Oh, Outriders. You leave me with so many mixed emotions. From an entertainment perspective, I cannot stop playing this game. The Gears of War-inspired combat mixed with unique powers and endless loot creates such an enjoyable experience, especially when playing alongside friends. However, when examining this game from an accessibility perspective, Outriders is an unpolished, unfinished title that is afraid to fully commit to the greater accessibility movement.
Developed by People Can Fly and published by Square Enix, Outriders follows the story of an interstellar explorer tasked with scouting the unknown terrain of a new homeworld. After encountering a strange natural force known as The Anomaly, your character develops supernatural powers which they must use to rid the planet of a decades-long conflict. It’s your standard looter shooter with cool abilities and satisfying combat that unfortunately suffers from several minor accessibility barriers that, through extensive sessions, transforms into an exhausting mess.
Like most AAA titles, Outriders does feature numerous accessibility options, beginning with the capability to customize controls. However, the game fails to let disabled players change every key, such as ‘Caps Lock’ and ‘Y’ with regards to switching the World Tier difficulty. For disabled individuals that require specific keys, whether it be due to limited reach or positional comfort, restricting the use of any function creates unnecessary strain and discomfort. For example, I extensively use ‘Caps Lock’ to aim in games. This also lets me free up a button on my mouse for another function.
While ultimately minor, losing a customizable button means I have less keys that I can apply for necessary moves or actions. As for changing the World Tier, Outriders does let players use a virtual keyboard, but a game should not force individuals to use third-party software if a feature can be customized.
As for toggling or holding features like aiming and sprinting, Outriders is incredibly accessible. There is even an option which lets disabled individuals press a single button to gather all loot from a desired rarity within the surrounding area. Yet, Outriders again fails to apply these features to every aspect. When dismantling equipment, an integral component to any looter shooter, players must hold the specific action. Even when progressing through the world, individuals need to hold the confirm key to progress. After particularly long engagements, the last thing I want to do is hold a button just to continue playing the game.
These recurring issues ultimately affect Outriders’ overall ease of use. As a shooter, it performs incredibly well, especially with Gears-like cover mechanics, hip firing and ability choices. Outriders even features an interesting method to restore health. Depending on which Anomaly class you choose the varying ways in which you deal damage will determine how you heal your character. As a Devastator, players heal when they are in close proximity to enemies. As the Technomancer, my current class, I get healed whenever I deal any form of damage, whether through my abilities or guns.
Depending on your physical limitations, choosing a class based on its capability to heal is a perfectly viable and accessible strategy, one which I encourage more looter shooters to implement. Unfortunately, the inconsistent control customization, coupled with the lack of toggling interactive instances makes Outriders incredibly frustrating and tiring to play during extensive gaming sessions.
Outriders is an amalgamation of quality accessible features that gets overshadowed by a perplexing lack of accessibility commitment. For those with mobility issues, Outriders is best played with a group of friends and in short spurts.
As a game, I cannot wait to resume looting and shooting with my friends. As an accessible title, Outriders makes me question how much attention People Can Fly gave to and embraced accessibility guidelines because sadly it misses the mark.