Ryse: Son of Rome was a launch game for the Xbox One and was met with middling at best reception from critics.
I personally stayed away from the game based on what I heard from critics. The two big criticisms were that the story was uninspired and the game became very repetitive.
During the past week I decided to download Ryse from GamePass and give it a try. I always thought the premise was cool and the action sequences always seemed interesting.
Going back to Ryse all these years later feels like I’m stepping back in time in many ways.
It feels like a game that was made with the original Xbox One vision in mind. The main menu is slick and interactive, and feels heavily inspired by the Microsoft Surface interface. You can access everything the game has to offer from the pause menu. You can go directly into the multiplayer from the menu (which I admittedly haven’t touched) as well as micro transactions and other customizations.
The game in many ways feels like a tech demo to show off the original Xbox one vision. An all in one interconnected menu, meant to resemble the Xbox One tile system. It’s odd to play a game built for the original vision of Xbox considering the completely new vision of Xbox we have 6 years later.
The game itself is a typical action adventure game where you follow a Roman soldier named Marius. You follow him in a flashback type story where you follow his journey from everyday soldier to hero of Rome.
The story has interesting moments and has a couple of noteworthy characters, and while I haven’t finished the game yet, I have a good idea what’s going to happen by the end.
The story so far is fine, but that isn’t the reason to consider playing Ryse. The thing that makes Ryse so cool is the combat. The combat mainly revolves around sword gameplay in which you are often pitted against other enemies with various different weapons.
Have you ever watched 300 and thought “wow that slow motion stuff is pretty neat”. Well, Ryse is basically if you turned 300 into a game.
The core loop of the game is to put enough hits into enemies and then follow that up with an execution. The executions are incredibly simple to pull off but always feel satisfying.
The combat is straight forward and never becomes too Complex. The challenge is making sure you hit the correct button in order to get the maximum amount out of an execution.
An execution will fill up a meter which can give you a regeneration of health, more XP, or other boost depending on what you want filled up.
During an execution, the enemy will flash a color, yellow or blue, (The X button for blue, Y button for Yellow). If you hit the buttons on time you will be rewarded with a larger boost.
It’s incredibly satisfying to land a combo and get the maximum boost possible because you perfectly executed the combo. It’s a simple loop, but I never grew tired of it.
The combat by itself is engaging, slick, and always gratifying. It’s very similar in terms of the repetitive, yet satisfying, combat you’ll find in an Arkham game. I never got tired of hitting the execution and watching the combo be pulled off in 300 style slow motion. It also helps that the game is beautiful as well.
Seriously. This game was a launch Xbox One game, which already was underpowered at release, and it still looks incredible.
The world itself is interesting too. There are notes and collectibles to find. Although the world building is limited and the collectibles are not as abundant as other games, the world is interesting enough that I’d love to see what a second Ryse would look like.
Ryse: Son of Rome is a good game. It’s not perfect, and I’m admittedly willing to ignore a mediocre story for an immensely satisfying combat system.
Ryse takes the best of action games and mixes it with beautifully rendered slow motion. It’s not the most complex game I’ve ever played and that’s more than fine. Sometimes all I want from a game is to mash my controller and watch a Roman soldier completely wipe out an army by himself.
Maybe one day Crytek, the developers of Ryse, and Xbox will work together again and improve on an already solid foundation. But if not, at least we’ll always have this incredibly cool game.