Ryse: Son of Rome, a trip back in time, but from the future. Well, if I lost you there, bare with me. Ryse: Son of Rome, from Crytek and Microsoft Studios, was one of the hyped up launch titles for Xbox One. It puts you in the armour and behind the sword and shield of a Roman warrior during those ancient times we know through actual history books, but mainly watching Gladiator.
The game does exactly what it promises. Puts you in battles as a Roman soldier and delivers a gory, but believable experience. The battles are fierce and the executions are brutal. The game features two modes, a single player campaign and an arena battle set up in the Coliseum. The latter can be played solo or via co-op.
The single player campaign is 6-8 hours long, depending on the difficulty and how well you play the game, but it is a satisfying experience. The story follows Marius, your character, as he battles his way from soldier to general. Without spoiling anything, the story is pretty well written and told very well. Through battles with enemies, you can gain XP and upgrade Marius’ abilities, health and executions. In one play-through, you can pretty well unlock everything except the highest tier upgrades, which are pretty expensive. You can unlock things by spending XP, or earned gold (from the Coliseum mode) or you can buy gold through the Microsoft Store.
While the game is mainly a hack ’em and slash ’em, there are perks your character has that you can use while battling. Each option gives you a bonus when you execute enemies. Using the D-pad, you can select from a Health Gain, Focus Gain, Damage Boost, or XP Gain. When you execute enemies, the option you have selected will award you bonuses.
Focus is a great ability that allows Marius to slow time briefly, your Focus meter drains when you use it and fills with hits, combos and executions, and stun nearby enemies. This is extremely helpful when fighting tougher enemies or you are overwhelmed with enemies attacking you.
Executions are preformed when, after making several connections with your sword or shield on an opponent, a skull appears over their heads. You click the right trigger to go into an execution and then follow a quick time event to perform the brutal and satisfying finishing move. The enemy will glow yellow (Y button) or blue (X button) and the faster you press, the higher the score multiplier gets. While you will see the same executions over and over, you can unlock more with XP and gold, and perform double executions that look awesome.
The game also uses the Kinect for voice commands. As odd as it may be, yelling at your AI companions to fire a volley of arrows or launch a catapult is extremely satisfying.
The campaign features four difficulty levels, and collectibles in the level you need to find. There is some replayability if you want to collect all hidden collectibles for achievements, or complete the game on higher difficulty settings. But once the campaign is done, it’s off to the Coliseum for some Gladiator battles.
In the Coliseum, you are a gladiator fighting several waves of enemies ranging from standard barbarians, to elite barbarians and archers. You are not only killing enemies, but trying to execute them so as to keep the crowd interested. After all, the Coliseum isn’t only about surviving, it’s about providing quality entertainment for the audience. You will have to kill enemies that come in waves, capture and hold positions on the map and destroy catapults and bunkers by tipping fiery oil cauldrons onto them. Passing each wave will lead to completing the round and you can then choose to play again on the same or another map. The tasks to perform in each wave are always random and different, though the tend to end on fighting off the elite barbarians. Each time you play, whether you complete the round or die trying, you earn XP and gold to be spent on Boost Packs. These packs open up consumables and attire for your gladiator to wear. The armour pieces will have enchanted qualities to them. For example, a helmet may give you a 4% health boost, but lower the crowd’s amusement by 2%. There are tons to choose from as you continue to open packs so you can tailor your gladiator to your liking. There are several levels of booster packs, that are unlocked as you level up your character through the XP earned in the Coliseum.
The Coliseum is good fun to play on your own, but you can also play cooperatively with a friend or random Xbox Live player. With two of you battling, you have a greater chance of survival, and the ability to perform devastating two-player executions.
Overall, Ryse: Son of Rome is a good game and a fun launch title. The graphics are fantastic, cut scenes look absolutely astounding. The game doesn’t feature tons of types of gameplay, but focuses on two, and delivers them very well. I did have some problems with it though, my main issue being that this is the next-generation of gaming and yet there are really only four or so types enemies to fight, so you do see a lot of the same guys. I would like to see a huge number of different looking baddies to fight, so it doesn’t feel so repetitive.
On a side note, Ryse does include compatibility with Xbox Smartglass, allowing you to view progress of missions and achievements, though on my HTC One, I did not find it particularly helpful, as the resolution on the screen was minuscule and I couldn’t properly take advantage of it.
I have been playing it for six days now, and I can say that I enjoy playing it and I give it an 8/10. It is great fun and I hope to see more from the series, as Microsoft is aiming to make it a returning franchise.