Outriders proves, once again, that online-only singleplayer sucks

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Outriders is a singleplayer looter shooter with optional co-op. Why is it, then, that server issues in its first few days are locking me out of playing it at all? People Can Fly is hardly the first studio to design a game this way, but it’s a great reminder of how it can backfire.

The Outriders subreddit is full of fans eager to level up their mains, but instead many are venting frustrations about being stuck on the login screen. Meanwhile, People Can Fly is issuing hourly updates on Twitter as it reboots servers and tries to get Outriders into a healthy state. We’ve been through this before—we know that server troubles will eventually work themselves out and things will be smooth sailing, but there’s no good reason that online disruptions should interrupt a game that I’ve been playing mostly alone. The way that the game comes to a grinding halt is pretty frustrating, too:

The sudden fade to black makes it feel almost intentional, like People Can Fly noticed my poor performance and decided to close the curtains themselves so they didn’t have to see anymore. The strangely cinematic setback is already producing tragically funny moments of timing, as well.

Even when servers are in tip-top shape, Outriders is a worse game for lacking an offline mode. Repeat after me: You. Can’t. Pause. Ever. I guess we let FromSoftware get away with it in Souls games for too long, because unpausable singleplayer games are popping up more these days. Valheim restricts pausing in singleplayer for some reason. Destiny 2 is historically anti-pausing, but at least most areas in that game are shared worlds that players can wander in and out of organically. Destiny areas are also big enough that you can simply ride your sparrow to the west for a few seconds and find a quiet spot to get up and pee.

Outriders’ levels are sectioned-off arenas: You’re either in a conflict or on a straight path to the next one. Co-op is completely optional, so I should be able to opt-out of random players joining my squad and opt-in to pausing the freaking game.

Unfortunately, there’s a good chance Outriders online requirements aren’t going anywhere. If the game was built from the ground up to constantly ping a server (which it seems like it was, judging by how completely the game shuts down at first issue), then yanking out that functionality might not be a trivial job.

Let Outriders’ disastrous launch day be a warning to studios working on singleplayer/multiplayer hybrid games: we still want to play your game offline, if we so please. It’ll be worth it, if only so that thousands of players have something to do when all the servers are on fire.

Remember this video? It’s pretty ontopic right now. from r/outriders
Morgan Park
Staff Writer

Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.