Steep is an innovative take on extreme sports where customization is the name of the game. Although not free of faults, it’s a solid addition to the sporting genre with unique elements that make it stand out from the pack.
NOTE: This review is based on when I played Steep in January 2017.
What Will Your Experience Be?
One of the most unique qualities of Steep is that it lets its players decide what type of experience they’ll have each time they play. You can go for the gold in an event, beat a Community Challenge, be a daredevil in a wingsuit or leisurely paraglide around the Alps. You can even skip sports (and competition) all together and just hike in the snow and explore your surroundings.
The two main areas that will influence your experience are the sport you choose to play and the playstyle.
Although there are technically 4 sport types, the game categorizes them into 3 because skiing and snowboarding are so similar in function/feel.
Although I do enjoy skiing, snowboarding is my favorite sport. I fell in love with it years ago, playing SSX3 on the Nintendo GameCube. I will admit that, at first, I wanted Steep to be a SSX clone and was disappointed when I quickly found out it’s not. However, as I continued to give the game a chance, I found myself actually enjoying the challenge of a more realistic way of doing things.
Don’t get discouraged when you watch the very quick tutorial at the start of the game. It shows a few moves, but there are loads more to be had. If you play with the button controls, you will soon discover a multitude of tricks and trick combos you can do. The controls will feel a little clunky at first (especially compared to SSX), but with time (and practice) will become more smooth.
If you want to get good at tricking out before hitting the competitions, I suggest practicing in Explorer mode first. This is what I did which not only helped me get the controls down pat, but also gave me a feel for how many tricks/ trick combos I can do in one jump based on air/speed as well as how to handle the g-force component and land on my feet. You can also use this exploration time to gain experience zooming through dense areas of trees, jumping off rooftops and getting used to the rocky terrain.
I wouldn’t want to fly in a wingsuit in real life, but I do find it thrilling in simulation. Jumping out of a hot air balloon, spiraling headfirst toward the ground only to then maneuver just right, so you even out into a low-level flight over houses and trees is quite the rush.
There are two main types of wingsuit races; proximity and precision.
Proximity events are my favorite. This is where you dare to get close to obstacles without hitting them. The hardest part is judging your distance from the obstacles so you don’t KO (knockout). (This takes some getting used to). If you’re shy at first about staying low the whole event through, you can dare to get close here and there, just enough to earn the points you need to medal. As you practice, you’ll be able to stay low longer and even dare to fly through trees and tight locations.
As the name suggests, precision trials are about flying through checkpoints and doing so as fast as you can. You’ll have to catch enough air to not only get to the finish line but to catapult yourself from side to side, and up and down, as the checkpoint locales dictate.
Pulling a parachute is how you will land in the wingsuit. Landing is simple and immediate. Just make sure you have an area free of obstacles right below your feet before pulling the chute so you can come down smoothly.
If you do crash while in a wingsuit challenge, unlike with snowboarding/skiing, you cannot recover and will have to start again.
For me personally, paragliding is the hardest sport to master. It’s all about catching the wind to keep your momentum to fly while not letting yourself get blown off course.
Like with the other sports, you have some timed events and some for points.
The point events (like with the wingsuit) dare you to get close to obstacles without getting caught up in your surroundings with your apparatus or getting so close that you either crash or accidentally land. (I accidentally land a lot when trying to closely round a mountain).
Timed challenges are all about precision and require you to keep your paraglide steady as you closely and quickly follow a course, hitting the highs and lows as determined by the location of each checkpoint.
The mechanics of landing are quite simple but judging where the apparatus is going to land is not always cut and dry because, unlike a parachute, it doesn’t come down immediately. You may see a clear area directly below you but by the time you land, you may be in a clump of trees. The hardest part for me to judge is landing within the confines of a checkpoint at the finish line. It’s easy to land in front of it or land out too far. Just FYI, if you land in front of it (or behind it), your race will be null and void and you’ll have to start the challenge again.
Despite my initial dislike of paragliding, I have to admit that it’s become one of my favorite things to do. Not in the sense of testing my skills against others in competition (like with snowboarding), but as a great way to unwind. There’s nothing more relaxing than paragliding around beautiful snow covered mountains with my game music set on chill.
There are 6 playstyles from which to choose. Bone Collector and Explorer are the more obvious styles while the other 4 have more subtle differences, making them harder to tell apart.
- This style is available for skiing/snowboarding events.
- It’s the easiest style to compete in where you trick it out for points.
- Freestyler challenges range from doing stunts in a halfpipe to hitting slopes with simple terrain to sporting down mountains filled with strategically placed platforms perfect for showing off your moves.
- Freerider events are for snowboarding/skiing and paragliding.
- This style is all about knowing and using the terrain.
- Staying on your feet, riding the high lines of the snow, continuous motion, and gracefully making it to the finish line are your goals here.
- Extreme rider events can be found in any of the 4 sports.
- As the name suggests, this style is all about doing things in the extreme.
- You may be a daredevil coming dangerously close to obstacles or tricking off rough terrain. You might have to reach tough to get to checkpoints at lightning speed.
- With the harsh layout of the land, subtlety of movement and not letting the wind, g-force, or your speed get the best of you are key.
- This playstyle is available for all 4 sports.
- Pro Rider is for those who’ve mastered their sport and want to prove they’re the best.
- Speed, agility, quick decision making, navigating tight corners, avoiding obstacles, and getting to the finish line first are what it’s all about.
- Bone collector is for the expert snowboarder/skier.
- This is the toughest playstyle in which to increase in rank.
- Events are not easily unlocked nor achieved.
- These events are for the fearless who can work the g-force factor in their favor.
- The terrain on bone collector is so severe that usually one mistake is all that’s needed to take you out of an event.
- This playstyle is one of the things that makes Steep so unique because it allows gamers and non-gamers alike to participate in the game.
- This is the easiest playstyle in which to earn points and rank up.
- It’s the perfect playstyle for those who want to use Steep for relaxation/exploration and not competing to be the best.
- Explorer XP is earned by opening drop zones, exploring your surroundings, and completing explorer related mountain stories.
- This playstyle can be experienced in any of the 4 sport types, through walking/sprinting or a combination of any/all.
Will You Face the Challenge?
You can choose to avoid competition and just walk or sport around exploring different areas for sheer pleasure. However, if want to compete, there are many challenges that await.
Daily Suggested Challenges
There’s a huge amount of events you can participate in listed in the daily suggestions found on the Options/Progress screen. Each event has a unique location and is categorized by the type of event, toughness (easy, medium, hard), sport, and playstyle. You can decide what to play based on any one or more of these factors. (Note: if you choose not to go through this list you can play these events more randomly by finding them through the Mt. View/map).
You’ll start off with some easy challenges, but as you progress, tougher stuff will quickly start to appear. Even if you feel you’re not quite ready to go to the next level yet, I encourage you to challenge yourself and try something on medium and/or hard. Pushing yourself is a great way to get better, faster. And, who knows. You might be surprised at just how well you do.
The mountain stories are definitely for those who have been playing the game a while and are acclimated to the different sports and playstyles. Like the Suggested Challenges, you can find these events through the Mt. View (map) or on the Options/ Progress screen.
The Mountain Stories are a little bit of a twist on the suggested challenges, each coming with either a story about what you’re being assigned to do or a history lesson regarding the area in which you are about to go. Many of the stories have multiple objectives to achieve. Some will dictate which sport you must use, but a lot will allow you to choose.
One of my favorite types of challenges is where it simply shows you the finish line way off in the distance (or sometimes unseen) and tells you to get there however you want. I love mixing things up, trying out different sports depending on the lay of the land. I may start off paragliding, then mid-way through switch to my snowboard, and then hike to the end.
I discovered that a lot of the mountain stories start you off at high elevations which means hard to get to, locked drop zones may be nearby. When this is the case, it’s a good idea right before or after finishing a challenge to walk or paraglide or wingsuit over to a new area to unlock it while you’re there. (Note: This little trick can save you from spending helicopter tickets).
There are 4 community challenges in which any on-line Steep player can participate. Some are created by the Ubisoft team while others are created by the on-line players (and chosen by Ubisoft). These are a lot of fun, plus, if you’re able to beat the challenge, you get to see your gamer tag added to the live ranking with all the others who’ve also achieved the challenge that day.
It’s great to participate in these not only for the experience/ to push yourself, but also to connect with other players and to expose yourself to locations you might have never been before (especially while you’re at a lower level). In fact, once you’ve finished a community challenge, it’s a good idea to look around and see if there are any new events to tryout, areas to explore, or drop zones to open up.
This is a challenge you can create yourself. Simply find an area off the beaten path that you think would make a great set-up for an event, create it, and send it out as a dare to your friends. If the Ubisoft team likes what you’ve created, they might send it out as a community challenge (see above) for everyone to be able to give it a go.
The World Tour is for the ultimate competitor who wants to test his/her skills against their fellow on-line players and prove they’re the best. Originally, the tour was for the higher-level players only. However, as of Jan. 27, 2017, Ubisoft has opened it up to all players and is updating the way it works. Unfortunately, I’m not able to play it as it in transition right now, but this is a quick rundown of how things will work in the future per Ubisoft.
Round 1 – Beat the qualifying score and move onto phase 2
Round 2– Take on the next challenge and make it into one of the top 32 spots
Round 3– Compete in the final challenge for Steep credits.
I’ll look forward to playing this in the future and will report back after I do.
When playing any of the daily suggested or World Tour events, you will have the ability, on top of earning XP, to receive bronze, silver, and gold medals. If gold is the first medal you win in an event, you’ll also receive bronze and silver medals automatically. When you medal an event, it will show the color of the top medal you’ve earned in a circle right above the event name under Options/Progress. Here, you will also find an overall total for each type of medal you’ve won.
Going to the Next Level.
A major part of earning points (XP) is by working the multiplier. This runs from 2 to 5 which means depending on how high you get it going, you can earn anywhere from 2 to 5 times the usual amount of points. The multiplier is earned in a wingsuit or when paragliding by flying close to mountainsides, trees, and the like. It’s earned on the snowboard/skis by doing tricks/ trick combos. The more tricks you do, the higher it goes. But, stay on your feet because if you fall, the multiplier goes back to 1.
Whether or not you stay on your feet is ruled by the g-force factor. This is what makes snowboarding/skiing in Steep more realistic. However, it is also inconsistent at times and can be a source of frustration in the game. A curved, white bar on the left side of the screen indicates how much g-force you take on a landing. It appears whenever your landing isn’t completely smooth. If you land hard enough you may see the screen go black and white briefly. This means your character is a bit stung. You can keep going, but need to be careful with what you do right after this happens because if you land badly again, you’ll crash. If you crash, the points that you earned from the feat you just pulled off will be lost. If you crash hard enough, you’ll KO and have to start an event all over again.
Leveling Up versus Rank
As you score XP throughout the game, you will level up your character overall and rank up within the 6 playstyles.
It is easier to level up overall than to increase your rank within each playstyle. In fact, a few on-line complain that’s it too easy to reach the top level of 25. I can see that this might be the case for those who are more experienced players and push hard to quickly accomplish all the major challenges. However, this isn’t my personal experience as I’ve taken my time to explore and play my favorite challenges multiple times. After 40 hours, I’m at level 17 and still have lots to do.
Playstyle points are earned whenever you display characteristics of that style within the confines of a challenge or during exploration. One of the coolest parts about scoring is that you can earn XP in more than one playstyle with most everything you do.
For instance, in one 10 minute ride exploring on my snowboard, I accomplished the following:
- Hit a milestone of traveling 398 miles (explorer)
- Opened up 2 new areas (explorer)
- Long ride without a fall (freerider)
- Stayed in max multiplier for 2 minutes (freerider)
- Kept going for 6 minutes straight (explorer)
There are 5 different rankings to earn within each playstyle.
When you first start the game, you will not have a rank but simply start each playstyle in neutral. After earning a certain amount of XP for a style, you’ll finally get ranked as a Rookie. It’s interesting to watch how quickly (or not so quickly) you rank up in each area over time. It definitely reveals which play style(s) you prefer. I personally am a huge fan of Explorer and Pro Rider. I’m currently ranked as experienced in both, while I’m still ranked initiated in all the others.
It’s the Little Things
Besides playstyle and sport type, music and sound also have an effect on your gaming experience.
The most important sound (and graphic) effect to get right in a game like this is the snow. I can attest that Steep gets it right. As a person who loves the snow, I thoroughly enjoy simulating crunching around in the icy white stuff and can do so for hours in the game.
The nature sounds are also done quite well. There’s birds chirping, church bells in the distance, coyotes howling, the wind whipping around you, the occasional helicopter, and the sound of your character’s breath when he/she walks/sprints or swoops down the slopes.
Your character also speaks as he/she is put to through the trials. They may say something exciting at the end of a successful race or declare that it’s going to be a rough day after you’ve caused them to fall for the 5th time.
How much you enjoy the music is, of course, subjective, depending on your tastes. For me personally, I like about half of it. The other half becomes repetitive and even downright annoying at times.
The great news is that you are in control of what you listen to.
You have several choices on music. You can listen to just the music created for the game or just the copyrighted music or both. You can also determine your music by mood, which is what I like to do. The settings are:
- Hip Hop
If you’re looking for something soothing, I suggest Chill or Zikali. The other 3 are better if you want something more upbeat.
If you prefer not to listen to music, you can turn it off completely. The character voice and SFX (nature sounds) can be turned off as well.
The game throws you in as Sam Berger from the start and doesn’t really tell you that there are 7 other character choices available. If you decide you’d like to play as someone else, go under Options/Riders to find the additional characters.
There are a lot of choices for customizing your character from gear to clothing to accessories. A few items you can acquire for free, but most require payment. As you progress through the game, more options will unlock. As you earn XP, this will translate into credits, which are used for purchasing.
The items appear to be a bit “steep” in price, but don’t take as long to acquire as you might think. This is because earning XP isn’t that hard.
The ultimate clothing item to acquire is a costume. I did very little purchasing of items along the way (personal choice) and by level 17 was able to acquire the Elena Bunny outfit. Very cool.
You can also purchase helicopter tickets. These are used to get you to high peak drop zones quickly. These areas are indicated on the Mt. View/map with diagonal stripes and binoculars.
You will have to be on-line every time you play Steep, whether you are going solo or connecting with others. This could potentially cause issues if Ubisoft’s server goes down or your connection is unstable. After about 40 hours of play, I can say I only had a problem twice and both times seemed to be my connection (which is no surprise). This really stinks though if you’re in the middle of trying to connect with a group or win a competition and get kicked out of the game.
Connecting with others is great in theory, but sometimes glitchy in execution. I’m not one to snub people, but have (accidentally) become an expert at it in the game. After not being able to figure out how to connect, I decided to read about it on social media. It appears that a lot of people are uncertain of just how it to do it. My best advice (after sometimes getting it to work) is to get very close to the people you want to connect with and hit the square button (PS4).
If you’re able to make a connection, there are some pretty cool things you can do.
- Tag along with others, hangout and explore
- Share experiences/ achievements/profiles
- Share dares with each other / start a competition
- Go through events together
- Spectate / watch your friend’s moves wherever he/she is in real time
- You can talk to each other (or remain mute)
There’s also a teleport to a friend function, but I could never get it to work.
If, at anytime you get tired of being a part of a group and desire to go back solo, you can disconnect from your party very easily.
Despite its imperfections, Steep is a fun, snow-filled, open adventure that has something to offer any level of gamer whether you aspire to compete or just need to relax at the end of a very hard day.
GC Rating: 7.5
Who is this game for?
- Casual gamers who don’t usually play sports but are looking for something new to do.
- Hardcore gamers who love extreme sports and competition.
- Gamers who would find it relaxing to hike or sport around a snowy open world, exploring their surroundings.
- Gamers who are looking for a fun on-line game where it’s (somewhat) easy to connect with others.
Warning to parents buying this for kids under 13:
There is the occasional bad language. If you want your kid to avoid hearing/ seeing this (via subtitles), you can turn off the subtitle and/or voice volume.
How to Purchase? (as of 6/9/17)
Physical copies of Steep are readily available in-store and on-line from most retailers. You can also buy a digital copy (and/or DLC) from PSN, Microsoft, and Steep/Ubisoft. The game is available on PS4, XB1, and PC.
Developer: Ubisoft Annecy Publisher: Ubisoft Genre: Sports ESRB: Teen On-line Only Game Single player, Multiplayer