Riders Republic Review: Steep Goes Deep

Riders Republic boasts an open world full of exciting challenges, scenic views, and the freedom to tackle anything as you wish, making it a surprise hit for 2021.

A game about mountain sports should be fun, and Ubisoft's Steep never quite was. It has some good ideas, but often gets bogged down in its execution. Too technical and without a signature mode, the game still feels like the start of something rather than an end vision.

Now, Riders Republic is the exciting finish line I was hoping for with Steep. With better sports on offer, a more arcade-like delivery of content and mechanics, and a stronger sense of community, it builds on Steep's foundation strongly and makes for one of the best games of the year.

Riders Republic Review: Steep Goes Deep

While Steep clearly laid the critical groundwork for Riders Republic, it's evident that Ubisoft looked to Playground Games for a way forward. With the pillars of biking, skiing, and wingsuiting — and plenty of variants within each of those pillars — Riders Republic is, in so many ways, the Forza Horizon to Steep's Forza Motorsport.

And that starts with the tone.

Infused with vibrant colors, the world of Riders Republic blends natural splendor with extreme-without-the-e party atmosphere. That makes it pretty aggressive (and aggressively awkward), but for aesthetic reasons, it still remains the right decision.

There are plenty of scenes to take in untouched by the MacGuffin festival, and if you can get past the cringe characters who guide you up the progression ramp, the sillier moments actually land anyway.

Combining this dual-setting of national parks and radical parties is a gameplay suite that delivers only hits. The downhill biking is my favorite part, but there are no bad activities in Riders Republic. The rocketwing (wingsuit with boosters) makes up much of the flying gameplay, and it's also a lovely way to get around the map.

Even skiing and snowboarding, which are central to Steep but were then sadly a letdown, are more fun this time around thanks to a reimagined control scheme that allows you to essentially swap between arcade and sim styles.

Racing downhill on a mountain bike at death-defying angles, especially in first-person, is exhilarating, and screwing up outside of a multiplayer event is nearly without consequence thanks to the rewind mechanic. Just as interesting is soaring around the skies while you parachute to each landmark, revealing more of the map and taking in a short, optional geography lesson. 

Never taking itself too seriously, Riders Republic also has events where everyone is dressed like a giraffe, where you're racing around a campground on pizza delivery bikes, or where you're perfecting quasi-bonus discipline, ragdolling hundreds of feet down slopes.

There's nothing I want to avoid in Riders Republic, and because it importantly doles out rewards liberally, at a pace of about 1-6 stars per event, it all feels worth my time whether I'm looking for a nice view, a close race, or some low-hanging stars to add to my career as I build toward the game's 750-star endgame.

Riders Republic also incredibly boasts virtually no loading times on new consoles, PC, and Stadia, even when fast-traveling across the expansive map. Every time I travel anywhere, I appear there instantly. It feels like magic.

Brilliantly, you can swap between disciplines at any time. Wingsuiting low to the forest ground only to instantly swap to a mountain bike at the last minute remains cool many hours in, and Ubisoft, knowing it has a hit with this feature, makes it a core element to the best mode: Mass Races.

While you're chasing down stars in any order you wish, Mass Races opens up about once or twice per hour, inviting up to 64 players per instance into an absurdly busy race that smoothly transitions from bike to wingsuit to snowboard and so on multiple times per race. 

Riders Republic doesn't seem concerned with player levels, meaning those who have unlocked better gear may be at an advantage thanks to the somewhat random matchmaking, but Mass Races also aren't where you'll really want to look for competitive angles.

In this mode, it's about the early-race madness of dozens of racers crammed into a small space, some of them inevitably dressed as pirates, unicorns, or astronauts, eventually giving way to pockets of racers vying to finish ahead of the groups that emerge as they crash, rewind, or miss checkpoints.

In no uncertain terms, Mass Races are some of my favorite moments of the year. I have yet to win one, partly because they are a hilarious mess, but that's also what makes them great. There's beauty in the chaos, and as much as I enjoy doing anything here, I'll drop any in-game activity when the signal for the next Mass Race hits my screen.

For those who want more competitive activities, there's a bevy of scorekeeping modes designed for small teams, making it inviting for anyone who may want to ride with the same set of friends and form a team. There's even a fully-fledged creative mode where user-generated content will keep the activity log nearly limitless.

The soundtrack suffers from too few songs and too little variety — I shouldn't hear the same Offspring song twice in one event — but because the characters are also so groan-inducing, I've found Riders Republic is a great game to put on mute and work through my podcast backlog instead. I admit, though, that sometimes I'll also turn off any music and just enjoy the sounds of my bike coasting downhill.

Riders Republic Review — The Bottom Line

Pros

  • Mass Races are pure chaos
  • Virtually no loading times despite the map's huge size
  • Main and side activities all feel worth doing

Cons

  • A lacking soundtrack and bad dialogue invite muting

Ubisoft's second effort into mountain and extreme sports is an obvious hit. Leveraging the tech of modern platforms makes Riders Republic a fast-moving, always exciting open world, but it also makes room for those who just want to soak up the scenes of life from the mountaintop.

While the audio tracks may have you reaching for the mute button, it's maybe a better experience with your own custom soundtrack free of the super-dorks roaming the cutscenes anyway.

In a year where Ubisoft's sandboxes were seeming stale, Riders Republic manages to keep me chasing down every icon like I rarely do anymore.

[Note: Ubisoft provided the copy of Riders Republic used for this review.]

Our Rating
8
Riders Republic boasts an open world full of exciting challenges, scenic views, and the freedom to tackle anything as you wish, making it a surprise hit for 2021.
Reviewed On: Series X

Contributor

Mark is a dad, husband, bicyclist, animal rights activist, and a gamer, of course. You can find him on all platforms covering co-op, indies, horror, battle royale, or whatever else he's obsessing over right now. In addition to GameSkinny, he's been published on GameSpot, IGN, GamesRadar, EGM, Escapist, Official Xbox Magazine, and a bunch of other great outlets.

Published Nov. 3rd 2021

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