Giant Bomb Review

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Ryse: Son of Rome Review

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  • XONE

Ryse leans too heavily on its merely decent combat, but at least it looks really, really nice doing so.

You'll be doing a whoooooole lot of this.

Ryse: Son of Rome is the Xbox One's premiere launch game, in the sense that a console launch game plays like something that could have been made on the previous hardware, if it weren't for the fact that it looks way, way better. It's a simple, straightforward hack-and-slash revenge tale that sends you traipsing through a historically fuzzy version of the Roman Empire, gutting and dismembering hundreds of enemies along the way. The game's core fighting mechanics are solid enough, but the lack of much else to do makes all that combat repetititve as the story wears on. At least it looks really pretty.

You're in the role of Marius Titus, son of a prominent senator and a newly anointed soldier in the Roman army. Well, Marius is actually old and grizzled at Ryse's outset, but after a brief tutorial set during a barbarian sack of the capital city, the game flashes back to the beginning of Marius' career, when his family is murdered unexpectedly by a group of assassins. From there, each chapter jumps from one highlight of Marius' military experience to the next, until you finally catch back up to the present day and the story threads, simple as they are, start weaving together. The game's villains twirl their mustaches a bit too obviously, but it's still easy to get caught up in Marius' burning desire to avenge his family and defend the honor of Rome, possibly because his character model's face has such a convincing grimace every time he slashes an enemy's throat or bangs his sword and shield together. The character performances are adequate to make it worth watching the tale play out, even if it seems obvious where it's going to end up about halfway through.

To get to that ending, you will fight. You will fight a lot. Ryse's arena-like combat, which pits you against anywhere from two to six enemies at a time, must comprise at least 90 percent of the story campaign, so it's a good thing the combat isn't half bad. It's not quite as exacting or varied as something like Arkham Asylum, but the concept is similar. You've got a basic sword slash and a shield bash that will break burlier enemies' guard, a dodge roll, and a block that leaves attacking enemies open to a counter. Managing the combat in larger groups becomes a fairly satisfying exercise in whittling down one specific enemy while dodging and countering other enemies when necessary. Once an enemy is near death, you can start an execution move that makes you hit the sword and shield buttons based on the colors the enemy is flashing during the animation, of which there are dozens.

The game is certainly doing a lot with the new hardware.

There's a decent carrot-on-a-stick upgrade system at work in Ryse that makes it appealing to do more than mash your way through the combat. (Actually, you can't really mash at all, since enemies will start dodging your attacks if you use the same kind of attack too long.) Timing your blocks and combo hits precisely will break enemies' guard more readily, and increase your combo multiplier in order to put you into a "burning eagle" mode that makes your regular attacks more powerful. And you can select one of four perks that your executions will feed into: experience gain, health recovery, damage boost, or focus (which lets you slow down time and stun enemies around you for a short period). You can pick which of these categories you want your executions to buff at any time, so while I typically left the XP boost on so I could level faster, it was useful to swap over to health once in a while when I was almost dead. Hitting the attack prompts in an execution turns into a sort of minigame, since the faster and more accurately you hit the required attacks, the bigger the bonus at the end of the execution. Microsoft is selling experience to unlock the various combat upgrades for real money, which is patently absurd, but also hard to get upset about because leaving your XP boost enabled and doing a decent job of pulling off the executions will cause you to level extremely quickly. I had unlocked every character upgrade and almost all of the alternate execution animations by the end of the game, purely by playing it as normal.

Ryse's combat would be an effective component of a broader, more robust game, but unfortunately there's not a lot else here to occupy your attention. You'll occasionally be asked to jump onto a giant crossbow turret and take down enemies from afar, and once in a while you'll join ranks with your soldiers and advance on a position of archers, marching forward in formation until you hunker down behind your shields to withstand the rain of arrows. This looks cool but is extremely simplistic, perhaps owing to Ryse's former incarnation as a Kinect game. A few of the levels have basic branching points where you pick one of two similar paths or decide whether you want to man one of those turrets versus remaining on the ground and brawling it out. There are quite a few very impressive set pieces that have you fighting amidst gigantic battles with a realistically shaking camera and calamity all around you. Those moments are exciting from a cinematic standpoint, though at the end of the day you're mostly just performing the same combat routines in the middle of them. But they do look very impressive.

Don't think those metal pasties are doing much to protect you there, dude.

As a launch game on a new console, looks really are Ryse's biggest selling point. This is arguably the most graphically intense game of the entire launch. The game is absolutely gorgeous in almost all cases, with a level of high-contrast lighting, particle effects, and general fidelity that gives a good early indication of how far developers can take games on these new consoles. Even when the combat starts to wear out its welcome later in the game, seeing each new area and the over-the-top action sequences that occur within them is fairly appealing in a "wow, I haven't seen something look that good in a game before" sort of way. If you're really hungry for more Ryse, there's a two-player co-op mode that recreates many of these sorts of scenarios, and some new ones, in a theatrical arena format, though once the credits had rolled on the story I can't say I was immediately ready to cut down dozens more enemies in the same way I'd just spent the last six or eight hours doing. If you really enjoy the combat, there's a separate character level and discrete equipment to unlock in the multiplayer that should add a few more hours to your time with the game.

If you're going to play Ryse, you'd be best served playing it in smaller bursts rather than trying to tackle all of it at once. What's here is reasonably well produced--and would serve as a sturdy foundation for a sequel, should one ever materialize--but there's not nearly as much depth and variety as you've come to expect from the best games of the last few years on the old consoles. Ryse makes a good showpiece if you've bought into the Xbox One early, but at full price it feels a little thin.

89 Comments
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Posted by LibrorumProhibitorum

Thys is a nyce revyew

Posted by Gecoma108

Is it really that big a graphical leap from current games?

Sleeping dogs looked mind blowing on pc.

Edited by wohlf

Early to bed, early to Ryse.

Posted by Thor_Molecules

That's an extremely generous score for a game that's as mind-numbingly boring to play as this one.

But hey, at least it looks good, right? Who cares about gameplay. (above average/10)

Posted by ReTarDedFisHy
Posted by Chronox

I honestly enjoyed Ryse.

While I found the combat did become rather repetitive, the story and graphics kept me going.

Posted by civid

That's an extremely generous score for a game that's as mind-numbingly boring to play as this one.

But hey, at least it looks good, right? Who cares about gameplay. (above average/10)

If you read the review and not just looked at the score, Brad does argue that the gameplay is quite competent. Have you even played the game?

Online
Edited by Marokai

I guess I'm the weird one for just not seeing why this game is apparently considered so good looking.

Posted by Grognard66

Good to see a reviewer finally judge this game on what it is rather than what they wanted it to be. This is a linear brawler and it is quite good at that. This is not a long-combo fighting game or deep RPG which most other reviewers have punished it for within their scores. Production values are top notch - not just graphics, but voice acting, physics, animation and soundtrack.

No, this isn't a 5 star game, but it is far better than most jaded reviewers are giving it credit for.

Edited by Matoyak

@gecoma108 said:

Is it really that big a graphical leap from current games?

Sleeping dogs looked mind blowing on pc.

"On PC" being the key phrase, and I'd add "On [a reasonably powerful] PC". This seems a huge jump over what current consoles can do*, and a decent jump over what an OK PC from, say, 2009 can do.

*barring anything Naughty Dog does. Because those fuckers are wizards.

Posted by chibacityblues
Posted by Brendan

Rydiculous.

My autocorrect fought hard against that one.

Posted by KirkDouglas

@brad Tumblr archaeologist fellow here - the 'historically fuzzy' line made me chuckle.

Here's a picture I snapped in 2010 of what I have heard referred to as 'Gauls', usually a stand-in for the barbarous northern people who perennially gave Rome a hard time. These figures are currently on the Arch of Constantine in Rome but probably originally adorned the portico of the Forum of Trajan more than two centuries beforehand. Perhaps compare them to the representation of Gauls in Ryse. Minus the cloaks, they're dressed similarly and have similar bushy hair and so on.

Posted by ghostyTrickster

That's an extremely generous score for a game that's as mind-numbingly boring to play as this one.

But hey, at least it looks good, right? Who cares about gameplay. (above average/10)

Where are you getting above average from?

It got 3 out of 5. That is exactly average (in the GB scale).

Posted by Curufinwe

I would play this game if it was free.

Edited by Dizzyhippos

I am not questioning brads integrity but did he forget this is a 60$ game on top of the 500$ for the console? if a game is boring at that cost that seems kinda damning to me but thats just my opinion

Edited by GioVANNI

I would play this game if it was free.

I don't know. Too many games in my backlog at this point

Online
Posted by VarkhanMB

I would play this game if it was free.

You know what, I totally agree. As a pack-in game, that would've been perfectly fine. I think Brad even mentioned in the Quick Look, had it been a "Games with Gold" game, this would've been a great way to just showcase what the Xbone is capable of.

Posted by clarkj1981

Is this wyse?

Posted by SlashDance

@brad Tumblr archaeologist fellow here

What's a Tumblr archaeologist?

Edited by CptBedlam

The gameplay in this game looks ridiculously repetitive, clumsy and boring. But if I have learned anything from Brad's past reviews, it's that my tastes don't align with his at all. I also expect a 5-star Dead Rising review. All valid opinions, of course.

Posted by Hosstile17

I haven't liked it so far. But, I will go back to it when I finis Forza and DR3.

Edited by csl316

If anything, all this Ryse coverage makes me want to finish God of War: Ascension.

Edited by TurboMan

RYSE>KNACK YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST

Posted by BBQBram

Good to see a reviewer finally judge this game on what it is rather than what they wanted it to be. This is a linear brawler and it is quite good at that. This is not a long-combo fighting game or deep RPG which most other reviewers have punished it for within their scores. Production values are top notch - not just graphics, but voice acting, physics, animation and soundtrack.

No, this isn't a 5 star game, but it is far better than most jaded reviewers are giving it credit for.

That may be true, but when every time I see footage of this game it's the exact same limited moveset against the exact same two or three doppelgangers without any hint of variety of originality, why bother?

Sounds to me like you like the review due to confirmation bias?

Posted by ICantBeStopped

That seems surprisingly high based off of what I saw, and the whole staff's (besides Brad's) reactions.

Posted by joshwent

@turboman said:

RYSE>KNACK YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST

If Alex reviewed this one instead of Brad, I think it would easily be Ryse=Knack. Not that Brad isn't entitled to his own opinion, but he did seem to dig parts of this game despite the flaws that others may have focused on more.

Posted by benu302000

I get the sense that the Brad-star TM is in effect on this one.

Posted by ManlyBeast

I knew this would get 3/5

Posted by PurpleSpandex

Or Crytek continues to not care about narrative or gameplay.

Posted by KirkDouglas

@slashdance said:

@kirkdouglas said:

@brad Tumblr archaeologist fellow here

What's a Tumblr archaeologist?

I anonymously posted something on Brad's tumblr the other day because I don't have an account and I am identifying myself as that same person. My background outside of GB is in archaeology.

Posted by TriBeard

@gecoma108: It's probably better than the majority of PC games that also have console versions that they were ported from. However, crysis 3 (meh game, great graphics) and witcher 2/3 look probably close to as good if not better.

The benefit will be that now the lowest common denominator won't be 8 year old boxes, so the industry can move forward and make everything better across all platforms.

Posted by krabboss

Yeah all those browns look fuckin gorgeous.

Posted by Sackmanjones

@krabboss said:

Yeah all those browns look fuckin gorgeous.

Umm.... wha... Did you just look at the top picture and post your comment? There is plenty of distinct color within the game and it seems to look gorgeous.

Posted by PatchMaster
@krabboss said:

Yeah all those browns look fuckin gorgeous.

Yeah, fuck that. Whoever decided to use Earth tones for the Earth should be fired.

Posted by Vrikk
@krabboss said:

Yeah all those browns look fuckin gorgeous.

If only you had actually played the game instead of, y'know, be cynical. This game is gorgeous.

Edited by carg0

so it's your basic Crytek-developed game; pretty to look at and not much else. at least they're consistent. *shrug*

Posted by The_Nubster

I am not questioning brads integrity but did he forget this is a 60$ game on top of the 500$ for the console? if a game is boring at that cost that seems kinda damning to me but thats just my opinion

No, he didn't, but he's not reviewing the console in conjunction with the game. If someone can't put together that a mediocre game might not be worth $60 for their $500+ dollar machine, that's their issue, not Brad's.

Posted by flippyandnod

Who cares if Ryse is better than Knack? Neither is good enough to buy at $60.

Posted by Yummylee

Haha

Ryan avatars -- unite!

Just too bad @sackmanjones also doesn't happen to be a premium member :P

Posted by ColumnBreaker

This is one of the few reviews on the site that I've ever found questionable. The game has a fucking turret sequence 5 minutes in, one where you shoot exploding barrels. Exploding barrels in Rome ya'll.

Posted by Sackmanjones

@yummylee: my premium expired the day I got my ps4 and I allocated all funds to that. No more load your last souls for me =(

Edited by KaneRobot

This is actually a better review than I was expecting for this game. So, I guess there's that.

Posted by PJ

@joshwent said:

@turboman said:

RYSE>KNACK YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST

If Alex reviewed this one instead of Brad, I think it would easily be Ryse=Knack. Not that Brad isn't entitled to his own opinion, but he did seem to dig parts of this game despite the flaws that others may have focused on more.

I think it's more to do with that Knack is bad for an incredably long time while Ryse is bad for a, let's say, manageable amount of time. If Ryse was twice as long then I'd think it would get a lower score as well.

Both games seem like bad games(havn't played them), but I would probebly pick up Ryse instead of Knack if I had to choose going by the QL's and Reviews. But not for $60.

Posted by ArtisanBreads

Good review. Still going to grab this when I eventually get a One, sounds fun especially for a little less than $60.

Posted by hfm

I fully expect by the tyme I get an xb1 thys wyll probably cost nyneteen dollars and nynty-nyne cents.

Posted by Superharman

I'm enjoying it. Playing about a level a night which seems like good pace for a game like this, anything more and I can understand how the combat would become a little stale.

Posted by Cozmicaztaway

@columnbreaker: So 4 stars, then? Because exploding barrels in Rome y'all!

Edited by ColumnBreaker

@cozmicaztaway: I'd be down for a stupid Saints Row style take on Roman times. This is not it, this game is hot garbage. Do not buy for more than $15.

Edited by krabboss

@vrikk said:
@krabboss said:

Yeah all those browns look fuckin gorgeous.

If only you had actually played the game instead of, y'know, be cynical. This game is gorgeous.

@krabboss said:

Yeah all those browns look fuckin gorgeous.

Yeah, fuck that. Whoever decided to use Earth tones for the Earth should be fired.

@krabboss said:

Yeah all those browns look fuckin gorgeous.

Umm.... wha... Did you just look at the top picture and post your comment? There is plenty of distinct color within the game and it seems to look gorgeous.

Guys, don't worry. The XB1 will get games eventually.

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