The Trials series is a long running physics-based motocross franchise that is part puzzler and part masochism incarnate. Trials Rising is the latest entry in this challenging franchise, and it asks players to guide their custom motocross rider through exceptionally dangerous courses. By accelerating properly, leaning, and praying for good luck, you’ll speed your way across some of the globe’s most impressive locations. The Trials franchise has always been about ridiculous slapstick humor, bright colors and explosions, and a hefty dose of challenge. Trials Rising continues that trend by offering players a slew of interesting courses based on real-world locations, combined with its notable custom track editor and multiplayer. If you count the original Flash games on PC, Trials Rising is the sixth entry in the Trials franchise. Does it do enough to keep the series feeling fresh, or is this a tough title that’s not worth the effort?
Familiar but Fun
Although Trials Rising changes some of the trimmings, the core experience remains the same. Using a handful of different motorcross bikes (and even pedal-based bicycles), you must navigate through obstacle courses of rising difficulty. Controls are wickedly simple to pick up, but there’s a lot of nuance in balancing your character, properly accelerating and braking, and landing. You’ll never have to worry about turning, switching lanes, or dodging other players. Each level is a pure test of skill; your ability to handle the bike of your choosing versus the stage’s deadly obstacles. Depending on how you perform, you’re awarded either a bronze, silver, or gold medal. There are a few variations in gameplay, including skill-based mini-games, tutorials, and the new Stadium events. You can also hop online and battle against other players in a few multiplayer modes. To top it all off, there’s a robust level editor that lets you create your own tracks and share them online. The Trials series has a pretty dedicated fan base, so you can safely assume that a boatload of tracks will be created in no time.
The raw gameplay of Trials Rising is just as fun as it has ever been. If you’re a glutton for punishment, or really enjoy a satisfying challenge, the Trials franchise is a must-play. It’s really easy to get sucked into the “one more try” mentality, as you spend hundreds of attempts trying to complete the more difficult stages. Besides the occasional technical hiccup, Trials Rising runs well and feels great to play. For better or worse, there’s nothing too complex about the concept of Trials Rising. It’s a game you’ll have to practice at if you want to improve, but it’s consistently rewarding at the same time. Whether you’re playing the new single-player campaign, racing online, or playing user-created tracks, Trials Rising feels fun to play. Unfortunately, a few of the changes that Trials Rising brings aren’t exactly improvements. That said, the act of flipping your bike and completing levels remains fun and exciting, despite the handful of setbacks.
Around the World
When selecting a level, you now choose from an overworld map that spans the entire globe. Various levels are dotted at real world locations, taking you from the heights of Mount Everest to the valleys of California. In the past, Trials stages were a combination of crazy obstacle courses and fantasy settings. Trials Rising keeps that flare of fantasy but infuses it into notable places in the real world. The grounded nature of the stage design keeps things from getting exceptionally crazy, but there’s still plenty of intense action as you blaze through levels. Things start out easy enough, with a slew of beginner and easy stages scattered around the United States. Intermediate stages are located around Europe and Asia, and the hardest challenges are littered around the globe. Levels are unlocked in batches, with side locations for skill games, tutorials, and other activities.
Trials Rising handles its progression different than before, offering a slightly altered experience that is both rewarding and frustrating. To open up more stages, you have to complete various “leagues” and increase your driver level. Experience can be earned by finishing stages, or completing a slew of objectives tied into the new “Contracts” mechanic. As you rank up, you’ll unlock new “sponsors”. These characters will task you with completing various objectives on certain stages, such as performing a number of flips, finishing without faulting, and beating rival times. In addition to driver experience, completing contracts rewards you with in-game currency and exclusive cosmetic items.
The contracts system and driver experience are interesting mechanics that provide decent replayability, but it’s a double-edged sword. Veteran players who might want to skip to more difficult stages will first have to grind through hours of easy and medium difficulty stages, with occasional level repeats. Levels unlock at a good pace initially, but there’s a noticeable grind around level 50. Instead of simply opening up the final handful of levels, you are forced to grind through multiple driver levels by repeating stages. Trials Rising is one of the easier Trials titles too (with some exceptions), so this might make the grind more tedious for seasoned players. While I had fun replaying stages with new vehicles and attempting contract objectives, I occasionally grew frustrated and wished that more levels would unlock.
Crates of Style
Trials Rising handles most of its cosmetic items via loot crates, which you can earn by leveling up and purchasing them in the store. Crates contain a variety of cosmetic-only items, including biker gear, parts for your vehicles, and custom stickers. Each item has a rarity associated with it as well, so those inclined can spend plenty of item (and potentially cash) hunting down all the legendary loot. Each piece of loot also has an associated price with it, so if you find yourself with a duplicate, you can quickly sell it off for Trials coins to use in-game.
During my time with the game, I earned a heap of crates, and spent a decent amount of time customizing my character. Despite opening over 50 crates, I kept running into the same handful of duplicate items. Although I eagerly anticipated new taunts or emotes, I kept receiving duplicates of common shirts, jackets, shoes, and tire skins. There’s not a huge pool of items to earn, so you’ll run into duplicates quite often. However, each piece of gear can be fully customized with the stickers you’ve earned, and you can switch the color palette of an item without restriction.
In all fairness, Trials Rising keeps all the loot crate content purely cosmetic, so there’s no play-to-win factor. However, it’s a bit disappointing to see the mass majority of gear confined to the loot crate formula. You can unlock a decent amount of items by progressing through the game, and leveling up is quick (so you’ll earn plenty of loot crates). It’s fun to unlock the crates and obtain a taunt or sticker you’ve been hoping for, but in 2019, the loot crate mechanic feels unwarranted.
The Look of the Ride
Since Trials Rising has a heavy emphasis on multiplayer and leaderboard competition, you’ll see other player’s avatars popping up quite often. During loading screens, at the results page, and scattered throughout other modes, you’ll encounter the custom characters of players across the board. This gives you an incentive to tweak your rider’s appearance, as you’ll want to appear as stylish as possible when flaunting your victory. Aside from the loot crate aspect of cosmetics, the ability to craft your own personal rider is full of fun tweaks and options. There are a slew of colorful helmets, shirts, pants, and accessories to equip. You can further accessorize by changing out parts on your various vehicles, plastering them with stickers and decals.
A big part of the Trials Rising experience is forming your character and pushing them through grueling trials and tribulations. It’s all a bit morbid when viewed from afar, but it’s hard not to laugh when your purple-skinned avatar flies through the air ablaze after an unfortunate scrape with a ring of fire. Trials Rising is consistently over-the-top and ridiculous in its design, and this extends to the customization options.
After being disappointed with the items I was getting out of crates, I spent some time making sprucing up my avatar. I spent a few minutes crafting my own t-shirt, customizing a face mask, and placing stickers on various items. After a few play sessions, the game glitched and replaced all of my customization with the standard presets. Stuck in a perpetual load cycle (even now, hours after encountering the glitch), I have no way to modify the items further. It’s not a huge deal, but it’s a pretty big disappointment to have all your creative efforts thrown down the drain. If the rest of the cosmetic options were more varied or enjoyable, I probably wouldn’t have such an issue with losing my work. That said, I didn’t find myself compelled to redo the 20 minutes of re-painting and sticker placing, so perhaps it wasn’t really that fun in the first place.
Trials Rising has a soundtrack that’s an eclectic mix of electronic music, alternative rock, post-hardcore, hip-hop, and everything between. A good chunk of the track list is either rock or metal, but there’s an occasional drum ‘n bass or pop track thrown in for good measure. The variety in genres is appreciated, but the overall quality is lackluster. There aren’t any noticeable modern hits or classics, as most songs are just a hodgepodge of guitar riffs, bass lines, and driving rhythm. It’s decent music for the gameplay, but songs have a habit of getting repetitive quick. They’re catchy, but not always in a good way. I’m normally unaffected by underwhelming soundtracks, but Trials Rising stands out in some weird way. It’s like a soundtrack you would find in a late-franchise Tony Hawk game. There’s no real identity to the collection of tracks, resulting in an overly-produced sound that’s equally catchy and annoying.
The Bottom Line on Trials Rising
Trials Rising is an awkward game to recommend. It’s tons of fun to play, provides a good challenge, and has plenty of life and style. However, it takes a few steps back in terms of progression, character customization, and presentation. The last Trials game, Trials Fusion, felt like a more complete product. It’s true that Trials Rising brings Trials into the current gen, but I’m not sure that’s a great thing. Lackluster cosmetic items are trapped behind an uninspired loot crate system, the changes to progression are hit-or-miss, and technical hiccups and glitches mar the overall quality. I’m sure that the technical issues will be fixed with time, but Trials Rising has problems that can’t be patched out.
If you’re a brand new face on the Trials scene, Trials Rising isn’t a bad place to start. The tutorials are fantastic at teaching new players the complexities of controlling the bike, and the stages are all fresh and fun to play. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of tracks fall in the easy or medium difficulty range. Unfortunately, I don’t think Trials Rising will have the staying power that Trials Fusion did. In some ways, it feels like Trials has lost a bit of its charm. It’s still loads of fun to play, and the various user-created levels ensure you’ll always have a new stage to try. At the asking price of $25, Trials Rising offers plenty of value too. Ultimately, it’ll be the franchise veterans that are the most disappointed by the changes in Trials Rising. For everyone else, it ends up being a fun and serviceable arcade experience with a few annoyances.