While the genre may have been a stranger on consoles, mountain biking games continued to exist on PC. The sport is once again heading to Steam in the form of RageSquid's Descenders
. The title aims more for arcade fun than it does for a true simulation experience, with players hurtling down a track at breakneck speed, performing stunts and trying their hardest to stay on the bike, something that's often easier said than done.
The demo begins with a tutorial that takes players through the basics of the controls. Accelerate and braking are on the right and left triggers respectively, with steering on the left joystick. While in the air, the right joystick allows players to perform all manner of flips and spins; on the ground, players can skid around corners and prepare to gain more air with bunny hops. The controls are extremely easy to pick up, although skidding involves delicate handling if you don't want to go hurtling way off course.
The first area players will encounter is the Scottish Highlands. Each course begins with a flythrough so you can see exactly what lies further down the track. Of course, if you like surprises, this is skippable. The first course includes small jumps and gently sloping corners, just to ease players in gently, and you get four lives with which to complete it. Every time you bail, you lose a life. Lose all of those lives and we're starting the demo again. No pressure. On the upside, each level also includes a bonus objective, such as not letting go of the accelerator, or performing two backflips. After completing the bonus objective and making it to the finish line, you'll regain a life.
There are three types of courses, each of which are rated according to their steepness, curves and stunt potential. Mellow Stunts focuses on the stunt potential. Steep Race focuses on the steepness and, as such, the ability to reach high speeds. Finally, Mellow Curvy Stunts focuses on both curves and stunt potential. Once the first course is finished, players can choose which of the three tracks they take on next as they make their way through the map towards the final course. Each area is procedurally generated, so no two playthroughs will be the same. Take a look our gameplay footage below to see what you can expect from those initial courses:
After completing those courses, all routes end at the final "boss" course. This level's bonus objective simply tasks players with surviving the boss jump, a massive jump over a railway bridge across which a train happens to be travelling. It isn't called a boss jump for nothing. Take it too slow and you're not even going to clear the bridge, let alone the train. Take it too fast and you'll overshoot the landing ramp, meaning that there's no chance of landing the trick from that height and speed. Surviving the early stages of the course seem easy in comparison and it takes numerous attempts before the jump is finally landed.
Upon each successful completion of a course, you're awarded reputation points depending on your performance. You get points for pulling tricks and stringing combos together, as well as a multiplication bonus for not bailing. The riskier the trick, the bigger the reward at the end of the course. However, this also carries a greater risk of bailing. Every time you bail, you lose a small percentage of your reputation points, so players need to carefully calculate the risk versus their potential reward. If you're in a sadistic mood, you can take a look at nearly 90 seconds of us getting that calculation wrong and breaking bones and bikes in spectacular fashion below.
After completing the boss jump, we were given a sneak peek of an area that crops up later in the game: canyon. If you thought the initial courses were difficult, you've seen nothing yet. There are tight turns that leave little margin for error, uncompromising jumps, multiple paths through the level, and blind spots that leave players little time to react. This quick sample made the linear Highlands courses seem like child's play. It all builds up to a game that promises to be easy to pick up but difficult to master. You can even try it for yourself seeing as the game is currently in Early Access.