Reviewed on an Xbox Series X
Treated as a support studio for nearly two decades, Ubisoft Annecy’s first game as a lead developer was Steep, an open world winter sports game released in late-2016 which quickly became one of my favorite games of the last generation.
My opinion might be a bit biased, though. Four years had passed since the release of 2012’s SSX, the last iteration on the now legendary series, and even though said game was met with positive reviews and commercial success, there was no indication that publisher Electronic Arts would treat us with a sequel whatsoever.
Nonetheless, Steep was a great foundation for what could become a breath of fresh air for fans of winter sports games. But Ubisoft Annecy went the extra mile and released Riders Republic — a game that maintained Steep’s open world aspects and winter sports while also adding bikes to the mix.
It was a bold decision. Instead of perfecting the mechanics of what was already a great game, the studio took the risk of making what could become a jack of all trades and master of none. So, ultimately, has the decision paid off?
Master of all trades
Riders Republic features five different rides at launch: Mountain Bike, Ski, Snowboard, Wingsuit and Rocket Wingsuit, which are categorized under bike, snow and air sports. Those three main sports are distributed between five careers: Bike Race, Bike Tricks, Snow Race, Snow Tricks and Air Sports.
Additionally, you can also paraglide at any given moment, as well as drive two exploration-focused vehicles: the snowmobile and the paramotor. If you own the Year 1 Pass, you will also get access to eight new different exotic gears, including the available-at-launch rocket bike and rocket ski, as well as a new ride: the BMX, which is slated for a 2022 release.
That is certainly a lot — and the crazy thing is they are all fun to ride. Riders Republic is in no way a simulator. It is an arcade game that brings the best of the early 2000s extreme sports games and put them all into a huge natural playground. And once you have that in mind and embrace the absurdity of it all, you are in for a great time.
You can switch rides seamlessly outside of events by pressing the “up” button to bring up the sports wheel. You can, for example, use your rocket wingsuit to fly up high, suddenly switch to a bike and start doing the most insane tricks while you fall. You will not land those tricks, but you will certainly have fun trying to.
Many events take advantage of those seamlessly transitions aswell. There are multisport races that puts you on a racing ski and after a big jump you are suddenly flying through the mountains with your wingsuit.
And not to mention the funkie gears. Those are absurd rides that can be unlocked by finding relics in the map, competing on certain events or completing individual challenges. They vary from a simple Pizza Delivery Bike which is surprisingly good for tricks to a Plane Wing — which is literally a rocket wingsuit powered by a airplane turbine that will make you fly extremely fast while making it extremely hard to maneuver. Events involving those funkie gears are usually very original and a nice break from the main careers.
Don’t stop progressing
As you complete events in each of the main careers you earn experience points, and as you level up you are rewarded with better gear, sign with real-world sponsors and are invited to the so-called Big Events, which consist of licensed competitions like the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, the Red Bull Rampage and the X Games.
You also earn stars for pretty much everything you do in the game. Complete activities, participate in multiplayer sessions, find new landmarks… you are always being rewarded, no matter how you decide to approach the game. You can fire up the game, play for just some minutes and the next thing you know you have unlocked a new sponsor or a new track.
You are also rewarded for completing sponsor-focused objectives — which are basically the game’s approach to daily objectives. They vary from “Complete X events” to “Score X points”, and once you complete them, you level up your relationship with the sponsor and unlock new gears and equipments.
Although Riders Republic does so much right when it comes to the sense of progression, I do have to say that its approach to seasonal content was a bit of a let down. Even though I am always being rewarded something, some times I am left with the impression that I am not being rewarded enough.
The reason for that is that the in-game store is packed with cool cosmetic items that cannot be unlocked unless you pay real money for them. There are some items that can be unlocked with the in-game currency, but they are so overpriced that it ends up making us wait for that “special sale”. After 10 hours of playtime I earned around $80,000 — as a comparison, an epic outfit can cost up to $30,000, and legendary equipment cannot be bought with in-game currency at all.
I know it is a common practice nowadays, but I will never be ok with it, especially on games that are not free-to-play. This is a 59.99 USD game and yet there are premium-currency bundles on the store that cost almost as much as the base game. I have the 119.99 USD Ultimate Edition and it frustrates me that I cannot unlock everything in the game.
Riders Republic’s map is composed of seven regions: Mammoth Mountain, Yosemite Valley, Grand Teton, Sequoia, Bryce Canyon, Zion and Canyonlands. As soon as you complete the game’s introduction you are free to go wherever you want at any time.
The map is filled with secrets. For instance, there are five hundred balloons spread randomly across the regions that reward you with in-game currency, as well as eleven relics that reward you with funkie gear. There are also 45 landmarks to find and 23 stunts, which are basically challenges for each of the sports for you to complete.
There is a nice balance between snowy and rocky areas that makes it perfect to practice each of the sports — not to mention you can also take the skies with your wingsuits. The near-absence of loading times when fast travelling between areas makes exploration even more pleasuring, as well as the great variety of exploration-focused rides right at the beggining of the game.
If you look at the environments too closely, though, you will notice that this is not the prettiest world ever. But when you are riding downhill as fast as the wind, you will not notice those details at all — instead, you will be blown away by how vast the world you are riding in is.
Another great aspect of the game’s open world is how it feels vivid. Even though you can play and enjoy Riders Republic solo, it is above all a social experience. Similarly to Forza Horizon’s Drivatars, the map is filled with other players — a nice mix between real-time and AI-controlled players. Sometimes you are just chilling on your bike when all out of a sudden a group of people fly by on their rocket wingsuits, contributing to the sense of truly being part of a republic.
Riders Republic is far from being the best game I have played in 2021, but it is probably the most fun I had this year. It takes the best of the golden age of extreme sports games and combines it all with a vast and vivid open world full of snowy and rocky areas for you to enjoy all the rides available at launch.
All the woo-hooing and cringe-inducing dialogue can be a little off-putting at first, but once you get past that and embrace the absurdity of it all, you get to enjoy one of the best arcade games available on Xbox today.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Playstation 4|5, Windows PC|
|Release Date||October 28th, 2021|
Riders Republic59.99 USD | 59.99 GBP | 69.99 EUR
- Incredibly fun
- Seamless transition between sports and regions
- The whole map serves as a playground
- Great sense of progression
- Cross-play support!
- Character models ara rough
- I'm too old for all this woo-hooing
- Pop-in issues can be disctracting
- Too many cosmetic items locked behind microtransactions