After Ryse was announced during E3, critics dealt this creative nonfiction story of Ancient Rome a bad hand. Although some of the arguments have truth to them, they are points that should help Ryse build on itself for any future releases. Unless you’re not a fan of this sort story, Ryse isn’t going to reach out and grab you instantly, and actually may never if you find parts of the game as just being tedious.
Ryse at times can cast itself into several repetitive actions, but certain characteristics can help avoid these parts from being boring to the gamer. It’s a solid game to have at the release of Xbox One, but faces some issues along the way from making it stand out like it could.
Single Player Story
The game revolves around the character Marius, the son of Rome, and the endurements against treachery that Rome and himself he face. As he climbs from a centurion to a vengeful gladiator, the story of Marius is a fun experience, if you’re not focusing on the fact everyone he loved dies, than it would just be another Shakespeare tragedy. Luckily, the son of Rome is guided by this entity that keeps the vengeance in him alive in order to exact revenge on the Emperor of Rome. The story has a strong cinematic touch that makes it easy to love the story, but at times they take away what could be impressive parts in gameplay and instead direct them in a cut scene.
Combat in this game is great for about the first hour with crazy kill screens, but unfortunately they never seem to build up after that. Even though you can unlock different parts for these kill shots, which act as finishers in the game, they don’t really add anything to help this ability get over its hump. At times, the player can spice up these kill shots with rotating the camera angles, which can help add to the cinematic touch Ryse offers, or create double executions which can be a fun challenge. The actual combat, without the kill shots, could be classified as a hack-and-slash, but with the various enemies and how to defeat them keeps the player on their toes.
In addition to combat, at times Marius has to give orders to his troops and you can do this by reciting the line and the Kinect picks it up. I never had to repeat myself for the Kinect to understand the command so it became an enjoyable experience, instead of me shouting at my Kinect like I imagined it would go. The special focus move is also a big boost for the combat and can help if you get stuck in a rough situation. When you have enough focus, you can press the RB button and Marius will slam his shield to disorient enemies around him, leaving Marius to unleash hell upon the barbarians.
Boss battles don’t vary too much from one another, or really even from some of the normal enemies you’ll be facing. They just come with the same moves other generic barbarians have just with a bigger health meter. That’s not to say some battles weren’t interesting, like for instance the battle in The Wrath of Nemesis against the General Nemesis, which is interesting when Marius becomes drugged by Nemesis and begins to see several versions of him. Even though this may have a simple combat structure, it’s still an unique characteristic about this battle that separates it from the rest. The other battle that won me over, wasn’t actually a real boss battle at all. It involves a wounded Marius chasing Nero, the Emperor of Rome, and you begin to string together amazing kill shots that leads to final scene of Nero’s death, and it is quite fitting to say the least.
Unfortunately Ryse doesn’t incorporate any puzzle levels that could help the game from seeming repetitive at times. There are times when you get to lead the Roman troops against archers, but once you play through it the first time you pretty much get it mastered. Aside from mastering the technique quickly, the only opposition you ever face with this style of gameplay are the same generic archers. Ryse has a tendency to never stray too far from what it already knows.
Just as the single player campaign was repetitive, the multiplayer suffers the same fate. Playing with others was enough to keep it alive, but I dare not play the solo version of this in fear of boring myself to death. With the campaign only being six to eight hours long, you’ll more than likely see yourself here in hopes of redeeming your money in some way.
The first few times through it seemed like multiplayer was a big plus for Ryse, but as I kept playing, I realized it kept asking for the same thing in a random order. Not that I thought it was going to be terrible, but once you understand that the matches can take 20 minutes just for you to lose at the last minute can really set a bad taste in your mouth. Luckily you can upgrade your inventory as you progress in the game to prevent this from happening by equipping your gladiator with the best gear possible.
Combat is primarily all the same as we see in the solo campaign, but the dual player execution moves really brings an exciting factor to this average multiplayer experience. The first time I was a part in one of these takedowns was about 3 in the morning, but I couldn’t help but scream with power of how awesome it was. The spears are still accessible in the multiplayer combat but just as in the campaign they create more of a headache than they help. But one great part they bring in the multiplayer is the choice to choose a Roman God and that becomes the power focus you have for that round. Even though they could have added more than the four they had of Jupiter, Mars, Apollo, and Diana, they still offer exciting ways to battle as a gladiator.
Another reason to stray away from the solo play of this game-style is how limited the real coliseum is compared to how many faces of it the multiplayer has to offer. These coliseums look amazing, and reflect the the beauty of the game as a whole. Ryse wasn’t shy about offering gorgeous arenas given they have more than just a couple to start you out with. It’s reassuring that they have all of these arenas available when you first start rather than handing them out as a DLC a month from now.
Ryse delivers a beautiful story with some gripping combat strategies for the first hour, but unless ancient Rome doesn’t interest you, the rest is better left unsaid. I wouldn’t deem this as a cult classic because for a franchise’s first launch, it delivers several aspects that could help build Ryse as a franchise into something spectacular one day. It’s hard to believe the developers worked on this for over seven years to not notice the repetitiveness they were cursing this game with. Hopefully the next Ryse title presents more gameplay features than cinematic components to broaden the potential these games have.