It's now been nearly five years since Finnish studio RedLynx treated us to a fully-fledged Trials game (not counting Trials of the Blood Dragon, of course). Therefore, starting up Trials Rising for the first time we were full of anticipation and excitement. After all, the accessible yet demanding two-wheeled series has always been great fun to take out for a spin.
Trials Rising is, in its own way, the most polished and creative version of the tried-and-tested formula. The controls and physics are probably the best we've seen in the series so far. All you need is gas, brakes, and to tilt the position of your rider on the bike. It's simple and yet it's clever, and the stages complement the simple nature of the game wonderfully. All the obstacles, slopes, and loops are there for the taking and it's just a case of managing these few variables.
There are also lots of different activities to try out. Even though the familiar stunt racing is still at the centre of the proposition, the new campaign incorporates lots of different challenges to already beaten stages via unlockable sponsors, different stunt missions, and the Trials Academy. Everything feeds into the single-player experience, which makes tackling the campaign really pleasing at first. If racing isn't the thing you're looking for at that particular moment, you can always go and try your luck at a frontflip challenge, for example, where the idea is to do a required number of flips with as few falls as possible. Anyone who's played Trials before will know that this is easier said than done.
Unfortunately, every coin has two sides. Yes, characters are customisable with new clothes and gear that unlocks as you play. The bikes have also this quality. Wheels, fenders and even the body kits are interchangeable when new parts unlock. Or perhaps that should be "if" they unlock. Trials Rising is another victim of poor lootbox implementation. Each time your character levels up, a new lootbox comes along for you to open. And what do you find inside them? Stickers. More stickers. And even more stickers. The amount of different stickers is simply astonishing, which sadly works against their inclusion. Instead of waiting for some cool stickers to open, you start to hate them. Why is trivial stuff like this unlockable in the first place?
The gear also comes from the lootboxes. Slowwwwlllly. They can, however, also give gear that you already own. That's okay as they can be sold for the game's own currency in return. Can you buy new gear with the currency? Of course not - the gear unlocks if luck is on your side, or you choose to buy a ton of lootboxes with the in-game currency that you can get by spending real money. It doesn't help that some gear unlocks by completing specific challenges, making the lootboxes even more pointless. Therefore the main goal when levelling up your character is in unlocking the bikes, and that can be done fairly quickly.
The game also requires you to sign up to the Ubisoft Club for content and if the servers are down, the game notifies you about that so much that you'll want to rip your hair out. Integrating single-player and online components is fine, but please, just one notification about the lack of an Internet connection or crashed servers is enough! And should you for one reason or another have the game offline at any point, you can forget about the lootboxes as they won't open unless you're online.
With that rant over and done with, the campaign - whilst maintaining the amount of variety well enough - could have used with a little bit more tweaking in terms of difficulty. Usually, Trials games get increasingly difficult after just a few breezier tracks, but here the challenge takes too long to arrive. The first medium-difficulty stages are available after hours of playing, at which point the third bike has already been unlocked. While we understand the need to cater for the first time crowd, the lack of challenge during the first few hours might be a drag for seasoned players.
It's a shame because the effort that has gone into the track design is easy to see. There are little details everywhere and the game is very pleasing to the eye. How the environments change during each track is always fun to witness. And don't worry, when the challenge finally hits, it really hits. Then comes the blood, sweat and tears that you've come to expect from a Trials game. Just be patient and it will happen.
The multiplayer side of things is just as great as always. The different stunt games and racing, and even the new mode built around wacky tandem biking are sure to light up any party. If you're alone, there are several online options to choose from, and as per you'll constantly see someone breaking your records on past courses, inspiring you to go back and shave off a few seconds and reassert your dominance.
Our complaints might seem like minor gripes, after all, many of these issues can be found in many modern games. However, it's how these small things combine together and drag the experience down that really hurts the game, and there's a tangled mess of little annoyances that don't encourage further play. On the other hand, it could very well be the best Trials game so far in terms of playability, variety and physics. Just remember to take a deep breath every time the game tries to drive you crazy and you'll definitely have lots of fun.
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