If you have read one Ryse review you have read them all. The game has been the butt of many jokes since its debut at E3 this year as a showcase title for the Xbox One, most involving the use of quick-time events which made many people give up on the game months before the product was on the shelf. To those who refuse to even give the game a chance you are missing out on some beautiful graphics, Batman-style combat and blood, blood, blood. The story borders on vapid but I can not deny that I had a lot of fun with Ryse.
The story of Ryse focuses on Marius Titus, a soldier of Rome who sees his family murdered before him and is set off on a tale of revenge that is told through flashback as he explains his journey to Nero himself as Rome falls around them. Revenge stories, especially in this genre, are nothing new and any expectations of story depth like Mass Effect or The Last of Us should be hastily abandoned. You see the betrayals coming, the comrades falling and the sacrifice that will be made early on because it is Writing 101.
The shallowness of the story is taking nothing away from the performances of the actors, who are all solid in their roles. These were more than just simple voiceovers in Ryse with the actors facial expressions all motion captured and will amaze in places with the power of the Xbox One.
Graphically, Ryse: Son of Rome is a game that you pop in to show friends just what next-gen holds in the future. It is beyond beautiful. Even the most cynical of PC gamers will have to admit that it is a wonder to behold in places. Weapons gleam in the midst of combat and backdrops ranging from the glory of Rome to forests filled with rivers and waterfalls will have you stopping to pan the camera around to take in how lavish your surroundings are. I am tempted to play through the game again to see if there was some details that I missed.
The biggest reason I had an enjoyable time playing Ryse was its combat. There is no denying it was influenced by the Batman: Arkham series. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then Ryse is showering Batman with roses. You attack with X and use your shield with the A and Y buttons. A is use to deflect attack (ala Arkham’s counter style) and Y is a shield bash you use to open up shielded enemies attacks. B is use for a barrel roll that you will be using. A lot. Pressing RB will make Marius use his focus mode which turns the screen yellow and allows him to go slash happy on any enemy in your path. It is helpful in crowds of enemies but is kind of a get out of jail free card when things get tough.
The combat flows seamlessly and helps with the games combo system that you use to gain back health, XP and focus while you are putting your enemies to the sword. At any time, in and out of fighting, you can hit a direction on the d-pad which distributes the points gained from combos to the three previously mentioned categories. The upgrade system has a lot of options but it is not as deep as it would appear to be. Once you unlock the games varied executions there is little else besides health, focus and damage upgrades which are spread across too many screens.
The infamous quick time events that many complained about are still in the game they have just been slightly reworked since the E3 presentation. During battle when you weaken an enemy an icon will appear over their head. You can choose to initiate the execution or continue your normal attacks until he dies. Hitting RT begins the different kill animations and instead of a button prompt over the head, the enemy will glow either blue or yellow telling whether you should hit X or Y. Here is the weird catch. It doesn’t matter if you hit the buttons or not, once you begin the execution it is going to happen. Hitting the correct button prompts adds to your combo and health/focus/XP gain. Most will find this asinine but I never let it bother me especially when it would give me extra hits on a long combo streak I had going.
Ryse does offer a different take on multiplayer. You and another person will be matched and team up to take on the dangers of the Coliseum. You won’t be stuck in an open arena rather an ever changing environment. Each stage changes to freshen up the proceedings including forests and multi-tiered areas. There is a meter at the top of the screen showing how entertained the audience is in your performance. You must execute often and use your environment to maim to keep the crowd cheering. You will be awarded gold for stage victories that you can use to purchase upgrades to weapons, armor and all the other good stuff a growing gladiator needs. I only played a few rounds and pretty much saw most of what there was to see and did not feel the need to keep going. After finishing the story it just felt like a grind when I had more games to play. Some may find it worthwhile but it was nothing special to me even though it retained the same fun combat.
The complaints about Ryse are understandable depending on what you were expecting. I went in wanting a hack and slash adventure that didn’t overstay its welcome. A fun time waster that showed off what the Xbox One could do visually. That is exactly what I got. The story only took me about seven hours to complete which was just the right amount of time. Combat is fun an fluid and even though it is repetitive I never wanted to stop cutting off limbs or bashing faces with my shield. The story is on the weak side but you should really just channel your inner testosterone and enjoy the mayhem. The best way I can describe Ryse is that it is beautiful Roman murder porn.
That is a compliment.
NERD RATING- 8/10
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