Real Talk By: KJ
Formerly a Kinect only title, this Xbox exclusive has morphed into a 3rd person brawler. Since its shocking unveiling at E3, gamers have been anxiously waiting to play the new and improved Ryse. Developer Crytek has taken a lot of heat despite showing off some stellar visuals. Players were complaining about Quick Time Events appearing often in gameplay demonstrations. Would it detract from the experience? This was the main concern. From the start we were shocked that Son of Rome was a launch title in the first place. This looks like a major undertaking for any company. Were they able to get the job done? Is it more than just a tech demo?
You Control Marius Titus. Lead him in his quest for revenge. Control a Roman Army and bring order. The story is filled with great voice acting, and decent writing. Destroy the Barbarians that killed your family. Ryse is a linear game. plain and simple. Go from Point A to B with little exploration options. In rare occasions though, players can slip off the main path to find hidden collectibles. They include: Chronicles, Scrolls and Vistas. Using tablet devices you can see what each Easter Egg represents. Read passages from fallen soldiers, look at concept art. Users can do it by installing the Smartglass App. Windows 8 owners can do it too.
The journey from a visual standpoint, stays fresh. Each level bears no resemblance to the next. The CryEngine does wonders with this new hardware. Everything from a little mud puddle to the highest building is rendered in fine detail. Blood looks good. Slice/dice, and see the crimson pour. Armor looks realistic. It accurately shines given the situation. All NPC’s received the same treatment. Whether Marius is fighting in broad daylight or pitch black environments, it does not matter. Still, more traveling in these beautiful areas would have been nice. Let us soak in this bold new generation. Levels are narrow in scope, does the combat follow suit?
I posted an article focusing on the combat in Ryse. There were a few concerns with the game. Questions were asked, and they will be answered. Are the Controls pick up and play? Absolutely. It feels great pulling off moves, the trick is in the timing. All attacks have force behind them. Hold in X to lunge at enemies, or Y to break their guard with a shield strike. Simply jamming on the button will get you killed, especially if your playing on Centurion or Legendary difficulty. Time the A button and block/deflect attacks, or B to roll away. Some foes have unblock-able moves, this is where evading and proper parrying will come in handy. The fighting gets rather challenging in later missions. One of the final boss fights will put everything you’ve learned the test.
Points are racked up for landing executions. This is also where the negative press aimed their focus. Is this game QTE overkill? Yes and no. after beating the mess out of an enemy, a skull will light-up above their heads. Initiate the cutscene by hitting the Right trigger. Or continue to time your strikes till the barbarian is defeated. It’s up to the player. We asked if the sword combat would get stale. Eventually. While Marius can throw his pilum at foes, use crossbow turrets, the bulk of story mode is all-sword. It depends on who is behind the wheel to keep it fresh. Use points from playing to buy more executions. Surroundings will help. Near a cliff? Chain a combo and kick someone off it with authority. There are 100 executions in total, so make sure to unlock many early in the game. Also when the focus meter is full, players can stun enemies, slow down time, and unleash a barrage of pain. Get two guys weakened enough and Marius can lock both of them into special double executions. Movements all look incredibly realistic make the payoff satisfying. The Motion-captured performances are top flight.
Like the executions, Heath and focus upgrades can all be purchased with experience points. Similar to Forza 5, want more gold and XP, then pay real world cash. For a game that can be completed in 6-8 hours even on centurion difficulty, this feels incredibly unjust. Also villain variety is sparse. Since so much detail was taken into each character, it stands out more. You’re killing the same people a lot. Could they have changed the hair color on some guys at least?
Controlling your army was fun, but never fully realized. You cannot call for help unless the game prompts you. The Roman legions that periodically fight by your side, are of little use in battle. They will clash with the bandits, but never really killing them without your help. They’re more for background garnish. I did enjoy the parts where everyone moved together at the same time, using shields in unison, deflecting enemy arrows. More of these sequences would have made ryse’s campaign feel more than just a solo act.
In some multiplayer components, the visuals take a hit to accommodate everything. While Gladiator mode is only two player online, not a single sacrifice was made. We could see people having more fun in this than the campaign. Earn favor with the audience by performing executions. You can taunt to raise the crowd excitement meter (just like Capcom’s PS2 gem, Shadow of Rome). Playing stages solo is an option. Enemies of all skill levels come after you. Select a god to fight for. Each has special enhancements that benefit you and the other player. Health bonuses, XP, focus, ext. Nice map variety freshens things. Different objectives come up, like defending an object from attackers or killing messengers. Special items are in each. Wooden Spikes, Bear Traps, play the game right and you can really do some damage to others. Also exclusive to this mode, are double executions where both players kill a single barbarian at the same time. Go through the stages and see the arena change before your very eyes. Upgrading swords and armor takes quite a while. Those who refuse to pay for a boost, will work hours before getting nicer accessories. With just one main melee weapon, some will be unwilling to put in that much time.
Ryse: Son of Rome is a fun launch title while it lasts. Your treated to a visual spectacle that features jaw dropping stages, and realistic violence. Fun as the combat can be, a sword and shield can only take you so far. We can understand the repetitive nature of the gameplay will wear out some. Fans of the Dynasty Warriors series would be the best group to recommend it to. For everyone else, it’s a solid rental. Or you could wait for Ryse’s price to fall.
Ryse: Son of Rome Gets
Out of Five
+Grand Presentation (Graphics, voice acting, soundtrack)
-Too light on content for $60
-Barbarian clone army
-Silly Micro-transactions (this isn’t a FTP game!)