PS4, PC, Xbox One X, PS5, Xbox Series X
October 28, 2021
Riders Republic is an onslaught of speed and mayhem, which can lead to excitement, frustration, and often both simultaneously. It offers a high octane and adrenaline-fueled sporting experience that can challenge or relax you in equal measure. And after a not too insignificant delay earlier in the year, Riders Republic has finally arrived.
First impressions were reminiscent of mid-generation Tony Hawk skating games, in that both contained bad acting that was somehow endearing, creating an atmosphere of carefree optimism. The only thing to do here is ski, bike, or fly. The sheer variety and choice of sporting career is both a smart business move, as well as a creative one. While most ancillary sports games outside of EA Sports titles don’t move to push the sales needle as much as they used to, an eclectic sports title such as this one has the added benefit of appealing to players of all types and preferences.
Better still is the inclusion of events such as Mass Races, where players from all areas of the game compete in switch gate races incorporating various sports archetypes to give each player the chance to shine in their chosen sports profession. While these 64 player events can often be chaotic and frustrating due to player collision, making the opening stretch of any given race feel like a toddler in a bouncy castle; the races themselves are otherwise a really fun and varied way to really grasp the tone and experience Riders is aiming for.
Being a Ubisoft title, there come certain expectations when it comes to the overall design ranging from setting new development standards to adding convoluted progression systems for progression’s sake. Accessibility for one was an instant change I noticed upon booting up the game (which also seems to be reflected in another recent Ubisoft title, Far Cry 6). Features such as subtitles and voiced text are switched on by default upon starting the game. Easily toggled in the games menu, the fact that these features are default means for a much better onboarding experience for new players who benefit the most from said features.
On the flipside, Riders Republic’s progression system is an omnipresent feature during play. While I understand the need for systems like this, the sheer number of experience bars, cosmetics, upgrades etc. makes for a bewildering experience on first encountering it. For a game that revolves around simple racing or stunt events, these systems can sometimes get in the way of simply wanting to move onto the next race or to retry an earlier course to improve your time. Instead of having to wait for new unlocks to pop up, new cards to unlock (which funnels into the game’s microtransactions), before finally resituatuing yourself to figure out what exactly you were doing. Thankfully a lot of these systems can be ignored, and as for the microtransactions, they seem purely to be of a cosmetic nature.
As for the core gameplay, Riders Republic offers a plethora of choices to choose from, set in an open world to explore with lots of events dotted around the map to choose from. Ranging from mountain biking, snowsports and aerial racing, the sheer variety on display offers enough differentiation to ensure you never bore yourself on any given activity. When it comes to adjusting the difficulty of each sport, it comes down to adjusting the way each one controls in the hand. Adding complexity rewards you with increased experience earned, as well as the added benefit of mastering the controls that can lead to interesting trick combos during races or fine-tuning runs on particularly challenging time trials.
This difficulty customisation adds so much to the experience, as it enables players to adjust the experience to suit their playstyle and to excel at their own pace as they progress through the game. Even if you find yourself skilled at the game’s mechanics, sometimes you may want to take it easy by having the game handle jump landings for you so you can focus on getting your trick game down.
Riders Republic is all about offering choice and expression in all aspects of its design. Whether it be cosmetic, mechanic, or game type, the broad selection means there’s something appealing for everyone to enjoy together. And I think that’s what I find so exciting about the game both conceptually and it how it’s executed. It’s an easy game to suggest to friends to try out and delve into together, as it offers enough flexibility for each person to experience the same game while having vastly different gameplay permeations that suit each individual player’s tastes.
In addition to the more skill-based events of Riders, there is also the sillier side of the game. Various special mounts that you can use to compete in either Mass Races or normal events, like rocket skis, to add just that little bit of extra chaos into a race. This further adds to the game’s bombastic fun-filled tone and is a welcome distraction while playing. It’s always comical when you’re in a serious headspace of trying to nail a specific track, only to see another player wearing a giraffe outfit riding on a hotdog cart blitzing along beside you.
“When it comes to adjusting the difficulty of each sport, it comes down to adjusting the way each one controls in the hand.”
The world of Riders Republic is noteworthy as well. Set in a glamourised biome of North America, where you have deep snowy mountains on one side, and barren desert canyons on the other. While the game’s resolution fidelity playing on Series X is often south of a true 4K experience, the 60FPS buttery controls more than makeup for it. That’s not to say the game can’t offer gorgeous vistas as well as beautiful sunsets. It makes an effort to encourage you to explore the environment between activities, to take your time eating up the lavish scenery. Combined with HDR support, the game can offer great photography moments to capture. Even if you aren’t taken aback by the gorgeous scenery alone, the various collectibles and landmark locations give you plenty of reasons to go out of your way to explore the open world to its fullest.
Exploring and racing in these environments provides plenty of opportunities to try out various sporting activities. Snowboarding or skiing each comes with its own unique handling style. Trick events also allow experimenting with each board type. Thankfully control-wise, performing various trick combos are transferable between all sports. The key difference has to do with the handling and speed of each one. It’s only during air-based races where handling becomes much more important. Whether it’s rocket racing or squirrel suit time trials, both require a deft touch to control properly. During these race events, sharp turns and course familiarity become integral to scoring those personal bests.
While I enjoyed the unique challenge that the air-based sports brought, I personally found myself grinding on the ski races. The sense of speed and the precision necessary to get the fastest times is what drew me to it. Even little unforced errors are enough to make or break a run. And I think that’s one of the best things about Riders Republic. Whether it’s speed, tricks, precision or just finding a crazy stunt to take part in, there’s always something to do. In this massive celebration of extreme sports, there will be a sport best suited to you specifically and it provides you with the most fun ways to both challenge and delight you.
- Sporting activities are diverse in style and execution
- Cross-play and ghost opponents adds to high replayability
- Difficulty can be fined tuned, allowing for both high and low skill players to enjoy equally
- Mass Races are wild, chaotic and incredibly fun
- Player collision during races can lead to frustration, with no option to toggle it off
- Too many systems and progression loops leads to confusion and general apathy
Riders Republic offers a cornucopia of extreme sporting choices for players to choose from. By giving enough attention and fine-tuning to each individual sport, it has created an evergreen title to receive future updates or expansions to build upon well into the future. With a solid foundation offering solo and group players fun and exciting experiences, Riders Republic has set the stage incredibly well. While its predecessor Steep failed to capture a lasting audience, I feel strongly that Riders stands a much greater chance at retaining players’ interest due in part to its tongue-in-cheek tone combined with the game’s sheer variety of extreme sports adventures and energetic open world. I look forward to returning to Riders Republic to bike down mountain paths or fly through narrow canyon gaps while listening to alt-rock radio sometime soon.