Riders Republic is the logical follow-up to 2016’s Steep. A tongue-in-cheek sequel that takes an even wilder approach to the world of extreme sports. Snowboards, skis, and wingsuits return, but this time they’re joined by bikes and the even more bombastic inclusion of jetpacks.
There’s some light storytelling at work here, to help set the scene. The titular Riders Republic is open to daredevils, thrillseekers and dudebros from around the world as they work their way up to the holy grail of competing in the Riders Ridge Invitational. Or not.
What’s what works best about this game is that everything you do will contribute towards your overall progression, unlocking new events to take part in, better gear to equip, and crazier outfits to wear. Whether you want to blitz your way through the career, explore the game’s seven distinct biomes, or simply drop into some quick online action with friends, Riders Republic never funnels you down a set path.
For some players, this will prove a little overwhelming at first – from the get go, you’re able to explore every inch of Ubisoft’s vast virtual playground. However, it doesn’t take long to gain your bearings, diving into events by simply tapping map icons, or swinging by the main social hub where you can practice your skills and queue up for one of several competitive online modes.
Riders Republic features several extreme sports disciplines, each having its own series of events to work your way through. For snowsports and biking, you’ll either be racing through perilous circuits or attempting to score the highest number of points by combining tricks together. Wingsuit events adopt a different format, awarding points whenever you fly close to a surface or narrowly avoid trees, outcrops, and other hazards during your descent. Then there are the rocket wingsuit races that don’t require much explaining as you soar through precariously placed floating checkpoints.
There’s even more replay incentive here than there was in Steep. Each event has three achievement-like challenges attached, asking you to perform specific feats or thrash them on a harder difficulty setting. Being able to rewind the action when things go wrong or quickly restart an event will keep you locked in as you try to squeeze out every gold star possible, advancing your career as you do so.
That said, Riders Republic can be tough when you aren’t sticking to the default difficulty tier. This can create frustrating situations in which you’ll be unsure whether you’re just not skilled enough, or simply need to come back once you’ve unlocked better gear.
Gameplay is both finicky and straightforward. Precise navigation and landing tricks takes practice, especially if you’re serious about optimising the number of points you can rack up during airtime. The inputs themselves are pretty easy to nail, though it’s just as easy to fumble when using the dual-stick control scheme, unintentionally wiping yourself out in the process. Although the racing is fine, I never found the trickster gameplay fun or intuitive enough to dedicate time to practicing. Then there are the occasional geometric bugs you’ll experience, killing your flow as you snag on tiny bits of the environment.
Ubisoft Annecy and its supporting studios have really tried to make Riders Republic feel like a connected, community-charged experience. You’ll cross paths with myriad strangers while having the option to form parties and partake in a shedload of activities. There’s also that simple joy of exploring the game world and its impressive mish-mashing of iconic national parks, from snowy snopes and dense forests to sun-bleached canyons.
One of the game’s most marketed features are the manic mass races which can host up to 64 players on current gen machines. These multiplayer melees offer some frenzied fun as you all barrel towards the finish line as one nutty pack, occasionally switching from skis, to bikes, to jetpacks, and back again. Of course there are normal online races too, as well as team-based trick battles, both of which kept me coming back whenever I needed a quick dose of bot-free action.
No one can accuse Riders Republic of being short on content – there’s a crazy amount to see and do – but it doesn’t take long for repetition to set in. That two-sided blend of racing and performing tricks never gets any deeper, even as you reach the end of your career. It’s an inherent issue with open world games and one Ubisoft attempts to remedy by designing courses and locations that feel different, even if you’re still pulling off the same combination of button presses.