When Trials of the Blood Dragon was announced last week at E3 2016, it seemed like a mashup that was just crazy enough to actually work. Sure, there weren’t many similarities between Trials and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, but they both had an eccentric sense of humor. They were rare glimpses of actual personality from Ubisoft, who often publishes bland AAA-titles like Watch_Dogs. So as wild as the game seemed, it almost made perfect sense on paper.
Since the title was developed by Trials studio RedLynx, one would think that the crossover might lose what made Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon so great. That’s not the case though, as it does a great job capturing the over-the-top pro-America essence of Blood Dragon. There are communists to kill, American flags to put up (which act as the game’s checkpoints), and of course, dragons to deal with. Add a ridiculous story that stars Rex Colt’s kids (who fight to honor their deceased father), and you’ve got a worthy successor, at least from a narrative standpoint
While it may have nailed Blood Dragon‘s thematic elements, the game completely loses what made Trials such a beloved franchise. RedLynx’s motorcycle obstacle course game became a hit due to challenging gameplay that was constantly replayable. Easier levels were ripe for speed-running, and later stages were strictly a test of skill (although some crazy talented players can speed-run those too). That’s all gone here though, as the biking that fans know and love only comprises about half of the gameplay.
The rest of the gameplay time is split between on-foot segments, jet-packing (which controls horridly), and giant trucks that just ram through everything (which is fun, but takes about zero skill to do). The on-foot missions are what players will spend the most time doing, and even the basic character movement feels slippery. It’s not satisfying, and the Trials control scheme (using the right trigger to jump) feels really awkward here. Throw in some crummy gunplay (where you simply tilt the right stick in a direction in order to shoot), and you have half of the game being a subpar 2D shooter.
What really hurts Trials of the Blood Dragon is that even the bike-focused levels become filled with gimmickry. Some of these actually end up being pretty fun (such as a grappling hook for your motorbike), but others are just extra challenge for the sake of variety. One level has the player tugging along a bomb to the back of their bike, one that isn’t properly secured and will go off if it rolls off the trailer it’s sitting on. This makes for a level filled with constant restarts, which just isn’t fun. Finally, once you maneuver through the level, your character reveals that it was entirely pointless and uses a jetpack to fly with the bomb.
While the on-foot missions never become enjoyable, they eventually become bearable, as they make up small segments of larger stages. Even then, it still brings the game’s pacing to a halt. And, since Trials of the Blood Dragon doesn’t mark which stages feature which vehicles, it means that this is the first Trials game I’ll never try to better my scores at, as I refuse to play these segments again. These levels weren’t fun the first time, and I certainly don’t care about going through them a second time.
“How could two of my favorite games get brought together and yet be totally unenjoyable?” – that’s a question I constantly asked myself while playing. As someone who spent way too much time chasing high scores in Trials, and loved playing Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, I’m essentially the target audience for this title. Despite this though, I rarely had fun and largely felt like this was a waste of two franchises that I hold dearly to my heart.
If there’s one real positive, it’s that the game’s narrative does a fantastic job of setting up a full-blown Blood Dragon sequel. By the time the credits rolled, I was absolutely ready to stop playing Trials of the Blood Dragon. That said, I’m also completely psyched for another proper entry. So, if that actually happens, then this stop-gap has been somewhat justified. If not, then fans just got played hardcore by Ubisoft.
Trials of the Blood Dragon isn’t the next Trials game I wanted, nor is it the Blood Dragon sequel I yearned for. It doesn’t even come close to fulfilling the potential of the crossover (which truly could’ve been great), and it’s just a total disappointment on almost every level. Frustrating level designs and a desire to tweak what was a winning formula makes this a mess of a release. RedLynx has to really look in the mirror and decide what type of games they’re going to make going forward, since blending genres with motorcycles just isn’t working for them.
This review is based on the PS4 version.
Disappointingly, Trials of the Blood Dragon isn't the mashup that fans hoped for. While it manages to capture the trippy vibe of Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, it doesn't replicate the fast-paced action of Trials.