Ryse: Son of Rome was my first stop, after doing a quick scout of the games on show at Microsoft’s Xbox One Preview Event. The queues at this year’s EGX were far too off-putting to only get hands-on a short arena demo of the game, so with up to three campaign chapters on offer at the Xbox One preview event, on top of all the multiplayer arena action, Ryse was my first go-to game of the evening.
Unfortunately, my first impressions wren’t so great. The lack of visual loading prompts between navigating screens had me a worried that the controller wasn’t accepting my button presses. The loading of chapters took their lengthy time too, and after all this talk of quick loading times on the Xbox One, it had me doubting such bold claims.
However once in the game Ryse certainly looks and sounds great. Cinematic audio pored through my headphones, with clashing swords and charging soldiers, all playing their part in capturing the action of all the Roman carnage that was taking place on screen. Combat in the game was quickly experienced in the first chapter I played. Slashing, blocking and countering enemies was a breeze, whilst taking control of oversized crossbows had their own purpose in setting flammable cauldrons ablaze to fend off big gatherings of my foe.
As much as I wanted to love Ryse, there were far too many niggles in my preview play-through that dampened my desire to enjoy the game. The first of them was with the game’s camera, which seem to have a mind of its own. Even whilst being tamed by the right analogue stick, the camera soon wanted to wander off, leaving you in a situation where you are constantly adjusting it. Turning to a nearby developer, we both concluded that it maybe due to the Xbox One’s quite sensitive analogue sticks. However if this makes itself into the release build, which at this time of writing is very likely, it will no doubt frustrate gamers fairly early on in the game.
If you’ve been following Ryse closely, you’ll be aware about the quick-time event controversy. Although these may have been dampened, or more like forgotten recently, after a short amount of play-through it is clear they are still here, but under the guise of execution moves. To quickly end your opponent you can pull on the right trigger, when they are at their most vulnerable, to pull off a series of gruesome execution moves. Once this move is triggered, their entire body lights up (read QTE) to a corresponding face-button colour – X (blue) or Y (yellow) – each appearing dynamically so that it doesn’t feel all too repetitive. However, after a few minutes of doing this, it really did feel repetitive. I just hope in later levels you will have less reason to use executions to quickly finish off your foes every time.
Skipping the later chapters, I wanted to sample the multiplayer gladiator arena mode. There was no online connection in the preview build I played so I had to opt for the solo mode against a bunch of enemy AI. Once again, more hack and slashing is required here (hey, it’s that kinda game), changing weapons is easily done by heading over to various weapon points located around the arena, all while dodging falling fireball catapults and such.
Personally I can’t see multiplayer doing so well online, so this leaves me to say that Ryse, to me, will be a campaign only game. I am sure many will pick it up at launch and be disappointed after their first completed play-through and then eventually trade it in for something else. So keep an eye out in bargain bins or second hand markets with this particular launch title, I am saddened to say, however it is a game that is worth experiencing in all of its next-generation glory.
Ryse: Son of Rome releases alongside the Xbox One console at launch on 22nd November.