There are only a few games that I can think of that fully immerse me in the experience. Usually, these are horror games and VR games. While everything else either makes me happy to play or feels rewarding, there are only a few games outside of those genres that make me so immersed that it’s life-like. Riders Republic currently sits on top of that list, and by god does it dominate its competition.
There are some downsides to this game that I’ll bring up rather early, and that is the severe lack of a decent story. The premise of Riders Republic is all about being the best and greatest; one who dominates the competition in dirt, snow, and air battles. Sure, that’s plenty of reason to go out there and compete against the best (bots/ghosts) that the game has to offer, but that’s really all there is. There isn’t a nemesis system where you’re competing against someone who is just as good as you, and someone who would drive you to be better than you are. The entire point of the game is to have a solid career, and it suffers the same drawback that Skate 3, arguably one of the most popular sports games on the market, also had. The only real saving grace, just like Skate 3, was the gameplay.
And that’s where Riders Republic bounces back: the gameplay is like no other — be it the immersion of first-person mode, the satisfaction of landing mind-bogglingly difficult tricks, or exploring the vast open-world where no two sights are the same.
Let’s start on my favorite part; the first-person mode. In this mode everything is tense and it requires you to focus like your life depends on it. Kick in motion blur while you’re riding at 50-60 miles per hour while drifting around sharp turns, and you’ll quickly find your heart in your throat. It’s a surreal feeling, but one that Ubisoft has accomplished so goddamn amazingly. This mode applies just as perfectly to dirt and snow sports as it does to the air — navigating through tall trees at top speed is a thrilling adventure in its own right.
Speaking of riding, Ubisoft has these mechanics down pat. It’s so fluid and realistic, yet weirdly a cathartic experience, as you tackle huge mountain ranges on a bike or fly between obstacles at god knows what speed — that is until you crash and you feel the full brunt of your actions. The only gripe I had was that flying felt rather arcadey at times, yet that was only when you went from 0-160 miles per hour in only a second or two using boost.
One of the things this game does well is how uniform the experience is across all sports. The skills you have riding downhill on a bike with minimal obstacles translates well into navigating at high speed on skis through a forest dotted with trees — if you can move at high speeds and read the terrain on a moments notice (a skill that comes rather naturally after the first 30 minutes) then you will have no issue tackling the game on Elite difficulty.
I will say the one thing this game does rather poorly is the difficulty levels. Elite feels natural, while everything below that feels just far too easy — and this is coming from a guy who doesn’t play many high-speed sports games. I found myself fighting for the top 3, if not taking the pole position, on all my races in Elite difficulty. It doesn’t really appear that difficulty scales as you progress through the game either, because no matter what bike you have the enemies appear to have the same thing — so really, you’re racing on such an even playing field that there’s not a whole heap of challenge there. Now, unless you’re a completionist, then the challenge would lie in getting all three stars in a race. This is a gameplay mechanic that will definitely be skipped by most people since you can unlock just about every race the game has to offer by getting one, maybe two, extra stars available
While this game doesn’t really have a massive player base (at least not for me in Australia), it did a great job of feeling populated by adding in god knows how many bots. The only downside is that the only times you’ll (in real-time) race a human being is either in a Mass Race (a 3 stage competition with upwards of 20 people that has you fight for a podium finish across every racing discipline the game has to offer) or in a Versus Race (albeit, this is against friends). Sure the “ghosts” that you race in every race gives the impression that you’re competing against humans in real-time, there’s just nothing quite like versing someone at the same time and taking the win from under them.
Now for the absolute worst part of this game: Microtransactions. What is it with Ubisoft and shamelessly adding microtransactions as if their life depends on it? Every single cosmetic requires you to spend some form of in-game currency, and only a handful of items can be brought with the currency you earn through the game. Everything else requires you to spend your real-life money just to get some cool-looking outfit. At this moment, it seems only cosmetics are locked being a paywall, while your vehicles (bikes, skis, etc) are earned as your progress through the game. There’s not a battle pass system in place at the moment that would warrant me spending money to unlock cosmetics either, so if you really want that cool-looking giraffe costume you’re gonna have to unlock it with mom’s credit card.
It’s been a while, so let’s recap; what is your purpose in the game? Well, it’s not a whole lot, other than being the best triathlete ever. And that’s where the gameplay slides in to fill that void. It’s amazingly smooth, incredibly immersive, so just because there is no real story doesn’t mean you won’t be interested in playing the game. You’ll either lose yourself in the beautiful landscape making full use of the photo mode, or you’ll take up the challenge that Riders Republic has to offer and be the very best athlete.
The story is lackluster, the microtransactions are everywhere, but everything else is amazing; it's like being on a rollercoaster ride every single second you play. Ubisoft put its heart and soul into developing every location just so that each race and each moment feels immensely different from the next. It's an absolutely thrilling, immersive experience that does well to keep you entertained for hours and hours on end. If only you could spend more time racing people instead of bots, then it'd really feel like you're working to become the amazing triathlete Riders Republic wants you to be.