STAFF REVIEW of Trials Rising (Xbox One)

Thursday, March 21, 2019.
by Adam Dileva

Trials Rising Box art If I had to guess, I’d probably wager that I’ve sunk at least a few hundred hours into the original Trials on Xbox 360. I absolutely fell in love with it and its challenging physics based gameplay. I became quite good at the time, mastering the hardest tracks, but as the sequels eventually came one after another, I simply lost my interest. For me, it seemed like the Trials series was simply trying to cater to the super hardcore, making extreme tracks that even frustrated myself, with many I couldn’t bring myself to complete.

It seems developers RedLynx have gone back to the drawing board to figure out what made Trials so much fun initially, and have essentially gone back to their roots with Trials Rising. While it may not have the same sparkle it did back in the day, I’m excited again to be sinking dozens of hours into Trials once again.

For those uninitiated, Trials is a dirt bike game where you need to simply make it to the finish line, but doing so is anything but. Physics are your biggest obstacle, as you’ll need to know when to lean back and forth, feather the gas, and how to react to the world around you. Controls are simplistic, as you lean with the Left Stick and use the triggers for Gas and Brake, but knowing how to balance and use the tricks to vault over objects and land properly is what separates the great players.

While there’s no real story campaign for the most part, your Trials career will take you across many tracks from all around the globe. From Hollywood movie sets, to Europe, to Cambodia and everywhere in between, you’ll see a ton of backdrops, each with their own unique style and feel. What Trials Rising does near perfect is ease newcomers into the game, gradually progressing in slightly more challenging levels as you go. In previous games, the difficulty would spike drastically early on, scaring away new fans, but Rising does it just right.

Now there are also classes you can take, teaching you the basics, and eventually much more complex and challenging skills you’ll need to master if you want to take on the most extreme courses. What’s done right about these lessons is that you’re not simply forced to reach the end, granting an A+, as you can tap out anytime you wish if you simply think you won’t be able to make it any further, giving you an appropriate grade based on how far you reached. You’re always welcome to go back and try again, seeing if you can earn those coveted A+ marks once you gain the skills necessary, something I’m still working on for a few of the challenging classes.

Trials is all about momentum. Sometimes you want to floor it and leap high as you can, other times, you’ll want little air as possible, to get more speed on a downhill slope or to land perfectly. Knowing when, and how, is what makes great Trials players, from numerous level repeats and practice. Track design in Rising is absolutely stellar and much more exciting this time around. Not only is there more ‘fluff’ with background action and explosions, but certain aspects of levels are designed so uniquely that they are a joy to play. For example, in the movie set stage, the background actually changes to a scene from the movie as you ride through it, or a level where logs slide down as you land on them, so you need to prepare your landing just perfectly and not go full throttle. Never once did a level feel unfair. If I had to restart, it’s because of my own mistake.

On the world map is where you’ll chose what race you want to participate in, and if a friend beats your time, there will be a notification to let you know so you can earn back those bragging rights. Finishing levels will earn you Bronze, Silver or Gold medals, and luckily, progress isn’t gated on how many you’ve earned. Instead, you’ll eventually get to challenge yourself against the best of a league, and should you win all the heats, you’ll be able to move onto the next, usually upping the difficulty.

Sponsors will also pop up now and then, showing interest in your riding skills and give you objectives to perform during levels. Complete these objectives, like don’t fault more than 6 times or finish under a specific time, and you’ll be granted bonuses. Also, you’ll eventually be challenged to some one on one races against rivals, and if you’re able to beat them in all 3 races, you’ll earn a very special loot crate. Yes, Trials now has loot crates, but more on that shortly.

One of my favorite aspects from the first few Trials was its Skill Games. Here were a handful of minigames to simply have fun in and set records. The amount of time I put into the original long distance game is somewhat embarrassing, but I had a ton of enjoyment doing so. Over the years, the Skill Games never had that same special wow factor to me. Sure, they were fun, but nothing ever really felt special like those originals. The same goes here for Rising as well. They are included and unique, like Basketball where you need to grab a ball after launching off your bike, then slam dunking into the net, but none of them had me going back for more.

The garage is where you’ll be spending a bit of your time, as this is where you can customize your rider and bike once you start opening your loot crates. Yes, every time you level up, you’ll earn a loot crate to open, each of which houses a random assortment of stickers, rider gear, bike parts, stickers, stickers or more stickers. Yes, the majority of what you earn will be stickers, which is quite a letdown. And to make things worse, you can get duplicate items as well.

Given that you can also spend real money on crates for Acorns, a separate currency, you could just buy the cosmetic items if you want, but the prices are quite disappointing and way too high priced for my liking. You’ll earn coins as you win races as well, and this can also purchase some gear for your rider and bike, but the coolest items are usually only purchasable with Acorns, so you can see where I started to get a bad taste in my mouth.

You’ll earn jackets, shirts, pants, helmets, gloves, shoes and more for your rider, able to customize just how you wish. And for your whips; tires, rims, body kits, headlights and more are at your disposal as well. You can even spend your hard earned gold on poses and emotes for the lobbies before and after races, but again, the coolest ones aren’t purchasable with simply gold, only Acorns. Even if the top tier items were purchasable with gold, you don’t earn them quickly enough and will struggle to get your bank roll up if you want to purchase many.

There’s an online multiplayer component, but I found it by accident while navigating the menus. I had a lot of fun challenging myself to others online, and should add some longevity for Rising. Oddly enough, the Private Multiplayer is greyed out and is still simply “coming soon”. Why this launched without this included, I’m not sure, but an ETA at least would have put some fears to rest. There’s local co-op should that be your thing when friends are over, and you can customize your races to your heart’s desire, but where the real hilarity comes in is with the new Tandem Bike.

The newly added Tandem Bike is for two players to play simultaneously, both controlling a single ride. Given that everything is shared, from the acceleration, braking and steering, you better be in sync with your partner or it’s not going to end well. While I’ve yet to have someone over yet that is on the same wavelength as my own Trials skills, this could be an absolutely hilarious party game in itself, though prepare many swear words at your friends beforehand, as some will most certainly come out when they can’t pull their own weight.

Trials Rising looks absolutely gorgeous. The series has come a long way since its humble beginnings, and while the visuals themselves aren’t anything spectacular, what does look amazing is the overall aesthetic and level design. Again, the level design here is simply flawless, and there’s and endless amount of small details I’ve noticed that most will pass by, as they are simply trying to reach the end. The audio goes hand in hand with a suitable soundtrack that sets the tone without becoming overbearing or annoying.

Trials really is the “one more time” formula, and Rising makes it even harder to put the controller down. Rising is simply a refined experience of the Trials formula, and I’m excited to see how newbie friendly it’s become, yet holds a ton of opportunities for veterans that want to challenge themselves. RedLynx has found a great balance of accessibility versus catering to the hardcore.

While new players will surely hit a wall of difficulty at some point, it’s never unfair and simply requires you to learn the appropriate skills to overcome the hurdles. I’m so excited that Trials is back to where it once was and I wish I could count the times I’ve said “only one more try” repeatedly, I just wish the loot boxes and microtransactions didn’t feel so tacked on.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.5 / 10


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