Ryse: Son of Rome – Game Review and Analysis
By Dan Maurer
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Director: Cevat Yerli
Producer: Cevat Yerli
Engine: CryEngine 4th Generation
Platform: Xbox One
Release Date: November 22, 2013
Genre: Hack and slash, action-adventure
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
The Xbox One has finally landed and along with it, a handful of exclusive launch games to entice early adopters. Among them is developer Crytek’s Ryse: Son of Rome, which holds the distinction of being the Xbox One’s only retail launch exclusive that doesn’t have a sequel number tacked onto the end. With the power of an updated CryEngine behind it, this third-person action adventure boasts a stunning visual feast that will give players’ eyeballs more than their fill. Unfortunately, a handful of mechanical and design shortcomings keep this new game from being the “killer app” that console buyers were hoping for, but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked entirely.
Most of the brightest spots are found in the game’s presentation and narrative. Told mostly in flashback, Ryse’s story of revenge, betrayal, and honor proves compelling enough thanks to above-average voice work from most of the cast. Emperor Nero’s son Basilius is especially entertaining with the voice actor clearly reveling in the character’s chewing persona. While the second act does wander off a bit, Marius’ journey is well told and the conclusion is mostly a satisfying and predictable one. Saving the best feature for last, Ryse utilizes the newly beefed-up CryEngine to say “Not so fast,” to detractors who would claim that their won’t be much of a visual upgrade with this new generation of consoles.
This game is absolutely breathtaking. From detailed facial animations to varied locations, this game has come right out of the gate to already set a graphical benchmark for other games to achieve. Forests live and breathe, light dances on Marius’ armor, and every surface looks as though the player could reach out and touch it. First and foremost, Ryse is a visual showpiece for the Xbox One launch and the only glaring issue I found with the visuals is how it renders water. While it never looks bad, the results are wildly inconsistent and never feels on par with the rest of the environments. There is also the occasional glitch, namely a bit of pop-in and some random clipping, but these are small hiccups in an otherwise spectacular display. In fact, getting to lay eyes on the gorgeous scenery will for many become the primary reason to fight through the game’s repetitive design.
The button presses from the E3 demo are gone. Instead Crytek replaced them with color codes and the color codes, you guessed it, allude to button presses. Yellow is Y, blue is X, press X to murder. This is Ryse ladies and gentlemen. Behind the pretty graphics and generic revenge storyline, Ryse is little more than a hack ‘n slash quicktime event marathon. It’s extremely tedious and extremely boring. Here’s how it works and repeats for the entire game: you’ll move forward a bit until you hit a group of enemies. You’ll engage by either pressing X to slash or Y to block break. You’ll switch between those while pressing A to counter until an icon appears above an enemy’s head. Then you’ll activate the quicktime event and execute them for health, experience, focus or strength. That’s it, that’s the just of combat. You’ll do it again and again and again and again. Crytek recognized this problem and created this weird focus meter that will let you ignore enemy attacks and spam them with X whenever it builds up. It’s really just a shortcut to the quicktime events, though, so don’t expect it to dynamically change gameplay.
Ryse’s multiplayer mode is Gladiator, a co-op arena mode for two players set in the game’s surreal, transforming interpretation of the Colosseum. There are ten well-constructed scenarios and a couple of different ways to play them. Your gladiator handles like Marius but instead of unlocking upgrades, you improve your stats with equipment. Equipments and consumables only come in random booster packs which you buy for game gold and you guessed it gold is earned slowly but is also available to buy. You can also use game gold to buy the single-player upgrades if you like, but you won’t really need to. Even putting this business model aside, it’s not a very rewarding progression system, and Gladiator doesn’t engage anyway. It’s the same stunted combat as the campaign offers, and there are no multiplayer dynamics at all, just two brawlers in the same space. Might be fun with a friend for an evening, but that’s it.
Ryse is by far one of the best looking launch games on any next generation system. However, the pretty visuals do not overcome the repetitive and sometimes frustrating combat that comes with this game. If that doesn’t bother you in the slightest, then Ryse might be worth a playthrough for you.
PunchDrunkGamer.com Score: 6.5 out of 10
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