Let’s go back to E3 2013 when the Xbox One was first announced and with it came a few launch titles. One of those launch titles was Ryse: Son of Rome, a third-person, hack and slash adventure. Developed by Crytek and published by Microsoft Studios, the game was to utilize the Xbox One’s Kinect during gameplay. I finally got the chance to play and finish Ryse years later, when it became free to own on Xbox’s Games with Gold.
We play as Marius Titus as he commands the Roman legion to defend against the Celtic barbarians. The first mission puts you in the thick of the war as you make your way to protect the emperor. Soon after we get a little history lesson and play through Marius’ timeline of how he got to where he is now. It starts as a simple story of revenge. Marius’ comes home to visit while he’s off duty. He catches up with his father when suddenly his home gets invaded by barbarians that murder his mother and sister. Marius and his father fight them off and move on the save the city. The worse happens and his father gets taken down before his own eyes. This is how Marius’ story of revenge begins.
On my playthrough, I set it on Centurion difficulty, basically hard, and it honestly felt like normal with a slight damage increase from enemies. The gameplay was about as cookie cutter as you can get with hack and slash games. Ryse implemented an execution QTE once you’ve done enough damage to enemies. As you kill your foes, you gain XP that you can use to purchase upgrades to Marius or unlock new executions. An interesting thing about the combat is the perks that allow you to survive better in long battles. Once executions have been successful depending on the perk selected you’ll either heal, gain more XP, get a damage boost, or obtain more focus.
Although the executions were really well done and gory, I wasn’t enjoying the actual combat like I thought I would. I know it’s a hack and slash but personally I thought there should have been more combos to pull off before getting to the execution. All the damage I was putting out felt so bland and overused by the time I was half way through the game. Even after unlocking new executions, I felt it rare to pull out a new one I’ve just unlocked. Unless there was a certain requirement that was needed, that I glossed over enitrely, I continuously killed 80% of the enemies with the same handful of combos and executions. Stepping away from hack and slash, there were instances where you had to lead the formation forward into enemies. Choosing when to raise shields, throw spears, and advance forward. There’s also sequences when you’d choose a path to defend on your own while your squad defends the other. Both of these involve using the Kinect to call for archer volleys. Of course, if you don’t have one, you can call down flaming arrows with the hold of a button. I understand what this meant as a part of the story but it didn’t translate well into gameplay. The volley calls just felt like a forced feature to integrate the Kinect. Now we get to the part that I actually enjoyed, the story. I completed the campaign in about 6 hours and the story was very fulfilling although short. I can say that some of it might be predictable since it is just a revenge story after all. Overall, I’m glad I paid no money for this game. It wasn’t a breathtaking reveal at E3 either and I’m a little sorry for anyone who paid full price. There’s just not enough content, with a short campaign and an unfulfilling co-op horde mode. I played less than two hours of the horde mode and realized it takes years to level up but I was already tired of the combat to continue any further. Ryse: Son of Rome has received many mixed reviews but one thing is certain, it’s not worth your full attention.