The latest looter shooter puts the loot first
Loot in video games is a tricky thing to get right. Across the many loot-based RPGs, action games, and shooters vying for players’ time, few manage to pull it off. I’ve invested thousands of hours in games that succeed at doling out good loot (Destiny 2, Diablo 3, the original Borderlands) and bounced off many that don’t (Anthem, Marvel’s Avengers). Many games don’t find their loot groove until you’ve invested far too many hours into them.
Outriders has flown pretty far under the radar, given that it’s an original property and yet another third-person looter-shooter. But where I’ve spent ages waiting to find interesting loot in other games, Outriders’ demo had me hooked within two hours. And it’s all because of how the game handles its loot.
ARMOR CHANGES EVERYTHING
In the opening minutes of Outriders, my loot is pretty predictable and dull. I’ll get common-quality drops with no perks, more often than not, and occasionally I’ll get some Unusual armor (this is what Outriders calls “uncommon” or green loot) that might give me some bonus stats or damage. After about two hours, I started encountering rare-quality drops.
Rare items are the first ones that really make a difference in Outriders. Rare guns come with perks that can shock enemies when I reload, or encase them in ash after I shoot them. Rare armor perks are even more interesting, overriding aspects of my character’s skills. It only takes one piece to slightly alter how my character plays, and five rare pieces helps me feel significantly more powerful.
On my Devastator, the game’s primary tank class, I have an ability called Gravity Leap, where I jump into the sky, and crash down on an enemy of my choosing, effectively moving me across the entire battlefield in an instant. Normally, this is a great skill for engaging groups of enemies.
Equipping two pieces of rare gear transforms my Gravity Leap into a more powerful tool. Life Absorption, a perk that refunds me 100% of my damage dealt with Gravity Leap as health, turns Gravity Leap into a defensive tool. Coupled with what would normally be a boring perk like Human Comet (which increases my Gravity Leap damage), my primary mobility spell now is now my best healing spell as well. It changes the way I use the ability.
No matter how good my early-game Diablo 3 loot is, it’s not really changing how I play until I’ve fully maxed my character and started farming Legendaries. Destiny 2 also has gameplay-altering armor effects on its Exotic items, but even those come slowly at the start, and non-Exotic armor pieces barely change how I play. This is normally how loot games work. In the first dozen hours, the loot is predictable and dry. You’re getting incrementally stronger, but you’re also getting used to how the game plays, so you can’t alter your abilities too much.
But in Outriders, my two-hour-old Trickster class is already finding some helpful loot. The Trickster’s whole schtick is their ability to teleport to enemies instantly with the Hunt The Prey ability. Without perks, this ability is just a great way to get behind enemies and take them out quickly. But one piece of rare armor I found had a perk that interrupts the target and makes them weak, drastically changing how I use the teleport ability. Now I can save my ability for a powerful enemy, or use it to interrupt a boss when it’s casting a spell.
These armor pieces have already started to change how I play Outriders. It’s one thing to give me a new perk that increases damage, but perks that offer different effects, like healing or stunning, require me to think differently in combat. These ability alterations will change along with my armor. As soon as I get better loot, I’ll have a different perk to think about, which will subsequently alter my play style. As I get farther in the game, I’ll get legendary pieces of gear that give me even more perks and options.
In any loot game, players need a way to make the game feel different after their 50th, 100th, or 1,000th hour. But most games require you to play dozens of hours before your gear starts making a tangible difference. Outriders is already changing the way I play, making me reevaluate fights I’ve done a dozen times before, after just two or three hours.