Ryse: Son Of Rome Review
What do you want from Ryse: Son of Rome? Do you want a technical showpiece, a game that shows what your Xbox One can do from a graphical perspective? Or, do you want a game that’s enjoyable, challenging and inventive?
If you want the former, good news! Ryse: Son of Rome gives you that.
If you want the latter, then prepared to have your hopes slaughtered faster than a novice gladiator tossed into the coliseum with a pack of hungry lions.
Ryse: Son of Rome is a game that places style over substance and, as such, it quickly degenerates into a repetitive and unimaginative QTE-em-up that is far too often boring.
Ryse: Son of Rome – The Combat
Ryse: Son of Rome’s combat isn’t as bad as you might imagine, however. Crytek didn’t do themselves any favours selling their swordplay in early reveals that made Ryse look like a QTE-fest that requires the bare minimum of player interaction.
In a sense, Ryse is a QTE-fest, but, mercifully, there is a little bit more to it than that.
Alongside your strike button, the other three face buttons are used to break the defense of enemies, deflect incoming blows and to roll out of the way of heavy attacks.
As you play through the game, Ryse introduces a variety of enemies that require different approaches when it comes to both attacking and defending and as a result, while Ryse is by no means a challenging game, if you don’t pay attention to what’s going on around you, you will die.
The problem is that each type of enemy is entirely predictable and must be approached in the same way each time. This means that your ‘tactics’ don’t really expand beyond, “this guy has a shield, so I have to break his defense”, or, “I need to block this guy’s attacks before I strike back”.
As you move from one combat area to the next, every fight starts to feel the same, like identikit battles lacking challenge or intrigue.
Ryse may well reference Roman mythology in it’s narrative, but it’s a Greek myth that best describes the experience of playing the game – you’ll quickly feel like Sisyphus, constantly repeating the same actions over and over, ad infinitum.
This isn’t helped by Ryse’s reliance on QTE’s. You don’t have to kill every enemy you encounter with a QTE based execution, but given that Ryse’s combat system rewards the player for doing so, you’ll inevitably find yourself doing just that.
You might find Ryse’s gruesome executions impressive in the early going, if you’re into that sort of thing, but do you want to see the same animation of Marius stabbing a barbarian through the throat 150 times? Probably not.
Ryse: Son of Rome – Unlocks, Upgrades & Strategy
Allowing you to choose how you are rewarded for completing executions, whether that be with health, XP, extra damage or focus – which stuns enemies and gives you a short time to unleash a flurry of attacks – is an interesting idea and you will occasionally find yourself switching execution rewards multiple times in a fight depending on your situation.
Does that system really do much to vary the way that you approach each fight, though? Unfortunately, no, it does not.
If you choose to focus on collecting XP, there are plenty of upgrades and additional executions to unlock, but again, because these unlocks don’t serve to add depth to the combat, you eventually stop paying attention to exactly what you are upgrading and just start buying things because you’ve got the XP to do so.
Ryse: Son of Rome tries to mix things up a bit by interspersing its combat with what you could generously call strategy sections that place you in command of a group of your fellow soldiers.
You might be faced with a decision on where to place some archers, or you might lead a group of soldiers towards the enemy lines, ordering your men to lower their shield or throw spears as required.
It’s a shame that Crytek didn’t take this a little further because, as with the combat, there’s a lack of depth that makes your decisions feel a little inconsequential.
Ryse: Son of Rome – Narrative & Campaign
Ryse’s influences are pretty plain to see, with Gladiator being the obvious touchstone. As such, some good performances and impressive facial animations are marred by the fact that the overarching story they help to tell is far too predictable.
Thematically, too, Ryse offers nothing that we haven’t seen before -corrupted and decadent elites, loyal and honorable soldiers betrayed by their superiors and some hogwash about how the system becomes corrupted by greedy individuals.
Having said that, late on in the game, Marius’ motivations, objectives and role changes in a significant and intriguing way. It’s the first time that Ryse’s story takes an interesting turn so why Crytek waited so long to make that change, only it will know.
That section places Marius in a situation that is quite different to those he’s been in up to that point and it’s incredibly refreshing, perhaps more so because of the path it seems to put you on than anything else.
But, just when you’re on board with where Ryse appears to be going, the game quickly reverts to type before swiftly coming to a close.
Indeed, Ryse’s campaign is a little short in comparison to other games of its ilk. Some will doubtless feel short changed by that, but given that Ryse’s biggest problem is repetition, a shorter campaign length is probably for the best.
Ryse: Son of Rome Review
It feels like Crytek was aiming for the elegent simplicity of the combat system in Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham games with Ryse.
It has missed that mark and while that doesn’t mean that the game’s combat system is terrible, it does mean that, without depth to compensate, the thing that you spend most of your time doing in Ryse fails to maintain the player’s interest.
When Ryse: Son of Rome does try to do something a little different, it never takes those ideas far enough and that’s a real shame, because there is a sense that it wouldn’t have taken a great deal more to make Ryse a significantly better game.
Ryse’s biggest problem is repetition. A boss fight or a set piece will occasionally offer a little intrigue, but it’s never quite enough and as a result, Ryse too often becomes tedious.
Ryse ends up being a relatively mindless hack and slash that you’ll likely have some fun with. Eventually, though, Ryse’s Sisyphian nature will ensure that the grind will get to you.