Crytek seems to have mastered the art of developing games with the most attractive graphics. Anyone with a souped up PC and a copy of Crysis can attest to that opinion of mine. Crytek was given the task of creating a Kinect-only game that would bring the more hardcore gaming contingent over to the casual gamer centered motion controller. Years have passed since this huge project was unveiled to the public. The Xbox One is a graphical powerhouse unto itself, so Crytek must have reconsidered where their new game should land. Ryse: Son of Rome is now an Xbox One action/adventure epic that does away with motion controls and goes the traditional route with gamepad controls.
Ryse’s tale focuses on the Roman warmongering efforts of a young warrior named Marius. Your first encounter with Marius throws you into the middle of an epic clash between Roman soldiers and vicious barbarians. From this point forward, the story rewinds itself to cover Marius’ beginnings as a lowly soldier to his climactic experiences as a respected leader in the Roman Army. Marius’ story is filled with moments of honor, betrayal, violence, sympathy, triumph etc. All of these moments are expected of a game that covers such a bloody historical conflict. There are a few instances during the game that will actually make you care about Marius’ journey. But for the most part, much of the plot isn’t exactly thrilling or moving.
The most noticeable and positive aspect of Ryse is its graphics. It’s clear to see that Crytek made a successful effort at pushing the Xbox One’s graphical power to get the best visuals possible for their title. Simply put, Ryse looks incredible. The facial/body animations of your main character and the more important protagonists/antagonists look as fluid and real as can be. You’ll stop everything you’re doing to marvel at the chaotic bridge battles, dark forests and rich inner chambers that you’ll get to explore. The only visual mishap comes courtesy of your barbarian enemies and fellow soldiers, who knowingly sport the same faces and body structures. Recycled enemies/sodliers come a dime a dozen, but at least they still look good.
Tuning your ears into the chaos onscreen yields great results. Ramping up your TV’s stereo system setup while you’re playing Ryse may convince your neighbors that you’re really in the middle of a war. The painful screams of fallen soldiers/barbarians, as well as the triumphant war cries you’ll hear plenty of all sound amazing. The voice over work for each cutscene is just as admirable. The visuals and sounds of Ryse will cause anyone to stare in wonder if you just so happen to be playing it on the big screen.
When it’s time for you to head into the fray as Marius, you’ll come to quickly understand the basic mechanics of battle. Your assortment of moves covers slashing, blocking, countering, shield bashing and dodging. The game starts off pretty easy, which serves as a welcoming point for gamers not familiar with action-centered games. Once you injure an enemy enough, you’ll have the chance to finish them off in a most brutal (yet rewarding) fashion. These somewhat glorified quick-time events ditch the display of buttons and instead correlates the color of an enemy’s attack with the button you’ll need to press to finish them. Don’t worry if you hit the wrong button. Each hit will still register, but you’ll be graded accordingly for hitting the right/wrong buttons.
The action on display in Ryse is a fun affair…at first. Everything is much deeper than you think, though. Along with your primary attack/defense options, you’ll gain a projectile weapon used for putting down enemies from a distance. Plus, you’ll face off with new enemy types that increase the challenge factor. You may mistake the game’s earlier encounters for button masher affairs, but later stages push you to your limit. Each enemy encounter you head into when you’re deeper into the game starts to make you develop a sense of staleness, though. Sure, you’ll find everything more exciting again when you enter a rage mode and start mowing through enemies. But the basic combat and boss battles all start to feel and look the same. You may even grow tired of pulling off execution kills since you’ll see the same ones over and over.
The repetitive gameplay gets saved after a while once you get the chance to use the Kinect 2.0’s voice controls to shout commands at your soldiers. The voice commands work well as you shout at your army to launch volleys and other attacks. What also keeps things from getting extremely boring are the parts where you gather up your soldiers around you as you head into heavy enemy territory. The cool factor is high once you push your soldiers to throw spears at/defend against a large gathering of barbarian archers. These moments change up the gameplay and offer a much needed reprieve from the basic fighting.
Even though the combat tends to feel too similar to every encounter you’ve been in previously, you’ll still get some enjoyment out of upgrading Marius. You’ll pick up Valor Points for your battle efficiency and get to spend them on new executions and improved stats. The bonus perks help change up a player’s strategy, which helps keep things more involved. You can either head into battle with stronger attacks or the option to gain health for every successful kill. Playing each stage yields bite-sized levels that bow out as you start to grow tired of fighting. By that point, you’ll enjoy the next amazing looking cutscene you get to lay eyes on.
The combat gets a bit more fun with a live player. The game’s Horde-like mode places players into a co-op mode that’s packed with more enemies to vanquish. You’ll enjoy the mindless destruction you and your friend engage in as execution kills pop up frequently. Leveling up your custom soldier and outfitting them to your liking is a cool diversion from the single-player campaign. The single-player campaign moves at a brisk pace, which means you’ll find yourself in the multiplayer sooner than later.
Ryse: Son of Rome undoubtedly stands as the graphical and audio powerhouse of the Xbox One launch games library. Sure, the gameplay isn’t as deep and fulfilling as it should be. Repetitive battle scenarios may hamper your overall experience of the game. But there is still much fun to be had from slaying barbarians and finishing them off with highlights worthy finishing moves. Ryse fills the Xbox One’s action/adventure genre hole with a decent effort.