In a few months time, Ubisoft will be opening the borders to its fictional haven of extreme sports, a sprawling open world of American national parks all mashed together to create a remarkably diverse landscape, great for shredding powder, gliding, and biking to your heart's content. This very place is known as the Riders Republic (which also happens to be the game's title), and ahead of launch, we've been able to dive into the world and explore all the incredible opportunities it offers as part of the beta.
First and foremost, for those wondering, Riders Republic is not a direct sequel to Steep. It is, in effect, a spiritual successor that takes a lot of what Steep offers, including snowboards, skiing, and wingsuits, and then builds on it substantially with new sports, activities, and a truly ambitious open world. What this means is that those who enjoyed Steep are already going to feel right at home in the Republic, but those who are coming in fresh don't have to worry about jumping into the series late, as this is a new experience.
Before we explore the sports and how the game feels, we want to touch a little further on the world of Riders Republic. This, as mentioned earlier, is a huge open world made up of several North American national parks, including Yosemite and Sequoia. It's not a real adaptation, since these parks in reality are hundreds of miles apart from one another, but in the Republic, they are interconnected and border each other. With this design in mind, you get a range of biomes to explore, from the colossal snowy peaks of Wyoming to arid, sandy Utah deserts, and these in turn, mean you can go from skiing down slopes directly into a lush forest great for mountain bikes, into a rocky landscape perfect for airborne sports.
You might think that a world of this size would be lonely to explore, but it's actually the polar opposite, as Ubisoft has populated the Republic with an insurmountable number of former player ghosts, and by insurmountable, we mean thousands and thousands. Wherever you go, there will be players carving their way through the landscape, and you can follow them and maybe discover a new route, or a hidden collectible, nestled deep in the wilderness. These ghosts also use any form of travel available, meaning at one moment, you'll see a ton of former players skiing, a bunch more biking, and even a load taking to the skies with some manner of airborne tool. You genuinely never feel lonely in the Republic, and Ubisoft has done a remarkable job of making this world seem truly alive.
As for the sports available, skiing and snowboarding feels just as fun as it did in Steep. You have enough control over where you're going that it delicately dances the line between realism and actually fun gameplay, and on top of that, there's the ability to perform tricks and skills to flaunt your style.
In terms of the newest major addition: bikes, these are actually the highlight of what Riders offers. The bike feels the most fluid and engaging out of all the sports available, and that's regardless of whether you're bombing down it down a huge incline, wrestling control over the bike so that you don't smash into the side of a rock, or in the air performing some ridiculous trick. The controls have been designed in a way, that alike the snow sports, it offers a balance between realism and fun, meaning you can easily focus on getting from point A to B as a mountain biker would, or rather place emphasis on skills (albeit if you're like us, you'll probably actually land one-in-five of the tricks you attempt).
We will say that the airborne sports often left a little to be desired. Wingsuits are still dangerous and fun, but the rocket suits (which are essentially a wingsuit but with a rocket attached to your back) have pretty abhorrent controls, and you'll find yourself crashing far too many times to actually enjoy your time with them, especially in races.
Which brings us onto the next point: activities. Riders Republic, being a multiplayer-centric game is all about competing. Whether that's through races or skill events that ask you to score points by landing gnarly tricks, there's plenty to do. Stack this up with the many locations and collectibles to find in the world, and you really won't be lacking content to chew through.
As for how the campaign works, there are several careers (that can be played most of the time with other players), consisting of around 17 events each. To progress through these campaigns, you'll have to earn stars by winning races/events, or by completing extra objectives, for example performing a specific trick. Unlock enough stars and you can unlock a special activity, which is usually sponsored by a major sports brand (such as Red Bull), or even the next career. If you boil it down, the careers are really just a collection of races/events to progress through to earn new gear to use in future activities.
On this topic, Riders Republic has a tiered-loot system, where better gear has better stats, and will make you a more successful competitor. It's nothing along the likes of a live-service game such as Marvel's Avengers, as better gear might make it easier to control a bike, or travel a little faster, but in reality, it's all about how you use the gear that determines how effective it is.
With all of this being said, the best way to really understand what Riders Republic is looking to offer, is through the new Mass Races activity. These cram 50-or-so players into one activity and then lets chaos ensue the second that the start claxon rings. It's a truly manic event that is split over three individual races and will even see you flip-flopping between various forms of sports using special gates, meaning you could be skiing at one moment, and then strapped into a rocket suit the next. These are quite alike public events in Destiny 2, and pop up every hour (in the full game), and are pretty much the pinnacle of the Riders experience.
From our time with the beta of Riders Republic, it's hard not to genuinely like this game. The mechanics are fun and give the player plenty of options, and the world is one of the more impressive ones we've ever seen. It's not a perfect experience in any sense of the matter, but with a bright future that will even see BMX coming to the Republic in the first DLC, we're absolutely excited for the launch of this game.