Over the top gimmicks have always been part and parcel of the Trials franchise. Trials Fusion, for instance, took the series to the future with its futuristic setting and trippy action sequences. Then there is the popular spin-off Trials of the Blood Dragon, which merged the franchise with the retro synthwave-inspired future introduced in Far Cry: Blood Dragon. Needless to say, the Trials franchise has never really been the same since. Now, however, RedLynx and Ubisoft Kiev are bringing the series back to earth, literally. Trials Rising is a very down-to-earth Trials game, set in the present, with no action-packed gimmicks, aliens or cyborgs standing in the way. It is a title that goes a long way to restoring my love for the franchise since Trials 2, but misses the mark ever so slightly.
Back to reality [Story]
Trials Rising is void of a story as the moon is of life. It features a couple of game modes (more on that below), but ultimately acts as a grand tour of the world. The game gives players no narrative to follow, other than that they are a motorbike enthusiast who likes offroading, stunts, and a tiny bit of action. In Trials Rising, the player is given a pair of wheels and let loose on the world.
From the onset, the game gives players the option to create an avatar. Skin colour can be pretty much any colour you can think of, but there are no in-depth face or body customisation options. It does, however, let the player express themselves in all kinds of ways by way of a promising (yet inadequate) Rider Customisation page (explained in detail further on in this review).
Beyond creating a rider, the game throws the player into the North Americas, where they are met with various races. After winning a few, the game will then open up with championship races, stunt races, and even a Rider School of sorts. The Rider School, however, was rather odd. Most of the tutorials are gated behind experience levels. This was particularly a strange thing to experience, considering many of the tricks they teach you can be used as early as the first race, and actually, come in very handy if mastered.
As mentioned, the series makes a return to the current world. Each area of the map has its own unique stadium or race track, and all races are either governed by a contract specialist or feature nothing more but the promise of winning experience and a sticker at the end. You can think of the entire premise as one huge race to the top. The only difference is that there is no set champion that you must face. Rather there are bunch of computer-controlled riders that you have to beat, with a few real-world players thrown into the mix for good measure.
Every area also has a unique look and feel to it. I particularly liked how this “grand world tour” really expressed the regions it throws at you, with well-thought-out racetracks. The series starts out in North America, and lets you race through Hollywood, complete with movie action sets, all the way to greater Eurasia, with Cold War-inspired missile silos, abandoned research bases, and even islands that adequately mimic the ones set in Thailand. The game even features races in Egypt, with a faithful remake of the Pyramids of Giza and more. As faithful as a Trials game can get, anyway.
Beyond that, however, the game has nothing new going for it, and the gameplay proves it.
More of the same [Gameplay – Single Player]
The races featured in Trials Rising are aesthetically pleasing. They do an effective job of making everything feel “grand” as you tour the world in search of more challenging race tracks to overcome. When it comes to the actual racing, however, I cannot think of a better term than “more of the same”.
Like the previous entries in the franchise, Trials Rising is a side-scrolling game where you speed along on a bike. You can do fancy tricks while you take ramps and jump higher than the Party Bus in Fortnite. Naturally, the game is all about speed and precision. However, unlike the more recent Trials titles, Trials Rising is a far more grounded and ‘real world’ experience. There are far less crazy stunts to perform, and overall it is a strange mixture of weird physics and ‘real world’ tricks and stunts as you attempt to complete a race.
As you ride along every unique race track, you will have to do so in the fastest way possible. This means that you ultimately will not be able to focus on tricks and stunts. Rather, you have to perfectly land your jumps in order to maximise the time that the rear wheel can propel you forward.
Other than jumping, leaning is probably the most important element of the game. There are two ways you can go about it: lean forward, and make the bike front-heavy; or lean backward, and make the bike back-heavy. Doing each of these will allow you to shift the weight of the bike in such a way that you can land all kinds of jumps. Do it just a tiny bit wrong, however, and your rider crashes and falls.
Failing can happen in multiple ways. If you do not lean forward while going up a steep slope, the bike will slant backwards and you will fall. If you do not lean backwards by going down a steep slope, the bike will tumble forward and you will fall. If you hit your head just a tiny bit on an overhead pipe, you will fail the track. I can go on and on about how easy it is to fail. The point is that the game requires precision. So much so, that I cannot think of anyone who will have the energy to exercise the precision the game requires whilst still having fun.
My point is that the game is exhausting, and not in a good way. For some crazy reason, tutorials and races where the player can learn ‘the best way to play the game’ are gated behind player levels. The third tutorial, for reference, only unlocks at level 14, while the fourth unlocks ten levels after that, and the fifth even later on. In fact, before you can get to the tutorial where it teaches you how to break adequately, you will already be several hours into your game, having already completed your first championship race!
Mastering the game aside, Trials Rising finally introduces ghosts. Previous titles only featured little dots that showed where other players were at that time in the race. This time, every rider, whether AI-controlled or otherwise, shows up as ghostly imprints. Thanks to these ghosts, you are able to see how the faster players accelerate, lean, and even trick their way to the top as you frustratingly attempt to get a gold medal at the end of every track.
Another great feature the game now includes is Sponsors. Sponsors in Trials Rising task you with menial tasks to complete as you race toward your goal. Do a front-flip six times; do not exceed more than six faults; beat [insert computer controlled rider name here], and the list goes on. I must admit that I liked these added tasks. It made me forget about getting that gold for a few minutes, as I forced myself to do X-number of backflips while landing dodgy jumps.
Better together [Gameplay – Multiplayer & Extras]
Trials Rising also features multiplayer modes. There are the usual multiplayer races where you go up against a few other players on the same stadium tracks; a brand-new “Tandem Mode” where two players control the same bike – a tandem bike; and an all new “Party Mode” – which I, unfortunately, cannot report on at all as this feature will only go live at launch.
Tandem mode is especially interesting. In my time reviewing the game, I could give a second controller to a friend, and let them
do the hard work for me work together with me in order to get that gold. In Tandem mode, both players control 50% of the throttle. Both players must lean in the correct direction at the correct times and both players must work on landing the same tricks and flips. I managed to get quite a few of these Tandem races in, and they were actually very enjoyable – more so than the single player.
There is also a couch co-op option that allows for up to four players to ride out on the same stadium tracks. If that sounds great, it is because it is. You know everything is better with friends. However, in terms of online multiplayer, the same number of people can also go head-to-head. Party Mode, however, is said to allow even more players.
I mentioned earlier that you can customise your rider. If you play enough, whether with friends or alone, you will earn money. This money, mostly gained from sponsor objectives, is spent on character customisation. Beyond creating the usual abnormal, green or purple-skinned rider, you will also be able to spend money on (yes, but hear me out) loot boxes. Through these “Gear boxes”, you will get stickers, parts for your bikes, and most importantly, gear for your rider!
The character creation is surprisingly extensive. The only issue I had with it is that it was gated by an unusual loot box grind. Fortunately, it seems that there is [currently] no way of purchasing these boxes with real money. Unfortunately loot boxes contain all of the cosmetic items you would like, and you only ever get four at a time.
Out of the near-100 boxes I had opened, I received so many duplicate items and useless stickers, that I could hardly customise my character beyond the starting gear for half my time with the game. I honestly think that the character customisation has huge potential. I saw a few player-created riders that looked incredible! It is just too bad that I could not experience that for myself, just because I had bad luck with the already controversial nature of these boxes.
Last, but not least, I must mention that Trials Rising features an impressive track editor. While the empty map they let you work on is quite bland, the editor itself features assets from all previous Trials games. Yes, this includes Trials Fusion and Trials of the Blood Dragon as well! In total, Ubisoft Kiev states there are more than 8 000 assets at players’ disposal, and you can make tracks as simple or as complex as you like. My one (and only) track ended up spanning five times the length of normal tracks! It was super simple, however, because I cannot, for the life of me, build levels the way others on the internet are able to.
The most interesting aspect about the track editor is that it is cross-platform. This means that players can share tracks with friends on other platforms. For reference, these platforms include Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and even Nintendo Switch.
Loaded Levels [Performance & Visuals]
Making players feel like they are truly touring the world is quite a feat in a game like Trials Rising. I particularly liked how every region’s tracks really made me feel like I am in that region. North America, for instance, has elaborate movie sets in Hollywood, huge skyscrapers, and even the Grand Canyon. Europe, on the other hand, features the famous tomato festival in Spain, a huge missile silo in Russia, and even has riders jump and trick their way through the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
I still firmly believe that Trials Fusion was the best-looking game in the series. Trials Rising would trump it, if it were not for its weird obsession of keeping things down to earth. Trials Rising is by no means ugly – it looks spectacular in many ways, but its ultimate lack of action-packed sequences makes those beautiful scenes nothing more than plain-old backdrops. They are pretty, but they do nothing to wow the senses.
With aesthetically pleasing backdrops and the occasional explosion and fireworks effects comes incredible load times, right? Of course! That is what Trials Rising would have you believe, anyway. Loading is not bad, per se, but it does feel longer than it should. After every race, the game needs to load. Every time you open a gearbox, you need to load. There is even a strange animation that plays every single time you open a box – whether to build anticipation or not, it only added to the frustration that follows extensive waiting.
Fortunately, the performance issues do not extend to actual gameplay. Once the loading is done, all races flowed as they should, with zero frame drops from even the original Xbox One I played the title on.
A good kind of Deja Vu [Conclusion]
Trials Rising is a solid entry in the Trials franchise. Its weird obsession to keep the entry grounded after the mixed reception of previous titles is understandable. The thing is, however, that “more of the same” is not what this franchise needs. Instead of trying new things, Trials Rising decides to play it safe by giving players a fancy tour that spans the globe. There is no “wow factor”, and nothing that makes it a standout entry in the series.
Developers RedLynx and Ubisoft Kiev have obviously learned a lot from previous titles in the franchise. Hence why Trials Rising features a pretty solid take on the franchise’s established game modes, and even introduces cool new ones: Tandem Mode, and Party Mode. Thankfully, the game also keeps up its tradition of steady frame rates and pretty visuals. Alas, loading times impair an otherwise great presentation.
As much as Trials Rising wants to restore order to the universe that is the Trials franchise, it falls a bit short in its execution. Ultimately, the game is a solid entry in the franchise. It is honestly way better than Trials of the Blood Dragon ever was, and a game I wish had released in the science-fiction entry’s stead. However, that is now in the past, and Trials Rising is very much in the present. A game that goes a long way to restoring my love for the franchise since Trials 2, but misses the mark ever so slightly.
|Time Played||15 hours|
|Acquisition||Review copy courtesy of Ubisoft|