Riders Republic is more than a revision of Steep than it is a rewrite, a creative team taking all of the lessons learned from a rough draft and starting over from the beginning. It has more extreme sports, sure, but more importantly, it’s a profoundly more social experience. It oozes joy, without relying on the fundamentals of its contemporaries, like combat, winner-takes-all competition, and melodramatic linear storytelling.
What if you never spotted that note? Or bothered to visit the radio station? Like I said up top, you'd straight-up miss the game. Despite Echoes of the Eye being inside the same universe as Outer Wilds, reaching its "space" within outer space is more abstract than simply pointing your spaceship in the right direction.
So I return to the caveats. If you’re a fan of the series, and you can respect the audacity of these decade-old ideas, Nier Replicant is the best appetizer yet for whatever main course Square Enix will inevitably serve in the future. But for newcomers or casual fans, the caveat stands: Nier Replicant is worth the time, but only if you have plenty of time to spend.
Rivals is quite charming and, at only an hour or two long, doesn’t wear out its welcome. If Return of the Obra Dinn is the chart-topping hit of this growing little genre, Rivals is the local garage band album that gets a glowing write-up in the alt-weekly: small, messy, lovable. Rivals is seemingly built with one audience in mind: older weirdos like me who don’t mind a little more Wilco-style music in their detective games.