Title: Rider’s Republic Released On: October 27, 2021 Genre: Sports Reviewed On: Xbox Series X Also Available On: PlayStation 5/4, PC, Xbox One, Google Stadia Developer: Ubisoft Publisher: Ubisoft MSRP: $59.99 USD / $79.99 CAD
There is something about completely giving yourself over to nature that can really put everything else into perspective. Letting the mountains and trails take you where they will and stopping to gaze in awe at the landscapes around you, before trying to tackle them in any way possible. This is what drives many people to extreme sports, be it snowboarding, mountain biking, or streaking through the skies in wingsuits. Having stood at the top of Killington Peak in Vermont before descending the almost hour-long run on my snowboard, I’ve felt the awe and serenity of these sights, before the rush of adrenaline trying to dominate the trails.
Rider’s Republic, Ubisoft’s spiritual successor to Steep, is everything that you could want from an extreme sports playground. You can move from event to event, racing down mountainsides, careening through forests or performing tricks on some of the wildest runs, or you can pick a direction and just lose yourself in the beautifully crafted world. Ubisoft has done an absolutely spectacular job in amalgamating seven of the most rugged national parks in America into a vast expanse of varied terrain that’s just asking to be shredded through and thoroughly explored.
Taking some cues from The Crew, you can switch between any of the different sports, as well as to a variety of motorized or rocket-powered vehicles which make traversal an expedient delight. Because of the wealth of transportation options that are afforded to the player, getting from point A to point B is never a chore. You can fast travel to any areas that you have unlocked, but it’s much more fun to switch to your bike or snowboard, or get there the gold ol-fashioned way: careening hundreds of kilometers an hour through the air in your rocket wingsuit. It’s an exceptionally malleable system that makes the typically mundane act of traversal into an exciting explorative adventure.
Some of the most fun that I had with Rider’s Republic was exploring the different biomes, and unlocking all of the Landmarks and Relics that are strewn throughout the world. The soundtrack features almost 100 songs from electronic, to rock and hip-hop, which make for some wicked tracks to set any mood, whether you’re shredding The Offspring or having a Zen exploration with Aphex Twin. Teton flows right into Yosemite National Park, and down into Zion Canyon almost seamlessly; it’s a meticulously crafted and beautiful map which has been given Ubisoft’s usual flair, allowing players to explore the map in 3D and even follow other players along their runs. Traversing the wife-open expanse and discovering points of interest unlocks Stars towards your overall career progression, and finding Relics unlocks some of the most unique rides that you can use. These “Funkies” can be used to compete in events with, but are typically goofier rides that offer more entertainment value than actual speed and finesse.
Everything in Rider’s Republic is connected through Rider’s Ridge— the social hub center of the world — offering access to several types of Multiplayer events, the Shop, your weekly challenges, and the Training Center which is extremely helpful in learning new tricks. That being said, most of the things that you access on Rider’s Ridge can also be accessed through the menu, so you never have to travel back to the Ridge unless you’re looking for the hub of other players. It’s a cool place to hangout though, and you’re likely to find some other players to join you for Versus runs if you spend some time on the Ridge.
Your main way to progress through Rider’s Republic is through competing in the plethora of different events that are scattered across the seven national parks. The more that you compete in a specific type of event, the more you’ll unlock new events in this category, allowing you to rank up a certain sport to unlock the best gear and access to the top tier Big Events, such as the renowned X Games or the Red Bull Rampage. Completing events and secondary objectives award the player with Stars, which then unlock new types of events, new gear, and reward the player with some cash in their pocket. Almost everything that you do in Rider’s Republic contributes towards your overall career though, with rewards at every threshold.
There are multiple tiers of progression in Rider’s Republic, with each opening up new types of events, new Gear, and rewards to purchase yourself cosmetics in the Shop. Each of the different types of sports have their own path which unlocks higher quality Gear for those events, which give you greater control, speed, and air rotation. Pro and Elite level gear is absolutely necessary in the later events and when going head-to-head with other players, if you want to be able to be competitive. You can find yourself at a substantial disadvantage if you go into any event using under-leveled gear. Your gear quality alone won’t make or break an event, but combined with a healthy dose of skill it can be the difference between a few seconds on a race, or 10,000 points in a trick event.
Rider’s Republic is a massively multiplayer game and while you’ll run into more “Ghosts” — physical manifestations of other players’ past runs — you’ll come across a fair number of other players as you traverse the massive open world. It really helps the game to feel like a vibrant and active extreme sports playground. Everywhere you look you’ll see other players completing events, followed by a line of Ghosts they are competing against. It’s something else to be in the middle of your own event or just wandering through the expansive wilderness and cross paths with an entirely different race, or have a squad of wingsuits swoop overhead as you’re careening down a mountain on a bike.
In regular events you’ll compete against other players’ past runs, but unlike racing against ghost trails in Steep these are physical manifestations of other players that can still run you off the road or otherwise complicate your run. It’s a smart system because it gives the competitive feeling of playing against other real people without having to matchmake for every single event.
It never felt like I was playing against AI at any point during these events, and NPC riders will only appear for certain Big Events where there are more set score tiers that you’ll have to crush. If you’ve got a team with you, you’re able to turn any Event into a Versus event with your teammates and challenge each other for the high score.
While it can be slow, matchmaking for an actual multiplayer event has improved substantially since Rider’s Republic‘s release several weeks ago. My first week playing it could take up to 10 minutes to get into a Free-For-All match or limited time Shackdaddy playlists, but the queues this week have been substantially improved. Rider’s Republic offers a fully integrated cross-platform play, and at no point were there are issues with the multiplayer experience. Connectivity was solid right out of the gate, and I never once experienced any rubber-banding, lag or disconnects related to the online matchmaking playing on the Xbox Series X.
Online matches offer a completely different type of challenge, and you’ll be facing off against people who have secured some of the best Elite gear which gives them an edge over players still using the lower-tiered equipment. If you’re competing in a Mass Race, arguably the most hectic and fun of the multiplayer events, you’ll have to stack up next to 63 other players and the chaotic runs that can become congested by dozens of people trying to simultaneously clear the same checkpoint. In Mass Races other players become as much of an obstacle as the course itself, but that doesn’t stop them from being the ultimate competition in Rider’s Republic. Each consists of multiple types of Events, with switch-gates transitioning you from biking to rocketwings, and back to wingsuits or skis. You have to be able to think of the fly, and react quickly to the course and other players.
There are three different control schemes, aimed towards ease of racing, tricks, and one for Steep veterans who are looking for the same style. If you want to have the most control over your tricks without having to sacrifice any controllability in the Races, the Trick Mode uses the sticks to execute flips and spins with much more control, even though it does take a fair bit of getting used to before you’ll start to be able to feel out your tricks. You can also opt to have tricks land automatically regardless of the direction you’re facing, or select the manual mode for greater control, and additional points based on landing quality.
Whether you’re using snowboards and skis, or the different types of bikes, you manipulate your X and Y axis as well as perform grabs in the same way. The key is to learn when to release your tricks and not to over-extend your flips and rotations, which is a problem I still haven’t mastered even after 30 hours. With the different types of control schemes in combination with the organic feeling of turning your board and tweaking tricks using the sticks, before long you start to be able to feel out your tricks. I went from being skeptical of the Trick mode and feeling like I was never going to be able to master my tricks, to it just clicking during one run. It’s a system you can grow with as a player, starting small and progressing to executing massive trick runs once you’ve got a feel for rotations and landing.
If you’re looking to add some grind to your grind, there are weekly challenges that players can participate in hosted by the Shackdaddy Bandits, which reward you with a handful of Stars or some unique cosmetics. You have to purchase these challenges though, so it’s a trade-off whether you want to spend your money on these challenges or save up for that fancy skin in the Shop. One of the only real issues that I had with the gameplay loop was that it constantly felt like I needed more money. Even playing through all the different events, completing Sponsor contracts, and competing in multiplayer matches left me feeling like I never had enough money to do everything I wanted to. This is where Rider’s Republic‘s “grind” comes into play, and you’ll have to progress through contracts and continue to rank up your Stars and Event-specific progression to secure the required funds.
Sponsors are awarded by progressing through the game, and you can equip up to three sponsors at a time who will reward you for completing events and specific challenges in their sport(s) of choice, in addition to daily rewards for completing up to 9 contracts. This is the best way to earn some cash passively while you’re playing through events, and ranking up each Sponsor will unlock special gear and cosmetics for your rider.
Since most of the good skins in the Shop cost between $15,000 to $30000, it can feel like quite the grind to amass that much currency just to drop it on a new snowsuit, although it’s always tempting to do just that. The Rider’s Republic Shop is absolutely jam-packed with cosmetics and emotes, but thankfully a large number of these can be purchased with the in-game currency that you get from reaching new Star levels or completing certain events and contracts. The downside of this is that there isn’t really a way to grind out loads of in-game dollars quickly; you simply have to play the game, gather Stars, and progress through daily Sponsor contracts and multiplayer events.
Rider’s Republic should be on the top of the list for anyone looking for the most engaging extreme sports game on the slopes. The versatility of the gameplay, the free-form approach to progression and exploration, and the absolute thrill of executing a perfect run or that trick you’ve been trying to master combine to make it the single best extreme sports game I’ve ever played. With new weekly challenges and different types of Limited time playlists with unique runs, I’ll be spending a lot of time in the Republic for the foreseeable future.
Whether you’re itching for some next-level Steep, or looking to relive the days of SSX, there isn’t another extreme sports game out there that compares to the wealth of content and replayability contained within Rider’s Republic. It’s an experience that will have players constantly learning, evolving, and taking their runs to the next level as they comb every nook and cranny of the seven National Parks to become the best all-around rider on the Ridge.
Final Score: 9/10
The versatility of gameplay, free-form approach to progression and exploration, and the absolute thrill of a perfect fun make Rider’s Republic everything you could ask for from an extreme sports playground.
The review copy of this game was a digital code provided by the publisher.