When In Rome...
Ryse: Son of Rome has been one of the most talked about next generation launch titles, mainly because of the gorgeous visuals powered by the new Xbox One. Now that I've had the chance to pick up a controller and play the game, there is the unfortunate realisation that graphics alone aren't enough to make a game fun. Any gamer worth their salt already knows this, but Ryse does offer a few surprises and enough of a visual punch to allow for a second look, as long as you're not too discerning about what constitutes a dramatic action game.
Instantly, you will realise its strongest elements are the stunning cinema tics which are absolutely top notch. With every well-crafted character and realistic locale, you definitely see where developer Crytek put most of its resources. Even the story they convey is solid, made more interesting by the game's high quality voice acting.
The gameplay doesn't quite match the high bar of quality set by the cutscenes. Things start out well enough with a quick tutorial that helps you learn your character's basic abilities. Once you have those down, you're off. Controls are relatively simple - cut down an opponent with a few well-timed attacks, and then finish them off with an elaborate execution.
You can also parry and use precise timing to achieve better results by pressing the A button as a challenger goes in for an attack. Strangely, it didn't seem to matter whether I perfectly timed the attacks or not other than it taking a little longer to kill an enemy. More often than not, it seemed I could just hack my way to victory, and the game reminded me of some of the Dynasty Warriors series, made famous for the hundreds of enemies you would slay in the span of one level.
Are You Not Entertained?
The game's executions are entertaining, all performed via Quick Time Events (QTEs). It doesn't take long for them to become monotonous, but you can unlock many, including double executions that will take out two foes at once. Whenever an execution is performed, you can gain a variety of perks, and these range from a health boost to an experience boost. For the most part I only found one or two of them really useful, but the upgrades kept the game fairly interesting.
The gameplay is changes up occasionally with different kinds of challenges, such as commanding troops or manning larger weapons to take down hordes of enemies. One section of the game has you and your fellow soldiers forming a phalanx to protect the group from flaming arrows, and I just wish there were more moments like that. Ryse's tightly positioned camera angles help to immerse the player into the game world, and that aspect of the game works more effectively than most other games of this type.
Objectives are generally marked by an arrow, but it's not always clear exactly what it's pointing to. I found myself running around more than I'd like to admit because I couldn't figure out exactly where the next objective was because once I was in the vicinity of the objective, the arrow disappeared and I was left to my own devices. Thankfully, it didn't take long for the path to reveal itself, mainly by having a particular road-blocking object begin glowing in an otherworldly green pulse.
The multiplayer aspect of Ryse offers a small change from the single-player campaign in that you basically become gladiators in an ever-changing world. You can use a variety of new perks, and it's fun executing waves of enemies with a friend. However, that fun only lasts so long and in the end you're still performing the same basic actions as the single-player mode.
The best hack and slash games often ramp up in difficulty as you inch your way toward the final boss. While bosses in Ryse do offer slightly different challenges, they still feel like longer versions of normal fights. Some bosses have unblockable attacks or special requirements to defeat them, but the game generally goes out of its way to warn you of these, making the fights that much easier. This is offset with some bosses having a regenerating health bar, but this just feels like an artificial way of making things more difficult. In reality, all it does is make the fights longer instead of changing the fight mechanics or adding an additional challenge.
Ryse is not a bad game. If you're a casual player who's looking for something easy to play through at launch, it's probably your best choice. It offers a ton of gore, and has one of the best stories you'll find in the genre. However, if you're a more experienced gamer after something with new features, and challenging gameplay, Ryse may offer value based on its absolutely breathtaking visuals.
GAME's Verdict: 7/10
- A gorgeous game that truly shows you what the next generation looks like
- The story is an interesting mix of Roman mythology and a hero's quest
- If you're looking for mindless violence, you won't be disappointed
- Combat can become repetitive due to limited moves
- The path forward may be tough to follow due to a confusing arrow system
- The game only offers a challenge if you refrain from upgrading your skills; otherwise, you may find it a breeze