Steep

Steep

I had next to no expectations for Steep, because I’m a fan of neither Ubisoft sandboxes nor realistic sports games. Its first impression didn’t improve my outlook either, with its blatant product placement, always-online requirement, and convoluted interface. But once I came to understand how it works, it dawned on me just how well-designed its genre combination is. It’s not a stretch to call this Breath of the Wild as a winter sports game. The setting is as much of a draw as the gameplay. New challenges are discovered organically through exploration, and the open-ended mountain range is genuinely atmospheric in addition to being breathtaking to look at. Fast travel points are everywhere, and progression is tied to exploration and risk-taking as much as it is to race and competition placements. The result is probably the most efficient sandbox I’ve ever played – one with next to no wasted time.

Steep is less impressive as a pure sports game. Fans of more technical snowboarding/skiing games might be disappointed by the trick system’s middling depth, and the controls for restarting from a crash are inadequate at best. Meanwhile, paragliding controls fine, but the sport is too slow for entertaining challenges, and the challenges are too goal-oriented to enjoy the atmosphere. I won’t make an ass of myself by trying to estimate how realistic the physics are, but the physics engine is certainly grounded in reality. This makes chaos theory the bane of any challenge requiring precision, which leads to a very inconsistent difficulty rating scale. On the other hand, the sense of speed is incredible, and the audio design adds to the intensity and gives greater life to the otherwise decent soundtrack. These proficiencies make the wingsuit the highlight of the gameplay, but even without it, the game would be worth playing just for the experimental mix of atmosphere and athletics.

7/10
7/10

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