It must be hard to improve on game’s core when that core is golden on the first run. Trials HD introduced the physics-based biking formula that has been, more or less, the standard for the series in the ensuing decade. Everything around that formula is where Ubisoft tries to push forward and is where Trials Rising seems to have put the most effort. While Trials Rising is still Trials, it looks to have the biggest and best suite of those extra extremities.
Cosmetic customization is where Trials Rising possibly makes its biggest impression. Almost every aspect about your rider can be tweaked, painted, or slapped with some other sort of impromptu mural. Stickers, helmets, jackets, bike parts, and more have an embarrassing amount of customization attached to them, which is where most of the game’s progression comes into play. Ubisoft Community Developer John Lloyd described how that became a big feature for the game.
“Customization was another big thing that we noticed was a strong desire among our playerbase to really be able to express themselves through their characters and through their bike,” he said. “So we really wanted to give them as much freedom as possible to make their character look how they wanted it to look.”
Trials Rising preview – Gearing up
From horse heads to Mad Max-esque apocalypse like gear, riders can take many different forms and that freedom is nice to have. The sheer volume is nearly overwhelming and it’ll probably still take a long time to earn everything through gear crates, coins, and from completing missions. It’s a common but decent carrot to dangle in front of the player.
And while you’ll get to probably make what you want to make with all the goofy, disparate pieces, its openness does make the game ripe for microtransactions. There are a few ways to get what you want, but there’s also a way to just buy them, which is a slightly unfortunate reality depending on how severely you dislike microtransactions.
Trials Rising preview – Switch it up
Showing off your weird horse creature on a bike isn’t as worth it unless you get to show it off in the multiplayer modes to all the other horse people on bikes. Party Mode is a new addition that lets local players run through a map together and place “bets” that the loser has to do. The bets are a bit silly like “do a little dance,” “eat something spicy,” or “burn down Greg’s house and join a cult in Alabama,” but they do no harm in existing. It’s simple but a neat mode for those wanting to quickly get into some local multiplayer action.
Despite being in every version of the game, this mode is almost tailor-made for the Switch as is the game as a whole. Rising is the franchise’s debut on any Nintendo platform and its pick up and play mantra meshes well with how Trials’ gameplay is best played in short bursts. Playing the PS4 Pro version right after playing the Switch port does show the console’s shortcomings as it looks a bit muddier and runs at a lower, but still entirely stable, frame rate. However, it matches the console and is something Lloyd described as a perfect fit for each party.
“Trials on the go was really exciting for us,” he said. “Of course, we’ve had mobile Trials before, Trials Frontier, but it was all touchscreen. It really makes big difference, that tactile feedback that you get from the controller. So we’re really excited to have a mobile Trials experience where you still have that core feeling of using a controller. Quick sessions, you can easily turn it on, fire it up, and play for a few minutes and then put it down.”
The event-riddled campaign makes this bite-sized approach more feasible but it’s also the base gameplay that just fits a bit more with the Switch. And that core gameplay is as faithful as it ever was, which is good thing. The physics-based foundation of Trials is nearly identical and finding ways to overcome the physical obstacles remains as pleasing as it ever was. Restarting to get the best score is also still as effortless and encouraged as you try and aim for that flawless, gold star run.
Trials Rising preview – Grounded
As with the rest of Trials Rising, the biggest improvement comes in the form of the parts around the gameplay. Stages are more realistic and dip into the fantasy only to augment the grounded parts that are already there. For example, riding through a slick movie set is cool but made cooler by seeing it come to live as killer robots begin to shoot you.
Science fiction stages didn’t quite work well in Trials Fusion and the stages here in Rising were exponentially more interesting and creative. Lloyd not only described how this was highly requested by fans, but also how important it was to keep the Trials foundation in tact while keeping the rest of the game fresh.
“The core gameplay is very important especially to our core players like many of whom have been playing Trials for a number of games,” he said. “It’s really important that we don’t touch that core gameplay too much. We can tune it a little bit here and there. We can add do some improvements to the physics and maybe make sure the bikes handle a little bit differently, a little bit better depending on your point of view.”
Lloyd’s assertion to not corrupt what has worked incredibly well in the past makes it a little easier to predict how Trials Rising will turn out, especially after playing the game for a few hours. Knowing that its solid base is mostly untainted is reassuring on paper but backed up by how similar it feels in practice. And while it may not be surprising after a multiple Trials games, the parts around it like the customization, new multiplayer modes, and improved tracks seem to streamline the experience enough to make it the ultimate Trials experience. It just might be a familiar one too.