We had been looking forward to Riders Republic quite a bit, as it seemed to combine Ubisoft’s experiences with the Steep and Trials franchises – both of which we’ve enjoyed quite a bit. Out now on PC, PlayStation and Xbox in both last and current gen flavors, we played it on a PS5 for this review.
Another reference that kept coming up for us when looking at trailers for Riders Republic was Lonely Mountains: Downhill. Ubisoft’s new game felt like a supercharged version of that game with a third person perspective in its bike-centered gameplay, and we couldn’t wait to check it out even though we knew that there were plenty of other extreme sports included as well.
That diversity is the first thing we noticed when we started playing. Riders Republic has a lot more of it than Steep did, especially as launch. That’s something that’s not just true in terms of gameplay diversity, but also in how varied the locations are in which you can compete. Some of the winter sports from Steep are still there, but you can also go mountain biking, parachute or use a wingsuit to fly.
To accommodate all that, the game features a huge open world game map, and when you go online you’ll see others exploring it as well. A few iconic sites in North America are well represented here, with a game map that consists of highlights from various national parks that include Zion and Bryce Canyon, and anyone who’s ever been to Yosemite will recognize Half Dome – which you can now ascend (and descend) without an arduous full day hike. As such, all that adrenaline you saw in the trailers is only part of the experience – Riders Republic is also happy to just let you explore and take in the sights if that’s what you’d like to do for a while.
This open world aspect is similar to that in Steep, only the locations feel more inspiring this time around. But once you’re done exploring there’s a whole range of activities to engage in as well, just like there was in Steep. You can choose to race, but there are also Trials-like challenges to compete in, and special jumps and tricks you can perform – all which get you rewards. How much you get is based on how challenging the activity is, and is measured in a certain number of stars. Gain stars, and you’ll grow your player rank – and you can also keep track of your progress in individual events to make sure you’re spreading your attention evenly.
One of the game’s main events is its Mass Races, which throws a bit of Sonic All-Stars Racing Transformed into the mix in the sense that you’ll change vehicles mid-race. The “Mass” aspect of course refers to the fact that these online events can be played by 64 players at once, creating the kind of frantic chaos that makes your dash to the finish line an exciting one. On the downside, unless you’re quite skilled, a podium finish feels like a rather daunting prospect in races like this. And while the offline mode in Riders Republic is aptly named “Zen”, Mass Races are about as not-Zen as it gets. It’s also where the game is most fun to play, and once you’ve explored all that you want to explore we imagine this is where you’ll spend the bulk of your time.
But as large as the game world is, much of the game’s continued success will depend on future content and an active player base. Players can create their own challenges and even races (though not of the “mass” variety). As with Steep, Riders Republic is built as a platform, so as fun as the game is at release, we’ll have to wait and see how they build on it. For now, it looks like they’ve built on the Steep formula by adding more diversity, so the room to expand and keep the player base engaged is definitely there.