achieved, it launched a new looter shooter in a space that already feels overcrowded, and did so successfully. Hell I’ve had a great time with it, and there’s still room for more. I have other characters to play, more gear to get, and more expeditions to try and finish. But I can’t help but feel that once other games come out, Returnal, Ratchet & Clank, Deathloop, Far Cry 6, Halo Infinite, whatever they may be, then Outriders will be swiftly uninstalled never to be seen again.

Compare this to Destiny 2 which, despite me having not played since Christmas, has never been uninstalled from my Xbox since it released in 2017, and you’ll see why I have some cause for concern. Outriders released in a perfect window where I don’t have much else to play. Had I not needed to review it, I probably would’ve played it anyway. In a month or two? I don’t know if I’ll still have the urge to jump in like I do now. 

I’ve heard many reviewers and podcasters describe Outriders as ‘a week or two of fun before moving on’ or something similar, and that creates a juxtaposition with the very genre that Outriders sits in. Don’t get me wrong, I agree, Outriders has only been out for a week and I already see the end of my interest with it on the horizon. But looters, by design, are meant to keep you around for as long as possible. Whether that’s chasing the gear needed to compete, like with Destiny, or chasing leaderboard positions like Diablo, or keeping up with the story like in Borderlands 3. 

So, my question remains this; does Outriders change the genre going forward? Does the ethos that People Can Fly has waved around change anything? Despite my love for it now, the Destiny franchise has always had an issue around the launch window. Whether that be the laughable story and empty end game of the first entry or the confused loot systems of the second game. Outriders has its own issues, like with the performance and stability, but has delivered a complete product. The story, love it or hate it, is there and is finished. The loot system is pretty darn impressive, and the gameplay itself is one of the best examples I’ve played in a looter.

The downside, like I’ve mentioned, is that Outriders feels like it has nowhere to go once the novelty of Expeditions wears off, but is that so bad? Is having two weeks of fun and moving on so bad? Maybe not.

Like I said, I barely get the chance to play Destiny 2 any more. I miss out on skins in Overwatch 24/7, and despite having played the story through literally dozens of times, I’ve never been able to set aside the time to properly compete in Diablo 3. With Outriders, not only have I been able to sit down with my mates and play it start to finish in a few days, I’ve also been able to play the game at my leisure. There’s no looming update that’s suddenly gonna make all of my gear irrelevant or underpowered. There’s no expansion coming out that I’ll need to spare a whole weekend for. I can sit down and play expeditions for two or three hours, and then go away, not having to worry about the progress I have or haven’t made.

It’s an odd feeling but, as I type this, I’m getting ready to play Valorant because I have a battle pass that expires in 16 days and I’m worried I won’t get the chance to finish it. I don’t have that worry with Outriders and I like it. I like it a lot. 

No, I don’t think the surprise success of Outriders is going to move the needle on live service games or looters specifically. There’s too much money, and too much fun in having a universe that is constantly expanding. Destiny 2 would be a damn boring game without all of the updates it’s had over the years, and that’s a fact. But I hope that more developers look at Outriders and realise that, with the right execution, they don’t need to develop a game designed to keep the player base hooked for five years. Live service is great in the right situation, but there’s still a place for the succinct experiences outside of single player games. 

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