There is no other launch title for the Xbox One that looks as incredible as Ryse: Son of Rome. Let’s just get that out of the way right now. This game looks beautiful from start to finish and Crytek once again shoes off their graphical prowess, but while the visuals are spectacular, the gameplay doesn’t quite hit the same highs.
That’s not to say the game isn’t enjoyable however, as I found myself wanting to play it repeatedly, for better or worse.
Ryse: Son of Rome narrative is told through the eyes of Marius, a highly celebrated Centurion, who begins by escorting Emperor Nero through his palace during a huge barbarian assault. Once in safe quarters, Marius begins to tell the Emperor his story, which includes his beginnings and lead up to the events that have put them in the situation in which they currently find themselves. Quite frankly, the story is probably one of the things in the game that I enjoyed most, as I returned daily to continue playing because I was interested in finding out what came next.
At the start of the game, you’ll get acquainted with the combat style, which has you pressing either Y or X to attack, while heavier attacks are possible by holding down each button a little longer. It’s also possible to chain attacks for combos, which can net you more experience points. The best part of each fight is surely the ability to then pull of one of many executions, which lets you dismember barbarians or brutally shank them throughout their torsos. Since you build up all these points, you can not only unlock new executions, but also upgrade your health, attack power or the ability to slow down time while you unload on enemies. Each barbarian has their own style of fighting which sometimes lets you simply hack and slash, those you’ll at times need to counter attacks or know when to roll out of the way when they initiate their own strong attacks. At times, you’ll come across a boss fight, which forces you be a bit more tactical with your attacks, as they’ll be stronger and faster than typical foes and sometimes will come at you while there are other barbarians attacking you at the same time. While the combat more or less works, it can get a little tiresome especially after a handful of hours, as you’ll sort of repeat the same attacks and that can get quite stale. Even executions can get a tad boring after a while, and though you’re asked to hit specific buttons during executions, to maximize their results, they come off regardless so it seems like an unnecessary mechanic. Even going back to the upgrade system, I found myself just unlocking whatever I could get simply because it was possible but didn’t notice a big change to my style or the overall gameplay, which I think was a missed opportunity.
I should however mention that the voice acting in the game is pretty darned good. There’s plenty of emotion in each of the main characters’ dialogue and it’d believable enough that I did feel at times, that I was watching a movie. Couple that with the ridiculously great looking character animations and facial features, and you’ve got yourself a sensational presentation. As I mentioned earlier about the game’s visual excellence, you’ll get to enjoy, not just Roman architecture, but also beautiful forests, beaches, swaps and more. Battles, with a ton of enemies on the screen, look great and without a doubt, this is the kind of game that you’ll want to show friends when trying to showcase the power of the Xbox One from a technical standpoint.
Crytek to me, seemed to have an almost magnificent game, as I really dug the premise, in particular the story, the setting and even the characters themselves, but there just seems to be something missing, in part because of the repetitive combat and lack of an overall need for strategy. There is of course multiplayer as well, which includes co-op modes that let’s friends battle it out in the Roman Colosseum against enemies. Each player picks out a god to serve and there are bonuses associated with it, while the changing of the environment with new towers, pits and more, keeps things fresh, though ultimately, the combat is still held back.
Ryse is a game that boasts some of the best graphics we’ve ever seen on a console and has a really cool story to match, but stops just shy of being a great game. That’s not to say it’s not recommended to check out, but a part of me wishes it just had a little bit more to offer. Ultimately, the game is a good start for Crytek on next-gen and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Final Score: 4 out of 5