Can confirm: Trials Rising is definitely a Trials game. You ride a variety of bikes through some of the most absurd, seemingly impossible obstacles and tracks imaginable, carefully balancing your drivers’ weight distribution and acceleration. Usually, completing a track ends in a ridiculous, over the top death, but that doesn’t make the physics-based journey feel any less rewarding.
If you’re a particularly hardcore Trials fan, you might notice some very subtle improvements to handling and precision, with the developers telling me it’s simply “polished to perfection”. For anyone else who has more casually played any of the Trials games, you know exactly what you’re in for, and it’ll feel just as smooth as it always has. There are some innovations to be had, though, with a lot of it focused on fostering competition, both online and offline.
When it comes to online connectivity, a new mode called ‘Challenger Mode’ will automatically match you up with another player who’s skill level is similar to yours. This system will have you challenge their Ghost, and for those who’ve played Trials before, it’s intended to remove the step where players would have to go to leaderboards and manually do this themselves. Beating a certain amount of Challengers in a row will net you rewards, but it’s mostly just a really good way to keep people playing, and addicted to the competition. The developers told me on-boarding – that is, bringing in and retaining new players – is really important to them, and this seems like a smart way to do it. At the very least, that kind of competition with my friends list is probably what got me so hooked to the Trials games in the first place, and expanding that to more naturally include other players globally only increases the competition.
The single-player campaign now more prominently features sponsors, who’ll give you contracts on certain tracks, which is sort of an extension on a system used in Fusion. They’re pretty simple, sometimes asking you to beat a certain person, do a number of flips, or use a specific bike, and you’ll be awarded if you meet your goal. Sponsors tie in with a significantly more in-depth customization menu, allowing players to unlock decals, stickers, clothes, and more, which can even be uniquely colorized to match. Everything you create in the customization menu can be shared online, too – not only will other players see how you look when you’re racing them online, but you can also share your exact designs on ‘Gear Central’ so other players can enjoy them as well. The track editor is back, too, and while the developers assured me it has been significantly updated, I actually wasn’t able to see it for myself, or get any more information.
The game is actually set on a much more standard ‘Earth’ than the last few games in the series, and will have tracks focused on popular landmarks around the world. From the pyramids of Egypt to the Eiffel Tower to New York City, you can expect some variety in countries and continents. The coolest thing about the tracks isn’t actually their locations, but how the difficulty of the track ties into their appearance. If you’re playing on an easy track, it’ll be shambled together with wooden boards and make-shift jumps, the likes of an amateur competition. As you get into the harder levels, you’ll see proper metal structures with elaborate wheels and rocket-powered platforms, fitting for pros. The choice to progress the aesthetic of tracks at the same rate as the difficulty is a nice touch, and I do want to mention that the difficulties aren’t tied to specific continents. That means there’ll still be a huge variety of tracks, with different weather, and different backgrounds, even if you’re sticking to medium difficulty.
Probably my favorite new addition is the Tandem Bike, where one player controls the weight on the back of the bike, the other on the front of the bike, and both control acceleration. If you’re both accelerating at the same time you’ll go full speed ahead, but sometimes that isn’t the best idea. In essence, it’s a really silly, fun co-op mode that requires a lot of smart communication, especially when it comes to the harder tracks. Honestly, Trials can get so tough that I can see this breaking up friendships harder than Mario Party’s star theft did, but in the demo I played, it was mostly just laughter.
Speaking of difficulty, Trials Rising had a significant focus on improving the game’s difficulty curve. Basically, they want the shift between Hard and Expert to feel less abrupt, and to have players actually feel like they’re slowly improving throughout the course of the game. They even brought on a Trials-specific content creator, who runs the YouTube channel ‘World of Trials’, to help design the game’s tutorials, since he has been making that kind of content on his channel for several years anyway. In fact, probably more than anything, the developers told me how important and valuable community feedback has been to them when it came to creating Trials Rising, and while a lot of PR teams tend to say that, I genuinely believe them.
That’s probably even why, for the first time, a Trials game is making it to the Nintendo Switch. The team told me Trials Rising plays “perfectly” on Switch, but they couldn’t tell me much more since the team is still hard at work on the game.
Alanah Pearce is a producer at IGN who felt a little insane when she asked Ubisoft employees if Trials would still have those ridiculous Skill Games. They said yes. You can find her on Twitter @Charalanahzard.