Are you not entertained?
Multiplayer takes place in a gladiator arena, and allows you to team up with one other player for wave-based battles. The object? Complete objectives while slaughtering foes. There's a good progression and loot system (with the ability to buy in-game currency with real money, in case you pride yourself on your poor decision-making skills). Thing is, the combat doesn't work as well with two people as it does with one. It's a neat distraction, but it's most likely not something you'll be investing too much time into--or spending money on, for that matter.
Though it looks like a typical action adventure game, Ryse more closely follows the pacing and practicality of a modern first-person shooter. It's Gladiator directed by Michael Bay and starring Jason Statham with an emphasis on the grandeur and power of the next-generation. And man, is it beautiful. Characters have a level of degree you haven't seen from a video game before, with realistic animations and outright absurd smoke and particle effects fill the screen. If you're looking for the one game to prove the power of your Xbox One, it's absolutely, positively Ryse. Whether you're storming the beaches of Britannia or exploring Rome itself, you'll be stunned by how much better Ryse looks than anything else you've ever played.
But... man is it entertaining. The narrative is surprisingly interesting, especially during the final chapters, and the characters evolve from uninteresting cliches to well-rounded heroes (and villains). More impressive, though, is how good the combat feels. Battles are quick and brutal, with an emphasis on chain-kills and executions. Lengthy chains can replenish health, give more experience, or boost your damage, and trying to build up your combo meter helps give you incentive to experiment with attacks.
Both Marius' movement and weapons have a weighty heft to them that give combat a more physical feel. When you haul back and bash a barbarian with a shield, you can sense the power of the blow, making each strike feel more impactful. It's relatively grounded in reality, too, save for the presence of Focus, which lets Marius slaughter enemies in seconds, or do an awesome "THIS. IS. SPARTA!" kick that sends barbarians flying.
Thing is, that's essentially all you do in Ryse. You'll find a group of enemies, slash them up until they're almost dead, execute them with one of the dozen or so impossible-to-lose quicktime events, and then move on. Sometimes you'll shoot bad guys with a crossbow turret. Sometimes you'll lead a group of soldiers for a dozen feet. Sometimes you'll stop to upgrade Marius with experience earned or coins purchased (in what might be the most needless microtransactions ever conceived). But a majority of the game is spent using the same executions on the same enemies. Combat's fun enough to keep you fighting, and you'll wait to nail the QTEs just to build up higher combos, but there's a lack of variety in what you do and who you do it to.
Ryse: Son of Rome is the definitive Xbox One launch title--for better or worse. It's an incredibly pretty game with some impressive ideas, and it's going to surprise you with its engaging story and weighty combat. The short campaign and repetitive battles hold it back from greatness, but it's a journey through Rome absolutely worth experiencing, if just to see exactly what the console is capable of.