This week, Outriders developer People Can Fly announced its first big patch for the game. While a lot of the fixes are targeting connection and stability issues, bugs, and glitches, there were also some nerfs. Chief among these nerfs are decreases to the viability of bullet builds in Outriders, and the community doesn’t seem too happy about them.
Without getting into a breakdown of the Outriders patch notes, the main nerfs are targeted at buffs for bullet damage. The Trickster class was hit the hardest with these nerfs, losing damage from the Twisted Rounds ability as well as some nodes on the Assassin class tree. According to People Can Fly, the combination of Twisted Rounds with some of these passive buffs (Scion of Power, Disruptive Firepower, and Outrider Executioner) have led to damage output far behind the dev team’s predictions.
Pyromancer and Technomancer players were not hit as hard, but two popular buffs within their bullet builds – Damage Against Poison and Trial of Ashes – will lose some of their potency. Devastators are still waiting to hear their fate.
Overall, the response to these balance changes, as well as decreases to the Gold Time requirement on some endgame Expeditions, has been met with harsh criticism from players. It has only been one week since the release of Outriders and most players have not even reached the endgame or begun fine tuning their class builds. There were also connection issues during the entirety of launch weekend, so many players were set back even further than they would have been otherwise.
At the same time, there are players in the endgame who have customized their builds and are taking advantage of the abilities outlined above. They are showing newer players the potential of builds, but now they are also showing them something they will never reach.
A criticism that typically is raised against any looter/shooter like Destiny, The Division, Borderlands, or Anthem is that the developers focus only on hindering the player. Over time, the devs behind these games have found some balance but even now there are still decisions made that leave players scratching their heads. Borderlands 3 is the closest approximation to Outriders in that it doesn’t need to worry about player vs player engagements, and it followed a similar path. Not as quickly, mind you; but Borderlands 3 did nerf a lot of popular perks/builds and didn’t get into buffs until later.
What separates Outriders from those other games is that it is brand new. It hasn’t worked through all of its connection issues, and already the developers are talking about nerfs. The developers at People Can Fly didn’t even give players the impression that balance patches would be a thing. They said that Outriders is not a live service game and what comes out of the box is what players get. This first balance pass, however, suggests that this game has a lot more in common with other looter/shooters than players were led to believe.
Balance passes should be about balance in a variety of ways. There should be balance in the experience but also balance in approach. Developers shouldn’t be nerfing things without making things better. Bullet builds are popular because they are easier to get setup, while Anomaly builds (those that focus on ability damage) require a specific set of mods to get right, and even then they can be outclassed. Tankier builds can survive for longer, but they won’t get the best rewards.
Nerfs in a PvE-focused game are always going to be a point of debate. Some believe they are necessary to the balance of the endgame, while others think that if there is no PvP element then there is no need to take away the power fantasy. What most can agree on is that when there are nerfs there should also be buffs. For Outriders, there are no announced buffs and as a result, the response has been overwhelmingly negative.
Some were surprised that the nerfs didn’t also target the AI enemies, since some of them can be a bit sponge-y. Bullet builds are so popular because they can burn the tougher enemies down quickly. And in a game when enemies are overwhelming the player at every turn, add clear is key. Perhaps once People Can Fly sees data post-update they will make another change. For now, though, three of the classes are weaker than they once were.
Trickster was definitely leading the pack when it came to these bullet builds and a nerf seemed likely for the class overall. Doing so one week after release seems a bit drastic. Most of the people who have been able to show People Can Fly how strong Trickster is are either content creators grinding for 10+ hours every day or dedicated players with a lot of free time on their hands. There is a perception that content creators influence developer decisions and while that’s difficult to prove, it is worth talking about. How many players were actually breezing through the Outriders endgame?
The Devastator class is arguably the least viable when it comes to succeeding in the endgame. Yes, it can tank shots but its damage output is so low that getting through Expeditions with a Gold time is a challenge. Devastator players had hoped that the first balance pass would give them some love, but that is not the case. What Outriders wanted to see is the one outlier class brought up to the other three, but instead the three were brought down to the one.
And that is one of the biggest elements that has pushed players away from games like Outriders. Doing too much too soon without finding out what the game's community does and doesn't like can really harm perception. Right now, the conversations on social media and forums have taken a turn, and that damage is not easily undone. Obviously, this is only the first big patch and balancing changes, but the response is strong enough that it could shape opinions going forward.
Outriders is available now.