If there's one thing that I'll never stop doing, it's drinking. The other thing is, every now and then, finding a song that suits whatever I'm writing about at that particular time. At this moment of time we've got Trials Rising and what could be more fitting than "Gonna be your man in motion, all I need is a pair of wheels". In Trials Rising all you need is a pair of wheels, a body so flexible it puts Reed Richards to shame and the ability to laugh and smile at something that is pure fun.
That's essentially what Trials Rising, and the Finnish developers RedLynx, are all about. Recently I got to see Trials Rising at Ubisoft's HQ and the first thing Antti did, when they said the word "rising", was get my notebook and write "I didn't see Batman". All I can say, Antti, is that you need to see the Christopher Nolan directed Dark Knight Trilogy.
Let's talk Trials Rising then. After the recent ventures to the alternate (Trials of the Blood Dragon) and the future (Trials Fusion), the series makes a return to the current world. It's what it does with the world that adds a whole new level to the series. Rather than working through a menu as before, you now have a world map of sorts. Each area has a stadium, with events that are directly linked to it. Think of it as a regional series, with the stadium then making up the best of the best. That makes the most sense as the stadium events pit you against other riders, pushing you to come out on top.
What I like the most about this trip around the world is the use of real locations in addition to ones that, while billed as being in one location, could be anywhere. That construction site that we just made a death-defying leap across? Sure, it says it's in the US. In reality, it could be anywhere. The Eiffel Tower we just climbed, using a bloody trials bike, that's definitely the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Same goes for the Pyramids of Giza and the Grand Canyon. Even if you're not directly riding up something, it makes for a lovely backdrop.
Essentially, that's what has boosted Trials Rising more than anything else. Aesthetically, it's the best looking Trials title yet. Sure, it's still a side-scrolling game where you speed along on a trials bike, but it's vivid, colourful and genuinely just looks great. This is particularly true when the more spectacular parts of the game happen. Maybe you're crashing through a glass window and plummeting down, maybe you're being propelled forward by a huge explosion. Maybe, just maybe, you're riding along falling debris, containers and more after jumping from a plane in the middle of the Atlantic ocean.
Another improvement has come with the gameplay itself. For the first time in the series, ghosts have been introduced to the game. Previously, all you would be able to see is a dot on a line showing the position of other players. This lets you know how you were doing, of course, but it never really offered any guidance. One of the best parts about ghosts in games - particularly those of other people - is that you can see their actions. In this case, you can see the style of a person, how they balanced themselves on a jump, how they landed. It can be an invaluable piece of advice.
Particularly so when you consider one other new feature is sponsors. Sponsors within the game will set you a task to complete and, should you do it, award you with some of the regular money found within the game. Sometimes the challenge may be as simple as finishing. Other times, you may have to kickflip the grind rail and get some sweet air, man. Wrong sport? Though in reality, the challenges will increase in difficulty as the stages do, them being rated on a 1 to 5 difficulty scale.
The advice given by ghosts is especially invaluable to me. I'm middling at best at the Trials games, often seeing myself crumple into a heap rather than actually land a jump. This was made abundantly clear when playing multiplayer with other people during the event. I finished fourth and fifth respectively, with the matches taking place over three races. Not only does it allow up to eight people racing against each other online, but the game also features up to four-player couch co-op.
If you've only got two players though, don't worry. Not only do you have the option of racing against each other to see who's best, one lucky person has the chance to be dragged down by me in the game's most interesting and downright insane new feature - tandem bikes. Honestly, I don't know if the physics were turned down when using a tandem, or the game just decided that it would ignore my input, but I found myself doing surprisingly well. Maybe the fact that I was slamming the brakes when we should be accelerating, or vice-versa, helped to stabilise us. I'm taking the credit!
The more astute of you will have realised I mentioned 'regular money' gained from sponsors. This is spent in the character customisation, which will let you create some sort of horrible nightmare beast to hopefully put off other riders you face online. This was my aim when I created a bloodthirsty unicorn-man, with sparkly hotpants, a lace vest and a shiny jacket with a certain videogame publishers logo over his nipples. Disturbingly, I wasn't the only person to think of that.
The character creation is surprisingly extensive, letting you modify a huge selection of clothing and accessories. It's impressive how wide it is, but it's also where I find myself disappointed in Trials Rising. Why? Loot boxes. It's no secret I hate loot boxes due to the random nature of them, which is essentially a form of gambling. You receive a crate every time you rank up, which contains three items. You can also buy them with hard currency, acorns, which is purchased using real money.
You can also purchase a respin with in-game currency if you don't like what you've got too, it remains to be seen how balanced this is. Also, some items can be bought outright using either currency, some are limited to a specific currency. Others are unlocked. I am curious if all items can be directly purchased or not.
Will the crates only contain items you don't have, or will there be duplicates?
It’s possible to receive duplicated items from the Gear Crates. However, each item is a canvas players can use to customize in different ways, and have them for the game mode they wish.
Also, players can always sell the non-needed items back to the store in exchange for Soft Currency.
This I have a problem with. As with all games featuring cosmetic loot boxes (I'm looking at you Overwatch), the rarity of items and multiple drops means you are going to be spending considerably more for a particular item you may eventually want, providing you can't outright buy a specific item. I will say fair play to Ubisoft and RedLynx for plainly answering the question though.
One other aspect I got a look at was the track editor. This looks as significant as ever, offering a mammoth amount of space to create a track, it's backdrops and everything else around. With over 8000 assets at your disposal, you'll be able to make it as simple or complex as you like. Best of all, moving between player-created maps will be easy and they are all cross-platform. Create one on your PC, play it on the Switch. Don't forget the PS4 and Xbox One too.
Trials Rising is genuinely looking like it could be the best game of the series yet. Yes, there are downsides such as the dreaded Loot Boxes. I would have much preferred direct microtransactions. In that situation, I would have barely covered them, but these gambling mechanics are sadly becoming a reality of the industry. Looking at the rest of the game though, and having played it on the PS4 and Switch, It really is something I'm looking forward to. We don't have long to wait either, as Trials Rising will be released on the 26th of February for the PC, PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.