Ryse: Son of Rome casts players in the shoes of one of Rome's greatest soldiers that goes by the name of Marius Titus. The game begins in the midst of a huge battle against barbarian forces before Marius finds himself locked in the chambers of Emperor Nero along with the leader himself. He then begins recounting the story of how a young Marius began quickly rising through the ranks to become the war general he is today all while seeking endless amounts of blood and revenge for his fallen family. Much of the storyline in Ryse: Son of Rome is a recount of prior events as told by Marius to his emperor, but it's a grand story that is full of bloodshed, betrayal, fear and unimaginable heroics. The ending of the game is a bit of a letdown, but the journey to the end of the game more than makes up for any shortcomings in the narrative, and there is plenty of great action sequences throughout the game to keep players excited during the 6 hour campaign.
Combat in Ryse: Son of Rome is simple and can often times feel repetitive. Marius has two main types of attacks with the X and Y buttons that can be charged for more powerful attacks. One button primarily controls sword strikes, while the other is typically used to help break through an enemy's guard. Once an enemy has been damaged enough, a skull appears above their head, and an execution attack can be initiated. The executions are the most rewarding aspect of combat in Ryse: Son of Rome, and the attacks are plenty gruesome and varied enough to make each kill feel rewarding for the duration of the game. Enemies will become highlighted either blue or yellow, corresponding with the color of the X and Y buttons, to let players know which button mash is next in the chain, and the attacks can range from slicing off an appendage and stabbing an enemy through the throat, to dealing blunt force damage with a mighty knee drop on a fallen enemy. Ryse: Son of Rome is a great looking game, and the stunning detail in each kill makes the game feel much more like a cinematic experience than any other game that has released before it.
Each execution will reward players with one of four benefits. The two that are most often used can reward players with some health regeneration or additional experience points that can be spent to unlock new skill moves, execution attacks or added benefits in combat. Players can also gain additional force that is used to unleash special attacks or greater damage output to help deal with stronger enemies quicker. Execution attacks will go through without fail once initiated, but for maximum profit, players will need to mash the correct button when prompted on screen as quickly as possible. Doing so quickly enough will reward players with Centurion and Legendary bonuses that increase rewards with each kill, and two enemies can be executed at once by the most skilled swordsman to further increase bonuses. This constant drive to perform perfect executions, along with the amazing display of in-game cinematics helps keep combat fresh in Ryse: Son of Rome despite base gameplay mechanics seeming rather boring at first glance.
There are eight chapters to complete during the Ryse: Son of Rome campaign that will take most players right around six hours to complete the first time around. Combat scenarios throughout the campaign are varied, so what may begin as a fight between Marius and a group of barbarians may soon turn into total warfare between the two sides, as hordes of enemies flood the streets, and the player must command his army to attack enemy defenses or the actual barbarian soldiers themselves.Ryse: Son of Rome uses some minimal Kinect features that are used periodically throughout the game to bark out orders to other soldiers such as ordering soldiers to raise their shields against attack or to command a platoon of archers to rain down fire on a group of enemies. The campaign also has branching paths to take to offer players a reason to go back through the game more than once to see how other scenarios will play out during certain missions.
Ryse: Son of Rome features a wide array of enemies during its six hour campaign that help to constantly keep players on their toes while forcing players to consistently differentiate one type of foe and their weaknesses from another. Common enemies are easy to dispatch with nearly any attack and are mainly used to regain health in sticky situations or to chain together combo kills. Once again, it's important to chain attacks and kills with proper button mashes for maximum rewards, but players need to know the differences in enemies, since some enemies are more difficult to successfully attack, while their attack patterns will be different and may require precision parries or be unblockable altogether. Knowing the enemy attacks and weaknesses is just as important as knowing what attacks are available to the player in Ryse: Son of Rome, and boss battles are even more challenging the first time these enemies are encountered.
The few gripes that most players have with Ryse: Son of Rome come from combat that relies heavily on the mashing of two buttons. There is definitely little variety between the light and heavy versions of the two face buttons, but executions go a long way in keeping fights feeling fresh. The different game environments and less varied enemy types do make each chapter feel a bit different from the last. Ryse: Son of Rome is supported by a strong cast of characters beyond Marius some of which are easily hated, loved or even pitied. Some of these characters feature great acting, while others are a little less authentic. Though Ryse: Son of Rome is a great game to look at, it's not uncommon for the game's camera to become obscured during tight quartered combat, and this seems to be a much larger problem later in the game for the last couple of chapters. Ryse: Son of Rome isn't perfect, and gamers probably shouldn't expect a launch title for a console to be too great, but the game is plenty of fun and a title well worth picking up for the new video game platform.
Ryse: Son of Rome does feature cooperative online multiplayer that allows up to two players to team together and take on waves of enemies inside the Roman Coliseum. In this mode, players choose a playlist of maps that will change in-game, and players must work together to chain together combos while protecting each other from incoming attacks. Players can also attack the same enemies and pull off double executions that feel really rewarding after flying mostly solo throughout the game's single player campaign. Combat still works mostly the same in multiplayer as in the single player campaign, but players will pledge loyalty to a god before the match begins that grants different types of benefits from executions in combat. Additionally, players are allowed to customize their gladiators with a variety of tiered potions, items and equipment for quick boosts in the game, and coins are awarded for completed matches to unlock more gear. While the multiplayer mode in Ryse: Son of Rome isn't needed to make the title a good game, it's still a fun addition that gives players a reason to come back and enjoy the title with a friend while leveling up and gaining new equipment through the game's progression.
No matter which game mode is being played, Ryse: Son of Rome looks great. The new release runs at a smooth 30 frames per second and never seems to slow in even the most hectic combat scenarios. Ryse: Son of Rome is built on the newest version of the CryEngine that allows for some incredible character models to be built and feel realistic with superb animations. Ryse: Son of Rome features a few good themes on its soundtrack, and most of the game's main characters have great voice acting that matches the high quality of the rest of the game's presentation. While a game like Dead Rising 3 seems to go overboard with support for the new Xbox One Kinect and Xbox SmartGlass integration, Ryse: Son of Rome rarely uses either, with Kinect only used to shout commands at troops which is typically more easily executed by holding down a button for a few seconds, while Xbox SmartGlass is really only used for Achievements or finding some of the secret collectibles hidden in the game's campaign.
Ryse: Son of Rome is a fun launch title for the Xbox One, but it isn't a system seller on its own. The game only features a rather short campaign of about six hours, though it's entertaining while it lasts. Combat will divide players with one half believing it's too reptitive to be enjoyable, while others will be able to simply enjoy slicing up their enemies with execution attacks for hours on end. Only time will tell how Ryse: Son of Rome will stack up to other games for the Xbox One, as we get further in the console's life cycle, since the game's best feature is its graphics, but for now, Ryse: Son of Rome is well worth a pickup for early adopters of the Xbox One. Ryse: Son of Rome features Roman gladiator combat at its finest, and you'll find it hard not to yell out your favorite 300 and Gladitor film quotes while playing the new game. Fight for the future of Rome in Ryse: Son of Rome today, only on Xbox One.
Ryse: Son of Rome is now available from all major retailers and can be purchased for the MSRP of $59.99 exclusively on Xbox One. Ryse: Son of Rome is rate M by the ESRB for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Sexual Content & Strong Language. For more information on the game, check out the official Ryse: Son of Rome website.
- Online Multiplayer 1-2
- Unlockable Skills and Customizable Multiplayer Characters
- Kinect Support
- Xbox SmartGlass Support
- Achievement Support
Publisher: Microsoft Studios
Available exclusively for Xbox One (reviewed)
Release Date: November 22, 2013