By all regards, 2016’s Steep was a pretty decent title. It was an open world game that focused almost exclusively on winter sports like Snowboarding and Skiing, and allowed players to freely explore a vast mountain range. The title was one of the boldest new things that Ubisoft had put out in a long time, and even If I personally never got too invested in it, I appreciate that the company was willing to take the risks to make such a game.
And with Riders Republic, Ubisoft has once again taken a chance with another new extreme sports game. This could have easily been a repeat of Steep, but the developers put in a lot of effort to go bigger than before. They’ve added some much needed variety to the sports, and created an experience that vastly exceeds any expectations I had for this game.
World And Premise
Instead of sticking to real world locations like in their previous game Steep, the developers at Ubisoft Annecy have chosen to take inspiration from a number of American national parks like Yosemite and Sequoia when creating the world of Riders Republic. They’ve taken bits and pieces from each of these locations, and mashed them together to created a vast open world that features a little bit of everything from snow capped mountains to dry desert canyons.
It’s not realistic, or even particularly organic looking, but what matters in the end is that the map is extremely varied and fun to play around in. And it is fun, incredibly so actually, because this world is then used as the basis for some phenomenal events that are an absolute joy to play through.
And the game has a really simple premise that acts to give context to why the players are in this location in the first place. Basically, everyone is here to show off their skills in various sports events and get invited to join fictional representations of real life competitions like the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup or the X Games. As you progress through the campaign and rank up, more of these become available to you alongside more elaborate and challenging events.
Each of the game’s five sports, Mountain Biking, Skiing, Snowboarding, Wingsuiting and Rocket Wingsuiting, have their own unique progression paths. The more you participate in one, the more races and other competitions you unlock for it. Each sport then also has its own unique events that you eventually gain access to.
The end goal here is to eventually get invited to the Riders Ridge Invitational. This is a competition that incorporates all five sports of the game into a single event. It’s the end goal of the entire game, and it’s what you’ll spend most of your time working towards.
As far as the story is concerned, you won’t find anything of note in Riders Republic. There are key characters that you’ll interact with and gain useful tips from throughout the campaign, but they’re mostly only there to guide you from one event to the next. The dialogue and writing is lighthearted and fun, if a bit too cheesy for my liking.
The jokes may get a few chuckles out of players, but they also get old really fast. There’s basically nothing here that’s actually important or relevant to the actual game. It’s all technically set dressing, and you shouldn’t expect it to be anything other than that. But like any good set dressing, it does make the game world feel slightly more alive.
Each of the game’s five featured sports feel really distinct and varied, not only in terms of their actual gameplay, but also when it comes to their events and sub-events. They all have their own selection of races, stunt events and even quirky side activities like delivering pizzas to marked points on the map.
On top of this, certain sports like Biking even have variations in their events like Downhill racing or Road racing. Similarly, Snowboarding races are divided into categories like Off-Track and Snowpark. These are fairly distinct in terms of how they play, and the game even has different gear that is intended for each specific type of event. Surprisingly, the careers for each of these subcategories are also tracked separately.
The point I’m trying to make here is that Riders Republic has a lot of diversity when it comes to the gameplay. During my 30 plus hours with the game so far, not once did I ever feel that the game was getting boring or repetitive. Because as you rank up and become more skilled, the events also keep getting bigger and harder to keep up the pace.
Now when talking about the way that each of the game’s sports actually play, I have to say that they’re all pretty great. Snowboarding and Skiing are the only two that seem truly similar when it comes to gameplay, because they’re both activities that are preformed on snowy hills. But even then, the difference is extremely noticeable when it comes to actual events like the stunt races. Apart from those, the other three are nothing like each other.
Biking events in particular, which are hands down my favorite of the bunch, are often extremely fast and precise races down steep hills and mountains. They require incredibly precise reflexes to make sure that you don’t accidentally slam into a jutting boulder on the track or accidentally go flying off a cliff.
Wingsuiting is exactly as it sounds like. Players have to glide though checkpoints both for races and stunt events, all the while making sure that they don’t lose moment and crash into the ground. This sport does break the laws of physics a bit by allowing you to slow down your speed and gain massive altitude as a result. But in the service of fun, it’s something that you can easily overlook.
Rocket Wingsuiting is unlike any sport that actually exists within the real world, and it’s pretty awesome. Players basically get access to a jetpack that can be used to fly all over the game world whenever they want, or participate in events that task them with flying though aerial checkpoints. It’s not as technical as some of the other grounded sports, but it has its own unique charm nonetheless.
When you jump into an event, the game allows you to pick from a few different difficulty options. And regardless of what you choose, you’re going to end up playing with the ghosts of other players. If you play on Average, you’re going to be teamed up with the ghosts of other players who managed to complete the event in an average time. If you play on harder difficulties however, the game selects the ghosts of players who had much better scores or times than a regular player.
And this doesn’t seem like an appealing prospect at first, but it ensures that matches load instantly since the game doesn’t have to search for other players to fill in a roster. It also future-proofs certain activities, since the game can retain player data and use it later in time when most of the playerbase will have moved away from certain events. It’s a great system honestly, and I always felt challenged, because I was always going up against other skilled players and not bots.
If you do want to play with other people in real time though, you can always jump into the Mass Races that occur in Riders Republic after short intervals. Unlike regular events, dozens of players are made to race against each other in real time here. It’s an absolute hilarious train wreck of an activity, as different avatars slam into each other in an attempt to get ahead of everyone else. I had a great time during my first handful of races, but after that the gimmick wore of really quickly.
As you play though the dozens upon dozens of events that exist in the game for each of these sports, you also unlock better and better gear for each of them. It seems like the game rewards you with a shiny new bike or wingsuit after every two or three activities. And on the one hand, this steady drip feeding helps ensure that you always have sufficiently powerful gear going forward, but on the other hand it all seems to go by in a blur.
Yes I got another new Snowboard with slightly better stats for completing the last race, but it doesn’t feel any different from my previous one. When you keep giving me new equipment after every tiny little event, I’m not going to know how different it is from the previous one because I’ve only used it for two races. I know it seems ridiculous that I’m complaining about getting free stuff from the game, but I promise it makes sense in context.
And this problem of Riders Republic throwing too many things at you at once is not restricted to gear alone. This game is meant to be a live service experience, so it’s menus are cluttered with different progression trackers that are absolutely overwhelming. There are challenges, optional objectives, sponsors and so much more.
On top of all of this, there’s also the microtransactions store which dangles some of the best cosmetic items the game has to offer in your face. So if you want to customize your character with those flashy clothes on display, you’re going to have to drop some extra cold hard cash on this game.
These are the same issues that have been plaguing most big Ubisoft games over the past couple of years, and they’re also present in Riders Republic. Fans don’t want checklists of meaningless activities and in-game cash stores, they simply want good single player games that prioritize quality over quantity. And what’s weird is that this game does actually deliver on the actual content, but somehow it still can’t escape being a bloated mess.
Visuals And Performance
By any standards, Riders Republic is an okay looking game, and I do not necessarily mean that in a negative way. It doesn’t have a particularly unique art style or stunning graphics, but it is pretty in its presentation. The whole map looks great, and the different regions all stand out from one another with their own unique style.
Also, clearly a lot of effort has been put into making this world feel natural and alive. This is evident from the tremendous amount of detail that obviously went into populating every corner of this game with natural formations and flora among hundreds of other small details. The developers have succeeded in what they were going for, but my point is that you shouldn’t expect to be blown away.
In terms of performance, I’m glad to report that Riders Republic runs incredibly well on both the current and previous generation of Xbox consoles. I was already expecting the game do maintain a steady 60 FPS on the Series X, but I was not expecting the older Xbox One to be able to maintain 30 FPS. This title runs incredibly well, and I’m fairly certain that performance on the older hardware is so good partly because of the restrained art style and graphics.
There are however massive pop-in issues on both platforms. It’s something I noticed on the Xbox One first, and after that I started noticing in constantly on the Series X as well. This is a well known issue at this point, but I’m not particularly bothered by it either. It’s distracting, but it doesn’t take away from the experience in a major way.
Apart from that, everything else was good. I encountered no major bugs, or crashes or any physics related mishaps either. People online have reported some constant server issues, but apart from one in-game instance where I couldn’t connect to the Ubisoft network, my experience was fine.
Riders Republic – Verdict
In an era filled with constant remasters, remakes and multiple franchise entries one after the other, I’m glad that Ubisoft was willing to make a title like Riders Republic. It is an incredibly fun sports game that should appeal to both the casual and hardcore crowd.
The five different sports on offer are varied enough that you won’t get tired of them easily. And great level design also ensures that the huge open world is used to incredible effect. The races and stunt tracks keep getting better as the campaign progresses.
Riders Republic does however suffer from the same bloat that has been plaguing Ubisoft games for years now. It’s menus are messy and unnecessarily complex, and the microtransactions store is never a welcome sight for anyone.
Still, it’s a great game, and I think you should give it a chance. It’s fast, frantic, and it should get your blood pumping.
- Great Open World.
- Fantastic Level Design.
- All 5 Sports Are Incredibly Varied.
- Satisfying Progression.
- Good Last-Gen Performance.
- Microtransactions Store.
- Live Service Model.
- Cluttered Menus.
Riders Republic Rating – 4/5
While you’re here, why not also check out our Tales of Arise Review
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