Outriders, the new looter shooter from People Can Fly, has variable difficulty settings, from extremely hard, just a little hard, trivial, normal, to anywhere in between. In addition to letting players customize their experience, it also incentives them to make the game as hard as they can.
Like Diablo 3 and The Division series, Outriders uses a tiered difficulty system called World Tiers. The higher the Tier, the more difficult the enemies, but also, the better the loot. You even get a starting bonus to the endgame if you rack up your World Tier over the course of the campaign. Outriders’ extensive World Tier system challenged me to constantly push myself harder, and it made for an awesome experience.
What is the World Tier system?
Outriders starts me at World Tier 01. Tier 01 not only removes levels from my enemies, it actively decreases the quality of gear I can find in the world. But it’s easy, and makes my fresh Outrider seem like a god among anything that dares stand in my way.
As I defeat things on World Tier 01, I gain progress on my World Tier bar, located right under my experience bar. Once my World Tier bar fills all the way up, I automatically move to Tier 02 using the game’s default settings. Enemies are still hampered here, as is my loot, but it’s a bit more of a challenge than before. And so I keep winning and winning until I’m on World Tier 03, then 04, and up, and up.
Suddenly, my gear drops are incredible, and enemies that I could kill with a glance before now pose a serious threat. With every combat encounter I get closer to that next World Tier, but deaths remove progress from my bar. I can never drop down a World Tier just from dying, but I won’t be able to move up until I prove myself or get better gear.
And so, Outriders gets harder and harder as I run through its lengthy campaign. But because the loot is better up in the higher World Tiers, I’m getting stronger as I fight. With a combination of gear and skill, I can climb my way toward World Tier 15, the maximum Tier outside of endgame content. Tier 15 drastically increases my enemies’ power, but it also offers a 500% increase in loot quality and a 425% increase in Legendary drop chance.
What if I don’t want to slam my head into encounters until I get that perfect rhythm down, or grind for weapons and armor until I can overwhelm my enemies with damage? Then I’m free to fine tune the difficulty to my own liking. If I’m getting my ass kicked at World Tier 12, why not bump it down to World Tier 09? It’s not so far down that combat is trivial, but it’s a comfortable spot to play through some missions or beat a frustrating encounter.
Difficult but rewarding
I could’ve bumped down my World Tier at any point during the game’s campaign, but I didn’t — until the final boss, a fight where I realized my frustration does in fact have a limit, and that limit starts at getting one-shotted by a boss 20 minutes into a 25-minute fight.
But prior to that unfortunate boss battle, I spent my entire Outriders journey always pushing for that higher difficulty. Each new tier pushes me to the limit of what I can do, but I’ve never found a non-boss encounter I couldn’t beat after several failed attempts.
At that max difficulty, the game pushes me to not only execute mechanically but also consider all the tools I have at my disposal. In most games, I wouldn’t dream of futzing with a crafting system until after I’ve reached the endgame, afraid to spend my precious resources before I really need them. But I’ve been crafting in Outriders since the middle area of the campaign, desperate for that edge to push me forward. Toward the end of the campaign, I even looked up a build online to help me spec out my class to perform at a higher level, despite games like Diablo 3 teaching me that builds don’t matter until the endgame.
Even as I’ve pushed into the higher World Tiers, the game’s actual difficulty has ebbed and flowed with my gear and my build. Sometimes I’m powerful enough to blow through my current world tier, not dying for several encounters in a row. Other times I slam my head against a single fight until I’ve fully memorized the spawn patterns of each enemy.
But that’s the beauty of Outriders’ World Tier bar: The game never stayed hyper-difficult or super-easy for long. When I was smashing enemies left and right, I flew through my World Tier bar because I was never losing progress — getting to that harder difficulty faster. On the flip side, when I was struggling, I’d barely make a dent in my World Tier progress, giving my gear a chance to catch up before I could move on. Because I’m at a more challenging World Tier, every enemy I manage to take down has a decent chance of dropping something useful.
The progress bar feels almost like the shepherding of a good coach. Outriders lets you fail enough to get the tools you need to succeed, but never so much that the task ahead is insurmountable. It’s also encouraging to know that I could bump my difficulty down a World Tier and still have a challenging time, or that a player looking for a more chill experience could still have fun rocking World Tier 05 all the way through.
The way the World Tier experience bar works makes each leveling journey through Outriders feel unique and tailored to my skill level. If I want to test myself, I can really track my successes and failures in Outriders by how fast I move through the tiers. It’s a way to measure my progress and customize my experience based on my mood. Maybe I’ve already proved myself and won’t want to bang my head against the wall. Maybe I’ll decide to beat that boss without lowering the World Tier. Either way, it’s my choice.