Riders Republic Review: "A Fun-Filled Take On The Ubisoft Formula"
There is one inherent issue that prevents most open-world video games from reaching the heights that are well within their reach: the quantity of content is too often prioritised over the quality. Feasting your eyes on the enormity of Riders Republic’s map might initially appear to have this same issue - an issue that’s cropped up in everything from Destiny to Ubisoft’s own The Division. Yet while the content may be plentiful, there is also an incredibly fun game at its core.
Riders Republic is the latest sports title from Ubisoft, and acts as the spiritual successor to 2016’s Steep. Instead of purely snow-based sports however, this time around you’re faced with an assortment of extreme sports, from trick-based biking to… rocket wing racing. Across each of its sport types, you’ll take part in races, competitions, and wacky events, all the while ranking up, gaining more gear, and unlocking more prestigious events. It is a familiar process replicated by most live-service games, but with Riders Republic the true experience doesn’t start 30 hours in. Instead, you can get right into the action from the get go.
Riders Republic Review: Extreme Sports, Extreme Variety
Outside the first hour, which introduces you to skiing, biking, rocket wing and wingsuit racing, and each of their respective trick-based counterparts, you are free to do as you wish. Not a fan of snowboarding? No worries, you can ignore it for the most part. Riders Republic opens up its frankly ridiculously sized map filled to the brim with icons and allows you to choose whichever activity you wish. While the likes of biking and snowboarding control the same, each sport has its own unique feel, whether that be through the track, course, or courts. Each sport also has enough content to happily play just that for hours, and when combined with difficulty sliders and challenges, you can treat Riders Republic as just a one or two-sport game if you wish.
Biking is far and away the standout sport of Riders Republic, with the most diverse tracks for racing and the best feel for tricks. Switching to its visceral first-person perspective makes for some of the most intense biking you will find in a game. This can be replicated somewhat in downhill snowboarding/skiing, however it always feels second to biking. There is a satisfying variety of combo tricks, especially when you begin to take off the stabilisers so to speak, with manual landing and the trick-centred control scheme. The rocket wing and wingsuit challenges are comparatively dull however, as they feel quite clunky to control and lack the dynamic feel that on road tracks have. Although rocket wings do make for a great way to quickly traverse the map when a fast travel point is just a little too far away. Nonetheless it’s easy to imagine many fans of the Tony Hawk’s or Skate franchises falling in love with what Riders Republic has to offer.
Riders Republic Review: Sick Moves Brah!
Each of these sport-types, no matter your preference, have a fun, relaxed and old-school vibe that will make for the perfect chill Sunday gaming session. Sadly, this doesn’t translate to its light story threads. They are unbearably cringey, so much so that muting is a viable option, so as not to subjugate yourself to phrases like “Holy Shiz Wizzle”, “Absolute Ledge” and lots and lots of “rads”. I’m not an extreme sports enthusiast, but this language seems over the top.
Luckily, once you are in the races or events themselves, this cringey facade fades away in place of pure fun. What’s even better is that you really needn’t waste much time before getting your hands around a handlebar. On PS5 in particular, the fast travel options are unbelievably fast, meaning between starting the game to your first race will be no more than a minute's wait. There is a quickness to the game that makes it a brilliant choice for brief sessions, and its approachable control scheme makes it just as fun for five hours as it is for five minutes.
Riders Republic Review: A Fast And Slow Social Experience
The PvP options within Riders Republic are operating on a lower gear however. At the time of writing, matchmaking for either Trick Battles or Free For All can be fast, but you can also be left waiting for minutes on end. At least to counter your boredom, you can pop off a few tricks in the Rider’s Ridge social hub.
The oddest choice to feature in Riders Republic however, is related to Mass Race, which is its biggest and best mode. For some mystifying reason, it was locked behind an hourly schedule during the review period, where there were only four minutes each hour to join matchmaking. Mass Race is a genuine delight as you and 63 other players rattle your way down snowy cliffs in rocket skis or tumble into one another as you try to pull off double backflips on road bikes. The fact that a player could have logged in at five minutes past the hour, play 50 minutes and still not get the opportunity to play Mass Race highlights how much of a mistake it was. Thankfully, this approach seems to have been amended to every half hour, which is certainly an improvement, but still hinders those who just want to jump into Mass Races for the evening.
Matchmaking and scheduling issues do leave much to be desired from the multiplayer leanings. Riders Republic comes across as a fully online game, with constant reminders that thousands of other players are roaming around the world, although in reality you’ll spend most of your time playing on your own. You can play each of its races or courses in co-op, but if you are joined by just one other player, you will only race against one other player. There is no on-the-fly matchmaking for the races scattered across the map, and one particularly disingenuous move is the fact offline races are made to look like other real players are racing alongside you when they’re not.
Riders Republic Review: A Bright Future?
Outside of Mass Race, the Trick Battles and Free For All are fun multiplayer offerings, but with the aforementioned sluggishness of joining matches, you’re often better and quicker just heading into normal play. Further multiplayer integration has some way to go before it feels quite as seamless as the regular gameplay is, or even the Rider’s Ridge. It has to be admitted that the social hub is a cool place to chill out as other players amble around practicing tricks, but it doesn’t serve much purpose beyond that.
Issues like multiplayer integration, however, do shine a light on the biggest question hanging over Riders Republic: can it evolve and thrive as a live service game? Ubisoft have padded out what is a meaty post-launch road map, and have succeeded in launching a solid ground foundation. Although, while everything in Riders Republic is fun and there is a lot of it, gamers are a fickle lot that need new, exciting and evolving content.
Luckily, Riders Republic’s open world feels ripe for developing seasonal content. With its event-like nature - think of the Horizon Event in the Forza Horizon series - it has already laid the groundwork for what could see Christmas snowboarding challenges, limited Spring bike racing events, and seasonal map changes come into effect. We know a lot of content just like it is already coming, including new rides with BMXing. What helps already is the game’s consumer friendly approach to in-game cosmetics. Much is the case with these types of games, players can spend their hard earned cash on cosmetics. However, in a surprising turn of events, a majority of cosmetics in Riders Republic can be bought with an in-game currency you earn by simply playing the game. It’s a welcome touch that enables those unwilling to invest further financially to engross themselves in the lycra leggings and giraffe mascot outfits the game has to offer. Game-winning equipment, clearly.
Riders Republic Review: A Fast, Fun, And Filled Experience
Riders Republic counters many of the issues live service games of the past have faced. It doesn’t feel like an unfinished game, nor does it feel like one simply padded out with mundane content. The base structure remains but without that dullness it becomes an easy experience to get on board with. You may have to endure some awful narrative flare, but there is a lot of game here for those looking for it. What’s better is that there isn’t just plenty to be excited about now, but so much more to get excited about in the future, giving Riders Republic some serious potential to remain as a solid continuing sports franchise. Undoubtedly, it’ll have some growing pains to face, as all live service games do, because there is a particular need to make some of its modes more accessible to casual players. However, it doesn’t demand too much of those that are playing more vigorously, making it one of the most casual experiences Ubisoft has developed to date. Whether you are in it for the races, tricks or the odd bit of co-op fun, Riders Republic is a live service game that feels less like a chore, and more like a fun-filled take on the Ubisoft formula.
Reviewed on PS5. Code provided by the publisher.