Better Than I Hoped For
This is probably the most maligned of the launch titles for either console, Crytek's Ryse was viewed as being a gorgeous game with shaky game mechanics. Early game footage appeared to be a game with tons of QTE and little else. This didn't concern me as I adored Asura's Wrath, so on with the QTE, I say.
Truth be known, in college, the two eras in history I found the most fascinating were the rise and fall of Weimar Germany...and the fall of Rome. The multiple sacks of Rome by assorted barbarian tribes and the collapse of the once-great Empire is one of the most interesting epochs because I find it interesting watching something collapse. Rome was one of the great empires in history that was, overall, one of the greatest forces of good in human history. OK, I'm a Christian and we have our issues with the Romans, but still, overall, quite good.
You play Marius, a Roman general, who has to fend off a Briton sack of Rome and protect Nero. Now, this is the first time I've ever seen Nero portrayed as an old man, which seems accurate as he died at 30. While I am aware that life spans were a bit shorter 2000 years ago, but I don't buy that you get really old and broken down at 30. While it is relatively beyond middle age, it's not like people have had a massive change in when they start to look old in the last century when life spans shot up massively.
Marius is a brutal warrior. The game is extremely brutal. It is one of the more violent games I've ever played. Now, let's go ahead and get this out of the way --- it is not only QTE. The combat system is actually really good. A lot of blocking, reversals, and slashing. It is intuitive and while it only uses 3 buttons, the need to control crowds makes the combat a lot of fun. It is similar to the recent Rocksteady Batman titles. The "boss" fights are not overly difficult (I played it on the hardest default difficulty, not on the difficulty unlocked after beating the game, so it might be quite difficult at that level), but they seem to fit with the overall game aesthetic.
Visually, the game is mind-blowing. I say that knowing, full well, that in 4 years, this is going to look rough. The environments look stunning (though they do go with the inaccurate view that Rome was white when it was actually garishly colored before centuries of sun washed the paint off of the buildings and sculptures. I do love the look, however, so I find it fitting. The levels show the horsepower of the XBox One nicely. The forests are stunning. The beaches are amazing. The character models look good enough to even power through the whole uncanny valley issue. The framerate never chugs in spite of it. In spite of massive amounts of enemies on screen, the game runs smooth as silk. It's not 60 fps, but it doesn't need to be 60 fps.
Even the multiplayer is better than expected. Truth be known, I had zero expectations for the multiplayer. I couldn't imagine a way the game could work --- but it did. The multiplayer arena mode, even on solo, is fun. Fighting waves of enemies with goals in the middle of the conflict is entertaining. The matches aren't overly long, so the time commitment is not overly lengthy.
The only downside are the collectibles. They seem to be pointless. The game doesn't make it easy to see what you've collected thus far. If they seem to have little impact on the game, I don't see the point of having them. Also, the writing is solid, but the dialogue is a bit of a chore to listen to. The delivery is fine, but man, it just drags on a bit.
Ryse was a game that many felt was going to be a poor title, but for me, it is another outstanding first party release on the One. The exclusives for the One are better, in my opinion, then what the PS4 has put out so far. Ryse is not an overly lengthy title, but it is one that is completely worth playing. I recommend it very highly.