Ryse: Son of Rome (XB1) Review

What we liked:
+ Absolutely fantastic looking
+ Amazing soundtrack and voice acting
What we didn't like:
- Repetitive game play and combat
- Somewhat boring story
Rating
6.6
Decent
DEVELOPER: Crytek   |   PUBLISHER: Microsoft Game Studios   |   RELEASE: 11/22/2013

Review
The monotony of Rome.

The next generation of consoles and games is upon us, and some of the launch titles are pretty impressive, graphically at least. One of them that really stood out among the few titles that are available is Ryse: Son of Rome, Crytek’s first attempt at next-gen.

In Ryse, players take control of a loyal Roman soldier, Marius and play through a story of revenge and back-stabbing that feels like it has been ripped out of a movie. In fact, when playing through Ryse, it felt like I was playing a game lovechild of 300 and Gladiator. The story tried its best but it just did not hold my attention at all. I know it’s getting hard to come up with stories that don’t feel recycled, but game writers are paid to come up with original stories and the one in Ryse is the typical story of revenge. I guess whenever there’s a game or movie about Romans and their empire, the story has to contain revenge and a fair amount of back-stabbing.

While the story is a disappointment, I was more curious as to how it played. At first, it was fun slashing barbarians but it soon got extremely repetitive. Every level threw me against a handful of enemies at me time and time again while, at times, tossing in some sequences where I commanded a line of troops to advance forward and protect themselves against archers. There are quite a few times when I had to protect my soldiers, as well and those parts really got under my skin.

While I did play against other types of enemies in the game, there are typically only three different “classes” of them, those being what I call the weak ones, the heavy ones, and the ones in between. I know a lot of games have “faceless” enemies where every face looks exactly the same but I was expecting this to be different, as the hardware can do some pretty incredible things.

The game’s controls are pretty simplistic and easy to master: the A button blocks and taunts. The B button is the dodge, while the X and Y buttons are the attack buttons. The triggers are the typical aim and shoot – this is for when I had spears in my inventory. These spears bother me as they are not stored anywhere on the character; they just appear in his hand from thin air.

The combat is fairly simple but repetitive. Players use the attack buttons until a skull appears over the head of the enemy they are slashing away at. When this happens, they can either continue to hack away at him until they are dead or pull the right trigger to initiate a mini-game that allows players to finish off the poor sap in pretty brutal manners. When the mini-game is on, the enemy will flash either yellow or blue to indicate what button to press. These execution moves give more XP than just killing an enemy and, the quicker players press the appropriate button, the more XP they get. In fact, I didn’t even have to press a button once the mini-game has started. The game finished off the bad guy for me but I got very minimal XP.

The XP, of course, is used to upgrade the character and learn new executions. While this is nice, the only upgrade I concentrated on was the health upgrade. This was pretty much the only useful upgrade, due to the times when I had to face wave after wave of enemies, by myself. I can only put up with this for maybe one level at a time. Any more than that, I get bored and have to turn the game off.

What really stood out were the visuals. When I saw the opening cut scene, I honestly thought I was watching real live actors. The facial animations are the best I have seen. Every time I boot up the game, I am awe-struck at how fantastic the characters look. Every facial animation looks eerily realistic and takes my breath away every time I see them. Besides the characters, the rest of the game looks absolutely gorgeous. There isn’t a lot of variety of environments in the game, but the ones that are there look fantastic. The only other elements that helped me through the game were the voice-acting and soundtrack. As I stated, the story is typical and seems like a combination of 300 and Gladiator, so why not have an epic soundtrack and voice acting to go with it? Ryse is as close to a movie as a game can get. I do believe that if it was a movie, I would have enjoyed it more as I wouldn’t have had to do the same combat time and time again.

The multiplayer portion of the game doesn’t bring a whole lot to the mix. It is a typical horde mode that has players hacking and slashing through tiers of enemies. It does add some objectives that need to be completed to help keep things interesting. This mode also has players playing in the famed Roman Coliseum and it is their job to keep the crowd entertained. The meter in the upper middle of the screen lets them know if they are amused or bored. I’m not sure if there is any penalty for having the crowd bored as the only thing I noticed was the crowd noise was quiet. We also failed on a tier and, typically, that means game over but in this case, we moved on to the next tier of enemies. This game mode doesn’t offer a whole lot, but it does add a fun little distraction if I got tired of the single player mode.

Ryse: Son of Rome was one of the games I was looking forward to for the launch of the Xbox One, and I was a bit disappointed. While the visuals and soundtrack helped in getting me through the game, the repetitive combat and a “been there done that” story made it hard for me to get into it. I found that playing maybe one level at a time helped me in not getting bored. The game doesn’t have too many pluses, but that doesn’t make it a bad experience. Ryse is a title that should be played when you have nothing else to play or are bored with what you do have. But I do not recommend sitting down and playing this from start to finish in one swoop – which you can do, it is only about nine hours – as you will get bored relatively quickly and often.

Review copy of game provided by publisher.

Justin Testa

Justin is a quiet fellow who spends most of his time working on things in the back-end of the site. Every now and then he comes forward throwing a controller, but he is attending anger management for that.

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