Ubisoft’s sprawling open-world maps have become sort of their trademark now, but all of them suffer from one thing – repetition. This is especially apparent in the case of The Crew 2, which was bogged down by a lack of varied and fun activities. Riders Republic fixes that problem by constantly throwing at you one insane event after the other, and designing the open world in a way that encourages you to constantly explore and do crazy tricks. Packing in a huge amount of content and extreme sports disciplines right from day 1, Riders Republic might just be my favorite surprise of 2021.
AT A GLANCE
Developer: Ubisoft Annecy
Release Date: Oct 28, 2021
Final Score: 9/10
Riders Republic takes place on a huge open-world map that’s a sort of a mash-up of different national parks in the United States. There’s a wide variety of terrains here, each suited for a particular type of sport. From the lush forest to snowy peaks, there’s something for everyone here.
Riders Republic is the adrenaline junkies dream game, as it has some truly intensive events that put me on the edge of my seat. One moment I’m in an event where I am dressed as a giraffe delivering pizzas, the next I’m pulling off some crazy tricks while flinging myself off a slope on the edge of a mountain. You never know what Riders Republic is about to throw at you next.
There’s a story here, but it’s mostly just about pushing you from one event to another and serves as a tutorial to the huge amount of content in store for you. And by a lot, I mean, A LOT of content. You’ve got downhills bike races, traditional road bike races, not-so-traditional crazy bike races, snowboarding, snow racing, paragliding, and not to mention the side activities which include challenging puzzle like set pieces where you have to demonstrate masterful control over your ride.
Each event you participate in nets you stars, and these stars allow you to level up. Every event you participate in a particular discipline also contributes to that discipline’s career level which lets you unlock better gear. A huge issue that I had with the Crew 2 was that no matter how much I upgraded my vehicles, I never felt truly powerful because the AI would just rubber band and catch up to my fully upgraded vehicles the moment I made a small mistake. Riders Republic on the other hand does a great job with the upgraded gear that you receive, and you can feel the improvements. Whether it’s a much stronger grip when taking corners or better acceleration, upgrades actually mean something and thus make the rewards feel more fulfilling.
Riders Republic offers deceptively simple controls that are easy to learn, especially if you’re a fan of racing games but have a huge difficulty curve if you want to master them. Executing flashy and impressive combos requires practice and quick reflexes as well as planning to nail down the perfect trick.
Freedom is a huge part of Riders Republic and you are able to change your choice of ride any time you want thanks to the selection wheel. You also unlock a bunch of cool exploration toys, that allow you to navigate the world easier, but I still preferred biking my way across the thrilling mountain passes.
Riders Republic also seeks to be more friendly for all types of players, and at the rewards, players for mastering the events. For example, you will earn a star just by participating in an event, no matter your standing, but executing extra objectives such as grabbing balloons or not hitting the brakes nets you extra stars.
So, it depends on you and how much you want to push yourself. If you feel like casually just taking it slow and enjoying the ride, or you want to practice and know the route before going hard, you can easily do so. You can even literally backtrack to an earlier position if you mess up, and regardless of how you perform, you’re going to get that star. But once you feel more comfortable and want to challenge yourself, you can crank up that difficulty and go after those extra objectives for some bonus XP and stars.
Winning a race isn’t just about having the best gear, and some tracks will require you to study and understand them before you can reach the top 3. Maneuverability, knowing when to accelerate and when to slow down, is key to staying on top.
As I already said there’s a lot of variety on offer here, and aside from traditional races, there are also time trial events, with different rounds, that mix different disciplines.
Riders Republic’s approach to flexibility isn’t just limited to how it rewards you and the friendly difficulty levels, it also extends to the controls. There are two types of controls for players here, one allows you to execute tricks using the face buttons, and control the camera using the joysticks, while the mode required you to maneuver tricks using the right joystick. Furthermore, there are also two approaches to landing after executing tricks, one that will automatically finish a trick and get you a safe landing assuming you got your timing right and the other requiring you to manually stop your tricks in order to land without crashing face first.
Just like how stars are rewarded regardless of your position, you don’t require to use the advanced control scheme in order to win, but the game certainly rewards you for taking the time to master it. Plus you can execute crazy complex combos if you can learn to handle the advanced controls.
However, when using lower-level equipment, certain races might feel frustrating, as your ride might simply refuse to turn at the proper angle, causing you to lose balance and overshoot a turn. The key here is to have patience and slowly grind yourself to the top, where you can finally get your hands on a decent ride and shred the competition.
I spent literal hours in the tricks academy trying to learn how to execute all the cool moves that Riders Republic has to offer and I still can’t execute half of them. There’s definitely a learning curve here but it makes it even more satisfying when you finally master it.
Another thing that Riders Republic does really well is making the game truly feel like a massive open world game, with other NPCs and players constantly roaming around on the map and doing cool things. As a result, you feel that you are in a living and inhabited world. On the map you can see dozens of little heads moving around the area, while you travel the world, you can go past them, giving the feeling of a more “populated” world.
Riders Republic seeks to be a social experience, and you can interact with other players, from seeing their profiles to making gestures or, simply, meeting with friends to compete in any discipline or just simply exploring together. Impromptu mass races are also awesome, even though I did lose a couple of races because a racer crashed right in front of me and I tripped, losing my lead. I feel a bit more tweaking with the collision system can really help in a game like this where things can get hairy at a moment’s notice.
The game has a competition creator, which you can share with the community and even appear as featured content within the game. There’s also a robust photo mode that has a wide amount of options such as filters, saturation and brightness levels, time of day, weather effects.
Visually Riders Republic isn’t too technically impressive as some of Ubisoft’s other projects, but the visuals suit the game perfectly. The soundtrack selection is purely personal preference but I found there to be quite a diverse amount of tracks across many genres.
At this point, my biggest complaint would be the camera, because it often ended up misbehaving in certain races. In a game like Riders Republic where precise control is a must, suddenly finding your camera focusing on a nearby tree instead of your ride can be frustrating.
Riders Republic also has a store full of cosmetic content, which like equipment, is also organized in different degrees of rarity. You can buy complete outfits, skins, gestures, accessories such as backpacks, and more. This is also where the game offers its microtransactions, which have now become a staple of Ubisoft games. But since you can still earn quite a few cool-looking cosmetics with in-game money and none of the cosmetics offer any gameplay advantage, the shop can just be ignored as a way to show devs some extra support for what is essentially a live service game.