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Ryse: Son of Rome Review

by William Schwartz

If you want to see what the Xbox One is capable of in terms of graphics, Ryse: Son of Rome is the game to play for the new console. If you’re looking for a next-gen experience in terms of gameplay, there are better alternatives.

Ryse: Son of Rome has been a mystery over the last few years. Announced at E3 as a Kinect title, the game then went into hiding. When it returned, its showing was one that cast a shadow over the game. Its re-reveal at E3 2013 put the game in a bad light, that’s for sure. It looked to be built on quick time events. As it turns out, Ryse: Son of Rome isn’t built entirely around quick Time events, but it is nevertheless a highly repetitive hack and slash title with little to nothing to offer on the gameplay front.

ryse-single-player-beach

Ryse: Son of Rome is a revenge story. One that has you controlling Marius Titus, and his “Ryse” through the ranks of the Roman army. Crytek tells this story through a series of flashback events, beginning with the tragic loss of Titus’ family members. Fueled by the anger and rage of these events, the Roman soldier is out for barbarian blood. It’s not exactly treading new ground when it comes to its delivery. You’ll progress through these events in the heroes past, until you make it back to the present day, where the story of Ryse begins in the first place. You’ll see some beautiful sights in Ryse: Son of Rome, that’s for sure. It’s one of the only reasons to keep slogging through the six hour campaign. The story is also progressed through a combination of in-engine cut-scenes and videos that add color to the time period, complete with mythology and lore of the times.

Most of your time will be spent in the game’s combat system in Ryse. It’s a competent system that has a lot of promise, it just wears out its welcome so early in the game’s campaign, that it becomes painfully boring by the story’s end. It’s not the best third person combat around, I can think of a number of games that were released this year that do it much better, but it runs into many of the same problems. Odd camera angles trapping you in corners without being able to see your opponents are sure to frustrate, but overall the combat is pretty good. Ryse has a unique system in place that makes you avoid button-mashing. First of all, enemies will be more prone to dodging your incoming attacks if you just hammer on the same button. But the game also rewards you for playing it right. Putting your opponents into a stage where they can be executed helps you build up experience points and perks in one of four areas. Damage Boost, Focus, Health Recovery, and XP Gain can all be selected at will. Whenever you execute an enemy, you’ll get this stat buff. If you’re low on health, you can switch over to health recovery, and you’ll gain back health for a successful execution. Each buff has a distinct use for the player.

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The executions are grizzly. Lopping off limbs, stabbing foes in the face and neck, there’s no shortage of gore in Ryse: Son of Rome. If anything, by game’s end you’ll be almost be desensitized to it. After seeing the 100th limb chopped off within the game’s first couple of hours, it all becomes just another round of combat in Ryse. Which is probably where this game took a wrong turn. There’s just not enough of anything else to keep the game interesting. Crytek tries to implement a few monotony breaking moments into the game, as the player controls groups of soldiers in a few instances, uses a couple of projectile weapons, but nothing of real substance to shake up the experience. Instead, Crytek relies on some impressive visuals as the real driving force to keep you engaged. It’ll take you to some impressive looking locations. Every level in Ryse is unique and beautiful. It’s not a bad tech demo for the Xbox One by any means, and it might be the best looking launch game on either the Xbox One or the PlayStation 4.

When the short campaign is over, there is a multiplayer mode in Ryse: Son of Rome. The multiplayer mode lacks the cinematic flair and beautiful locales of the campaign, and really focuses in on the combat of the game. It’s got a leveling and customization system for the truly engaged, complete with an egregious set of micro-transactions available to exploit you if you end up liking the mode. Being that the combat wears out its welcome in the campaign, you’re gonna really have to be sold on this aspect of the game to sink any real time into the mode. Playing with friends can spice things up, but it still doesn’t stop the combat from wearing thin, quickly.

The Verdict

Ryse: Son of Rome is beautiful, but boring. It’s a game that never fully realizes its full potential in either the single player or online offerings. If you want to see what the Xbox One is truly capable of from a visual standpoint, it’s worth a play down the line. But if you’re looking for a game with more substance, you won’t find it here. The combat is good, but repetitive and derivative of other, better games. Ryse kind of feels like the original Assassin’s Creed game from last-gen. You can tell that there’s potential here, but it has yet to be reached.

"meh"
meh

Ryse: Son of Rome

  • Available On: Xbox One
  • Published By: Microsoft
  • Developed By: Crytek
  • Genre: Action Adventure
  • US Release Date: November 22nd, 2013
  • Reviewed On: Xbox One
  • Quote: "Ryse: Son of Rome might be the best looking game released on either the PS4 or Xbox One. Unfortunately, it's lacking in the gameplay department. You can tell that there's potential here, but it has yet to be reached."
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