Ryse: Son of Rome Review
With both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 going head to head within weeks of each other, both platforms have had to pull all the right moves in order to lure gamers onto their platform. Launch titles are a key component to a platform’s success, and where Sony has its exclusive title of choice with Killzone: Shadow Fall, Microsoft has released a few volleys at its competitor with its own trio of exclusive launch titles, one of which is Ryse: Son of Rome.
During the buildup to this game’s release, numerous hands-on demos uncovered the lack of substance in this game’s combat. From its first apprentice, to many show-floor demos, all gamers have been hearing about is the dreaded combat quick-time events (QTE). This had me worried before I had even set foot in virtual Rome, but thankfully having completed the game I can tell you there is no need to worry, dear gamer. Not all is bad.
Ryse follows the story of a young Roman solider – Marius Titus – who seeks revenge for the barbaric murder of his family. Whilst fighting hordes of barbarians throughout his journey through Britannia, Marius rises through the ranks of the Roman army and soon discovers that he must return to Rome to find his vengeance. Although the game jumps around the many locations, the story itself manages to maintain a steady pace that helps to keep you intrigued until the very end. I must say, I am a big fan of this era, so that has helped hold my attention in this game, but for someone whose looking for a general hack and slash, you may think differently.
There is nothing new to the general hack-and-slash gameplay here, however there are some elements that help to keep it fresh on the eyes and also on the fingers. Your progression through the game’s linear environment nudges you along at a fairly pleasurable pace. Although linear, throughout the many locations and environments you visit, you get a sense that you don’t feel surrounded by invisible walls, as you do in games like Capcom’s Devil May Cry 4, and it is this that reduces the feeling of being ushered through a corridor of combat zones.
The usual manic button bashing is broken up by the previously mentioned quick-time events. Once the health of a nearby foe is low a skull icon appears over their head, this your prompt to trigger one of the game’s many execution moves. This basically consists of successfully mirroring a combination of X or Y button presses that will boost the level of your health, combat, focus or damage – whichever you have selected at the time. Other than not filling up your selected meter to its fullest, you are not punished if you get any of the QTE commands wrong, at least visually anyway. As a result you still get the feeling you’ve always successfully pulled off an execution, making you feel pretty badass each and every time. Sadly though, this soon starts to become a slow and repetitive sequence of events throughout the game, but with the amount of variety in the game’s available executions, of which new ones can be bought with currency or XP points, it does it’s best not to look or feel too repetitive.
Overall, the combat in Ryse has the feeling of a watered-down Assassin’s Creed. Attacks can be blocked with a well timed A button, with small and large attacks at the ready with the X and Y buttons respectively. Tapping the B button will send Marius rolling out of hazards or dodging attacks, which is something you’ll be using more of when fighting against harder and more guarded opponents. As a whole it all makes for a simple yet effective combat system that doesn’t over complicate your overall enjoyment, allowing you to focus on picking out your next target from the bunch of soon-to-be-corpses around you.
The most striking thing about Ryse is in its visuals. This is one game that will certainly show off your new Xbox One in the graphics department. Epic cutscenes are shown whilst still in-game and it always manages to surprise me when I seamlessly was able to take control. Even as a launch title, it shows off how far we’ve come and where we are heading in this new generation of consoles – exciting!
Character models ooze details and facial animations in the game have raised the bar once again, setting the standard for what is to be expected in games of this new generation. Mutli-platform ports to next-gen consoles are already showing their age in comparison to the visual achievements seen in Ryse, yet I am sure the next-gen apprentices of these franchises will up the anti over the next few years. The voice acting in the game matches the quality of its visuals, with powerful and epic performances from all main characters in the game. If you’re a fan of the Spartacus TV series, then you’ll love this.
For some added longevity, once the solo campaign has been completed, you can always turn to the game’s Gladiator mode. This is where you can spa with other fellow gladiators online and both fight again wave, upon wave of the barbarian horde inside the colosseum. Much to my surprise, this works fairly well. Arena props dynamically change to keep things fresh, as multiples of enemies increase in difficulty as you and an online buddy progress through until your deaths.
Completing each execution builds your character’s XP and ranking, which give access to higher tiers of more enhanced equipment. Coin rewards are earned to help spend on new armour, shields, weapons and costumes for your online character, boosting their damage and defence levels with each upgrade.
With custom matches, a fair few dynamic arenas and quite a lengthy ranking curve, if you wish to see your online gladiator reach the highest heights, then you’re in for a bit of a grind. But at least you’ll be getting your money’s worth, eh? That is unless you start spending money on booster packs with your real money on the Xbox Game Store.
From start to finish I really enjoyed this game. Being a wannabe centurion helps with that fact, but for many gamers wishing to slaughter a few barbarians or two, in all it’s next-gen glory, then this is one launch title that should be worth your attention. The game is indeed short, coming in at around seven hours for me, so it may not be worth the launch price retailers are asking for. But should you find it at a more acceptable price, then Ryse: Son of Rome is definitely worth checking out.