Steep was set high up in the Alps, later expanding to other mountains across the globe, and as open world as it is you were pretty much set in white powdered surroundings.
Ubisoft has taken the opportunity to expand on that and their learnings and overall execution from Steep and have dialled it up to COWABUNGA DUDE for Rider’s Republic!
A bit cringe of me.. I’m a 36 year old father of three who spent 5 grand on snowboard gear for a one off trip back in 2006 and it’s going to take me a bit of time to get my groove back.
Myself and some other great local publication legends, who will be hence forth known as “The Extreme Creams” (I am the only one who knows this) and are the 5 best friends that any of us should have, were chaperoned by Ubisoft ANZ’s wonderful “Extreme Queen” Adele Jefferys through an afternoon of fun with the game which included going through the (at that point) limited number of sports available, game controls, smart trails, trick system, landmarks, and the social hub, Rider’s Ridge, before heading out into the big wide world and diving into career events, various modes, and a few of Adele’s favourite spots*.
(*Plural is for the purposes of this story to make it seem like Adele had many favourite spots, but in the interest of journalistic integrity and honesty with you, it was pretty hard to tear her away from the Pub.)
I’m not overstating it when I say “big wide world”, the Rider’s Republic map is huge and there is loads of activity and as you progressed up the level system you saw more activity across the map including other avatars and between those moving around on the map and the fellow RR players on screen when you’re back in 3rd person (or 1st if that’s your preference) the world very much feels ALIVE.
I was really happy there wasn’t too much guff at the beginning of the game before getting your first bike and getting on your way, understandably so given the size of games these days I find sometimes there’s too much time spent introducing you to what you’re about to dive into. I feel like the Ubisoft have a really great handle on “this is a party game all about speed and fun, so let’s just throw them into the action as soon as we can.” After a few first boot settings you’re thrown into creating your avatar, again it’s a really simplified version of this mechanic, in fact probably the most out there customisation at the moment is colouring your gnarly hair style. I’m totally fine with this, I don’t need an overtly detailed avatar, especially when I’m going to be grinding for full coverage outfits anyway.
Getting down to business.
Once we were past avatar creation it was straight into the opening cinematic full of sweeping vistas, a voiceover straight out of a Red Bull X games tournament and a cracking rock track playing as we followed a group of Riders before seamlessly transition right into gameplay. You’re dropped right into a Mass Race and RR takes it’s opportunity to give you the perfect taste of what’s to come as you smoke it around Sequoia’s Eagle Summit on a BMX at 100kms an hour before hitting a jump at Woodpecker for another cutscene and suddenly find yourself travelling at twice the speed over Zion’s Pine Creek canyons with a ROCKETWING strapped to your back. The gnarly voiceover dude from “The Ridge TV” screams into your headset to “hit those rings, but don’t fly too close to the sun,” and because I’m a gamer and an idiot I tried flying too close to the sun and it was here I discovered the Rider’s Republic Backtrack feature – make a mistake? No problem, just hit the rewind button and go again.
Out of the air and onto the slopes was where the tutorial took us next and I found myself on a pair of ski’s, snowboarders cutting around me, and having trick button combo’s appear before hitting the end of the run and winding up in the social hub – Rider’s Ridge, where I was greeted by Suki!
I feel like Suki and I hit it off pretty quick, she seemed really into me and considering how quickly I mastered those sick tricks down those slopes I wasn’t surprised. I was actually about to ask her out too until she started telling me about Brett, the “Triple OG” and obviously resident alpha male, and to top it all off Scotty doesn’t even know.
Brett also gave me my first gift, a star, which you collect to increase your level by completing challenges in races, he’s threatened already so he’s playing Mr nice guy.
It’s okay I’m no longer interested in Suki, I’ve decided no lady’s going to tie this adventurer down, I’m married to the slopes anyway so better I didn’t have to go breaking hearts this early in the game.
Along with a star you’ll be introduced to rewards and collectables in the form of cards and credits on the “Star Stash” screen.
Revealing cards earns you upgrades on equipment both useful and cosmetic, else you can spend your credits on those when you build them up enough. Completing races also earns you upgrades to equipment along the way and the pacing on rewarding you for your effort feels really well balanced, dopamine hits everywhere.
Career mode unlocked.
Career mode is unlocked from here and you’ll be directed to get to your first race. Remember when I said the map is big? I’m not kidding, and every square inch of it is explorable.
Even better is that the Ubisoft development team have implemented a sight seeing mechanic where you’ll be rewarded for exploration with a magnificent view, some interesting information about the landmark, and of course some more tangible rewards.
In the short amount of time I did have to explore I could see how it would be very easy to while away the hours just roaming the different landscapes in the game.
Courses are also laid out bare outside of races so you can spend ample time practising tricks, getting to know the courses ready for race time, or meeting other Suki’s to make the OG Suki jealous and dump Brett.
A quick trip back around Rider’s Ridge introduced me to the Shop where you can purchase cosmetics and upgrades that are updated daily so there’s always something new to look for.
There’s also: -The Creation Centre where you’ll be able to share your content and also see content shared by other Riders. -Free For All is the place where you can challenge other Riders to events from the cross section of races available. -Tricks Academy for tricks practise so you can get super slick on those super sweet jumps and rails you absolute ANIMAL!
With all of this done it was time to set off into some party action, and this is where the game really begins to shine.
Welcome home son.
With the classic punk rock tracks playing throughout our multiplayer races, I felt like I was back in my messy high school room, pictures of Blink 182 and Alicia Silverstone up on the walls, my mates around and the pizza about to rock up before launching into an all night bender of sugar, games, and hurling sledges at each other.
Party function grouping up with fellow players who you’ve friended on the network is pretty standard, and once you have done you can warp to them wherever they are on the map, however you don’t need to be anywhere near eachother for someone to engage a race and you all set off.
The first run was a simple Vs match downhill on a BMX/Ski transition on Grand Teton’s Prospector Mountain. The multiplayer race events start with a warm-up function that lets you practise a little of the race while everyone is getting ready.
As you launch off jumps with mountains ahead of you you’ll see non-competing players in full flight with wingsuits again giving that feeling that the game is active and very much alive. It was awesome doing jumps from insane levels of height only to have these wingsuits sweep the air underneath you.
It’s these little touches that really excite me about games like this because you can see the depth of thought Ubisoft has put into how the game has to feel. There’s always action whether it’s coming from you or from someone else.
While you’re waiting for your next multiplayer race to engage you can launch into the home screen where you’ll be able to manage your group, various options, check your progression, and most importantly customise your gear or your outfit on the run so you can stay one step ahead of old Alpha male Bre.. I mean because of how quickly you pick up rewards.
Sick air bro!
If you think everything on the ground is good fun wait until you launch into the air. There are two main modes that take you to the air, wingsuits and rocket wings! The latter I mastered really quickly, though if you think you’ll get away with glitching through the tops of trees think again. Ubisoft have done a really good job of making sure you need to keep your senses about you in the development of their airborne courses. You’ll need to sweep through checkpoints (like all other modes) however these checkpoints, depending on the difficulty of the course, will take you through forested areas or spots full of floating panels attached to balloons, and if you so much as nick a twig on your way through you will be punished for it. The former, wingsuits, is where I can see myself coming back time and again as at this point the biggest challenge of the game thanks mainly due to one simple mechanic – proximity flying. I’ve never been wingsuit flying but I can imagine it’s all about how you manage your opportunities to lift and it is absolute murder if you get it wrong, but the addition of proximity flying rewards you with points the closer you’re able to come to obstacles, the ground, trees, rocks or any other physical element in the game. The closer you get without hitting them, the more points you earn, plus you’ll get bonuses for near misses. It’s a real adrenaline rush managing the pace and the points and I found myself holding my breath trying to get it done.
It’s the only race I copped a “did not finish” for. To top it off it’s one of the three things Suki mentioned Brett is really good at.
All of the above led us to the final part of the preview, the MASS RACE. 62 participants over 3 runs that lucky dip the various race formats. It’s 1/3rd Fall Guys, 1/3rd Just Cause, 1/3rd everyone is Brett and they must die. This is where the party happens.
Every participant starts off at the same spot on the same gear and as soon as the race starts it is an absolute free-for-all where you have to bash and crash your way through the pack to get some clear air whilst dodging other obstacles and managing the various formats that appear through the race.
This is where we are introduced to… ROCKET SKI’S! At this point in the race its a downhill slalom through a forested snow pit and thankfully the trees are a little more forgiving.
It was here I noticed the game has a little give on your health because if I slammed full pelt into a tree I was cooked, but if I hit the side of one my screen would go a little grey but recover if I missed other obstacles long enough.
You’ll be awarded a number of points depending on what place you come and the winner after the three races is the one who has collected the most number of points so it provides a really exciting finish given it only takes one bad race for you and one great race for someone else for you to be out of the money.
I’ll reserve full judgement on Ubisoft’s Rider’s Republic for the final build released on October 28, but if this experience is anything to go by then Ubisoft will deliver a party product you should seriously consider adding to your library.
Heaps of adrenaline, a wide ranging skill set to master, a balanced rewards system with good pacing, and a chaotic battle-royale-esque competition mode all set to a bangin’ soundtrack that features some of my favourite hits from the 90’s promises many fun late nights either wether it be on your own or with your mates.