Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Medium: Blu-ray Disc/Digital
The Xbox One launch was quite solid, featuring strong 3rd party support with games like Need for Speed: Rivals and Assassin’s Creed IV, as well as Xbox One exclusives like Forza 5 and Dead Rising 3. It is fitting to round off the line up with arguably the best looking title for the Xbox One launch, Ryse: Son of Rome. Developed by Crytek and originally scheduled to be a Kinect-only title for Xbox 360, the developers took the time and effort to transform what would have been a niche, one trick pony into a solid action title that is certainly a showpiece for your new $500 gaming monster. While the game play may become rather repetitive and drab once you reach the game’s conclusion, and the multiplayer quite lacking in longevity, it is the game’s engrossing story and remarkable visuals that will keep gamers playing until the end. Ryse presents new Xbox One owners with a sample of what the system is capable of and leaves Xbox One players with an experience quite satisfying.
Ryse: Son of Rome follows the story of a fearless Roman soldier named Marius Titus, who joined the army to avenge the slaying of his family, but inevitably emerges as the hero who must save the Roman Empire. Seeking revenge, Marius heads to Britannia where he proves his worth as a solider with phenomenal skill as he quickly rises through the ranks. Through a sequence of unfortunate circumstances, Marius’ quest will unravel as he discovers he must return to Rome to find his vengeance and murderer of his family.
Visually, Ryse is a stunner, and gamers will be hard pressed to tell the difference between cut scenes and game play, as the game looks that good. From the detail to the player models that show facial emotions, dirt, blood and sweat, to the intricate armor which moves and flows with the player model with no tearing or clipping, Ryse is an attractive game. The background environments are vast and impressive with a scale that will impress any onlooker with its sheer scope and beauty. If you were locked within the halls and walls of castles, the game would still be good looking, but the story will take you into wooded areas and lands that are filled with foliage and streams that shows off the fine eye for detail and artistic prowess of the designers. Toss it all together with impressive lighting, destructive environments, and savagely brutal executions and the game will wow you visually from beginning to the end. Of course Ryse isn’t without some technical faults as the camera will sometimes take you out of range of attack making you miss opponents and become disoriented from time to time. The areas of travel are also limited to where you can go, and it is odd when you have a chest high fence you can’t climb, yet there are much higher walls that are designed for climbing and easily traversed. Lastly, the enemy variety is a disappointment as you will only see a half dozen or so style of enemies. Sure you will fight enemies who are pertinent to the area you are in, but the way they fight is the same from area to area throughout the game. There are a few boss battles that help to break up the monotony, but the game is taking a realistic approach, so don’t expect God of War style epic bosses here.
The game play in Ryse: Son of Rome is where many gamers will find the most fault with the game. While the execution isn’t bad by any means, it is the game’s lack of diversity from area to area that will lull many gamers into submission. I for one didn’t have much of an issue with this combat as it played much like Batman: Arkham Asylum in a sense as you battle multiple enemies at once using various dodges, blocks, and parries to bounce from foe to foe. Once you have an enemy low on vitality, an execution skull appears over their head allowing for you to perform an execution attack or attacks that will result in a XP combo earning you higher points depending on timing and accuracy. It is with this XP earned where you can increase your combat skills, health, and a few other goodies that eventually make you a grander bad ass. Gone from the early E3 version is a button icon that appears to highlight how the execution is to be completed and it is replaced with a bit more subtle glow of yellow or blue around the enemy which of course matches the color of the button press you must make. The result is a gruesome display of impaling and dismemberment, but is short lived on “oohs” and “ahhs” as you will see the same executions many many times throughout the game’s progress. Of course this is not a necessity if your aim is to just take out a horde of enemies as fast as you can, as button mashing is still an option, it is just not as rewarding.
Truthfully about 75% of the game is dredging through these battles to get from one plot point to the next, but fear not as the game isn’t all one great big monotonous fest of hacking and slashing as there are points of the game where combat is mixed up to keep you from growing weary in your journey. In between brutally wreaking havoc there are instances where you man large in ground weapons to take out enemies; lead a group of soldiers into forthcoming attacks where they will raise and lower their shields as well as fighting back by tossing javelins to their attackers; and helping to take out hordes of enemies to protect the lay of the land as you bark out orders via Kinect to have archers attack or volley. While these moments are spread out, it would have been nice to see more of them throughout your journey to help further break up many of the long winded sword battles.
The game’s story isn’t the only option of battle in which to sink your blades into as the developers didn’t forget the multiplayer fans out there. Ryse also introduces a cooperative gladiatorial combat in the Coliseum mode with either solo or side by side play with someone from Xbox Live against an ever changing array of enemies and challenges. This mode includes 11 maps, each comprised of unique tile sets which include obstacles, scenery, and other elements that bring each map to life. Each time you play the maps will shift and rearrange to create a continuous stream of unique settings. It is your ultimate goal to make the crowd happy and they will cheer and throw flowers and gifts, but make them mad they will pelt you with fruit and harmful objects. While this mode may not be the deepest or even keep you busy for months on end, it is a nice option may give the game some replay value outside of the story mode.
Overall, Ryse: Son of Rome is a solid launch title that tells a good story, looks freaking amazing, and plays great. It’s difficult to ignore the fact that the game play does get a bit repetitive after time, but this by no means reason enough to pass on the game as some other members of the video game press would have you believe. I for one am happy I ignored the haters and added this to my launch collection as it is easily one of my top Xbox One launch titles to pop into my console to show what the next generation is all about.