In Riders Republic, raucous punk blares while you perform aerial acrobatics on some of the most breathtakingly gorgeous environments, and that’s just level one. Ubisoft’s love letter to Steep fans manages to provide an MMORPG unlike any we’ve seen before. There is no question that Ubisoft Annecy knows how to make an exciting extreme sports game, but after I spent dozens of hours playing, one question beckons. Does an extreme sports game need to be massively multiplayer?
To say I’m an extreme sports fan would be somewhat of an understatement. I spent much of my youth tearing up the streets on my aggressive inline skates and skateboard, salivating when news of the Warped Tour or X Games was mentioned. Despite Riders Republic having neither skateboarding, nor aggressive skating as available sports at this time, one thing I can say unequivocally is that Ubisoft Annecy knows and understands the culture very well. Between the stylized customization options and general demeanor of the founder of Riders Ridge, Brett, the vibe is just the right mix of adrenaline junkie punk, and Point Break spirituality. The use of bands like The Offspring and Green Day really hit me with nostalgia that immediately sucked me into the world.
If you haven’t read my previous review in progress, or the comprehensive preview that came before it, you may definitely want to check those out to get a total picture of my journey so far, but I'll try and touch on every point throughout this review. Riders Republic provides players with a half-dozen sport events to scratch their extreme sports itch. The sports available are: bike tricks, bike racing, ski tricks, ski racing, and lastly, the wingsuit and rocket wingsuit. For the most part there is a parity between biking and skiing/snowboarding. When it comes to tricks, they are handled much of the same way between both sports.
The premise for trick events relies on performing tricks that provide the highest point total successfully. Riders Republic often throws a total limit on the number of tricks you can perform in most events, while other times they may impose a time limit, but give you the opportunity to perform a nearly unlimited number of tricks. I found these events to be some of my favorite, mostly because I became superhumanly good at them by following one simple rule. When you find a high-point trick that you’re good at, ride it hard until you cross the finish line. This would usually guarantee that I hit an abnormally high point threshold, to catapult me to the top of the solo player rankings.
Racing in Riders Republic sticks to a mostly simplistic formula. Beat the other players to the finish line to be declared the winner. In some cases, you race for time placement instead of racing alongside other virtual-bot players. Throughout each event you’ll need to track yellow checkpoints and make sure you hit each of these marks or else you’ll be penalized through an automatic placement mechanic that activates after 3 seconds of finding yourself woefully off-track. This happens across all game modes, and I’ve noticed that running off track and being placed at the last checkpoint does not trigger the “NO BACKTRACK” event challenge, which is a common requirement in races and trick battles to earn stars.
Multi-sport races are a mix of several different sports all rolled up into one. These races are actually really fun, and the first time through I’m always a little surprised because I’m not quite sure what to expect, and when. It will force players to confront sports that they may not initially feel comfortable with, like I had to do with the wingsuit. Through a little practice, even these races can be overcome as long as you don’t let your frustration get the best of you.
Whether you’re racing or stunting, stars are a major progression point that will also coincide with your career level. The more stars you earn the more events, items and sponsors you unlock, all of which are necessary if you want to be successful. Each event will have three challenges of varying difficulty. Some request you use Funky (FK) items to complete the challenge. Funky items are specialty gear you earn by doing Shackdaddy Events, which are usually abstract matches with some very weird requirements. Some of these items, like the surfboard and the one-foot snowboard are actually useful, while others, like the ice cream bike, are pretty worthless and primarily only used when you’re forced to complete a challenge. Meanwhile, your career level will open up new events and give you access to better equipment which are entirely necessary if you ever wish to beat some of the more difficult challenges. You gain experience when you complete an event, win or lose, so leveling your career is more a matter of time than a test of skill.
Is Multiplayer Xtreme Enough?
When selecting an event, you can choose either solo or multiplayer. If you form a team with your friends, you can hop into events and race against them, or team with them in certain specific trick battles. It would be great to see multiplayer events expanded, with much better rewards, especially considering the high difficulty curve if you’re competing for stars. Even in the best of situations, where you’re playing “solo” the player-bots that accompany you will often wreak untold havoc, knocking you off course and slowing your progress. I can’t fault Riders Republic for their virtual opponents, but the inconsistencies related to player collision physics is frustrating at the best of times. This gets compounded ten-fold when you join in on the Mass Races of more than 50 players. These events are pure pandemonium, where strategy takes a backseat to unbridled chaos. Mass races are ridiculously unpredictable and unquestionably fun, as long as you don’t take them too seriously.
Mass races aren’t the only aspect of the game that employs a massively multiplayer feel. Riders Republic is home to numerous iconic national parts where hundreds of players ride, shred, and fly throughout the world as you find collectibles, attempt stunt challenges and make your way to your next event. The world of Riders Republic is nothing if not brimming with gnarly natives. Unlike other more traditional MMORPGs, the open world doesn’t have a necessity for other real players. There are no world bosses (or mass team events) to defeat nor an open world mechanism that rewards grouping. The majority of multiplayer revolves around PvP play, which is great in theory, but the stakes and rewards feel inconsequential, which is both a blessing to those a little less coordinated than others and a curse to those looking for a real challenge with great rewards.
Take a Trek Through Iconic Parks
The world itself is beautiful and worth exploring. Riders provides the option to choose Zen mode when you first fire up the game, which will give you the ability to shred in the open world without any other players present. This is fantastic for those that want a little alone time to marvel at the varied landscapes, expertly crafted by the team at Ubisoft Annecy. Each environment is unique and intriguing. To be honest, if the world wasn’t so beautiful, traveling from event to event would be painful, as Riders refuses to port players directly to the match of their choice via fast travel, and instead makes them trek there from a nearby fast travel locale. The annoyance of having to travel another minute to get to your event can often times pull you out of the groove of knocking out challenges, but it also opens the door for one of my favorite things about Riders Republic - the ability to see what other players are wearing.
Character customization in terms of facial features and starter clothing is subpar to say the least. Luckily, Riders makes up for this with an extensive cosmetic shop. Yes, this shop is filled with plenty of cringey microtransactions, but there are quite a few cosmetics that you can buy for in-game cash that are well worth it. You earn cash by completing events and sponsorship challenges, which you often do simply by playing the game. I was surprised when I noticed I had tens of thousands of dollars saved from my races when I finally checked the shop. I was able to buy a rockin’ dragon backpack. Rocket-biking around the world and checking out all of the various costumes people have on is a pastime within itself that I found enjoyment in. There is also a robust community that takes screenshots and posts them on the in-game photo boards where players can view and like the photos, so it doesn’t hurt to look your best.
Stomping This Review
Riders Republic is the de facto ruler of extreme sports MMOs. There is no denying that Riders is one of the best extreme sports games to hit the market in a long time, but the massively multiplayer portion of the game could use some work. There is very little cohesion that brings all of the various riders together as part of a republic. Even the main story is solely focused on your specific accomplishments in each of the sports. Luckily, the game is still in its infancy, and the year 1 pass plans to add new multiplayer arenas, and a new sport, BMX Biking, which shows that Riders isn’t done expanding by a long shot. There is more than enough variety to keep players coming back and having fun for months, just with the solo and collectible game alone. If you’re an extreme sports fan, Riders Republic is a no-brainer. For MMO fans looking for more than a madcap mass race challenge, I would let the game mature for a few months longer before picking this one up.