After becoming addicted to the Starz original series Spartacus, I was excited when I saw that a game based on a time when Rome ruled the world was going to be a launch title for the Xbox One. The idea of being dropped in an arena with only my sword, my shield, and my wits separating me from a bloody violent death was just what I was craving. Developer Crytek and Microsoft Studios are hoping that many players have that same taste of blood by releasing their exclusive game Ryse: Son of Rome as a day one launch title for its brand new console. If you’re ready for a very mature rated adventure and are willing to die with honor, then armor up because it’s going to get bloody.
Murder, betrayal and revenge are the classic formula for a story set in any timeline, but it fits more when your time was labeled B.C. Ryse: Son of Rome has a very simple story allowing you to play through the adventure as Marius Titus a young soldier who sees his family brutally murdered by a barbarian horde and vows revenge to kill them all. Marius becomes a signature warrior that destroys any man who dares hold a sword against him and climbs to the highest ranks as a powerful General in the Roman Empire. But he soon discovers that the enemy who he has long sought is closer than he expected.
With a set-up like that you know Marius is about to get medieval on someone’s ass. Ryse, despite its very shiny coat of paint is just a hack-n-slash game at its core. The combat system is basically attack, block, dodge and then wait for a button prompt icon to enforce a finishing move. For a huge chunk of the game of the game you will be running around and doing does same actions as countless enemies are thrown at you. Yes, if you think this gets repetitive real fast, it does, especial in a modern video game area. But if you grew on playing games like Golden Axe and Ninja Gaiden, Ryse will provide a piece of nostalgia and you will go along for the ride.
The brutal fatalities are the spice in the sauce, as you see Marius shredding off body parts of his foes like he’s a serial killer. You go to-to-toe with an opponent clanging swords and shields, then when you weaken them an icon will appear on screen indicating what button to hit to deliver for a devastating final blow. The nicely animated slow motion death blows range from a dismembered sword hand, followed by decapitation, or Marius’ blade going so deep into the enemy’s chest that it rips through his heart. The fighting system is very smooth, and when Marius is doing actions such as dodging as a sword misses his head by inches, or ramming his shield against an enemy’s head, it looks very convincing.
The problem is there is not that much variety in the game beyond hack-n-slash. The developer attempts to mix up gameplay by at certain moments allowing you to take control of a catapult or crossbow turrent. Then there are scenarios when you command your solders to line up in formation with shields held up as you storm an enemy zone to take control. More variations such as these would have made gameplay a lot less repetitive, because unfortunately they are over quick and then it goes back to basic sword and shield combat. Also, for a seasoned game player everything is much too easy, and unless there is a crazy boss you encounter, you’ll be able to mow down all other enemies without breaking a sweat.
Probably the biggest let down with the game is that you’re locked into a linear environment and can’t explore. The backgrounds looks spectacular, but they are locked behind invisible walls so you are only given a central zone that you can interact, and everything else around you is just to look at but not touch. This is obviously not an open world game, but it would have been nice if they allowed some exploration. The game is also very short, with a six to seven hour campaign that can be knocked out in a weekend if you’re committed. Despite its flaws, Ryse: Son of Rome has some really good gameplay moments, but lack of variety is what most gamers will frown at.
Hell yeah! This game looks amazing and Crytek went all out to show off what the Xbox One has under its hood. The facial expressions are some of the best you’ve seen in any game and at some points looks like an high-end animated movie. The environments are grand and no expense was spared to give the illusion that you are apart of the world of Rome as it looked at that point in time. Animations during combat are also smooth, detailing nice touches such as the light reflected from your sword and shield, as you constantly keep moving. After you finish playing the game, I suggest you allow someone else to play it as you just sit back and watch, because there’s probably a lot of visual candy you didn’t notice when you were playing because you were trying to avoid being decapitated.
Great voice acting and sound effects shine here. Just listen as you go up against your foes and the steel from your sword and shield CLANGS will every blow you deliver. Also, the soundtrack that rumbles with the echoes of horns and war drums will immerse you in the experience of combat. If you want to blasts the volume on your surround sound system, Ryse will deliver an ear shattering experience that will make you yell “Sparta!”
The single player campaign is short, but it is worth replaying to get all the in-game collectibles or to perfect your combat for upgrades. The multiplayer side of the game pits you in a co-op gladiator arena battle against a barrage of foes. The two-player combat system allows you to work together with another player, protecting him when he is surrounded and vise versa. To keeps things interesting, deadly objects such as spears and falling debris spring out at you to make it a little more challenging. This multiplayer mode is fairly simple, and does not deliver the long lasting appeal, but it’s worth playing a few times just to keep your thirst for revenge flowing.
Reviewed by Johnny McNair