Release Date : October 28, 2021
Developers : Ubisoft Annecy
Publisher : Ubisoft
Platforms : PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC, Stadia
Since times are changing and many players are getting a new name, Ubisoft Annecy’s new multi-sports game will not be called Steep 2, but instead Riders Republic. After nearly a year of promotion, the new license is now open to the public.
Following a 10 month delay and a lot of beta phases, Riders Republic is finally available, a little ahead of the winter season, which means a lot of skiing with friends and more or less drunken parties. From the very first images, Ubisoft wanted to make this new effort from its Savoyard branch a colorful and easy-to-play title, aiming at a wider and wider audience of riders, as shown by the multiple sports offered. But by trying to play on all fronts, isn’t Riders Republic a catch-all game?
The Republic, that’s it!
No one knows exactly how or why we ended up here, but it doesn’t matter: in these troubled times when the Republic is more than ever in danger of dying, Riders Republic hopes to immerse us in a universe whose agenda is clearly dictated by the cool. Set in the middle of a Very Best-Of North America’s national parks, Republic boasts the founding of Brett Nale, a sort of Lincoln of extreme sports, the kind of athlete who excels in all fields, and commands respect with ease. Now busy serving burgers with fresh fries in between punchlines that are supposed to make him look cooler than he is, Brett immediately gives us a thumbs up, and so we follow in his footsteps, one discipline at a time. We’ll have to get our hands on mountain bikes, racing bikes, snowboards, and rocket wingsuits to try to climb the rankings of the most prominent candidates.
Voter’s cards and postcards
It’s an understatement to say that there’s plenty to choose from in Riders Republic: between the different sports and game modes, which are all potential variants, the game doesn’t always know where to start… and neither do we. If the progressive beginnings allow you to gradually get the hang of it, the grip is quickly released, and the weak rider is quickly buried under an overwhelming amount of content. Each activity has its own career gauge and dedicated equipment, and each event – won or not – offers the opportunity to rain rewards and to make more and more competitions accessible within a gigantic playground, so much so that you don’t even take the time to really compare the items offered… Between the snowy peaks, the rocky plains or the typical canyons of the American relief, there is plenty to do. Visually, Ubisoft Annecy’s game tries to find its balance between fluidity and depth of field, but if the trick works pretty well with the head in the handlebars, the aerial sports soon reveal the pot to roses, by displaying the most distant elements of this scenery at the crossroads too late.
The race in front
Regarding the content and the design, Riders Republic clearly doesn’t take the lead and prefers to play the fun card at all costs, including in terms of gameplay: whether on a bike, on a snowboard, or in the air, the handling of the different sports remains very similar. The right trigger allows you to go full speed ahead, the left one to make sharp turns, and the buttons allow you (at first) to perform your first tricks and rotations. Simple and efficient? Maybe a bit too much. Fortunately, thrill-seekers will be able to expand the formula once the learning phase is over by deactivating the possibility of always landing on their feet or by assigning the tricks to the right stick, a choice that offers more flexibility, but that doesn’t sit well with a camera that keeps getting out of place: it systematically interferes with the field’s legibility. As is often the case, the best option is to opt for a first-person view, especially since the feeling of speed is increased 10 times over, and offers real thrills during certain descents. The kind that pushes you to follow the trails with all your body, even if it means looking like a fool in the eyes of your friends and/or colleagues.
Free for all races
If the traditional races take up a good part of the game time in Riders Republic, the formula allows itself many deviations by taking on various forms: just wander around the central hub of Riders Ridge to alternate between Tricks Session where two teams compete to achieve the highest score in themed arenas, Free-for-All races without any headaches, or the search for real sponsors, which remind us how much extreme sports sadly depend on the goodwill of a few sellers of overly-sweetened soft drinks. But surely, the main event remains the so-called Mass Race, a competition that brings together between 50 and 64 competitors depending on your device (the prize obviously goes to the PC and PS5/Xbox Series) in a joyful interdisciplinary mess. As in the days of a certain SEGA Extreme Sports, you go from skiing to the wingsuit rocket, ending with a mountain bike sequence in a festival of collisions and injuries that inevitably reminds us of the sometimes random races of the Mario Kart series. Every half an hour, players can join one of these Riders Republic-style fairs and try to compete against opponents who are not always of the same caliber, due to a matchmaking system that doesn’t pay much attention to the balance of power. Each event is also an opportunity to notice that the in-game store, with its high prices, doesn’t seem to win the players’ approval, as the basic outfits are always present, even with a star counter at the top.
Late Night Noises
While they may not appeal to everyone, the Mass Races illustrate one of the most tiring aspects of Riders Republic: its tendency to present itself as a cutting-edge experience. Apparently not very busy with his job as a cook, Brett and his extremely loud friends will keep on making pseudo-punchlines that sometimes seem to come out of the brain of a marketer parodied by the French TV show “Les Inconnus”. Except that here, everything is first grade. While Riders Republic already offers a soundtrack that often resembles a well-behaved pop-radio playlist, the useless encouragements and other empty comments are constantly coming and going, and it makes you wonder why the game never lets you breathe.
Fortunately, the country player can always take a powder and go discovering the concentrated national parks offered by Riders Republic, in order to collect a list of collectibles stamped with the excessive seal of Ubisoft. If the proposal could be relevant, the possibility to teleport anywhere makes the exercise optional, and you might wonder if the immensity offered by Ubisoft Annecy is not trying to spread the jam at all costs. Between Brett’s unbearable gossip, the ever-unlocking pieces of equipment and events, and the regular call of the Mass Race, Riders Republic would almost have all the makings of a fake cool that always wants to do too much… It’s just that there are season passes for sale, you see.
With Riders Republic, Ubisoft Annecy tries to correct the Steep formula by opting for a more generous approach, even if it means doing too much. By multiplying sports, events, objectives, and rewards, the open-world adventure sometimes gives the impression of never wanting to let us breathe, which is a shame considering the vast size of the game. Fortunately, the good feeling of speed and the interdisciplinary principle of the Mass Race gives the extreme sportsmen some good reasons to come back from time to time, just to race down a few tracks in the hope of getting the first place or to perform some tricks. However, will Riders Republic be able to stand up to the test of time, as the content of the coming months already suggests? Considering its relative repetition, only the most addicted will choose to stay for more than one season in this universe, which doesn’t lack charm.