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In December of 2016, Ubisoft released Steep. It was a new sports IP that focused on snowboarding but contained several extreme sports competitions located in the French Alps. While not a large commercial success, it fared well critically but faded away rather quickly. However, some fans always felt it would make a good foundation to build upon for a future title. Enter Riders Republic, the newest IP out of Ubisoft, and one that embraces the extreme sports mantra whole-heartedly.
Upon first booting up Riders Republic, you’re immediately greeted with a downhill biking race, one of the pillar sports of the game. This is the first part of an eleven-step introduction series that teaches you the game mechanics, event layouts, customization, and more. It’s rather extensive for an intro, but as I’ve learned, for very good reason. This is a large game.
The most efficient way I can describe Riders Republic is that it’s reminiscent of Forza Horizon for extreme sports. If you’ve played the Forza Horizon series, and know how much I cherish those games, you’ll know that’s meant as a compliment. From the festival aspect to the configuration of events, exploration of the game world, and more, Riders Republic seems to have found clear inspiration.
During the intro Riders Republic introduces you to a few key characters who will check-in with you throughout your journey. As you likely could have guessed, they are mostly over-the-top personalities who are all about the thrill of adventure. You are also welcomed to the game’s main hub, Riders Ridge, where you can find the in-game store, sponsors, special events, Mass Races, and more.
Your main career in in the Republic is broken up into five different progression paths. There are three core sports: skiing & snowboarding, biking, and wingsuit & rocketsuiting. The biking and snow events are then broken out by race and trick events. Within each of these, you will find events spread throughout the regions of the map that vary in complexity and challenge. As you progress in each one individually, you will unlock the ability to play “Big” events which feature real-life sponsors and more extreme courses and challenges.
While activities like rocketsuiting and racing are more straightforward, I was impressed with the depth found in the trick and wingsuit categories. While wingsuiting you not only have to manage your speed and altitude to ensure you can navigate the checkpoints, but you also earn bonus points for your proximity to obstacles. This makes the competition for high scores quite fierce. The same is true of the bike and snow trick categories, where players have a vast array of tricks at their disposal. If you’re familiar with games like SSX Tricky and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, you will feel right at home.
Licensing plays a large role in the game, which provides a sense of authenticity. You’ll find a wealth of real brands of clothing and equipment as well as major sponsors for the larger events. As you progress in events, it always feel like a special moment when you unlock a licensed “Big” event. And these competitions are more spectacular than the standard events as well, with more extreme courses, longer run times, and tougher challenges to overcome.
Licensing plays a role in your career as well as you’ll work to earn, and improve, sponsorships with real companies. These sponsorships feature licensed apparel and equipment along with other game perks such as in-game currency. Each features a number of challenges to complete, with bonuses should you complete multiple in a day.
Layered on top of the career leveling is a profile-wide star ranking. You earn stars for nearly everything you do in the Republic, including events, stunts, mass races, finding landmarks and relics, and more. This, too, has its own progression path, and as you earn more stars, you’ll unlock new sponsorships and equipment. Between the career leveling, star rating, and sponsorships, the sense of progression is never lacking. And regardless of your personal preference, you always feel as though you’re accomplishing something, which is excellent.
The setting for the game is one of my favorite aspects as it combines several real-world locations, all U.S. National Parks, into one smorgasbord of adventure. It’s not only massive and filled with areas for you and your friends to explore, but it’s also widely varied, thus offering the perfect playground for all of the wild tools at your disposal. Each of the park regions has been faithfully recreated using GPS, with the surrounding areas being populated using procedural generation. Featured are:
- Mammoth Mountain
- Grand Teton
- Yosemite Valley
- Bryce Canyon
Not only is the world beautiful and engaging as it recreates real locations you can visit, but Riders Republic also pays homage to history as well. Featured throughout the world are 45 Landmarks, each of which provides a picturesque view of an important location, alongside a small history or factual lesson as well. I’ve really enjoyed discovering these and, more than anything, they make me want to pay them a visit in real life.
With such a large game map, it was important to make the world feel alive and as though you were part of a real festival. Riders Republic is an always online title for this reason, and you will see hundreds of players on the game map at any given time. I love this, as essentially anywhere you go, from events to merely exploring parts of the world, you’ll see other players doing the same. And with so many areas to simply practice or play around in for fun, it feels like you’re hanging out at one large playground as a kid. It allows you to be social without necessarily being social.
It’s worth noting that no other players can negatively impact you, nor do you collide with players in the game world. So you don’t have to worry about your personal experience being ruined. And if you truly want to be alone, the game features a “Zen” mode where you can explore offline. However, career progression is disabled in Zen mode.
Of course if you want to be social, there are multiple ways to partake in the adventure with friends. You can have up to six party members at a time, with the party leader being able to start events for all of the group. And like many server-based, community titles, you can also team up with others you find in the game world should you choose.
Additionally, there are dedicated multiplayer events that play out differently from the standard competitions. You enter matchmaking, either solo or with your party, and choose between three unique competitions. The first, titled “Tricks Battle,” places you in an arena where your team has to battle the other in capturing zones by doing tricks. It’s very similar to the multiplayer you’ve seen in other titles such as Splatoon, where your team has to “own” more of the map than the other team. There is also a Free-For-All playlist and “Shackdaddy” competitions. Shackdaddy events are present in both single and multiplayer and represent the most absurdly comical events in all of the Republic.
The craziest events in Riders Republic are the Mass Races. They feature 64 players who compete in multiple events across three rounds. As you might imagine, they are absolute chaos, and you can enjoy these with your friends as well. My only complaint with the Mass Races is, given the number of players on the courses at once, the ability to get bumped off track frequently by other players, even accidentally, is frustrating. When a single mistake can cost you tens of places, it’s rather annoying to have your extended competition ruined by another. I personally hope Ubisoft updates these to allow players to move freely and focus on the competition purely.
Lastly, should you be the creative type or merely want to try something completely random, Riders Republic also features a full creation suite. Players can create their own races, trick courses, and more, which are then featured via an in-game browser and rated by other players. At any time you can explore these creations, play as many as you like, and drop-in, drop-out as you choose. It’s just another way for you spend time in the Republic. As I said, this is a large game with something for everyone.
Exploring the world is an absolute joy as it’s filled with beautiful locations, some of which you may have seen pictures of in real-life but have never been able to visit. And the mix of national parts and their associated ecosystems make for some incredible vistas. Further incentivizing you to explore are collectibles hidden throughout the game world including Relics, unique equipment that is either hilariously absurd or very powerful, and in some cases, both.
While sound design isn’t a big focus for a game of this nature, Riders Republic features several music channels with a wide-range of licensed music. You can cycle through these at any time, and there’s something for everyone. I have to call out the Ukuleles cover of Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise by Les Ukuleles Girls Ft. Zita, which is the cover I never knew I needed until playing this game.
Customization plays a large role in the Republic, and ever since the first trailer of the game debuted, it put wild outfits and styles front and center. The game certainly doesn’t disappoint in this regard, with a wide-range of options for you to look like an outright maniac as you race past others in the pursuit of glory. I am disappointed, however, that Ubisoft chose to lock some customization pieces behind paid currency. While you earn in-game currency and can unlock a wealth of items that way, some of the funniest can only be bought with “Republic Coins.” If all items could simply be bought with either in-game currency or Republic Coins, it would be a better system.
I have experienced a few frustrations in my time with Riders Republic. Playing on the Xbox Series X, I’ve experienced several game crashes which are maddening, particularly mid-event. Ubisoft has acknowledged the issue, but as of this writing, they persist. At times, you can run into a few bugs which can ruin an event as well. I’ve had some instances where I was performing well in an event, only to clip an object in the world and become completely stuck. While you can “rewind” at any time via the Backtrack feature, in online events losing several seconds can be the difference between first and last. It’s not a large issue, particularly given the size of the world and complexity of what’s occurring, but it can still be an annoyance.
Riders Republic surprised me in a very positive way. While I had anticipated the game and its potential, I didn’t expect that it would feature such a breadth of content. It contains a beautiful, expansive playground of the likes we’ve not seen before in an extreme sports title. Its ability to combine real-world locations, equipment, and tricks, with an over-the-top, “just go crazy and have fun” demeanor is truly a joy. It’s a game you can enjoy solo or with friends, and you can do so for quick fifteen-minute stints or for hours at a time. It’s simply…fun. And at the end of the day, isn’t that what gaming is all about?