Ryse: Son of Rome

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Ryse: Son of Rome begins with an epic battle to protect Rome from the advancing Celtic barbarians led by Boudica. As Roman General Marius Titus your job is to serve and protect the Roman emperor Nero while Romans are burned alive around you. Opening to this horrific and yet beautiful scene as a tutorial leads you to want a lot from Ryse: Son of Rome. A lot of good and bad things can be said about Ryse: Son of Rome but Crytek brought a beautiful and developed Roman world to console gaming.

With detailed warships at sea, to mounds of gold and statues hidden in the secret vault of Nero Crytek delivers a detailed and often brutal look at Rome from centuries passed. With expansive and detailed environments Ryse: Son of Rome provides several views that you will screen grab and place like your desktop. The majority of the locations displayed in the game are impressive and realistic to the period. The Colosseum falls a bit short for realistic detail in its attempt to create an active two-player cooperative component. Even in the Colosseum Crytek creates a visually stunning game to see.

The only aspect of Ryse: Son of Rome that falls short is the gameplay itself. It begins with hopes of being a robust brawling system but falls a bit short because of the design of how you perform finisher moves inside the game. When you have lowered a foe’s health, a white skull appears above their head, and you can perform the finisher move. During your finisher, you are prompted to press several different button combinations to reward the gamer with the choice of additional experience points, a boost to damage, health refill, or more focus energy.

On paper, this system seems very well made and exciting for the player, but the problem is that if you miss a button combo, you still finish the foe. The only downside to not hitting the correct buttons is a lower experience rating and fewer refills on your rewards. If the system would have acted like most other button combos and broke the chain this would have become a much stronger brawling game. The design and feel of the fighting remind me of Batman: Arkham Asylum but needs to work on polishing the gameplay more. Having the cut scenes for each finisher doesn’t take away from the gameplay but having the outcome not controlled by the player does leave you wanting something more.
Another aspect of the gameplay that was creative in inside Ryse: Son of Rome bringing Roman culture to life is the ability to create the Testudo formation. The Testudo formation is unique to the gameplay, but in the end, it also lacks any real creativity in the gameplay. For the majority of the time you are in the Testudo formation, you appear to march aimlessly through the game instead of battling in the formation. I would have loved to see a few situations where you in the Testudo formation are walking through a group of Celtic barbarians as archers are raining volleys of arrows onto your shields. A situation would have created a more intense use of the Testudo formation and allowed the player to feel more in control of the gameplay.

In the end the vast part of Ryse: Son of Rome is the cinematics inside the game. The camera always displays the enormous scale of the many of the conflicts perfectly and then quickly times the close-up details of characters and action sequences to promote the story itself. Ryse: Son of Rome is a very bloody game, but it isn’t blood for the sake of blood. The wounds that are displayed on characters, complete with exposing broken bones, captures the brutal period perfectly. The weapons in this era have never been considered clean in their ability to kill and Ryse: Son of Rome captures the brutality of Roman military culture entirely.

The story of Ryse: Son of Rome itself ends up being a multi-volume tale displaying in beautiful detail every scene you ever fell in love with from recent films from this period. Beginning with Marius Titus losing his family to invading barbarians pushing him forward to lust for revenge to those who wronged Rome. The story is a fun ride as you travel through Roman history, or Roman made-up history, as you interact with despicable Roman politicians that lead the player wanting to perform one of the many finishers on them instead of the barbarians.
Ryse: Son of Rome is a brand that Microsoft needs to look closer at in the future but learn from their mistakes. The next chapter needs to provide stronger gameplay mechanics create a better-finished product.
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