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Ubisoft's Massive Open-World MMO Steep, Early Impressions

During the last E3, Ubisoft surprised everyone at the end of their small conference by presenting Steep, a game part of a genre we believe was bound to disappear. This isn’t exactly surprising, considering that the first game fully developed by Ubisoft Annecy was a sliding game, combining skiing, snowboarding, and even paragliding. Regardless, it was quite an unexpected choice to close the event, but that made sense in a particular context.
 
It has been so long since we last heard of EA Sports Bigs that most probably forgot about it by now. It must be said that their last SSX title did not work well, commercially speaking, and is probably the failure that plunged the entire genre in the shadows. So logically, when Ubisoft announces Steep at the end of their E3 conference, eyebrows were raised. Especially since the game is developed by a small studio that was until now only known for its support work on various AAA Ubisoft titles, namely the multiplayer modes of the Assassin's Creed series. The Annecy studio cherished the idea of developing a game like Steep for years now, the team itself being composed of skiers and riders of all kinds. And thanks to different tools, developed for Ghost Recon Wildlands, the team finally had the means of its ambitions, and had all the greenlights towards an approval of the project lined up.

Ubisoft has a passion for the open world, that is a fact. With Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, Watch Dogs, The Crew, The Division, the publisher-developer likes to immerse the player in a world that they can explore however and whenever they wish to. The world of Steep is composed of several large mountains, which, while being distant by several hundred kilometers in the real world, are here glued to each other to form a vast playground. Mont Blanc, Tyrol, Matterhorn. It only takes you a few minutes in the game to realize how much the developers love the mountains. Each mountain has a different appearance, and requires a different approach. Gentle slopes, cliffs, exposed rocks, forests, glaciers, there's something for everyone. But above all, what we notice is that the developers have turned these mountains into real characters. From time to time, the mountains speak to players and reveal their personalities and history. Steep is then readily mystical, thanks to a soundtrack that sounds more and more natural, more pure. If a playlist of songs well known to the public can be heard at events such as challenges, the team had the good idea to use the concept of dynamic music for most of the free phases of the game. As such, exploring the world turns into a soothing and relaxing stroll.



The controls, be it when skiing, snowboarding or paragliding, are simple, and truly intuitive. However, this does not mean that the game forgets about the basic rules of physics. When paragliding, for example, you will need will take into account the sometimes complex concepts such as air currents. Same for the wingsuit, where each turn taken too wide will cause the character to lose some valuable altitude. Skiing and snowboarding will, however, be somewhat less forgiving, requiring players to be especially careful with the timing of their jumps.

The challenges are numerous and, since the game is hyper-connected, you will have regular opportunities to invite your friends to watch your exploits, beat your records or simply participate with you in the same event. In this, the game is flexible, although the overall interface and world map requires a little time to adapt.
 
Still, in the present state of things, Steep has chosen to focus on freedom, exploration, discovery and sharing. Perhaps at the expense of a real direction to give players, a purpose. The ultimate goal is to have the best reputation, which is represented on the screen and in the menu of the game through a small gauge and a series of numbers. If there is a global reputation, the players are left free to fill it as they please with several sub-reputations, which correspond to different ways of playing Steep. Whether it is exploring the world, performing tricks, beating speed records. This corresponds to different playstyles and the players’ freedom to express themselves as they see fit. The game also allows for some customization of the avatar (hats, coat, pants, skis, snowboard, wingsuit, etc. part of various sports brands).

Another point that would be difficult to forget the technical aspect. Ubisoft Annecy is not Ubisoft Montreal and clearly, Steep has not received a development team as large as that of the last Assassin's Creed. And it shows in the game. If the open world offers some pretty impressive panoramas, it's thanks to the artistic touch rather than the technical realization. On PlayStation 4, the textures have been said to be rather poor sometimes, which can affect how players calculate distances. There are also bugs where textures suddenly appear or disappear, greatly affecting certain challenges.
 
Conclusion
Steep was created by people who love, know and respect the mountains. And you can feel it. On the edge of mysticism and paganism at times, the game from Ubisoft’s Annecy put freedom and exploration in the limelight. Despite the presence of challenges, extensive social features, a great atmosphere and an undeniable technical appeal, Steep has no real guideline and perhaps lack of enticing more goals than just reputation gauge to climb . In fact, the game may divide because we do not doubt that some players will adhere to this philosophy.

7.4/10
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