Ryse: Son of Rome is a Xbox One launch day title that is exclusive to Microsoft’s new gaming console. This brutally violent and highly detailed game is from Crytek, and it features action-adventure gameplay not too dissimilar from God of War, or the Batman: Arkham games. I was lucky enough to get some hands-on time with the game at a private Xbox 101 event held after hours during the kick off of E3 week, and I must say that it’s definitely shaping up to be a great launch title for the One.
Ryse: Son of Rome puts you in control of Marius Titus, who is a Roman soldier hell bent on avenging the death of his family at the hands of Barbarian raiders. Titus is a formidable foot solider and quickly rises through the ranks of the Roman Legion to become one of its most feared leaders and fiercest warriors. Simply put, this dude is a beast who is driven by revenge, and will do anything to quench the thirst of avenging his family’s murder.
The playable demo of Ryse at the Xbox 101 party was the exact demo shown at MS’s E3 press event. If you saw this trailer, then you will be very familiar with the section of the game that I got to play.
The demo you saw during the Xbox One briefing was indeed actual gameplay, and not a scripted cutscene, so the power of the One is no joke. This game’s visuals are extremely life-like, and the character animations are akin to some of the best CGI characters you’ve seen in movies (think FF: The Spirits Within). The level of detail in their facial movements is staggering, and provide for believable performances. The character movements are also rooted in reality, so the combat never felt lightweight, or off, but very smooth and natural.
While controlling Titus the gameplay feels very similar to other third person action games such as Batman: Arkham City, or Assassin’s Creed 3. Titus can quickly flow from one skirmish to the next with chain attacks that make you feel nearly invulnerable. During sword fights random QTEs are displayed to give you an edge over the enemy forces, but they aren’t mandatory to hit to win a fight. This should be music to the ears of any gamer who feared that Ryse was nothing more than QTEs after seeing the MS press event demo.
In reality, these timed sequences are used to give buffs to Titus as he fights. The developer explained that gamers will have various bonuses to choose from to tie to the QTEs, such as health boosts or XP boosts. Basically, if you nail the button presses Titus can get deadlier than he already is, but you don’t need to nail the sequences to advance in the game. These QTEs actually mean something, and can add to the gameplay, so Crytek definitely nailed their implementation in Ryse.
Marius Titus is a deadly warrior on his own, but he can also issue commands to his troops to take out objectives without direct interaction on his part. When in a phalanx formation he can command his troops to raise their shields to prevent oncoming attacks, and he can also command them to throw their spears in a unified hail of flying death poles towards a pocket of enemies. In one section Titus orders his forces to take over a trebuchet, which if successful can then be used to attack other enemy long range emplacements.
Each battle Titus gets involved in felt like a mini-episode of Spartacus on Starz. His swordplay is very similar to how that show portrayed melee combat, and its just as violent. There’s a definite strategy in chaining attacks together with the QTE enabled buffs, so Ryse didn’t really feel like just another button masher.
There are some glaring similarities to other titles in its genre, but with the promised story of revenge set against the peak of the Roman Empire, Ryse: Son of Rome has a chance to be a unique and highly entertaining next-gen experience. This game will also feature a co-op based arena mode (think Spartacus again), so it’s not just a one trick single player pony.
Ryse: Son of Rome is on pace to ship this fall in time for the launch of the Xbox One. Based on my time with the game it’ll definitely be on the agenda of day one titles to play on Microsoft’s next video game console this November.
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