Finnish studio RedLynx and its game Trials have been around since 1999, when the first Java-based version was released. This simple and addictive 2.5D racing game has since gotten multiple sequels, and gained fame all around the world. The most recent entry in the main series was Trials Fusion back in 2014, and there was a spinoff named Trials of the Blood Dragon in 2016. Now the time is right for the next instalment in the series as Trials Rising was revealed at E3 last summer.
During our visit to Helsinki, Rising was shown to the press by RedLynx co-founder and creative director Antti Ilvessuo, who said that it has been in development for two years. We got to play the new game for two or so hours, including all the available game modes: Story Mode, Track Editor, Online Multiplayer and local Party Mode. Tandem is a whole new addition, which puts two people on the same bike. Our hands-on was mostly done on PS4, but Party Mode and Tandem were tested on the Nintendo Switch version.
This time the Story Mode is inspired by real places from all around the world. The test build included tracks from almost every continent, and more will be added after launch. At launch, there will be a total of 120 tracks, and there are at least two content packs coming as DLC. There is also upcoming online events and so on, just like you would expect from a modern "game as a service" title. The tracks we got to play were all fun and innovative both in terms of driving and what goes on in the background. There was Pripyat in Ukraine, Seoul in South Korea, Siberia in Russia, Rome in Italy and so on. Our favourite track was French, but we don't mind admitting that it was probably because it was quite easy to play.
The core gameplay is as easy and fun as it has always been, and you can learn the controls in less than 20 seconds. That said, it takes a long time to master your bike, and Trials is a classic case of easy to learn, hard to master. The tutorial section is available after a few initial tracks. These short challenges are recommended, especially if you are new to the series or it has been years since you last played Trials. The game's main point is to have fun, so occasionally physics have to bend in order for that to happen. Most of the time everything still behaves just like you would expect it to in the real world.
Customisation of your rider is possible for those who like that side of the game, and there are plenty of options. You can add up to 200 "stickers", and this means that basically, no two drivers look the same. Different poses or emotes are available as well, which helps to even further personalise your onscreen buddy, and there will no doubt be more of this cosmetic stuff after launch.
Playing through Story Mode is a very traditional Trials experience. By completing tracks you will unlock more, and you can always get a better result by playing old tracks again and again. This time you will unlock new sponsors regularly, which will give additional challenges to complete. These vary from completing one within a time limit to performing a certain number of tricks while driving, and so on. The gameplay loop is "play, level up, unlock". Aside from the tracks, there are also multiple motorcycles to choose from. There seemed to be six bikes at launch, and two of them were available from the get-go.
There is a lot of single-player content, and you can still compare your own results to other players via leaderboards. These leaderboards are cross-platform, and same goes for new tracks made with the Track Editor. Traditional online multiplayer is still restricted to individual platforms.
The Track Editor, as already mentioned, is back again. There are 8000 objects to use while building a track, and the developers use the same editor themselves to make new official ones. Content made by the Trials community should ensure that there will be practically an infinite number of tracks to play, just like in Mario Maker or LittleBigPlanet.
Online multiplayer lets a maximum of 8 players compete in one match, which consists of three rounds. Each track is then decided with a vote. While driving, you can see other players as ghost figures on your own screen. The winner is decided by who is the fastest, but also based on who had to restart the least amount of times. At least during the test session, there were no problems in multiplayer. We would even go as far as saying that regular online multiplayer is the most boring part of Trials Rising, simply because it is so traditional and unsurprising.
On the other hand, playing locally in Party Mode with up to four players is a blast. Each match offers a single track with four separate lanes. This means that you see your competition at all times on the same screen. You can also customise the setup of the match. How about changing gravity, reducing the mass of your bike and doubling the amount of throttle? Trials Rising might be at its best while playing multiplayer locally. It is also advised to add a real-life incentive to these battles, like who washes the dishes, does the laundry, cooks dinner or something like that. Developers said that the idea is to bring the game to the real world with these small real life consequences.
Tandem is a very fun new game mode where two players are operating the same bike. Each player has their own lean and throttle. While driving, constant communication while doing tricks and jumps is mandatory. It is very easy to fail completely if during a jump players are leaning in opposite directions. The same goes for using the throttle.
Graphically Trials Rising is very colourful and detailed. The gameplay is, at its core, very simple, so the team has had a lot of time to make the backgrounds look more impressive. While driving, it is worth the trouble of just looking at what's happening in the background. That said we do think that at the moment at least, the loading times are way too long.
All in all, it's clear that Trials Rising will be a quality next entry in the series. There are enough different game modes, 120 tracks at launch, and it will get constantly improve after launch with new content, user-created tracks, and other updates planned. There are still questions about how microtransactions will be handled, and what there will be in terms of esports (if there's anything at all), but we only have to have to wait until February 26 to see how it all pans out.
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