Trials of the Bad Ideas
The Trials franchise is now the second Ubisoft brand to get the Blood Dragon treatment after 2013's well-received Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon. Unfortunately, this game feels and plays like a soulless business decision instead of the love letter to campy action movies that the first Blood Dragon was. So where did they go wrong?
The biggest issue is that this isn't just a Trials game with a Blood Dragon filter over it. There is some classic Trials gameplay but it is interspersed with new mechanics over the game's 25 levels. These new mechanics range from fine to painfully bad. And the worst offender, on foot action-platforming sections, are the most prevalent of the new styles. You'll spend almost as much time jumping and shooting as you will on a motorcycle. I'm all for developers trying out new things with existing franchises but the on foot sections are just dreadful. The jumps feel floaty and imprecise. The shooting just feels off. I honestly felt like I was playing a mid-2000's Flash-based browser game. It's surprising that Ubi decided this was OK to release.
The other new mechanics seem great in comparison to the platforming but still aren't great. You'll drive large, all-terrain vehicles, fly a jet pack, and control an RC car. There's even a grappling hook as is required in all video games now. These all play mostly fine but that's because they're at least similar to the core Trials gameplay. Even when I was relieved to be doing one of these things instead of the platforming, I still felt like I'd rather just be on a motorcycle.
Even the Blood Dragon parts (Blood Dragon-ization?) were hampered by some poor implementation. The cutscenes and voiceovers during stages are as funny and bizarre as they were in the Far Cry game. But, every time you restart a stage, which is a lot in a Trials game, you'll hear the same jokes over and over again. Nothing makes a joke funnier then hearing it 30 times in a row.
This is just all so frustrating because the glimpses of regular Trials are a reminder that Trials is still fun and challenging. 25+ new Trials levels with a Blood Dragon filter wouldn't have been revolutionary or anything but it would have been better then what we got. I spent a lot of time with the previous games in the Trials franchise, replaying levels over and over again to shave seconds off of my time. That's something I have no desire to do with Blood Dragon because of the new mechanics. Only a couple of the levels in the game are just regular Trials levels and even though there are some great sections that I'd love to try and perfect, I don't want to suffer through the platforming to replay them.
If Ubisoft wants to continue Blood Dragonizing their franchises, they'll need to take better care of the games they're creating. I'd love to play an Assassin's Creed: Blood Dragon or Tom Clancy's Blood Dragon but only if those games are executed well.