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Ryse: Son of Rome review

AT A GLANCE
  • Stellar visuals
  • Weighty, satisfying combat
  • Surprising story
  • Repetitive battles
  • Lack of enemy variety
  • Light on content

I'm Marius Titus and I'm a high-definition, next-gen whirling dervish of destruction, spinning in a blur of reflective armor and incredible lighting effects. I block a barbarian's photorealistic axe with my shield and slash into his well-textured gut with my sword, casting particles of blood across the high-polygon ground. When I've slashed him up enough, a skull appears over his head and I'm prompted by flashing colors to execute him, cutting off his arm, then his leg, and then stabbing him through the neck as he screams (or, rather, gargles my steel). 

If I'd have missed the button prompt, it wouldn’t have made a difference; the execution would have gone through anyway. Typically I'd be annoyed by this level of smoke and mirrors hand-holding nonsense, but let's be honest: you're not in this for the difficulty--you're there to be entertained.

There's a caveat, though. You're not so much exploring the Roman countryside or wandering through dark, eerie Britannia forests; you're seeing them from the inside of a glass tube. It's nice inside the tube--there are plenty of guys to fight and collectibles to find--but you're definitely as on-rails as you could possibly be without the game literally being on-rails. It's limiting at times, especially when the game struggles to point you in the right direction, and you might find yourself getting lost simply because of how little you're allowed to wander from the main path.

That's not the only kink in the (ABSURDLY REALISTIC) armor, either. There's very little enemy variety, meaning you can expect to fight the same generic-looking guy with a mohawk about 200 times, and the battles will play out mostly the same throughout. Marius never gets a new melee weapon, and the enemies he battles don't learn any new tricks. Fat guy with nipple piercings doesn't become more complex, and guy wearing a cow skull is as easy to defeat in hour six as he is in hour two. All said, the combat is pretty much the same from the time Marius picks up a sword until the end, and you're bound to run into a few glitches and technical problems along your way through the seven-hour story.

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.

More Info

Release date: Nov 22 2013 - Xbox One (US)
Available Platforms: Xbox One
Genre: Action
Developed by: Crytek
ESRB Rating:
Mature: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Sexual Content

Ryse will undoubtedly exceed your expectations with its interesting story and unbelievable visuals. Combat might get repetitive, but you'll enjoy your time as a Roman soldier.

44 comments

  • JrX818 - November 25, 2013 4:22 p.m.

    Great review, enjoyed it much more than most I see from IGN.
  • GameGodEternalReign - November 21, 2013 7:39 p.m.

    I think this game is going to be very good..touch bases with history somewhat because the games setting is Rome,and it has more than enough of my attention in order for me to purchase and keep,and not want to trade in after its completed.
  • Jackonomics - November 21, 2013 9:24 a.m.

    Looked really good on recent videos, reminds me of the type of gameplay you would usually see like Assassins and Batman but your using sword,shield,and magic. I'm hyped.
  • ObliqueZombie - November 21, 2013 8:38 a.m.

    After the original Crysis, I firmly believe Crytek has failed as a developer. I know developer is harder than I can possibly imagine, but Crysis is beautiful even by todays standards, plays like a dream, has a MASSIVE open world, and is quite challenging. Then something happened, and now their games are laughably easy, streamlined, and quite honeslty rubbish aside from the impressive visuals. Yeah the visuals are pretty, but come on, it's 2013 and this is the best gameplay you can come up with?
  • Jackonomics - November 21, 2013 9:22 a.m.

    Really look into this year and tell me there wasn't any actual gameplay that wasn't boring and repetitive. Deal with it.
  • Eightboll812 - November 21, 2013 11:13 a.m.

    So your essentially saying he should just shut up and buy it...cuz you told him so. Okey dokey.
  • Jackonomics - November 21, 2013 2:33 p.m.

    He doesn't have to buy it "It's 2013 and this is the best gameplay you can come up with" This entire year has been filled with nothing but the same genre's and gameplay, and the only different games are barely games but just story progression and generic gameplay, and yet apparently Ryse is gameplay gets that complaint?
  • ObliqueZombie - November 21, 2013 9:06 p.m.

    It''s not he genre that I'm knocking. Genres are just fine in my opinion, and gameplay tropes, while tiring, attract certain people, myself included. It's the, you know, actual gameplay. The shallowness, the lack of variety in enemy encounters, the laughable easiness. I am not saying I want a new genre, just unique ideas with the technology and mechanics we already have. Many people have been doing that (argue with me all day long on that one, but this is just my opinion) for years and years and years.
  • ParagonT - November 22, 2013 9:34 a.m.

    This isn't third grade. Just because many people react differently to different situations doesn't give every generic game a free pass. I thought this would have been known after fourth grade. The internet is full of comments and things you don't agree with, but this is the one that gets a complaint? (Showing you how your logic fails)
  • ObliqueZombie - November 21, 2013 1:50 p.m.

    I own neither console and will argue for neither side.
  • Jackonomics - November 21, 2013 2:37 p.m.

    This has nothing to do with Consoles or sides This year in general in games did nothing spectacular in gameplay, and the highest rated games are either a Visual novel with shit gameplay or open world with shit gameplay that happens to be popular. Your acting as if 2013 even warranted or recurved any actual new gameplay that defines next gen, nothing does, it's all been about Visuals this whole damn generation.
  • nash1991 - November 21, 2013 2:58 p.m.

    Not true... The Last of Us had, in my opinion a GREAT story, GREAT visuals and also pretty good gameplay. Sure, it didn't reinvent the genre or anything through its gameplay but it was extremely fun and engrossing regardless. So saying that this year had games with shit gameplay is a gross exaggeration. There will always be exceptions to every statement. And as far as Ryse goes, yes its gameplay is horrible and the fact that it isn't really outweighed by an excellent story like Beyond: Two Souls or any other saving grace except the visuals is pretty sad really. They could have easily made this game not rely so heavily on QTE's for 90% of the time and it would have been a lot better. I was hoping Ryse would be awesome because that is truly the only Xbox One launch title that I was looking forward to but alas it disappoints and now I'll have to wait till Titanfall to pick up the One.
  • Eightboll812 - November 22, 2013 9:46 a.m.

    I'm going to reply to you assuming we can have a reasonable conversation, and not a fanboy argument. So if this returns to obvious fanboyism, then I'll drop it. That said... you are correct that there seems to be increasing amounts of copycat crap games. The term shovelware was coined for a reason. However, I disagree that there weren't any truly decent games last year. I can easily name a few, but I don't think that will be necessary. This is an article about Ryse. It will garner comments about Ryse. If you go to any site that reviews any game, you'll see comments below about that review and game. So let's please not deflect from the topic with responses like "deal with it". I'm assuming from your last response, that you find the shovelware inexcusable? No? Your previous response came across as we should just accept it, this response reads as general disgust with the industry which means we shouldn't just accept it. I'd like you to pick a clear stance and stick with it. The other reason Ryse is drawing attention is because it's the first crop of next gen releases. It will be under heavy scrutiny. It can't hide in the bargain bin and avoid being discussed. With the next gen label, comes next gen expectations. You would agree the bar should be a bit higher for next gen? No? If it's not higher, then we should all boycott all new systems. And lastly, it's drawing attention because **MS** is drawing a crap ton of attention to it with their commercials. So if this is the best of the best of next gen (to date), because MS says so, don't you think it's significant that it's mediocre at best? No? I happen to think so, but everyone is entitled to their opinion. I'm not trying to shut down yours, but your first response was an attempt to shut down someone else's opinion.
  • Balaska - December 1, 2013 12:12 p.m.

    I partially agree, I loved Crysis 2, however I do concede that it lacked the freedom of the original Crysis. Crytek are definately coasting on their incredible art department, but hur durrr look at teh shinies!
  • Doctalen - November 21, 2013 8:12 a.m.

    But is there a Latin option in the languages?
  • freeden - November 21, 2013 7:28 a.m.

    Hmmm, that's too bad. Thought this might be a good one. Pretty visuals aren't near enough to interest me. The story does sound intriguing, but the dull gameplay just doesn't seem as such. Why is it that launch games always seem to be subpar? Is it really so hard for there to be an instant classic in the lineup (I should throw in exclusive in there).
  • Eightboll812 - November 21, 2013 11:18 a.m.

    I've seen enough of the commercials to tell you, it's a clone of Gladiator. Even the review above compares it to Gladiator. I wish the game industry would stop copying movie scripts and come up with something new for a change. The game industry needs to follow the example of the TV show industry over the last ten years and start hiring QUALITY writers. It seems too many game companies still think all they need is shiny visuals and people will keep overlooking shallow experiences. I'd love to see the story telling step up a few notches from where it's been since, ever.
  • saucymonk - November 21, 2013 6:32 a.m.

    I am so getting this. It looks amazing. PS4 could not achieve anything anywhere near as good as this. XBONE RULES!!
  • freeden - November 21, 2013 7:23 a.m.

    Don't worry, the next God of War will be leagues better than this, just as all of the past GoW games were.

Showing 1-20 of 44 comments

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