Ryse: Son of Rome is about the adventure of one man as he struggles to save Rome while trying to figure out who is friend and who is foe. The game guides you through some of the most important times in the life of Marius Titus, a Roman gladiator that seeks to serve his empire and follow in his father’s footsteps. There is a big event early on in the game that sets Marius on his quest for blood and vengeance as he tries to do his part in making sure Rome doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. The first part of the game is about gaining retribution from the aforementioned big event in the game and then when that is accomplished new details come to light and you begin to understand what is really on in Rome. I found the story to be quite entertaining and the different situations that I was put in helped mixed things up enough to where I wasn’t ever really bored.
The combat in the game is something that will receive a mixed reaction. You have your attack button, your block button, a button to roll out of the way and basic fare like that. You can totally go through the game just button mashing, however, you cheat yourself a little bit by doing so. You have the main attack button where if you tap it you will do a normal light attack or if you hold it down you will do a heavy attack. You can also use your shield to catch enemies off guard and once you have their health down low enough you can perform an execution. The executions are timed button and you must hit the button that corresponds with the color you see. If the enemy has a yellow outline then you would hit the “Y” button where a blue outline means you hit the “X” button. There are a variety of different executions in the game from stabbing a guy multiple times, slitting his throat quickly or using the environment to your advantage. It doesn’t seem like you can directly control which execution Marius performs but it is contextual so if you start to perform an execution near some spikes then you might shove him into those spikes or slam his head into a wall if there is one nearby. There is some strategy that must be employed here (probably more so on the more difficult settings) as you can’t really just wildly swing for the fences at all times. You will encounter enemies that have shields and other enemies that have really powerful attacks that you will need to dodge and then counter while their guard is down. If you have a group of enemies surrounding you then you will need to be able to react quickly as you swing your sword at one guy and have to deflect a blow with your shield from someone behind you. It is one of those things where, as I mentioned, you probably can get through just doing some basic button mashing, however, I tried to change it up a bit and it seemed to work pretty well. There are also times where you will have spears you can throw at enemies and using Kinect (or holding down the LB button) you can verbally order your archers to cover you. I tried both methods and it seemed like using Kinect was a bit faster than simply holding down “LB” for a few seconds.
One thing that will be immediately apparent in Ryse: Son of Rome is that it is a really beautiful game. I would say that Ryse is arguably the best looking launch game on either console. The detail in the environments coupled with the lighting, shadows, particle effects and more really draw you into the world. The characters themselves have a stunning amount of detail to the point where if someone walked in the room and saw Ryse on the TV they might think it was a television show instead of a game. The audio is also really well done as the score does a greta job setting the mood for whatever situation you are in and, in my opinion, the voice was done really well too. There will be times where you will just stop and look at that waterfall by you or in one chapter look at how the fire is and how realistically it seems to behave. As you do battle you will see the environment get dirtier as pools of blood remain on the ground as well as on your sword as you take out enemy after enemy. It really is a pretty amazing sight and I’m excited to see what Crytek can do once they further understand the Xbox One hardware.
As you progress through the campaign you will earn experience which can be used to upgrade your skills. You can upgrade your “health,” “focus,” “gain,” and “combat” skills. In addition to that you can also upgrade your killing moves, otherwise known as executions. Here you can purchase upgrades for single executions, double executions, the amount of XP you will from executions and more. As you perform executions in the game you will see some things unlock without having to buy them as well so if you want to see what you haven’t unlocked yet there is a quick way of telling what you still need to do by looking at the grayed out tiles.
With the above said there are a few annoyances to Ryse: Son of Rome too. As you progress through the game you will notice that really isn’t that much in terms of enemy variety. There is a certain part in the story where the enemies tend to change but then you are basically fighting soldiers from two different factions. Some more variety would have been nice but I do realize this is a launch title for a console. As I mentioned above, some people might find the combat repetitive but for me personally I was ok with it as I would do different things to try and keep things interesting. The campaign is a decent length clocking in at around six to seven hours. For this type of game I think that is a good length but there are others who might think it is a bit short.
Once you get done with the campaign there is a multiplayer component to focus on. The multiplayer in Ryse: Son of Rome is of the co-op variety and has you battling in the Roman Coliseum with either a friend or some random person over Xbox Live that the game selects for you. The Roman Coliseum in this game is actually very cool as it is constantly changing. Once you complete your objective then the floor around you will shift, new items will appear and the setting itself might change making you change your strategy. You might be fighting in an area that is surrounded by fire in one instance and then the next time the Coliseum “shifts” so that now the coliseum floor looks more like a forest. It really is a cool idea. There are different objectives from simply killing all of the enemies, to protecting a certain point and more. As you progress in the multiplayer “campaign” you will need to complete your set of objectives but you need to keep tabs on your partner too. If they happen to go down you can run over to revive them but if they are surrounded by a group of enemies you’ll have to find a way to revive him without getting taken out yourself. There are three different game modes in Gladiator (the MP mode) with Arena, Round to Round and Solo. In Arena you will join up with someone else online and face the challenges that are thrown at you as you try to entertain the crowd and stay alive at the same time. Here is where you have a “campaign” to go through that consists of a couple of stages that you both must go through together. In Round to Round you team up with someone over Xbox Live and take on the challenges that are thrown your way, however, this time you get to choose the arena environment as you play. Then there is the solo mode which should be self explanatory.
Ryse: Son of Rome is a solid, fun launch title. It does have a few issues that I discussed above but my overall experience was enjoyable. I am going to be going back through the game on the hardest difficulty to try and get all of the achievements which is something I don’t do for a lot of games. I actually do hope to see a sequel and I’m sure Crytek would be able to solve some of the issues mentioned if that happens. Ryse is a technical powerhouse that shows off what the Xbox One can do and it is only a launch title. Can you imagine how great these games will look once developers start to fully understand the hardware? As a launch title, Ryse: Son of Rome is an enjoyable experience and that’s all you can really ask for, right?
Originally posted on Gaming Target