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First off, Steep’s early access beta is a surprisingly thorough experience. The open world available is immense with quite a bit of drop zones to unlock and challenges to play. This a winter sports playground and really feels like it, especially with sponsors like Salomon and Red Bull heading some of the challenges. There are four winter sports events available: skiing, snowboarding, paragliding and wingsuit, though the skiing and snowboarding challenges are mostly interchangeable. There is a game narrator who represents the player’s coach (or perhaps agent–is that who you call it in the sports world?) who finds players the next quest or mission so as to build rep and move up in the ranks. This makes the game sort of feel like a racing game, like Need For Speed, but with no cops. It is as much a solo campaign as a multiplayer game all meshed into one.
Steep has a lot going for it, with the wide open world giving it the most promise. If the beta is this extensive, just image the new places to discover upon full release in early December. It’s going to be huge. Next, for players who like to tinker, there is solid character customization that you can tweak with the accumulated Steep currency. Whether it is winter gear from clothing or accessories to the equipment itself, they can all be upgraded or changed to the player’s heart’s content. Lastly, the world itself is just darn pretty. There’s flexibility in changing the seasons and features plenty of different mountains with an in-game camera that revolves well enough around to capture it all. So that leaves challenges, and there’s no shortage here.Most are set in different times of the day or night, with one, for example, a specific event set after the sun went down that had us following a rider while being told the story of the mountain.
But how’s the skiing? Well, good. Most importantly, the player is rewarded for both free riding and exploring as well as completing challenges. There are multiple types of challenges on tracks, ranging from points accumulated by doing tricks to time trials. On top of that, free rides can also be turned into a custom challenge for other players, which also helps increase player rep and levels up the character to open up new areas and events. This flexibility also translates to events that both very much follow a recommended trajectory but also have checkpoints that the player has to cross in order to continue the challenge to prevent any cheats or obvious shortcuts, along with and some other with whatever path the player chooses as long as they reach the finish line.
To be sure, Steep is not without its flaws of course. This is early access and bugs are inevitable. The most obvious we encountered was getting stuck in fences and rocks frequently and because so, forced to restart an event. That does become frustrating. In terms of gameplay, snowboard and skiing are definitely more polished than paragliding and wingsuit events. Perhaps it’s trying to match the level of reality of those sports being so hard to master, though we are no authority having never tried. Paragliding is arguably the one with the most issues, not only with maneuvering but with a vague description for using. It could have benefited from a more substantial “First Ride Together” tutorial portion. The wingsuit however did have some help but it is still one that is truly hard to master especially when it requires quite a bit of soaring close to the ground to gain points in something called “Proximity Flying.” It does merit quite a few laughs though in this knocked-out moments when your face meets rock. Another little feature is that the player can toggle between first and third person, however, we only played in third person as the first person got a little too queasy.
Overall, Steep is a fun winter playground experience, despite being a teaser. It has a lot to offer whether it is the environment or the customization. The challenges and events are plentiful. There’s lots here to get that adrenaline pumping, with the snowboard by far the most fun to play simple because it is the most polished. It still has issues of, including too small a time frame to achieve certain tricks, however, the issues lie mostly with the paragliding and wingsuit which hopefully will be patched upon full release.
Steep releases on December 2nd on Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC.