The End Game as it were.
Think of expeditions as pre-set quick dungeon runs, with all rewards provided based on clear time. You have gold, silver, bronze, and then consolation prizes. Most of the runs are balanced around the concept of always moving forward, which may be a shock to people who leveled as Techno or Pyro.
As with all dungeons, there are ones that are easier and ones that are faster. Easy really focuses on the way the zone is designed, enemies spawn (line of sight), and then the final boss spawn. Fast is more related to the linear nature of a run. Eventually you’ll find one that seems to fit both. I find that Boom Town is the fastest (~6m) and that Chem Plant is the easiest (~8.5m). I personally prefer to have Monsters as enemies rather than gun toting enemy and Chem Plant’s boss is a monster.
Risk vs Rewards
Clearing in time means the final cache has more loot, and generally better odds of good loot. Gold will have 4x drop piles with say 10% legendary, and silver would be 3x at 8%. This highly incentivizes gold runs! If you’re doing the max level CT, you’ll see that for most, just clearing an expedition will open the next challenge tier.
The risk in any given run is that you’re going to die. Dying means restarting the entire run, which sucks. Especially when you’re on the last boss and have some bad luck (damn you frozen!!) The good news here is that depending on how far you’ve made it through a run, you’ll get a consolation chest between attempts in the starting area. You get rewards no matter the outcome, just not great rewards.
Successfully clearing a run also gives Pod Resources. These are used to upgrade items post-40 AND to buy items from a vendor (including unique items). You get way more resources on harder difficulties. Something like 1900 for a gold run on CT11.
Start one, abandon it, and the list of Expeditions will reset. If you really don’t like your options, this is a great way to get the one you want to show.
Defence vs Offence
Outriders is a game focused on offence. You’re going to take a PILE of damage, and need to make every effort to get to the 85% armor cap. Mitigation from Death (stacking armor if you kill down sights of gun) is therefore mandatory. You have other options depending on your class, just remember that for most of them there are conditions – e.g. behind cover.
Damage is really important, and you need to make a call between skill damage (anomaly) or weapon damage. Health is currently useless as a stat. Armor and Max Firepower roll in ranges, and that range really matters at higher levels. The rest of the stats are locked based on item quality (blue/purple/orange) and level. Depending on playstyle, you’ll want to stack crit damage, short/long range damage, cooldown reduction and so on.
There is likely 1 critical class mod to help you in terms of damage uptime, in particular around status effects. The rest of the mods will be focused on other attacks. Death Chains is crazy DPS, Bone Shrapnel, Lightning Whip, and Killing Spree are all quite solid DPS boosts. Up until CT10 you’re going to be able to clear with OK gear in mostly blues. Past that point… you’re going to need to optimize.
You’re going to be swimming in drops. As with any looter, most of them will not be useful. What to do?
Well, up until level 40 I do recommend to just disassemble everything. The mats will help you with your stock levels and improve items going forward.
Post 40 though… you want to sell all blues. The scraps (money) is going to be super useful at the vendor to pick up some rarer mods. The vendor inventory respawns every expedition. You won’t find legendaries (I haven’t seen them) but it’s a good way to get rank 2 mods… or to buy Titanium.
Always disassemble purple and orange items. The mods obviously are useful but you’re really wanting the titanium to upgrade items, not to mention the stat scraps for later on.
A note on orange items… they roll the same mods all the time, and same secondary stats. What changes is the primary stat (Firewpower / Armor). It’s entirely possible to get a decent legendary at say level 20 and it be viable at 50 if you upgrade it. The material costs to upgrade are likely prohibitive! What this means is that a purple with a solid rank 2 mod and good rolls can be modded to have a rank 3 mod and be miles ahead of a legendary item. The good news is that legendary items look damn cool.
What If You’re Stuck?!
In most other looters, you progress through plateaus of power. One item will complete a build and put you at another level. Diablo3 is a great example, where a 4 piece set bonus can often push you through 4 difficulty levels.
Not so with Outriders. The progress up to CT10 is somewhat linear. CT11 and beyond, you will always be underpowered. You need damn good rolls to progress, and most of your items need to be at the right item level. A lvl 43 gun is like a fly swatter on a lvl47 enemy.
My suggested approach is to run expeditions at a CT level where gold is easy, often your max minus 2. This will guarantee a huge pile of resources at the end, and you can farm one with decent stats and mods. Finding a purple armor piece with the ideal stats – for me, Max Firepower, Long Range damage, and a good rank 2 mod – is not something that’s guaranteed. The stats aren’t the challenge, it’s that there’s like 40+ rank 2 mods!
The weapon is actually harder to judge, as the primary firepower roll is very hard to judge as being high. For that, I suggest that you always keep a purple in the inventory with the highest damage stat as a comparison, regardless of mods/secondary stats. That way, you can tell if a new drop with good mods/secondary is worth keeping or not (firepower + 2 mods >>> secondary stats)
Once you have those good items, you’ll upgrade them to max level. That will take a fair chunk of resources, which is why you’re farming. You absolutely want to upgrade the weapon first. The armor piece you will want to upgrade the one with Mitigation from Death first, then the mods where the bonuses are fixed (like Bloodlust). The mods with % gains should be upgraded last.
The end result is that you’re probably going to unlock CT15 with items you found at CT9. You may really luck out and get a god roll while leveling along the way, but after the time I’ve spent so far, that seems quite unlikely.
This begs the question if Outriders has a shelf life, if you’re in a grind for stat sticks doing the exact same content. D3/PoE helps in this with the randomness of it’s dungeons. Division and Destiny dungeons are much longer, but also have a different method of increasing your power level.
I’m not saying Outriders is bad… far from it. But it’s not great. In the middle of a pandemic… it scratches a hell of an itch.