There comes a point in a series’ evolution when there seems like there’s nowhere to progress. Trials Rising adds a tandem bike, and chaos is renewed.
Having played Trials in the previous century, its progression from Java project to a fully-fledged Ubisoft franchise remains one of the most surprising stories in video games. I had the opportunity to see the next evolution in the series with Trials Rising at E3 2018, and while I didn’t get to try some of the customizations options, I did get to make a new friend on the bike.
For those who are unaware of this franchise, Trials Rising is a 2.5D racing game that applies difficult-to-handle physics of motocross biking with precarious natural and manmade obstacle courses. Failure is a constant, as you need to restart at one of the multiple checkpoints on a course if you either fall to your doom, hit your head on the ground or explode.
The goal of every offroad biking scrub is to make it big someday, and that’s the simple basis for the game’s campaign. You earn experience and medals for completing courses around the world, earning sponsorships on each for accomplishing difficult tasks. Some of these tasks include pulling off sick stunts or completing the course in a certain time limit.
True to the series’ style, Trials Rising is very difficult at its higher difficulties. Starting out in North American courses gives you a sense of overconfidence, as even someone like me who hasn’t played this series in a while could gain silver and gold medals. However, those European and Asian courses require you to pull out all the stops, including difficult maneuvers such as bunny hops from almost neutral and balancing out into unseen landing spots.
Earning those sponsorships helps you customize your character’s vehicles and clothing options, which plays into the ego of playing against others online. You can even compete against ghost characters when you’re offline, giving you a sense of how to accomplish the hardest jumps. Use anything you can get when you want to get that sweet helmet.
Though I didn’t get the opportunity to see custom-edited tracks and other maniacal machinations, I did get to try out a brand new mechanic to Trials Rising; a tandem bike. Playing alongside a producer for the game, we both shared responsibilities for handling and speed on a shared motocross bike, presenting a fun new challenge for local multiplayer.
Instead of giving the second player an “unplugged second controller for little brother” experience, both players split responsibilities for maneuverability at 50%. It makes those tougher levels near impossible, as even though you’re both trying to finish the course, it’s difficult to do expert maneuvers. Communication is key, and it only builds comradery once courses are completed.
That was enough for me to suggest there’s a compelling hook for Trials Rising, especially if you haven’t tried out the series in a while. It’s good to get back into the fundamentals for the first time since Trials of the Blood Dragon, which saw on-foot submachine gun levels and a totally rad art style.
It all comes down to how much you care for this style of game. There’s infinite replayability with online multiplayer, taking players across the world in a truly international tour. However, if you are easily frustrated at racing platformers that have an emphasis on difficult-to-handle physics, Trials Rising may not be for you. One thing’s for sure; the series isn’t slowing down any time soon.