Genre: Sports, Indie
Developer: Megagon Industries
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Cloud Gaming, Microsoft Windows, Linux, Mac operating systems
Simplicity, it's often what makes games look and work very well. Some of the simplest games have turned out to be incredibly popular. I mean look at Tetris, look at Pong, look at that infamous app about the bird that flaps which drove everyone crazy, it was literally just tapping the screen, you can't get any simpler then that. Of course maybe thats a little too simple, sometimes you just need a bike and some beautifully crafted mountains to ride down. I'm not sure where I first saw Lonely Mountains Downhill, perhaps it was on Steam, perhaps it was Facebook, but I have had it on my radar to play for a while. I'm a mountain biker myself you see, so seeing a game based on one of my favourite pastimes I definately wanted to have a go. Lonely Mountains Downhill or (LMD) as I will refer to it as, is one of those games that just really stands out, the low-poly graphic style just jumps out at you and you know when you jump in yourself it's going to be punchy and responsive and quick and flowy. Thats a term we mountain bikers like to use, though LMD is most often not very flowy, it's more technical I suppose you could say. LMD was developed by a small german developer Megagon industries who were previously unheard of. The team used Danny Macaskill's The Ridge as a major inspiration for the game, understandably so as Danny charges steep down rocky mountain slopes with impossible drops down the sides with any mistake possibly costing him his life.
|A nice looking rolling hill
LMD puts you against the mountain, there's no enemies or animals that you need to avoid it's just you carving your own path and if you crash or fall off a cliff or into water then thats just your own fault. The wondrous low poly graphics were selected to apparently make the game's environment look more readable to the player and it does indeed. The sheer amount of things around is astounding, there's grass, trees, rocks, shrubs, rivers, waterfalls! there is even wildlife but it's limited to birds and butterflies. Leaves fall off the trees, you hear the sound of water and birds chirping. I can't really describe it it's something you have to experience for yourself. Also this isn't a racing game where you go so ridiculously fast you can't even see anything, mountain biking whereas fast downhill, you still need to brake in sections so you can enjoy the scenery.
My first experience of the game on the Graterhorn Mountain
As soon as you enter the main screen you see a beautiful mountain vista of the last mountain you rode and then after you click enter it goes to your camp in that mountain with you and you're bike. One important thing to note there is no music in LMD, it's just the gentle breeze and and sounds of the birds in the distance. This is quite serene but I found I did actually need some of of gentle music as having nothing was a bit, well, lonely and sad. So in that case I found the Minecraft soundtrack a perfect fit. There are 4 mountains in LMD with one as a DLC which have 3-4 trails down the mountain with some trails being DLC themselves. The mountains are based on real locations with each getting harder in difficulty.
|Redmoore Peaks, a lovely autumn forest.
So you select your mountain and then you can select which trail you want. At the start you have one mountain the 'Graterhorn' which looks kind of like a Canadian sparsely vegetated mountain. The controls weren't too hard to get used to, the isometric view was. Sometimes you can't really see whats coming and it makes it hard to decide where to go next especially if you're looking for shortcuts, though I don't hate the view as it's what makes it LMD as opposed to say games like Riders Republic or Descenders which are similar but the cahse camera view as always. LMD is in it's own world where it's just you, not a huge event with crowds and music and other riders. The first time you attempt a trail you do it in 'Explorer' mode which is not timed and allows you to ride the route at your own pace going through the checkpoints, looking around and finding any shortcuts which are vital for later. You then can unlock in order the Beginner, Expert and Freerider challenges each with varying degrees of difficulty. The beginner and expert challenges have time limits or crash limits or sometimes both which can make it very difficult if you're trying to make the fastest time between each checkpointbut you keep crashing trying to do so. If you crash you can restart immediately at the previous checkpoint. Freerider is the hardest mode I think is that you need to do the whole course in one continuous run and if you crash it's all the way back to the start which you could imagine leads to a lot of frustration.
I do a few trails here, and crash quite a lot
I had to consult some youtube videos to complete most of the expert challenges, the freerider challenges I haven't done much of I just find them too stressfull. LMD is quite unforgiving one slip could cause a crash and if you're not careful you've crashed three more times in the one run because you weren't paying attention or getting frustrated. What keeps me going is unlocking all of the bikes and cosmetic items, a feature of which is in most games now. You can dress up your ride with different helmets and clothes but the bikes make the real difference. There are bikes with varying suspension which are slower but allow for bigger drops or no suspension which are faster and one with bigger tyres to ride fast through rough terrain. Personally I often go the trailblazer which is a sort of all-rounder since I'm not good at judging how high my bike can drop down without crashing. There are challenges which require specific bikes to unlock different paintjobs for them so you end up using all of them anyway.
Devils Spire from the 'Sierra Rivera' canyons
The actual bike physics handle well I do feel like I'm riding down some singletracks being a mountain biker myself. The isometric view makes some things tricky especially when you're going from left to right across the screen or vice versa. Two things that I think could be improved is the ability to stop and turn around, currently you can't get off your bike, so if you run yourself into a dead end and don't have room to do a complete turnaround your only option is to crash. The other thing is the ability to pop the front wheel up, all mountain bikers do this, if there's an obstacle ahead you pull up on the handlebars and lift the front wheel up to get over it, you can't do this at the moment and I think a lot of crashes could have been avoided if this was possible.
|Who put that rock there?
LMD has alot of replay value specifically by the challenges for each trail which keep you coming back, even completing some of the freerider events unlocks night mode for that trail which has it's own set of challenges. A big part of the game is the daily rides where you do a random trail with various parameters including using a specific bike, infinite sprinting (or sprint bar), night mode, double time penalty for crashes and the very well thought out 'many obstacles' parameter which forces you to take routes different to the main path making you discover shortcuts though this does often result in crashing many times before I figured out exactly where to go. The changed checkpoint parameters also make things interesting. You're used to all of the checkpoints being in the same place for each trail though and when they've changed you need to do a bit of exploring before finding them again. I was trying to complete a daily ride the other night and spent about 5 minutes trying to find the checkpoint I kept missing.
|Eldjfall is one scary mountain
It's a game thats good for a quick spin before you play something more involved like for example I play it before playing Elder Scrolls Online. I enjoyed the variety of mountains which range from alpine, to autumnal forest to desert canyons to finally a dark dense and rocky forest. I liked the game so much I even purchased the Eldjfall DLC which seems to be based on a scandinavian island as the challenge rewards are all viking related though the most prominant thing about it is that it's got a volcano! as if the trails weren't dangerous enough already now instead of waterfalls your jumping across lava flows. Honestly I do wish they would put in multiplayer in the future, being able to follow a friend or even a random and bomb down a hill discovering all of the shortcuts, imagine it with 4 or more people! You also should be able to have the option to both restart at the last checkpoint if one of you crashes to make it more a team thing.
|One of the beautiful 'Rest Areas' which are hidden through the trails.
Lonely Mountains Downhill is not easy, but it looks beautiful and rewarding and a must for any mountains bikers out there. One of my friends even made a skiing game that is similar you can check out the trailer here. I've still yet to try Riders Republic and Descenders but I reckon I will still like Lonely Mountains the best, I've said it many times but it's one of the best looking games I have seen and as a mountain biker I just keep coming back.
What I liked:
- Beautiful Visuals
- Challenging Gameplay
- Responsive controls
- Keeps you coming back for more.
- So much customization items to win for incentive
What I didn't like:
- Frustrating at times
- Isometric view can lead to issues
- Can often not see where I am going
- Needs at last some music
- No Multiplayer options, in the future maybe
Now this run is just crazy.
My passion simplified.