After first seeing footage of Ryse: Son of Rome at E3 earlier this year, I wasn’t sure how I would rate this Xbox One exclusive title.
The gameplay we were shown was rife with quick time events and cinematic moments that seemed quite keen on taking as much of the gameplay out of the hands of the player as was possible in favour of showing off what the new technology would be capable of.
That footage really didn’t gel with me, and I wasn’t sure what it would have to do in order to make up for that disappointing video.
Hands on with Ryse: Son of Rom was a completely different experience to what I had envisioned. I managed to sneak in a couple of rounds of the co-op multiplayer mode that sees two players take on a gladiatorial arena filled with traps and enemies, so I didn’t get to try out the singleplayer that I was somewhat familiar with from the E3 footage.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the demo, only that I was probably going to be subjected to a slew of quick time events. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the gameplay was devoid of the button hitting moments that I was dreading. Instead I was please to discover that Ryse was full of fluid hack n slash gameplay that handled the quick time events in a manner very befitting of this gladiatorial bash.
As I said, I was dreading the gameplay from what I’d seen in the E3 footage, but getting to experience it firsthand was completely different from my expectations. Instead of being QTE after QTE it was instead more reminiscent of games such as Batman: Arkham City.
The open combat saw me bouncing from foe to foe, slashing away with my shortsword and knocking skulls together with my shield, letting me fall into a rhythm as I switched between slashes and bashes.
Deflecting ranged and close attacks proved to be a lot more fun than I had previously imagined. There is no option to just hold up your shield and get into an infinite block, instead when you hit the block button your character will raise their shield for just a moment, allowing you to deflect attacks coming in that moment.
For ranged attacks this means precision timing, but a large chunk of those arrows and rocks will miss you anyway so long as you remain in motion.
Overall, the combat was incredibly satisfying. The number of enemies on screen at any one time meant that I always had an opponent to occupy me, and even when the waves of enemies had ended there were plenty of environmental obstacles to dodge.
Once you’re in the heat of battle, it definitely feels meaty as the corpses pile higher. Enemy AI aren’t afraid to mug you, and will pile on given the opportunity, so it isn’t uncommon to find yourself swamped by 10 or so opponents who are all intent on removing as many of your organs in as short an order as possible.
Live mission updates kept the game going smoothly and made sure that I as the player would always have something to do. I didn’t get to see any optional mission objectives, but the system is in place for them to institute that if they want, and it could add an extra level to the gameplay. Even things such as Kill This Boss (Bonus points for throwing him off a cliff) would work.
Visually, I can only describe Ryse as jaw droppingly stunning, which should be fairly obvious if you’ve seen any of the trailers. Up close you’ll find that it’s just as beautiful, and there needs to be a big shoutout to the art and animations teams for making this title every bit as pretty as the new hardware can handle.
You’ll be hard pressed to find anything that isn’t visually impressive in Ryse. The artstyle is very detailed, but at the same time it retains a certain flair that sets it aside as a work of art. Something about it that isn’t exactly hyper-realistic is retained, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what that was, and that kind of attention to detail from the developers is what helped to impress me as I was playing.
Overall, Ryse: Son of Rome proved itself to be a lot more fun than I thought it ever would be. It goes to show how watching footage of a game will never be the same experience as actually playing it for yourself. I implore you, if you have formed a negative opinion of Ryse because of gameplay videos you’ve seen, then give it a chance all the same because it definitely managed to turn my opinion in its favor.
I don’t think Ryse is going to be a defining game in its genre, but it is going to be one of the first Xbox One exclusives that we remember and it may very well set the bar for graphics on the console over the coming years. PC gamers still look back at the first Crysis as a graphical benchmark, and I forsee Ryse occupying a similar niche in the console market.