Ryse is to the Xbox One as Knack is to the PS4. Both games are exclusive to their respective platforms, and both games have been criminally underrated. Ryse in particular has been given a bad rap, but after having spent a significant amount of time with the game, I can’t fathom how people can rate it so poorly and keep a straight face. Ryse is one of the few experiences on these next-gen consoles that truly feels next-gen.
Ryse: Son of Rome tells the story of Marius, a Roman soldier that is hellbent on avenging the deaths of his family. The plot is surprisingly well done and has its fair share of surprises. The characters are all believable, and each cut-scene is filled with brilliantly written dialogue and awesome moments. Not to mention the cut-scenes look absolutely stunning thanks to unprecedented facial animation and detail in the characters and environments.
Ryse is almost worth the purchase based on looks alone. Out of the gate, very few Xbox One launch titles truly look like they belong on a system worthy of being called “next-gen”. Ryse is one of those games. It has the occasional technical hiccup and it’s disappointing that the enemies all look the same, but for the most part it is absolutely gorgeous. Ryse: Son of Rome is the best looking console game made to date.
The campaign is short, but it doesn’t need to be long to begin with. It tells the story it wants to tell, it gets in the gameplay it wants to get in without being repetitive, and it’s a satisfying experience. Games don’t need to last for dozens of hours to be good. It’s an action-packed and highly replayable campaign with multiple difficulties, collectibles to find, and plenty of new gameplay mechanics being constantly introduced to keep things fresh.
I am in love with the combat system. The combat system is highly inspired by the combat system found in the Arkham Batman games from Rocksteady. Enemies glow based on what action should be taken just before they attack. Players can parry enemy attacks and then go in for a few slices of their own, roll out of the way of enemy attacks, throw projectiles at enemies, and more. The combat system is highly strategic and fighting large mobs of enemies at a time can be incredibly intense and a lot of fun.
Executions play a major role in the combat. When an enemy has sustained enough damage, an execution is possible. When initiating the execution, the enemy will glow based on what button needs to be pressed. It’s a little silly that pressing the wrong button doesn’t end the execution, but pressing the wrong button will result in you having less points by the end of it. Anyway, these executions are gloriously gory affairs and are very creative with their violence. Things are mixed up with co-op executions and impressive double executions as well.
There are four different perks available to the player that can be switched between at any time. Each perk will complement different styles of play. Players benefit from the perks by having them equipped and attacking enemies. I enjoyed this system and thought it worked well with the combat system that is in place.
One of the perks fills a meter called the “Focus” meter. When this meter is filled, time can be slowed down, allowing players to destroy large groups of enemies without breaking a sweat. This ability can be improved upon using the game’s upgrade system.
Ryse uses microtransactions, but it doesn’t use them in an intrusive way. It is very easy to earn enough points just by playing the game and then using those points to purchase the upgrades, however if you are the impatient type then the option of buying virtual gold and then using that digital currency to upgrade Marius or your multiplayer character is also available. Players that play the game well and earn high combos will find that they will have thousands upon thousands of upgrade points to spend at the end of each level, but those that are bad at the game may want to consider going the microtransaction route or lowering the difficulty.
Microtransactions are also used in the multiplayer, and again, they are used in a way that is not intrusive. In the multiplayer mode, players first create their own multiplayer soldier and then swear allegiance to one of the gods. They then work together with another player in a co-op arena that has a constantly changing environment and new objectives all the time.
Completing the objectives and killing all the enemies earns points that can similarly be spent on your multiplayer character. Instead of purchasing specific stat upgrades or new execution moves, these points are used on booster packs that contain random items. These items can then be equipped to your multiplayer character to improve them, with items ranging from common to rare. Killing a lot of multiplayer enemies while under the allegiance of one god will unlock that god’s special item which makes your multiplayer character insanely strong.
I am disappointed that the co-op doesn’t have any offline functionality, but overall Ryse: Son of Rome is a game that, despite its short length, is just packed with replayability. The achievements are great and none of them are insanely unattainable or anything like that, which is a nice change of pace from most games these days. Hopping between the different game modes is a breeze, and the prospect of collectibles and higher difficulties adds plenty of replayability to the title.
So I guess the question is why is Ryse being underrated so badly? I am unsure. The game I played was action-packed, an absolute blast from start to finish, with an engrossing story and visuals that were extremely easy on the eyes. Ryse: Son of Rome is one of the few next-gen titles that truly feels next-gen and it’s one of the best games I’ve played all year. Xbox One owners are doing themselves a disservice if they let this game pass them by.
Tested on Xbox One. Final Score: 8.5/10