The problem with new consoles is trying to find a game that shows off your expensive purchase. With Ryse: Son of Rome, the developer Crytec tries to make your decision easy. The real question is should you bother? When this game was first announced in 2010, people were slightly optimistic. It was originally intended to be an Xbox 360 game that would showcase the new Kinect peripheral. After the E3 presentation, we never heard from him again, until the Xbox One announcement. With negative rumors surrounding the game, can Ryse: Son of Rome guarantee a purchase together with your new Xbox One?
In Ryse: Son of Rome, you play as the Roman soldier Marius, who is a rather bland character early in the game. He witnesses the murder of his family by the barbarian horde and the plot continues from there. It was a fairly short campaign, lasting around eight hours (that is if he decides to try and find all the collectibles), but the story was surprisingly engaging. It was a useful mix of Gladiator, game of Thrones and even a bit of 300. Slightly predictable, but the acting from all the characters was excellent, and even bored Marius becomes a likeable protagonist towards the end of the game.
One of the first things you’ll notice is how beautiful the images are. This is one of the most beautiful games for the new Microsoft console. Developer Crytec has some experience with great looking games with their crisis Serie. If you have a 1080p-enabled TV, Ryse: Son of Rome it will reward you with some of the best graphics you have ever seen in a game. The lush forests and fire effects were the highlights of this title.
When they finally showcased this game at this year’s E3, it looked impressive, except the gameplay was hampered by constant quick-time events. It seemed like it took the player right out of the experience and since then God of Warquick-time events have been a tiresome staple in action games.
After the initial reaction the developers received, they decided to change the overused gameplay mechanic. What replaced it was more or less the same. Basically, when you start an execution with the right trigger, the enemy is highlighted in yellow or blue, indicating which button to press on your controller to take out the enemy. The problem is that there is no real punishment for messing it up. After about an hour of constantly executing those pesky barbarians, you’ll see more or less all the execution animations. It got tired, but luckily you always had the option to ignore them.
Another big complaint was when the game places you on turrets. Suddenly, you’ll be pulled into a first-person camera angle and then forced to shoot arrows from a mounted crossbow. These sections weren’t fun and were just an excuse to get a higher kill bonus. There are also sections of the game where you are in charge of leading a protected group of Roman soldiers. This was entertaining and seemed to fit the scene more than a randomly mounted turret section.
In addition to quick-time events and turret sections, the game relies on flashy swords and shield hacking and hacking. This is finally where the game shines. Marius is fast, strong and the game really delivers on the fact that you are a Roman star. My favorite aspect of combat was not attacking an enemy, but rather blocking them with Marius’s shield. With a quick tap of the A button, you can deflect his blows. It felt satisfying when you ripped through a group of enemies without a scratch. You will also get additional experience points. Also, if you continue to do well, you’ll gain focus, which by pressing both bumper buttons can slow down time and make you an even more efficient killing machine.
You can also upgrade Marius at any time during the single player part. By the end of the campaign, you should be close enough to fully upgrade it. There was even an option to use microtransactions to upgrade your character. Don’t bother with that, like I said, it’s fast enough to update as you progress through the story.
Fortunately, there is one more important feature to Ryse: Son of Rome apart from the campaign. That’s Gladiator mode, which is basically cooperative. It’s limited to just two players, and unfortunately you can’t play with another person on the same console. It’s just Xbox Live. In this cooperative mode, enemies will pounce on you and you will also have different objectives to accomplish. Think of it as the Horde mode of gears of war 2 o Shooting from the aura Serie. Just don’t expect to beat up your fellow Gladiator.
Just like in single player, you can upgrade your multiplayer character. Only this time, it’s with a team. It’s interesting because all gear has different stats, but at the same time it can be frustrating because every time you level up, the gear you unlock is random. There’s nothing standout, but the co-op mode has a certain kind of depth, which is a nice addition.
The main question you will undoubtedly have is whether you should buy this game. The answer is yes, but not now. $60 is a high price for Ryse: Son of Rome. The single player portion of the game is a bit short and shallow. I would compare it with EA’s Lord of the Rings games for Xbox and PlayStation 2. The game is wonderful in short bursts but has some extremely obvious flaws. Even with the cooperative mode added, the game is simply not worth the price of admission. Hopefully this is not the last Ryse game and if I get the chance, I’m sure Crytec will make an awesome sequel. Wait for the price to drop or a used copy and you’ll get your money’s worth.