Crytek has a penchant for creating games that push a computer’s hardware to the absolute limit, often requiring you to upgrade your PC in order to play them. This made any Crytek game a visual benchmark, often looking to answer the question, “Can it run Crysis?”. Ryse: Son of Rome launched with the Xbox One last year, but only now making it’s 4K debut on PC. It boasts being scalable with native desktop UI resolutions, super sampling, anti-aliasing options, and more. While Ryse fails to rise to the occasion several times, it has a visual splendor that helps make up for its deficiencies.
Ryse: Son of Rome is a fictional take on the time period, where you play as Marius, a Roman soldier who loses his family. What begins as a pretty generic revenge tale ends up being something larger and more involved that goes in interesting directions, but never fully explores Marius as much as I would have liked. Similar to Assassin’s Creed II, the main character will often run into familiar names of the era during this adventure in Ancient Rome such as Nero, Romulus, and Remus. With the middle of the game touching on the supernatural, is disappointing that it doesn’t ever get explained or fleshed out, as it was more interesting than Marius’ personal life.
A game’s cinematics are hardly ever worth talking about, but the exception here is that they are extremely well voiceacted and generally so engaging. It was easy to be put off by these cinematic cutscenes that were seemingly intended for a lower resolution. However, the game in real-time is something else. Accompanied by a fantastic score, the lush forests, city streets, and interiors of luxurious detail excel. Fighting animations and the overall aesthetic is screenshot heaven.
Unfortunately when getting down to the gameplay, Ryse is a game of repetition. The combat itself is rote. Light and heavy attacks must be mixed with parrying or dodging. Attacks are awarded points, and a combo meter is increased for every attack given without taking damage to stop it. Execution moves against a single opponent or a duo can be conducted for additional points and flair to a pretty generic moveset. However, you can find yourself feeling like all of the combat is in slow motion. As for every execution enabled, the game slows down to perform a quick-time event to add additional damage and dismemberment to the enemy before delivering the killing blow. At least the way the quick-time events are delivered, is cleverly blended into the game. Buttons to be pressed are requested by highlighting the character or item in the color that coordinates with the gamepad. The thing is, if you are using anything other than Xbox 360 or Xbox One gamepad, you may not know the correlation to the colors. When using the keyboard & mouse, colors are assigned to mouse buttons and keys that fill in quite nicely.
Enemy variety is very low, where you will see twins and even triplets of the same enemy type on-screen at one time. It’s mostly pretty hilarious, but shows the simplicity that Ryse offers. Bosses end-cap chapters, but they stand out not because they are unique or interesting, it’s more because they aren’t much different than regular enemies, they just take longer to defeat. Which is not how to do boss fights.
The mission structure borrows elements from popular films like the aforementioned “300”, and cribs from “Saving Private Ryan”, even awarding an achievement called ‘Saving Private Marius’. It’s not egregious in any way, because honestly that’s what makes the game work with the rivers of blood, arms being chopped off, and flaming arrows. Navigation and exploration is kept at an absolute minimum, where you are just pressing the stick forward and making progress.
Multiplayer is untested, as I was unable to find anyone with matchmaking, from my friends list, in both traditional multiplayer and the co-op.
I was able to try and spend some time in the Arena, and it was a somewhat enjoyable experience. Being one of the more interesting aspects of the campaign as something standalone is neat, but the combat is too dull and repetitive to warrant venturing any time into. As you play any of the multiplayer portions, you’ll earn gold currency to spend towards upgrades instead of the XP earned through singleplayer.
The six hours it took me to play through Ryse: Son of Rome was really enjoyable. The shallow combat does become mindless button mashing over time even if the gore can get to be too much. The reasons to play Ryse may not be the same for everyone else, but there’s a compelling aspect that goes for my pleasure centers when dismembering and walking through these gorgeous recreations of Rome’s inner and outer creations. If you don’t have an Xbox One, I do recommend Ryse. If nothing else, you can now ask others: “Can it run Ryse?”
A Steam code was provided by PR for review purposes