I'm ready for something different. After 16 months of doing little else besides staring at the four off-white walls of my apartment, communicating with friends via the com chat of military shooters that all seem to draw from the same drab color palette, I'm ready to get out in the world. I want to go on an adventure. To be more specific, I want to go on the sort of adventure that Riders Republic is selling.
There's no crisis-averting mission to complete, no gear to grind, no towers to climb, and no numbers to crunch. In Riders Republic, the quest is to have fun – and I don't know about you, but I'm ready to have some goddamned fun.
Into the wild
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The appeal of Riders Republic has got to be universal. It's the only way to explain it. Because outside of some lingering nostalgia for Amped 2 and Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX, I can't say I have all that much interest in extreme outdoor sports experiences, virtual or otherwise – I wouldn't be caught dead strapping skis to my feet, and would soon be dead if I launched my fragile body off the side of a mountain. So why has Riders Republic grabbed me in the way so many of Ubisoft's other recent forays into multiplayer (Hyper Scape, Roller Champions, Trackmania) haven't? It's got to be the scale.
Ubisoft builds breathtaking open worlds. You know that; there's no arguing otherwise. Riders Republic is leveraging that capacity to build a massive multiplayer playground, one that unravels seamlessly across iconic American National Parks. You'll be able to traverse a diverse range of terrains with the different sports at your disposal – mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, and rocket wingsuiting flying – in both first- and third-person, with friends and rivals riding around you.
If we come back to that breathtaking comment from before, Riders Republic gives new meaning to it. In that anybody with even a passing flirtation with vertigo will likely feel the air exiting their lungs as soon as they see some of the death-defying drops Ubisoft Annecy has carved into the natural landscape. There will be plenty of those to see too, particularly if you take part in Riders Republic's Mass Race mode, a global event that occurs every hour at predefined locations across the map.
For these, you'll need to traverse the world to reach them, sign-up in time, and then get yourself ready for a multi-terrain race that's purpose built for 50-plus players and multi-sport switches. Creative director Igor Manceau only teases the scope of it, but it sounds like a hell of a good way to explore the map. "We actually have one event called North to South, and I think it's like a 25-minute ride; it's a very long event."
That isn't the only way to explore Riders Republic, of course. The Riders Ridge, a social hub where you can complete weekly challenges, manage your sponsorship contracts, and meet up with friends, acts as a launching point for the various modes. There's a competitive league, public or private free-for-all and versus mode options, and trick battles that blur the environmental score chasing of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater multiplayer with the gnarly carnage of SSX Tricky.
If you want to just go out and explore the environment freely, finding your own fun with friends sequestered to a party chat, then you can do that as well. Riders Republic is packed with content and defined exploration opportunities, but it's structure is free-form: "I would love to be surprised by the way players use our world," says Manceau. "That's the way we designed it, for the player to use it the way they want to."
That's why I'm stoked for Riders Republic. It's open, it's different, it's social – an antidote to the poisonous effects the pandemic has had on our capacity to explore nature safely and hang with friends without generating a generous digital bodycount. I'm here for the ride, and Ubisoft Annecy's Manceau hopes you will be too. "I think the fun, social, and adrenaline rush of Riders Republic has been something mission on the market. There are so many serious games out there; we wanted to create an atmosphere and dynamic that was fun and fresh."