Trials Rising Review (PlayStation 4)

- Gaming

Trials is one of my favorite game franchises, and I’ve sunk many hours into Trials HD, Trials Evolution, and Trials Fusion. They’re a fun set of motorcycle racing games and aren’t realistic at all, but knowing how to control your bike is essential to clearing tracks beyond the initial beginner selection in each game.

I anticipated Trials Rising so much that I actually bought it at full price when it came out. I’ve put it through its paces, and it’s… interesting… yeah, we’ll go with that.

My rider in Trials Rising is stuck in the ground.

Gameplay

Trials Rising, the latest game in the series, is a ‘return to roots’ in some ways. The two most recent Trials games added new features with fairly poor results. Trials Fusion introduced a buggy trick system that made it difficult to actually perform tricks, and Trials of the Blood Dragon was introduced platforming segments. Yes, platforming in a Trials game. Trials of the Blood Dragon was insane! I’m glad that Trials Rising discards both of these: the gameplay is mostly pure racing and is excellent. Controlling your bike feels easier than it did in Trials Fusion, and I like the amount of control that it gives you.

The track selection is great. There’s a large number of easier tracks (possibly more than previous titles, but I’m not sure), but they’re fun to blast through and eventually give way to more difficult areas. Like Trials HD and Trials Evolution, The tracks mostly take place in exaggerated real-world environments. While I preferred the sci-fi, “anything goes” style of Trials Fusion, the levels in Trials Rising are still entertaining to play and look at.

Tutorial levels are a staple of Trials games (at least all the way back to Trials HD), but I felt like they never really served a purpose until Trials Rising: this game gets it right by having topic-specific tutorials and voice-over narration from FatShady (known for the University of Trials YouTube channel). The videos that play before each tutorial level are very helpful, and explained a thing or two that I didn’t know about even after playing these games for years. (No, I didn’t know about FatShady’s channel prior to Trials Rising. It probably would have helped me while playing previous games.)

Everything Else

I like everything about Trials Rising’s core gameplay. I just wish that there was more polish in everything surrounding it.

In a first for the franchise, Trials has loot boxes for cosmetics. And the implementation is disappointing. The basic crates that you get for leveling up are quick to give duplicate items, and item rarities seem to mean nothing because I’m level 90 in the game and still see new “common” items come out of these boxes. The superior crates that you get for beating challenges isn’t much better, and the first one gave me common items that I already had, and I had to pay in-game currency to re-roll it to get something remotely interesting. Fun!

Tying into these loot box cosmetics is a new ‘inventory’ system that holds all of your cosmetic items. The idea is that you can have multiple, duplicate items that have different stickers or colors. It’s a great idea that’s executed poorly by Trials Rising. Items are sorted by type with no way to quickly see which ones you’ve modified. On top of that, my account is plagued by a glitch that duplicates arbitrary items.

Trials Rising has an in-game store where you can buy community-submitted items. I’ve seen a few cool items for sale, but, yet again, the implementation is rather weak. Sometimes, the store won’t load any items. I’ve also seen objectionable items being shown under the Highlights section, but I think that the developers are at least making an effort to curate content. When I went to the in-game one day, I saw more than a few items resembling a certain political red cap (you know the one) in the Highlights section. But those specific items seem to be deleted now - I searched for them while writing this review - so they seem to respond to user reports.

Speaking of curation, Trials Rising features a selection of licensed music. The soundtrack itself is a mix of rock, metal, and rap - sort of like the music featured in Tony Hawk games from THPS4 to THUG2. But I found that repeated often, and the game provides no way to disable individual tracks, shuffle, or even skip the current song.

While I’m complaining, I should mention that I can’t access Track Central at all. Others can, and I have no idea what’s going on.

So far, these problems have workarounds. You can sell duplicate items, avoid the rider shop, turn off the music, and ignore Track Central. But the game’s biggest fault game can’t be avoided: unlocking tracks in Trials Rising requires you to grind experience points.

In previous games, you unlocked tracks by getting a certain number of medals (just beating them was enough in Trials of the Blood Dragon). But Trials Rising requires you to go through this loop:

  1. Play tracks (preferably ones with open challenges) until you earn enough experience to reach a required level
  2. Beat the three ‘stadium finals’ tracks by placing 4th, 2nd, then 1st on each successive track
  3. Unlock the next set division of tracks along with a “all three tracks” version of the stadium finals
  4. Repeat

If you don’t get enough points from beating the new levels to unlock the next set (and you probably won’t), you will have to replay tracks that you’ve previously beaten to grind experience. It’s essential to play tracks with optional challenges as they greatly boost the amount of experience that you get from playing. This challenge system initially added a bit of variety, but then I realized that they often involve doing backflips and frontflips, getting a medal, or using a specific bike. Few of them are memorable, and most felt like a chore to get through.

Most of the descriptions for these challenges seem to be computer-generated, repeat a lot, and are occasionally buggy:

Screenshot of a challenge in Trials Rising that uses placeholder text.

These challenges are associated with a difficulty ranking, but I found that the difficulty assigned had nearly nothing to do with how hard they actually are. I quickly beat one Extreme-level challenge but found another Extreme-level challenge that was appropriately difficult.

After what may be a lengthy grind, you get to play the stadium finals tracks. These seem to be levels that were built with multiplayer in mind but are included in the single-player. For the most part, these are a whole lot easier than the proceeding tracks, and I had little trouble with beating each track.

Beating the “all three tracks” version of the stadium finals is a different story. AFAIK, you have to get first place in all three tracks in a single try. If you place second, it’s all the way back to the first level. And I think these have you compete against special ghosts because the #1 ghost makes very few mistakes, making it difficult to beat the first track, and the second track is downright impossible for me. I’m not bad at these games; these ghosts are just that hard to beat.

Initially, the “all three tracks” thing seems like a bonus challenge. But I found out online that you actually have to complete a specific three-track gauntlet to unlock the final “Grand Finale” track. As far as I know, the game gives no indication that you need to do this, which would be pretty lame.

The good news is that you can sometimes unlock tracks for no known reason. Recently, I looked at the track selection screen and saw Extreme-level tracks. No notification, no fanfare, nothing.


My Trials Rising rider attempting to look cute despite the large helmet and full-face mask.

These problems drag down what could have been a superb game, and many of the problems may be fixed with a patch along the way. The developers have already issued a patch that fixed a PS4-specific problem where the game crashed on launch and corrupted my save. And it sounds like a future patch will allow you to unlock a league’s stadium finals by doing well on its tutorial.

But right now, Trials Rising shows promise, and I hope that it becomes a great game after all of its wrinkles are ironed-out.

Score: 3/5


This review was based on the PlayStation 4 version of Trials Rising. At the time of this review, only one update has been released for the game. I intend to revise this review with future updates.

Updates:

  • 3-30 - As it turns out, you have to get a certain number of bronze/silver/gold medals in previous Trials games to unlock levels. So I corrected that and add an image that sites such as Twitter should be able to use.