Having carved out a successful but flawed winter sports game with Steep in 2016, Ubisoft Annecy turned their attention to ‘next’. How to go bigger and better without repeating themselves, a constant problem when developing sports-based titles, hoping to avoid creating a stale sequel.
Riders Republic is their follow-up. Coming from the same mold as Steep, players of this will feel a sense of familiarity in Riders Republic. Many of the same sports from there return here, along with a few others. Riders Republic however, feels a lot more cohesive, with a progression system designed to steer you in the right direction.
Once again Ubisoft Annecy borrow from various real-world locations and fuse them together for their own unique open-world. This time, they take locations from various American national parks including Yosemite, Sequoia and Zion, creating them by using the same GPS technology as Steep. The result is several diverse locations coming together and a suitable base for extreme sports action. Many of their location choices already hold extreme sports events, so these choices feel incredibly well suited.
After an introduction where you are introduced to some, not completely exhausting, characters and a lengthy tutorial, Riders Republic opens up to you fully. Each of the five sports on offer – bike race and tricks, snow race and tricks and aerial events – have a unique progression system that you level up to unlock new races and events. Level up far enough and you can take on the special Big events, before finally unlocking the Boss event and being able to call yourself a master of that discipline.
As well as levelling individual events up, there is an overall star system. Stars are earned for pretty much everything in Riders Republic. Reach certain milestones with stars and you will unlock new sports, sponsors, emotes and more. Sponsors even have their own unique progression systems for completing daily objectives. The various levelling systems tap into the need to fill progression bars, earn new gear and increase your level in a similar way to the Forza Horizon series does; even the most menial of activities feeds into some sort of progression and there is no wasted EXP.
In amongst the standard events to level up individual disciplines are a variety of other distractions. All the usual Ubisoft hallmarks are here: vistas, hidden loot and 500+ collectibles, but there are also several other events. Stunts are condensed events with a much higher technical barrier and offer arguably the biggest challenge in Riders Republic. Then there are the Shackdaddy events.
The Shackdaddy Bandits are a group of individuals on the mountain that design some of the wackier events. They’re like cool summer camp leaders mixed with the Jackass crew. Their challenges don’t feel safe to complete, but the rewards they offer allow for some of the most fun modes of transport you can have. Complete their events to unlock unique equipment that usually controls slightly different to the standard wares. Although, when it comes to simple traversal of the world, once you unlock the rocketsuit, there is no better method. Fly up into the skies and get a taste of this gorgeous looking open-world.
All the various sports are great fun to play. The snow events feel very old school and are the best way to shred since the classic SSX games. Button inputs for tricks initially seem strange, as you use the face buttons to rotate and flip, but will quickly become second nature. Grabs and tweaks are on the shoulder buttons, but these can be practised to death at the Skills Academy found at the Riders Ridge.
This is the main hub in Riders Republic, and you will find everything you need here. Access to multiplayer lobbies and the hectic 64-player Mass Races (more on those later), sponsor management, Shackdaddy challenges and the gear shop. Most of these can be found in the pause menu as well but it is nice to go here at the same time and feel a part of the online community.
Unfortunately, the gear shop is a bit lacking. It refreshes daily but there are only about five or six items that you can choose from and many of these require Republic Coins – Riders Republic’s premium currency. On one hand, Riders Republic is designed to be a game with a lot of customisation, but in these initial weeks, many outfits are similar between riders.
Racing is also exhilarating as you careen down cliffs at high speed. Bikers will jostle for position and early corners are usually choke points. Bikes can skid round corners and you barely lose any speed in doing so. The penalty to speed when straying off the track though is steep; cutting corners is rarely a good idea but sometimes a necessity to avoid obstacles and other riders.
Riders Republic has two different modes: Online and Zen mode. Online is the main offering that grants you full access to the game’s progression systems and multiplayer. Zen mode is just you and the mountain; no events or markers. Just you with the ability to drop to any location and enjoy Riders Republic in its purest form.
To play the suite of online modes, you of course need to be online. Accessible at all times are Tricks Battle and Free For All. Tricks Battle pits two teams against each other to pull off tricks in various playgrounds and claim that module to score points. Free For All is the race events opened up to a maximum of 12 players. Both are fairly standard modes – that also have their own progression systems – but don’t offer anything you haven’t played before.
Then we have the Mass Races, where a staggering 64 players go head-to-head, at least on Xbox Series X. The number is reduced on Xbox One. These aren’t available at all times, but a big announcement pops up on screen when one is about to start. Unfortunately, the Mass Races are where you will encounter the most issues.
My first Mass Race consisted of me and one other guy; a far cry from the 64-player carnage we were both hoping for. Another time, the lobby was full but then timed out on us all, kicking us back to Riders Ridge. One time when I did manage to get into a Mass Race with 54 other players, the game crashed before the third event. Crashes aren’t limited to Mass Races either as I have experienced quite a few when loading screens get stuck. Hopefully these are nothing more than just a few launch window bugs that will be quickly patched out.
Riders Republic on Xbox takes the basic framework of Steep and adds a whole load more to it to create a very fun arcade sports title. The skiing and snowboarding events feel like the SSX games in their heyday, the rocketsuit and wingsuit events are exhilarating, and the bike events ensure you are constantly one wrong move from total disaster. The progression systems bring it all together to ensure you are always close to unlocking something and the overarching star system rewards almost everything you do in-game. A few launch window bugs are unfortunately expected in this day and age, but hopefully these can be patched out soon.
Shred and soar in Riders Republic from the Xbox Store