Steep is an open world mountain sports game from Ubisoft Annecy. There are four sports to partake in: Wingsuiting, Paragliding, Skiing, and Snowboarding. More sports are coming in the form of premium DLC, but the current selection is wide and varied enough to keep you occupied. As you level up and progress, you’ll unlock more drop zones and mountains to showcase your skills on. Steep gives you a real adrenaline rush as you hurtle down the slopes, trying your best to maintain a great trick multiplier while also trying not to snap your legs in half.
Steep is a rather difficult game. It’s one of those where you can master the basics early on, but to pull off insane tricks like the true professionals will take hundreds of attempts, and naturally, hundreds of failures and grotesque bone crunches. The learning curve is (forgive me) a steep one.
Once you’ve managed to gain control of your basic movement on the ground – avia either skis or snowboard – you’ll be feeling a little bit ambitious, maybe even a little cocky. Pulling off tricks is very similar to EA’s Skate games. Steep requires you to essentially “wind-up” your jump before hitting a ramp by holding RT. Also you need to time your analog stick movements with the jump to spin or flip. It’s really confusing to describe, but honestly the system feels intuitive once you’ve got your timings right. It can be a bit frustrating at first, but muscle memory soon comes into play and you will be hitting 4x multipliers before you know it.
Let’s talk about health. Obviously with high octane, adrenaline rushing activities such as those you’ll be undertaking in Steep, you aren’t always going to remain on two feet. Hell, you might not even retain your two feet. Landing a trick awkwardly or against the angles of the mountain will result in your rider feeling the G-force of that landing. You only have a certain amount of Gs that you can feel before your rider will ragdoll and hit the deck, hurtling down the mountain in an uncontrollable mass of limbs, before finally coming to a stop and pulling yourself up from the powder, dusting yourself off and continuing your run – your score multiplier will reset but other than that, you’re good to go. That is, unless you’ve surpassed the 100Gs mark. That’ll render you unconscious and you’ll have to start your run over.
Generally, you’ll be hopping around the mountain range taking part in the developer made challenges which are unlocked at certain levels, and also when you unlock drop zones. Drop zones are available to unlock when you’re within 1km of them, and you’ll have to scout them out using your binoculars. They’re a cool feature which open up more and more lines and challenges for you as you progress. The challenges set by the developers will challenge you to earn the most points, subject your rider to the most Gs (ouch), or are basic races against the clock.
In terms of the actual sports, Wingsuiting is a personal favourite; there’s nothing that comes close in terms of… coming close to death. Hurtling down the mountainside, barely a few feet above craggy rocks and through rock tunnels, is guaranteed to get your heart pumping, and your palms sweaty. Well, at the very least it’ll give you a (sadistic) laugh when you plummet into the rocks and your bones shatter into a thousand pieces.
The one huge positive about Steep is that other than upon booting the game up, you won’t ever see a loading screen. At all. You are free to go wherever you want to without a second thought, and you can be there in an instant using Mountain View. Ah, Mountain View.
This does however bring me to the first major negative. The menus and UI in Steep are quite difficult to navigate. Using a cursor system across the board is great, however to move around quickly in Steep you’ll be moving the cursor over a three-dimensional mountain range with challenges at various positions and altitudes. I haven’t worked out a way to select what I want with any real accuracy or precision, which is really frustrating. There are also some drop zones in the air, away from the mountain. When the cursor remains “on the ground” as it were, how are you supposed to select those? Let me know, if you know.
Steep boasts the ability to go where you want, and do what you want, whenever you want. This is true, however the incentive for doing this isn’t as large as you would think. You can earn XP in the game’s four disciplines: Bone Collector, Freerider, Explorer, and Freestyler. You can also make your own lines to revisit, but again the UI here seems counterintuitive and confusing. There is no clear repository where you can see the best lines that other people have ridden, or the challenges that they’ve created. Granted, this isn’t a massive issue as there are LOADS of challenges for you to complete, and even just cruising around is a pleasure in itself, but for those players that wish to customise and show off their new lines, there isn’t much of an audience there. It’s a bit like shouting into the abyss.
Steep’s progression system will reward you for whatever you do. It’s a brilliant system which makes you feel like whatever you are doing, be it chilling out with your parachute, or trying to perfect your wingsuit line, you are rewarded for it. There are “medals” which trigger after certain points, for example not falling on a long ride will earn you XP in the Freerider discipline. Finding points of interest and drop zones will earn you Explorer XP. The rewards that you get from doing whatever it is you’re doing make those activities valuable, which helps to break up just hopping from challenge to challenge.
You can approach playing Steep in two ways – a chilled out, beautiful experience, or an exhilarating see-you-at-the-bottom extreme sports game. These two playstyles are so easy to switch between – you can complete your epic wingsuit race and the next second be standing in awe at the scale of the mountains and the landscape that is your playpen. Both ways are beautiful and exciting; something that has been absent from previous snow sports games. There has never really been the opportunity to gaze at the wondrous mountains, close your eyes and point where you want to go and create your own legend. And the soundtrack for Steep reflects this perfectly. There is a Rock playlist as well as a chill out option, amongst others. You can set your playlist and the music will reflect whatever you’re doing, which serves only to improve the experience of Steep that much more.
Steep is a visually stunning game and it has really fun gameplay. The problems arise when it comes down to polish and the finer details of the content. There should be an easier way to navigate challenges via Mountain View, and a way to search for user created content would be infinitely useful. At the moment the content consists of hopping around and completing challenges as best you can. It’s a good game, but it has the potential to be great with a couple of patches.