Riders Republic Accessibility Review
Can you play Riders Republic as a disabled player? Yes. Probably. Though probably not if you are blind or have low-vision. Will disabled players want to play Riders Republic with all its unnecessary barriers and vastly different play experiences from our abled peers? Well, I not super keen on games that make me feel bad about the state of my hands, so I for one, do not.
Score6 out of 10
- Resizable subtitles with adjustable background
- Remappable controls
- Low contrast map
- Very little guidance in opening hours of the game
- Players rewarded for having good dexterity and timing
- Small UI text
- Helpful VO lacking subtitles during world expoloration
Steep meets The Crew 2 in this fun new release from Ubisoft. Unfortunately, a disappointing lack of the accessibility we’ve come to expect from Ubisoft makes Riders Republic one of the most disappointing releases this year.
As a huge fan of both 2016’s Steep and the open-world playground in 2018’s The Crew 2, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Riders Republic, the new open-world extreme sports playground that seemed like a perfect marriage of the two games. Unfortunately, after a few hours spent in the could-be extreme sports paradise, I was left feeling bad about myself and my slow reflexes and unable to play the game without my hearing aids in.
On the first launch, you’re presented with the usual options in Ubisoft games. You’re prompted to turn off menu narration, as it’s on by default, and there are limited options for things like subtitles which default to on.
Unfortunately, the default subtitles, which are your only choice until you get beyond the intro cinematics and tutorials, are fairly small and a bit hard to read in places, even with there being a default background.
Players are also prompted to choose control styles from Racer and Trickster. Players are encouraged to choose Racer at the start and the narrator explains that this gives you camera control and “more comfort” in launching tricks.
As in every Ubisoft game released in the last year or so, controls are fully remappable. The choice for trick control between Racer, Trickster, and Steep, a legacy control method from Steep, is nice but that thing I mentioned about the game making me feel bad about myself? Yeah, it’s because of this. Players are rewarded for having good dexterity, being able-bodied, really, with bonus XP.
What do I mean by that? If you’re playing with Racer controls, which allow you simplified trick launching and landing, you don’t get any bonus XP and the game reminds you of this at every single event. If you choose Trickster, which requires precise timing and dexterity with a controller, you do get bonus XP and therefore better gear faster and fun new events and sports unlocked faster.
While this isn’t necessarily punishing disabled players because you’re not penalized for using Racer control, being reminded every single time I compete in an event that I’m not dexterous enough to get bonus XP certainly doesn’t feel good or make me want to keep playing the game. I get it, I have slow lupus hands, enough.
Why is any bonus XP even necessary? Can’t all players just play the game and progress, oh, I don’t know, by winning races and scoring regular XP?
Subtitles are, surprisingly, another area in which Riders Republic fails.
While the size and background are customizable once you get beyond the opening cinematic and the largest option is nicely large, open-world exploration is entirely lacking subtitles. And the dialogue here isn’t simply useless chatter. Dialogue cues any time you are exploring the world outside of an event and you are nearby a stunt spot, collectible, or other points of interest. And none of it is subtitled. See the two videos below (which I purposely did not caption).
All stunt spots and collectibles are shown on the map but this feels like an everyone or no one situation. Everybody gets to benefit from the helpful VO instructions or get rid of them entirely and make everyone rely on only the map icons.
Riders Republic is a LOT and that’s by design. It’s supposed to have that “do anything you want, go anywhere you want” feel. And that’s fine but some optional guidance would be much appreciated. My biggest cognitive issue is that I spent two hours doing snow sports because that’s where the intro and tutorials lead you and then they abandon you until level 20.
Players start with bike events and after a few of those, you’re automatically prompted to snow sports. This led my brain to understand that this progression—play a sport until you’re prompted to play the next sport—was how new sports are unlocked and eventually I would be led back to bike event progression to further that career level.
I was not led back to my bicycle. I lept around in the snow, yeeted myself down mountains, skied badly for two hours because that’s where new events kept coming up. I am not pleased to report that at any time, I could have just gone back to bicycles to progress that career line and unlock new events that way.
I have no idea how more sports are unlocked because with my slow-because-I-have-lupus-hands XP earning is making it take forever and I just don’t want to keep going while contending with all the unnecessary barriers that are present.
As usual, I will preface this by saying vision accessibility is not my area of expertise, so what follows is not an assessment of how blind and low-vision players will experience so much as it is pointing out some things that may make the experience more difficult.
The map can be zoomed in and out on to a pretty nice extent, however, it is still rather low in contrast with no high contrast options which left me, with decent vision, struggling to read things. The icons and text on them are also quite small and difficult to read.
One of the things I love about Riders Republic is that players can visit virtual recreations of real-world icons. Like my avatar here with General Sherman, the largest living tree (and organism!) in the world. I’ve visited General Sherman in real life and it was nice to be able to revisit those memories thanks to a video game.
The game also teaches you about the cool landmarks you can visit in-game! But the text for those educational bits is tiny and half of it is lacking in contrast. So again, it’s good stuff for some but not everybody.
Can you play Riders Republic as a disabled player? Yes. Probably. Though probably not if you are blind or have low vision. Will disabled players want to play Riders Republic with all its unnecessary barriers and vastly different play experiences from our abled peers? Well, I’m not super keen on games that make me feel bad about the state of my hands, so I for one, do not.
A review copy of Riders Republic was provided by the developer / publisher.