Ever since Ubisoft promised to stop milking the Assassin’s Creed cash cow every year, they’ve had to turn to other concepts to put money on the table, but one thing I wasn’t expecting in today’s blood soaked triple-A title line up was a game about snow sports. They seemed to die out as a genre with the last console generation, until now. So, can a game about dicking around in the Alps compete with the Christmas season release schedule?
Steep boasts a huge open world map among snow covered mountains and forests, and it certainly delivers on that. The map is pretty enormous and spans several mountains each with their own variety of challenges and drop zones, although when you start out you only have a handful to choose from. In order to unlock more, you’ll have to get within range of them on the map and look at them through your binoculars, or leveling up will also unlock certain challenges and allow you to reach new areas. Once unlocked you can instantly travel to any drop zone or challenge from the map screen, which is preferable to having to commute around the mountain.
Which raises the question – does the game need to be open world? I thought long on this before I came to the conclusion that the open world aspect really doesn’t add much to the game. The only real incentive to explore is to unlock drop zones, but you can already see the locked ones on the map, so usually you just start from the nearest drop zone or challenge and paraglide until you’re close enough. Apart from that, I guess you could just explore the landscape, but once you’ve seen a bunch of virtual snow, trees and rocks, you’ve pretty much seen it all. There is the ability to create your own challenge runs on the map and share them online, but I had no real interest in doing that, and I don’t feel like crowd sourcing content from players like some kind of communist is a valid reason for such empty swathes of the map.
Included in the base game are 4 different sports, Paragliding, Snowboarding, Skiing and Wingsuit…ing? Each has their own unique challenges, and require vastly different play styles. Skiing and Snowboarding challenges include ground races, both open and checkpoint based, where players need to deftly navigate the landscape and its dangers while trying for the best time, or there are point based challenges where players earn points for doing tricks in mid air. Points for the wingsuit and paraglide challenges are earned by flying as close to the mountain as possible, and close calls with obstacles are what will net you the big scores. Likewise there are races for the flying sports too, where wingsuit races are incredibly fast paced and require fast reflexes, while paragliding is just… well kinda slow and boring actually. Each challenge has gold, silver and bronze scores, so if you’re anything like me you’ll find yourself constantly restarting so you can try and get the best score.
So what will completing challenges earn you? As well as unlocking different cosmetics for your gear and your rider, completing challenges will give you XP, and leveling up will allow you to take part in exclusive events. Always sponsored events too, and I’m not talking some pretend sponsors that only exist in the game world, there are events hosted by Red Bull, The North Face, GoPro… damn, I wonder how much product placement revenue they’re making off this game? Makes you wonder why they have such an extensive DLC plan as well. Included in the DLC, which I haven’t played but wouldn’t pay for on top of the full release price, are a range of exclusive cosmetics as well as 3 new sports, Rocket Wings, Base Jump, Speed Gliding. Yeah, they basically put all the most fun stuff behind an additional paywall.
While the challenges are super fun and provide a decent amount of hours of solid entertainment alone, everything else about Steep is just shallow. The unlockable gear is purely cosmetic and there are no differences to stats, the open world isn’t satisfying to explore, the paragliding is dull, and that all just really dampens my socks.