Reviewed on: Xbox One
Also Available on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/302510/
I can’t imagine anyone would come Ryse’s defense when I say that it’s not a great game. Sure it’s entertaining, will keep you occupied, and presents some level of difficulty, but I’m already having a hard time remembering both the story and the entire experience.
The main draw of the game when it first released as an Xbox One exclusive was definitely the graphics. They still look really good, from the cloth, water, and environments, to the character models themselves. I also think the characters have memorable faces and character models, actually.
The voice acting is also very good. Obviously, within any military setting, there’s going to be a lot of testosterone-fueled grunting, yelling, and screaming, but even that’s done very well. My favorite sounds in the game are when you form a phalanx with the men you’re commanding and have to shield wall, move up, and throw pila (spears) to engage archers. I never got tired of those parts.
And, along with the voice acting, the story is really pretty good. You’re sent to a lot of cool and significant locations, and all of the characters are pretty unique and work together well in the cut-scenes. The story is a bit predictable, but I can’t say I wasn’t surprised a couple times. The simple setting of the late Roman empire allowed the writers to explore some of the corruption and weakness going on in Rome at that time, and you can see that’s where it’s going pretty quickly. Regardless, the story and voice actors are a big part of what kept me engaged.
That isn’t so much to say for the combat system. It’s simply functional. It doesn’t ever wow me or fill me with joy that I’m getting more skilled at it, it just works. It basically consists of heavy/light attacks, deflecting, dodging, and shield bashing, all done with A,B,X, and Y. You can also throw pila, but it takes forever and is really only good for archers. The only real challenge I faced was mixing up when I should be dodging heavy attacks and deflecting the light ones. Other than that, it’s like a watered down Batman Arkham style fighting gameplay with a pretty low skill ceiling.
A lot of the satisfaction from the gameplay comes from the executions. There are many of them, and the play randomly for every time you press RT when an enemy is weak enough. Line two weak enemies up, and you get a double execution. The animations for these are always great to look at, especially when it involves chopping off an arm or a leg. Throughout my playtime, though, I never saw one decapitation in any of the execution animations, even the ones I bought mid play-through.
And, that’s probably the weakest part of the game for me. It becomes more and more clear that the meat of the satisfaction of gameplay was from executions, which are just thinly veiled quick-time-events using color coordination with the face buttons. NO WONDER THIS WAS AN XBOX EXCLUSIVE! US AND OUR COLORFUL BUTTONS AND WHATNOT.
Sadly, there isn’t much to be said about the multiplayer. It’s basically different versions of horde mode with the same exact barbarian enemies you’ve been fighting the entire game. I wouldn’t care so much for the lack of variety given the historical accuracy, but some more variety of weapons and even just more variety in the looks of the barbarians would have added a lot. I don’t really feel like I’m killing hordes of barbarians, more like the same 4 or 5 guys over and over again with the same exact faces and armor. It gets old pretty quick.
So, if you payed $60 for this game, I hope you were at least wowed by the graphics when it came out, but I would personally wait until it was on sale for $25 or less at this point. The launch hype and graphics aren’t enough to hold this game up, and overall it’s pretty forgettable, but it did spark in me some interest in Roman history. I’ll be falling asleep to Roman history documentaries and podcasts for a week or so. If you’re on Xbox, pick this game up while it’s free.
Overall, I give Ryse: Son of Rome a 6/10.
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