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A Lonely Mountain

A Lonely Mountain

The Winter Olympics and Steep don’t have a lot in common
other than they take place on snowy mountains, which is the crux of this
expansion’s problems. Steep’s base game and its DLC up to this point are
open-ended experiences predicated on letting players explore different extreme
sports forms in free spaces. The addition of nine Olympic events and a Become a
Legend mode in Road to the
Olympics restrict
what is best about Steep with little to show for it in return. Even if you’re
solely interested in the Olympic content, this expansion provides little
substance.

The Become a Legend mode is accessible in the main
game’s Aravis location (showing up as an optional event alongside the others),
taking you on a training regimen that culminates in qualifying for and competing
in three freestyle events in South Korea – Big Air, Halfpipe, and Slopestyle.
This isn’t a story mode or a deep career mode with a progression system for
upgrading your rider. Instead, it’s a series of tutorials and the occasional
event. These competitions are routine for those who’ve already played Steep,
and laborious for the uninitiated.

The mode half-heartedly attempts the staging of its own
Olympic drama. This includes a narrator chronicling your journey leading up to
the Winter Games and video clips of real-life Olympic athletes such as Lindsey
Vonn, Sage Kotsenburg, and Kevin Rolland talking about their professional
experiences, but it fails to convey much of the Olympic experience itself. It
lacks TV-style presentation, an Olympic Village, a sense of occasion through
the opening ceremonies, and even medal presentations on a podium.

My favorite events of the Winter Games – the skiing – aren’t even included in the Become a Legend mode. These are instead only
available by themselves on an isolated mountain representing South Korea. You
can’t even free ride it like all the other mountains in the game. It exists
only to host the nine Olympic events, and therefore is a waste of a mountain
and is unrelated to the rest of the game’s philosophy, events, and even online
features. You can see the online times of others, but there is no meeting and
competing with real-life players in South Korea. Some Olympic spirit.

The gameplay doesn’t stray far from what Steep already
has demonstrated it can do. Thankfully, none of the usual half-baked Olympic
gameplay crutches are present, such as minigames, quick-time events, or button
mashing – just snowboarding and skiing. The Super-G and Giant Slalom
skiing events feel nice, with the fast downhill races offering a new experience
for Steep players as skis chatter over the icy slopes with a palpable sense of
danger. The Parallel Giant Slalom event on a snowboard was also fun, demanding
a quick rhythmic swaying with the right analog for the fastest time through the
gates. Despite these highlights, the Olympic content’s focus on the actual Slopestyle
freestyle course in South Korea emphasizes an existing weakness in Steep’s
gameplay – rail grinding and sliding. These were added as DLC, and getting
on rails still feels unpredictable and too floaty to feel satisfying.

The Road to the Olympics expansion also contains alps in
Japan. Thankfully, this new mountain region includes all the drop zones,
mountain stories, challenges, and freeride opportunities Steep players have
enjoyed in the base game. This region naturally includes the updates to Steep
thus far, including the ability to change the world’s ambiance and time of day
at will, and other extreme sports like the rocket wingsuit. These true-to-form additions
are redeeming because they are a more natural fit with the base game than the
new Olympic content.


There’s
more going on in these winter sports than what happens when the world pays
attention every four years, and Steep shouldn’t be held hostage by the Olympics
when what it does is working so well already. This content neither plays to Steep’s
existing strengths nor gives gamers looking for Olympic competition anything
satisfying.

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