I remember when this game was presented to us all at a Microsoft press conference as a Kinect only title for Xbox360. My, my how things changed, for the better I might add.
You play as a Roman solider Marius bent on avenging his family that were killed in the heat of conflict. I don’t want to give much away. I couldn’t help thinking that I am playing a bigger budget game version of Russell Crowe’s Gladiator, which is essentially almost the same story. Family gets killed while you’re on duty and you eventually fight in the Gladiator arena to prove someone can stand up to the empire. Don’t let me think that this game is a push over or a bad story, by no means. I actually really enjoyed this story and felt the acting over all was very good which made me root for Marius on his quest.
This game at a face value looks like a showcase game to prove the Xbox is a powerful machine as everything looks just so damned amazingly beautiful. Crytek are the ones behind this so you expect high production value in the graphical department and they sure as hell do not disappoint. This is the game for me that made me realise that – okay, were are now into next gen, The character models are all so very crisply detailed, the environments like damned near real thanks to some very high resolution textures. The facial animations are just so expressive that hacking into your enemies immerses you further as you watch the pain on their face. Very unnerving. Two portions of the game that really were wow moments as far as being blown away by the visuals were the part storming the beach off the roman boats. It really felt like a massive battle was being waged, the waves, the dirt being kicked up, the sails of the boats never looked to real in a game that whole chapter was probably my favourite. The other being the chapter making your way through the forests. I’ve never plaid a game where the trees and shrubs actually looked to lush and real. The lighting, shadows, beams of sunlight peaking through the branches, the rivers everything was just so damed gorgeous. I could go on about how amazing the game looks but you really have to see it to appreciate it.
Now I know being a pretty damned beautiful game doesn’t make it the best game ever made. This game is far from it. Although I really did have a great time making my way through to the end of the story, the combat really could have done with some variation. This might just be me coming right off of Batman Arkham Origins release and playing the hell out of that and just about to get into Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag, but the combat in Ryse is very samey to that of the Arkham series. So my first thoughts were that of disappointment that I was about to play the same mechanics but the Batman shell was being replace with a beautifully rendered Rome skin. Once I told myself to get over it and let’s approach this as if I’ve never played the Arkham series I started enjoying it more and realising more of its deeper functions in combat. You can gain special bonuses each time you kill your enemies with particular kill animations which play out in a faux quicktime fashion. On the d-pad you can change the option to gain extra health, XP and focus points after each time to complete a kill animation. Otherwise you can just slash them up until they fall, but then you would miss out of all the chopped of limbs, the stabbing through necks, the intricate killing blows which is the real satisfying parts of the combat mechanics. As fun as they are to watch every time, after the first 20 times this tends to get very tedious and monotonous as you realise you’re only 1 hour into a 7 hour campaign.
Considering there’s no much more to this game than you playing Marius hacking your way through hoards of enemies around every corner you can see the problem here. There are no extra weapons to change up the combat if you leave out the odd throwing spears you can pick up in some areas. They’ve really tried to make the combat as realistic as possible so there aren’t really any over the top acrobatics or physics defying stunts happening in combat which is fair enough. So it’s just you, your sword and shield. I do admit though, when you get your flow happening of parrying and countering with your shield you feel so unstoppable and combat becomes enjoyable. My only other problem is that I got very tired of killing the same 5 character models the whole game. In all of this games high production value they couldn’t have added more character models? I don’t know how many times I saw the same fat guy with handle bar beard and the shield, let alone 3 of him on the screen at once.
The sparse sections where you man a turret were fun but one of the cooler moments were when you and your Roman soldiers go into what I call the Turtle Shell formation where you command your crew to bring up your shields when having a volley of arrows fired at you as you advance. I. Loved. That.
Speaking of firing a volley of arrows, this game utilises voice commands via Kinect. Which I really enjoyed and it actually works! You will find yourself in the midst of combat and a prompt on screen will say “Fire Volley!” or “Catapult Fire!” and sure enough you’ll see your fellow solider fire a volley of arrows at your foes or you’ll see a flaming ball of fire land from the catapult you ordered. It is a real hoot and I want more of this in future games.
Now to some multiplayer points. This is a bit of fun. You can fight with a co-op partner in the Colosseum and battle your way through hoards of foes while the battlefield is constantly shifting like one giant PokeMon stadium. It’s pretty great to do. The combat from the main game is the same but you get to make your own Roman soldier and upgrade him as you go with different gear and stats. I can see this mode being played quite often as playing online with a friend makes it that much more fun.
At the end of the day I really enjoyed Ryse: Son of Rome. Granted its combat could have used more variety and more character models to battle would have helped break up the monotony. This game’s signature will come from its slow mo quicktime kill animation shots which were always a treat to view. Add to that it’s just one of the most beautiful games i’ve ever laid eyes upon, you’ve got yourself a mixed bag. It’s like this: I love spaghetti but it’s got shit on it. That’s how I feel about Ryse. It’s so beautiful but it’s gameplay elements needs work. That’s why I noted at the start of this review it’s like a graphical showcase for Xbox One foremost.
I’ll give Ryse: Son of Rome, 3 out of 5 Chunts.