It's fair to say that Riders Republic, the upcoming open-world action sports title from Ubisoft, is arriving with the weight of expectation.
Early glimpses have been tantalising, showcasing a supremely polished, massive multiplayer world, an array of different sports for players to dive into and promising a glut of different modes and features for players to test their mettle against up to 50 other riders. Not only that, but the knowledge that the game is coming from the team behind stunning snowboarding title Steep has ensured that anticipation couldn't be higher.
We caught up with Igor Manceau, creative director of Riders Republic at Ubisoft, to find out more about the title, tackling multiplayer, modes and the experience of developing the game for next-gen.
First, let's address the elephant in the room: Steep. A game so warmly received and with a passionately dedicated following is always likely to inspire regular calls for a sequel, so how has this legacy informed Riders Republic?
"We're the team behind Steep, so there's no secret that everything we learned from our experience with that game was a great source of knowledge and inspiration," Manceau tells us.
He stresses however that Riders Republic is its own beast, with the social aspect in particular setting it apart. Manceau describes the game as a "vibrant outdoor sports playground", which encourages players to embrace the thrill of riding with friends and other riders.
What's particularly striking is the ambition of Riders Republic. Steep's open world was beautiful and sprawling, but (understandably for a snowboarding title) very much dedicated to its snowbound setting. Riders Republic is bigger, broader and bolder, boasting what Manceau describes as "unique and crazy social experiences", in particular its mass races, where more than 50 players will be able to play simultaneously on next-gen consoles.
As for what else sets it apart, Manceau says: "Additionally, we have our robust career mode, featuring a wide range of events and career tracks. We're also introducing bikes, along with the addition of stat-based sport equipment, allowing players to improve and customise their rider. Lastly, Riders Republic's huge, open world celebrates U.S. National Parks, showcasing a lot of different environments in a way we've never seen before."
An open world
The open world of Riders Republic is absolutely one of the most intriguing and impressive features showcased in the early glimpses of the game. It takes place in the United States, featuring some of its most iconic National Parks, with the likes of Mammoth Mountain, Yosemite, Grand Teton, Sequoia Park, Bryce Canyon, Zion and Canyonland all mashed together for seamless exploration.
"Each region was recreated using GPS data and we then subtly modified each location to ensure we can develop the perfect action scenes for the different sports," Manceau explains. "We've chosen to represent these seven regions specifically because of their diversity in terrain, which reflects the variety in which our extreme sports can traverse on."
But how exactly can players traverse this world? According to Manceau, career mode sets things in motion, requiring players to travel from one region to another to engage in the various activities and events.
"As players travel the map, there will be a lot of opportunities to leave the road and find what jewels are hidden in the nearby surroundings," he says. "The exploration is a rewarding process, as completing side activities and achieving feats while travelling will provide players with progression rewards. Additionally, players will have access to fast travel options to equip their snowmobile or paramotor to quickly get around the map."
If career mode is the catalyst for the action, it'd be remiss of us not to learn more about how it works. For a game so sprawling to maintain a narrative thrust is no easy feat, after all. To ensure players are invested in the story, as well as the thrill of leaping off mountains, Manceau and the team have engineered a journey that uses that most successful of tropes: the sporting up-and-comer.
He tells us that the career mode will place players in the shoes of a rising athlete on the lookout for opportunities to jump-start their career. Players will take on five different career tracks: Bike Tricks, Bike Racing, Snow Tricks, Snow Racing and Air Sports, including Wingsuit and Rocket Wingsuit.
"In each career, players will sign-up for various sports events and by completing them they'll gather XP points for the corresponding career, which will unlock more events and new gear as players level up." Manceau continues. "Each piece of gear will have stats and these will affect the behaviour of the gear, giving players a way to refine their playstyle while finding the best gear suited for each gameplay scenario. Once players are at the end of progression for each career track, they'll be invited to some of the biggest in-game competitions, including Red Bull Rampage."
With Red Bull just one of the big names featured in Riders Republic, players at a certain level can look forward to unlocking legendary sponsors to take their game to the next level. As for how this works, players must compete in various events within each career track and move up the ranks. "We're very pleased to have worked with them and benefit from their respective expertise," Manceau adds. But how do these sponsors impact your in-game experience?
"These sponsorships will help them reach the Riders Ridge invitational, the exclusive one-of-a-kind multisport competition, featuring only the best athletes. Players will also get a chance to be invited to some of the coolest events in-game, like Rampage, Road Rage, Ultra Natural, Joyride and even the X Games."
With Riders Republic set to offer a multiplayer world not seen before in action sports titles, it's no surprise to learn that the power of next-gen is being harnessed.
To finish, we asked Manceau just how he found the experience of working with these new consoles and what players can expect. He concludes: "More than developing, playing Riders Republic on next-gen consoles will be an incredible and stunning experience. The power of next-gen consoles will allow you to ride with more than 50 people in 4K at 60 frames-per-second, letting you experience the rush of every jump and trick."
Riders Republic arrives on PS4, Xbox One, Stadia and PC, as well as being optimized for PS5 and Xbox Series X, on February 25, 2021.