Lonely Mountains: Downhill
Trials Rising might come to mind when thinking about biking games in 2019, but the upcoming Lonely Mountains: Downhill is taking a quieter approach to the genre. The third-person experience opts for pedal mountain biking rather than motorized power, forgoing Trials’ fireworks and bombastic setpieces. Instead, Lonely Mountains drops you at the top of stylized versions of real-world mountains, tasking you with a simple goal: reach the bottom.
The paths down each mountain are not straightforward – every slope offers branching paths that convene at checkpoints where you save your progress. If you crash, you restart at your last checkpoint at the time you initially reached it. You can take the clearly defined, safer routes where you’re less likely to crash, or try to find hidden shortcuts by prayerfully hopping down the sides of cliffs. Shortcuts aren’t always easy to discover and require some experimentation (a.k.a. crashing), but they significantly cut down the time it takes to reach each checkpoint. Lonely Mountains: Downhill will be a paradise for speedrunners who enjoy the challenge of finding fast routes.
Your main goal is always to reach the bottom of the mountain, but each location has an assortment of side objectives. Some are goal-based, like One-Life-Mode, which reduces you to one life; others are time-based, challenging you to race down the mountain as fast as possible. Completing these side objectives unlocks different bikes with varying stats. Some have lower stability and agility but offer higher shock absorption, which allows you to land trickier jumps when navigating shorter, off-the-beaten-path routes. Others can reach higher acceleration but have lower grip.
Completing each mountain’s side objectives rewards you with new bike parts, and you also unlock outfits for your avatar, paint jobs for your bike, and new mountains to descend. We tested our mettle on a whitewashed Alps mountainside, in addition to a sun-soaked, rocky path in Redmoor Peaks, Colorado. Unlike the Trials series, Lonely Mountains’ environments are quiet spaces. There are no spectators – no camera flashes. There’s no music, either, which helps build the game’s sense of solitude.
For as many moments of meditative ambience we experienced in our hands-on time, there were as many moments of intensity: we’d cheer when our bikes survived drops down cliff faces, and our muscles would tense when, instead of hitting the brakes every few yards, we’d flirt with acceleration down paths that we should have crashed on. Several times, we burst into laughter after crashing into a cactus or tree we thought we could avoid. Crashing and having to restart at checkpoints never felt punishing, but since we only experienced the game’s first two mountains, we’re curious to see if the difficulty at other locations feels equally fair.
Lonely Mountains Downhill launches later this year for PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Mac, and Linux.