Riders Republic is open for business. That is, if business is bombing down mountains and falling with style. It’s got all the extreme sports you could hope for packed into one amalgamation of mountains. You can ride bikes, snowboards, skis, wingsuits, jetpacks, and plenty of creative versions of each of those. I was fortunate enough to try Riders Republic during its closed beta in August. I had a blast, but there were some issues that needed to be ironed out. Since the full release, I’ve been playing Riders Republic nonstop, and I return with good news.
Ubisoft did a superb job polishing the game since its beta. Many of the frustrations I had never returned with the full release. And a lot of annoying things were dealt with too. I won’t mention names. Okay, I will: Suki sucked in the beta. Now, she’s chilled out a lot. Her voice lines have been toned down and she’s not trying so hard to sound young and hip. It makes for a much better onboarding experience.
On the subject of a better experience, there are a couple of things you need to do immediately upon loading up the game for the first time. Turn off the menu narration. It’s a terrible feature that will drive you insane. And then turn off motion blur. Hurtling down a hill at high speed is tough enough to control when you can see everything around you.
I struggled with the camera a lot during the closed beta. I felt like it was often pointing in awkward angles that made dodging obstacles and stomping sections of trail more difficult than it needed to be. But the camera feels a lot more accurate now. The whole ride is a lot smoother.
Finding your flow
Riders Republic does a good job easing you into the controls with automatic landing and grinding. It lets you get familiar with the flips and spins, while not needing to worry about landing perfectly. Then, once you’re comfortable, you can switch over to manual landings and grinds to rack up more points. You’ll eat dirt and snow a few times, but you’ll soon come to love the increased control.
The bikes, boards, and skis respond very well to your inputs. And the feel of cruising down the mountain is spot on. You can tell just when you’re picking up too much speed to be able to handle a sharp corner. The trick is perfecting the balance of speed vs. control.
Downhill mountain biking is my favorite event. Ubisoft has nailed every element of the experience. You’ll slip into a state of flow as you wind down a twisting track, punishing your brakes and tires as you try to stay just within the limits of control.
After that, the snowboard races and slopestyle skiing are also excellent. I mentioned this in my beta preview, but Tricks Battle is a surprisingly awesome game mode. It’s a great place to practice your flips and rotations, while also working on your rail balance and landings. There is a lot of variety in Riders Republic in terms of sports and events within each discipline. Once you run out of the regular stuff, you can get crazy with the Shack Daddy Bandits’ creative races. Rocket skis, delivery bikes, and ice cream carts are a few of the imaginative vehicles you can ride and race.
The responsiveness of the aerial controls is another thing that feels like it has been improved since the beta. However, it’s still my least favorite of the sports — by a long way. The punishment for mistakes in air sports is high. And you will make mistakes. So, you’ll end up restarting your race over and over again because rewinding puts you in an unrecoverable position. Thankfully, one amazing improvement since the beta is that you can restart a race when you use the rewind feature. If you’re trying to nail a certain trick or stomp a particular section to earn stars, this is exactly what you want.
For me, the air sports only add quantity to Riders Republic. It’s just more without being enjoyable. The entire reason I delved into the career paths for the rocket pack and wingsuit was so that I had decent equipment in multisport events. I would have preferred if Ubisoft had just left it out of the game or added it to the Shack Daddy Bandits’ wild events.
Frustrating air sports aside, my main criticism of the Riders Republic gameplay is that the skill ceiling isn’t that high. It won’t take you long to get comfortable with the controls. And, while you can always improve in minor increments, you’ll master the various sports in short time. The wingsuit remains the exception, as it’s frustrating. Once you’ve reached that point, the only way to improve and compete against other riders is to unlock better gear. It’s a great system in an MMORPG, but not as rewarding in an online multiplayer extreme sports sandbox.
In the many hours I have played, I still haven’t worked out when I’m racing against real people versus well-named bots. Unless it’s the PvP specific modes like Tricks Battle or Mass Race. I love that you can see real players constantly traversing the world and heading to races. I just wish I had a better idea of when I was competing against people or bots.
Let the good times roll
Having said that, the simple act of hopping on your mountain bike, snowboard, or skis and cruising down one of the numerous mountains is exhilarating. The visuals of Riders Republic, particularly the lighting, are gorgeous. And the little touches, like your bike getting covered in snow when you ride through powder, do a lot to help immerse you in the experience.
One of my favorite features of Riders Republic is the sound design. I went over audio in my beta preview, but it’s worth mentioning again. The sounds of tires digging into dirt and boards or skis cutting through the snow are spot on, and the game’s soundtrack is also amazing. Bombing down a mountain with The Offspring rocking out in my headphones put an instant smile on my face. Riders Republic features my favorite video game soundtrack of the last couple of years. But then again, all the tracks come straight out of my high school and university days.
Crossing the finish line
At $59.99 USD for the standard game, Riders Republic is a good deal. You’ll get at least 60 hours of thoroughly enjoyable game time. Plus, if you want to go back and master all the events or have an interest in competing against other players in Free For All and Tricks Battles, you could get more than double the amount of time out of Riders Republic. Some additional player versus player competitive modes would go a long way to keeping the endgame fresh.
If you haven’t been able to find an extreme sports game that gives you the pure joy you remember from SSX Tricky back in the day, you should give Riders Republic a try. At worst, you’ll get good value out of it. But at best, you’ll find a new happy place full of people who just want to ride radical trails.