I really commend what Ubisoft has tried to do with Steep. It’s original, immersive and promotes social play in an environment where you can either take part with friends in similar activities, or try to beat them. Steep is a celebration of all things related to winter sports, ranging from snowboarding to paragliding. This is a game that is screaming out for VR, but unfortunately for now we will have to stick to playing the game on a normal television. Steep is a sports game, but it’s probably the most immersive sports game that I have ever played. Yes, I get very immersed into a game of FIFA, but for all of the wrong reasons. I don’t get immersed into FIFA because I feel like I’m watching a real football match. I get immersed into it because I’m desperately trying to win. Steep however, immerses you into its world by hitting all of the right sensory nerves.
Steep promotes a social environment. It doesn’t have a specific campaign mode that forces you down a particular route. Instead, it’s a game where you get to define your own career and enjoy whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it. There’s no real end goal, apart from simply having fun and from time to time, competing in some challenges. You can take part in paragliding, wingsuit flying, skiing and snowboarding. They all have their own courses, although due to the nature of snowboarding and skiing, you can take part in events on the same courses for both. Steep rewards you for taking daring risks. Whether it’s wingsuit flying very closely to objects or narrowly missing rocks as you ski past them – the game will show its appreciation for your bold sporting nature. You also get points for pulling off skills, especially in places where you’re often having to avoid tall obstacles like trees and cliffs. You even get points for crashing spectacularly!
The issue I have with Steep is that it forces you at some point to have to play all winter sports, else you won’t have enough XP to unlock new courses and places. Once you have exhausted your time wingsuit flying, you will have to take part in other sports in order to earn enough XP. What if I just want to play the game to become a wingsuit specialist? I shouldn’t be forced into playing other sports modes if I don’t want to, but Steep doesn’t allow that level of freedom just yet. Of course, you can just continue wingsuit flying on the same tracks, but eventually you’ll want to progress in order to keep the game feeling fresh.
Steep’s customization options left me disheartened. As I play the game and get better at a particular sport, I want to be able to unlock new abilities and stats for my character. I want people in the social community to be able to see that I am a pro. However, apart from visual customization, there is no way for me to demonstrate my awesomeness. Surely I should be able to purchase some faster and aerodynamic wingsuits, or a better set of skis as I complete courses? Eventually, you’ll want to go even faster and pull off more daring tricks. However the game limits you as all of the customization is purely cosmetic. That sort of customization works with competitive shooters, but not in games like Steep.
Of course, Steep comes alive when you’re out on the slopes or flying through the air. The developers have done an incredible job in capturing the essence of the sports. The adrenaline rush that you’ll get if you’re playing with surround sound on a huge HDTV is remarkable. Like I said before, this game is crying out for VR compatibility to take it to the next level. The control mechanics are brilliant and you’ll genuinely feel in control of your character, or at least as much as your character can possibly control him or herself. As an example, if you mess up a backflip and know you’re about to crash land, you can’t avoid your fate. With enough practice, you’ll be able to determine what types of skill moves are appropriate.
Steep’s greatest asset however is the world that it’s depicted in. It is simply put, huge. It’s a living, breathing world of snow mountains, cliffs, trees, steep slopes and other winter sport enthusiasts. It will take you a very long time to get from one corner of the map to another, and even going from the tallest point to ground level takes a long time. The developers were inspired by real world locations in order to make Steep as realistic as it can be. To be able to see skidmarks that have been left by your character as he crash lands into the snow is just the icing on the cake.
Steep keeps the competitive people happy through Mountain Stories, which are basically challenges that span across multiple sports and terrains. The game doesn’t take itself too seriously here, with one of the challenges even asking you to find a singing tree before anyone else. It is very obvious that the people behind this game are clear winter sport enthusiasts, and this is made most obvious whenever you unlock a new peak. They celebrate each mountain as if it has a unique personality. The peaks are the true heroes of the game, and without having to say much, you feel more connected to the mountains than you do with actual human characters depicted in other games. Even the voiceovers for each mountain are spectacular. There’s also a fair bit of product placement and advertising going on in the game. Each gamer will have a personal preference on this. I personally am not fazed by product placement as it’s not necessarily slapped everywhere.
Apart from the ability to jump in and out of multiplayer sessions seamlessly with other friends and random gamers online, you can also share any clips of your recent runs through different camera angles. It’s just a great way for you to share any difficult stunts that you’ve pulled off with the rest of the community, but I see this becoming less used over time. I often find myself watching clips of people playing the game only if I’m trying to learn of ways to make myself better at a particular course and sport.
There isn’t much else to discuss about Steep. It’s really just a simple, yet extremely fun game to play. There is nothing in here that cries out as eSports material, but this is meant to be a casual social multiplayer game. It’s just fortunate that the developers have given us this fantastic social experience in a beautiful world that is huge in scale. Steep is a game that I can see myself playing from time to time if I just want to relax. There are often times where I don’t want to be stressed out playing FIFA, or competitive whilst playing Titanfall. I don’t have a game that I currently play just to relax. Steep has become that game for me, despite the lack of character progression.