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Time trials. Steep ascents. Steeper drops. Rolling boulders. None of these things agree with me but I keep coming back to Trials Rising. The Trials series is nearly two decades old since Finnish studio RedLynx published Trials in 2000. Since then the series has gone from strength to strength while maintaining it’s core ethos of go fast and don’t fall off or crash. Easier said than done. Trials Rising feels amazing to play but it frustrates with a new scoring system that keeps a lot of the game’s best levels under lock and key.
Trials Rising is the first game in the series to come with a proper tutorial. An encouraging Australian man called Fatman Shady (roll with it) instructs players on throttle control, bunny hopping and the various other necessary tools and tricks required to become a good Trials Rising player. For someone like me who is decidedly not good at these kind of games this is vital and it’s astounding that this wasn’t a feature before. It also explains why 2014’s Trials Fusion was so frustrating for me and other new Trials players before Trials Rising came along. In removing one instance of frustration RedLynx and Ubisoft Kiev have instead found room for another.
Grinding can be fun in certain games. Risk for reward is why people go dungeon crawling in Skyrim, go on Raids in Destiny 2 and part the white fog in Dark Souls. Grinding for loot or souls or currency is often a fun part of games just not in Trials Rising. For a long time stage progression in Trials games was tied to how many medals a player had. The more medals you had the more stages you could unlock. In Trials Rising stage unlocks are tied to player level. This means having to grind for experience in Trials newest addition: contracts.
Offered by a variety of people from a tattooed hipster to a Cockney hipster to a hipster that looks like the guy from this vine the contracts would be a fun way to mix up how players played the tracks. Instead tying them to level progression has just made Trials Rising feel backed up and stultified. Progressing in Trials Rising is not tied to how good a Trials player you are anymore. Instead of time saving the game demands you waste time completing banal challenges in each contract which rewards you with far more experience than getting a gold medal does. Earning gold is arguable a harder task than performing six back-flips or finishing a track in under two minutes in my opinion.
Still the levels themselves are often a delight and thanks to the tutorial I now know how to complete a particularly challenging ramp or drop instead of hitting 21 retries before just restarting the track. Getting gold on a track on the first try is an incredible rush but so is barely scraping a bronze on the Moto Gladiators or I Fell Tower tracks. Each track feels unique and comes with its own challenges like speeding trains, CGI monsters or moving ramps. Two particular highlights are those set in Siberia where you must race along an exploding cargo plane or a speeding freight train. The one let-down is Firebase Faceplant a Kuwait set map that takes place in an exploding US Army base. I have no real problems with the track layout itself but the name and setting scream Gulf War rather than kooky time trial game.
The multiplayer of Trials Rising – if you want to commit to it – requires a mastery of each and every track beyond the bounds of mortal knowledge. Being good at Trials Rising takes hours of practice. Being good at Trials Rising’s multiplayer requires that you have an intimate knowledge of three tracks that seven other players race at the exact same time. It might be fun for some but it couldn’t be me. The same goes for the customisation options.
The new addition of stickers now allow you to decorate your Rider and Bike as if My Chemical Romance never broke up or that your Rider moonlights as a JD Sports model. The only bit of customisation I appreciated was the vocal options for the Rider. I went with the dramatic option so that he’d let out an ear-splitting bellow every time he finished a track in a flaming wreck – which happens way too often for Trials to be a real world career path.
Trials Rising is too focused on grinding to ever truly be able to fly. Those few moments in the air are breathtaking however. It’s tracks are things of complicated beauty and its time trials are maddeningly addictive. I was sweating buckets as I shaved tenths of seconds off to get that ever-elusive gold. It’s just a shame that it’s contracts mode never lets you leave the ground for very long before dragging you back down to earth. Like the Ubisoft’s The Crew 2 before it Trials Rising is a fun game with a very not fun method of grinding tying it down.