Having only seen what Ryse: Son of Rome was all about through videos, I was excited at the chance to actually go hands-on with the Xbox One launch title, despite some less than stellar early previews. No doubt the game looks gorgeous, but I wanted to see how the game would handle and more importantly, if there was going to be more to it than just mashing buttons.
Fortunately, after a playing an early mission in the game and experiencing first hand what the game was all about, I quickly decided that this was one of the launch games that would be on my must-have list.
My demo started off outside of a palace, which was under attack by an army of barbarians who were out for war. As the Roman general Marius Titus, I am tasked with fending off the barbarians and protecting the emperor. During the battle, you learn how to not only attack, but how to counter, and defend yourself. Attacks generally require you to simply press the X button over and over, while adding the Y button can finish off a foe. But while these attacks seem a bit repetitive, you do get the benefit of executing some pretty gruesome finishers, that leave your enemies, bloody and usually dismembered. In fact, it’s the grotesque nature of the various kills that is most appealing (as sadistic as that sounds), which is only made more awesome by the fluid movements of each character that add a natural, and basically lifelike representation of every battle. You’ll also find environmental executions, such as chucking them over a bridge or causing falling debris to crush them.
During this battle outside of the palace walls, I encountered waves of enemies coming at me from different angles, and I was able to man a catapult, that assisted me in killing my enemies. I could then fire directly at a group of barbarians, or I could blow up fiery barrels to do damage to anyone in their paths. While this is going on, I was also able to command my army to attack certain points and also defend, which is another aspect of the game. It’s not just about hand-to-hand combat, but also about doling out commands, which adds a bit more depth to these battles.
After finishing off the army, I then made my way into the palace, where I came across the emperor himself, who tasked me with escorting him to a hidden dungeon. On our way there, I had to fend off additional barbarians who had made their way inside, which allowed me to get more practice in with combat techniques. I learned that you could put together combinations, while there are perks such as health regeneration that you can activate during the game. There are other perks to be had, such as building up more XP with executions, and each player will want to toy around with what’s available to suit not just their play style but also the situation. While I was picking up more XP, in order to help me upgrade my character, I kept finding myself in trouble with health, so I quickly changed my perk to health regeneration to get me back to full health. After a short battle with could only be described as a sort of mini-boss, I finally snuck the emperor into the dungeon, where I would begin to learn about Marius’ story. Unfortunately, this is also where the demo ended so I will have to wait until later this month to hear his backstory.
I would be remiss to not mention again how beautiful the game looked, from the detail in each character’s face, to the dynamic environments and visual effects. Though at first glance, it seems like button mashing is the order of the day, I was happy to see that there is a little more depth to it than meets the eye and quite frankly, the battles were quite intense. It remains to be seen if the game can hold up after a few hours of gameplay, but surely this will be one of the Xbox One’s most visually stunning games, and I’m hopeful that not only will the story be engaging, but also the combat.
And now for some gameplay footage!