Review: Ryse: Son of Rome – For the glory of Microsoft!

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The Xbox One is here and along with it we get launch title exclusives!  Let’s be honest here, that isn’t usually a phrase that we would openly celebrate if we are being realistic.  Ryse will not go on to be a gaming classic but we could certainly do worse as far as titles to try out your new Xbox One go.

Ryse: Son of Rome follows the story of Roman Centurion Marius Titus as he seeks out revenge on the barbarians who attacked Rome and murdered his family. In the process he will slaughter countless barbarians, uncover a world not nearly as clear as he thought it was and potentially save civilization from total collapse.  But hey, no pressure right?

The story for Ryse is somewhat cliché in nature but like most any fiction based on Ancient Rome, a total guilty pleasure. The story does manage to go in a couple of more interesting directions and a subplot forms throughout the adventure that highlights the potential for Ryse to become a franchise of note.  The actors generally do a fantastic job, even when the dialogue is full of cheese and the character animations are superb which helps to greatly sell the story, which is very epic in nature.

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Combat is both a high and low point for the game.  The slow motion, quick time event styled executions are phenomenally well done/bad ass/show off the amazing visuals but they also get old after a while/slow the pace of combat down/are maybe too easy.  There is no real punishment for failing the QTE of the execution, you simply receive a significantly smaller amount of experience and whatever bonus you have selected (you can choose between four bonuses to gain with each execution including health regeneration and bonus XP).  You can press every button wrong and you will still kill your enemy.  Outside of the QTE style executions the game is a pretty simple hack and slash: normal attack, normal push, heavy attack, heavy push, block, etc.  There is also a focus mode that builds up with combat that allows you to slow things down and become an even more efficient killing machine.  All of this is pretty standard stuff, which sounds really bad, except Crytek was smart enough to make timing essential. You can just sit and smash X over and over again for a simple attack and make some progress at first but you won’t make it very far. Landing the right attack, or block, at the right time is far more crucial.

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As said before, this is all very simple and straightforward and nothing revolutionary. The important thing to take away though is that while the combat is somewhat repetitive the emphasis on timing keeps it from feeling like just a hack and slash. When you get good at the game you kill better. That may seem like an obvious statement, but the point is that as you progress and learn the flow of the game’s combat you are able to actually become better at it. With time you’ll fight four enemies at the same time as easily as you fought one (though the game does occasionally get a little cheap with the multiple enemy fights). The worst part about most hack and slash type games is that there really isn’t a learning curve. The game just increases difficulty by putting more (or more difficult) enemies on the screen.  It simply doesn’t feel like that with Ryse. One last note, the game also does incorporate some Kinect commands (i.e. yell “fire volley” to have your archers fire a volley of arrows) in various parts of the game and occasionally you will form up with your other soldiers and move as a unit. These are nice touches to the game but not nearly as well executed as you might hope.

Ryse’s boss battles leave much to be desired though. They are often tedious bordering on boring and not nearly as fun as cutting through swarms of enemies.  In a weird way they feel necessary though. Consider this the least helpful part of the review.

"On my signal, unleash hell!"

“On my signal, unleash hell!”

Lastly, lets talk aesthetics.  As I said earlier, the voice acting and character animations are really top notch. Beyond that, visually it may be one of the best looking games on any console right now.  Levels are very linear in nature, and it is easy to complain about that or use that as some example of limitation, but exploration of the game is not the focus here (it is on combat) so it seems like a mute point. What is there is fantastically well done. From the detail of plants when running through a forest to the look of pain on a foe’s face as you strike them with your sword, there are a lot of “wow’ moments in the game’s visuals.  If Crytek set out to prove that Xbox One could boast some fancy visuals they certainly succeeded.

"Cool hat bro"

“Cool hat bro”

In the end Ryse: Son of Rome is by no means a perfect game. Visually fantastic with a story interesting enough to keep you engaged and a simple combat system with just enough nuances to be fun.  Ryse doesn’t set out to re-write the book but it is a fun and entertaining chapter. If you’re looking for something to play on your Xbox One that isn’t a so-so port from of a last gen-game and you’re zombied out, Ryse offers just that. Also, I’m just excited to finally get a descent third person game based on Rome. Compared with other launch game alternatives including a horrible port of the lackluster Madden 25 and the ever-present Call of Battlefield: Modern Ghost, Ryse is certainly worth checking out.

Final Rating: 7.8/10

CBR Break Down:
Console Played On
: Xbox One
Time to completion: About 8 hours
Gamer Score Earned: 665/1000
Price Bought at: $48 (Best Buy – Gamers Club Unlocked price)
Current Price: $49.00 (Amazon)
Recommend Purchase Price: $49 is fair since you probably want something to play on your Xbox One, but if reading this article in the future $29.99 maybe?
Why you should buy it: You enjoyed Spartacus or HBO’s Rome.
Why you shouldn’t buy it: It is kind of crazy that in a game where you hack of limbs in bloody combat they made the female characters wear pasties.

 

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About Tristan Rendo

I've made movies, written and performed music, and in January of 2011 got bored and started the awesome gaming site you see before you. My gaming roots began with the original NES, and endless hours spent spilling quarters into machines at the local arcade. I have a personal collection of over 200 Nintendo 64 games, and for many years it was the only system I owned. I re-entered the modern generation of gaming consoles when I decided to purchase a 360. I typically prefer the single player experience of games, so I’m usually playing through some single-player campaign, but can occasionally be found doing some damage in Halo Reach.