Whether you are an old fan of extreme sports like me, or have been locked in the house for too long during the ongoing pandemic, Republic of the Cavaliers brings a virtual breath of fresh air to the MMORPG genre. In Republic of the Cavaliers you’ll be able to take in some fresh air, trails and powder with a range of extreme activities, but not all is shredder heaven.
Ubisoft Anecy, the studio behind Republic of the Cavaliers is not an amateur when it comes to creating extreme sports games. Soak, a popular open-world winter sports game, was also developed by the studio, which essentially paved the way for the game that thousands of players are now testing. In many ways, Republic of the Cavaliers is simply a continuation of Soak, with its extreme pack that included the Rocket Wingsuit, but with a much larger map, and the inclusion of mountain biking. In each of the extreme sports of cycling, skiing or flying, players will be able to create and advance their careers on 6 distinct paths, which are divided between racing and freestyle (tips). In the beta, the career options were extremely limited and after a few short games in each of the career paths, I was informed that I had reached the limit of what I could accomplish.
Extreme gameplay for extreme sports
As a former extreme sports enthusiast, it is very important for me to reproduce the feeling of intense activities fueled by adrenaline. In many cases, Republic of the Cavaliers has managed to provide substantial excitement in most of the activities you participate in. Hitting dangerous mountain trails against a dozen other racers is a thrilling experience, although for most of your initial runs it will just be AI reenactments of other players’ matches. This means that if you get beaten by one of the ghost players in your single player match, it’s not really a computer getting the most out of you, it’s actually another player’s previous run.
Most sports modes are a lot of fun. All over the map are landmarks where you will start your match, divided by the types of sports available. There are special Shackdaddy challenges that use specialized equipment, for interesting and often wacky games that can be quite entertaining. Matches can be played solo or against other players, through races or tower battles, with massive races fielding 64 players to embark on a triathlon of bike, ski and flight, where most of the time chaos ensues. Apart from the structured races, there are stunts and panoramas to be discovered all over the world. Stunts are often difficult, but finalists will find them worth the time to master them to earn your stars. Earning stars and money is the majority of what you’ll compete for, with sponsorship contests and various open-world challenges available, in addition to multiplayer and career-based matches.
The most enjoyable sport, for me, has to be cycling. Not only did I find myself exceptional at bike racing, but mountain biking and even tricks felt more natural to me. The reasons probably revolve around being able to control my propulsion more precisely, allowing better speed control. Both skiing and snowboarding are great fun, but I found the controls to be far from precise for extended tricks ropes like I could on games like Tony Hawk Pro Skater. I even liked the gameplay of Rocket Wingsuit a lot, although the majority of it felt like an old school Superman 64 game, where you fly through rings with little fanfare. My favorite was the Wingsuit, without a rocket. The main purpose of this Wingsuit mode is to stay close to parts of the world such as trees, ground, etc., without touching them. If you stumble upon it, and you most certainly will, there is no propulsion to help you move forward and keep going. You end up having to rewind in real time and play it back before your crash. Balancing the altitude is also a huge pain in the Wingsuit and overall just not very pleasant. The funniest thing about the Wingsuit is watching new players equip it and crash it into the ground a few times as they try to figure out how to use it.
It’s a big world out there
Kudos to Ubisoft for their world view. Republic of the Cavaliers build their world by taking real elevation maps of iconic national parks and recreating them in 1: 1 scale, with a creative license added. Bryce Canyon in Utah and Yosemite National Park in California have never been closer, and somehow they made it all work in one huge world. In fact, after more than a dozen hours of playing, I still haven’t unlocked all parts of the map. In addition to your ability to cycle, ski or fly anywhere, Republic of the Cavaliers also provides alternative methods of crossing land in the form of a snowmobile and paramotor, which is a fan-powered parachute.
The world is beautiful. For an extreme sports game, there are times when I want to stop just to look around. I found myself racing through mountain passes, marveling at the mountains in the distance, as I inevitably make a forward jump over a river. Traveling through this huge world is not really lonely either. When you open the map, it looks more like an ant colony than a video game. Small white figures are depicted scattered around the world. As you hurtle down your favorite track, you are bound to be in the presence of several others, some of whom might inadvertently run into you. With so many players on the slopes at once, it feels like Republic of the Cavaliers is the hottest ski resort in the area.
It’s fun, until it’s frustrating
I look forward to the release of Republic of the Cavaliers. Career mode looks like it’s fun, although I don’t think Suki and Brett’s supporting characters are particularly interesting. Sometimes I just wanna go out into the world, play on an Offspring (which luckily is part of the soundtrack) and shred, and that’s where Republic of the Cavaliers really excels. Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that hindered my enjoyment of the beta. Right from the start, the tutorials and introduction really inspire you with every little thing that happens, and in many cases, you just can’t move forward. You’re basically grabbed by the hand through a few of the beginner races, but every time you complete a challenge there’s a long animation of new challenges unlocked pulling you out of what you’re doing. I found this particularly annoying, as all I wanted to do was replay the last event quickly if I happened to place myself poorer than I wanted.
There was also an extreme inconsistency in how your character reacted to the world and to other players. In one particular game that I have raced on several occasions called the Bob Races, where you ride a modified bike through a dangerous canyon, there was a particular rocky ramp area where half the time I was riding it normally. The other half of the time, I crashed into it, threw myself to the side or just fell, despite the same route and the same patterns. Likewise, in 64-player races, there were times when a small slap from another player would send me away from my target, pushing me around the checkpoint and forcing me to reverse, while d ‘other times I would be in a crowd of 10 other players and somehow whiz through uninhibited.
Between a plethora of challenges, a beautiful open world and a focus on extreme sports, Republic of the Cavaliers lands many more rounds than it fails, which is a good sign for players looking for a different kind of online gaming experience. The frustrations of inconsistent races or difficult challenge missions can sometimes be enough for players to put down their controller for a bit and take a break. It might be too early to tell if some of these features will be ironed out at launch, but for this fan of extreme sports, that’s by no means a compromise.