Ryse: Son of Rome Review for Xbox One

Ryse: Son of Rome Review for Xbox One

When in Rome…

There’s an old saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Well, the closest I have ever been to Rome is playing the newly released Ryse: Son of Rome , and apparently, the Romans tend to hack people into itty-bitty pieces. So, in an effort to follow the advice of this classic saying, I did so as well. In the game that is, not for real–that would be crazy.

With my Xbox One controller firmly in hand, I led Marius Titus through the trials and tribulations of his life. His is a tale of revenge, spurned by the death of his family and a promise made to his father to “save Rome.” There isn’t much more to say about the story than that, because that’s about it. The linearity of the storyline offers little in the way of diversity. The order of operation is pretty much cutscene, fighting, cutscene, level complete. Not to say that it isn’t well done, clearly the folks over at Crytek put a lot of time and effort into this game, just not as much into the story.

But where the story falls short, the visuals pick up the slack in spectacular fashion. This is by far the strongest point for Ryse: Son of Rome , and the display of graphical capability demonstrated on this game shows us what the system is capable of accomplishing. Character models are absolutely gorgeous, and animations flow almost perfectly. The screen is chaos, especially during intense fighting on the front, where countless enemies, explosions, fiery arrows, and spewing blood fill every pixel to its capacity. Textures tie it all together, littering the screen with more details than you can perceive at any given moment, helping to sell the immersion further.

Ryse: Son of Rome is a cinematic experience to be sure, and nothing demonstrated this more than the countless quicktime executions you are sure to perform throughout the game. There is something to be said for these execution events, because they look awesome. The first few times you complete these battlefield executions in super-fast speed to super-slow-mo combat that would look right at home in the movie 300 , you might have to pick your jaw up off the floor. You feel powerful and gratified for having done it, and the presentation really sells the effect. Unfortunately, this shiny ability begins to wear thin relatively quickly, so much so that I wanted to forego the executions altogether. Sadly, this isn’t really an option. Completing combos and executions are how you use your skills and power-ups in the game, so unless you intend on doing a flawless run through entire sections at a time, executions are going to be a regular part of your career as a Roman soldier. This mechanic obviously highlights the visual abilities of the game, but also detract from overall combat performance.

Ryse: Son of Rome Screenshot

Outside of quicktime events, there are many more combat mechanics at your disposal. Chaining your hits together, blocking, breaking an enemy’s guard, and dodging are all present and make up the bulk of individual combat. Mastery of this system isn’t very difficult and integrates well with the execution mechanic I mentioned before. The visceral combat is downright brutal, as it must have been on any Roman battlefield of the time.

Ryse: Son of Rome Screenshot

Combat and combos earn you Valor and experience, and Valor buys you upgrades. Upgrades are unlocked for purchase as you level up by acquiring a certain amount of experience, which as any RPG gamer can tell you, is pretty standard. However, during my time fighting through the barbarian horde, I found little use for upgrades or the leveling system. Unlocking new upgrades never made me feel any more powerful or efficient; honestly, the only truly noticeable impact derived from the upgrade system was a welcome increase in health. Other than that, I could have cared less about gaining levels for Marius, which is a shame; because with a little more diversity, the individual combat of Ryse could have been a lot more engaging.

Getting away from individual combat, Marius is a General, a leader of men. To this end, you have control of your legion at certain points throughout the game to accomplish objectives. Place archers at an overwatch position or bring them down on the battlefield with you, form a phalanx with your men to deflect enemy arrows as you approach a tower, or call in a volley of arrows from your archers to help you soldiers on the front line. Of course, you can’t access these options at any time, which limits their impact, but the diversity and distraction they create from other types of combat help to keep things as fresh as possible. Actually, the availability of these commands during the entirety of play would have been a welcome addition to the gameplay that could have made this game much more interesting, but unfortunately, this cinematic, story-focused game scales back gameplay to make way for more groundbreaking visuals. Again, this is a shame.

Ryse: Son of Rome Screenshot

But it would seem for every point Ryse: Son of Rome gets wrong, it gets another right. The sounds of Ryse are excellent. The audio of a blood-soaked battlefield shines through–screaming men, arrows whipping through the air, the clank of weapons against each other–and the sound of a marching army fill out a soundscape that is teeming with detail. The score is befitting a game of this type, and its orchestral style accentuates story elements far past their immediate value. Commendable voice acting from major characters completes the audio package, giving depth and range to an otherwise shallow story. Although, there were several instances when being approached by a barbarian “boss” of some sort that was supposed to intimidate me, I found myself laughing out loud at the horrendous battle cries that accompanied them. It’s hard to feel any sort of fear when the battle cry of a barbarian elite sounds like a 12-year old pubescent boy. It’s a pockmark on an otherwise pristine soundscape. Just saying.

At the end of the day, even though I had a good time playing Ryse: Son of Rome , it just didn’t have too much to offer. Sure, it has online multiplayer and a gladiator mode, but these regurgitations of the single-player combat engine still feel repetitive and over-used. The story is shallow but well executed, with next-gen visuals and high-end sound production that make the experience worth having, if only once. I saw a lot of potential in Ryse: Son of Rome . With a little love, I could see a sequel to this game with several playable characters, combat styles, and a more diverse command structure that could seriously take this game to the next level. But for now, it is just a “pretty good game.”

Visually stunning. 3.0 Control
Fun at first, but quickly becomes a forced and repetitious chore. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Epic score and soundscape is backed up by solid voice acting, except for some minor side characters. 3.0 Play Value
A fun game for what it is, but lacks substance. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Ryse: Son of Rome tells the story of Marius Titus, who witnesses the murder of his family at the hands of barbarians. Seeking revenge, Marius joins the Roman army in Britannia and quickly rises through the ranks to become a General. As his war against the barbarians escalates, his quest unravels: To find his vengeance, he has to return to Rome.
  • New CryENGINE delivers stunning visuals at a scale never before seen on a console. New cloth and hair physics are combined with staggeringly smooth animation to ensure every move you make feels more authentic. Reflections on weapons and armor react to tiny dents and changing light conditions, while the refraction of light through water adds to the sense of realism.
  • Roman warfare is brought to life in vivid, visceral detail, thrusting you into the chaos of close-quarters combat, where you can see the emotion on your opponent’s face.

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