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The game is a solid launch title, but fails to become anything that is actually memorable

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    Ryse: Son of Rome

    Rating: 3.5 – Good

    The game is a solid launch title, but fails to become anything that is actually memorable

    With a lack of strong first-party titles at the Xbox One launch, many pinned their hopes on the new IP Ryse: Son of Rome in order to save the day. Going into launch, however, many were lukewarm. The previous E3 demo went rather negatively to say the least, and reviewers were panning the game across the board. After playing through Ryse, I simply cannot understand why the game garnered so much dissatisfaction. In fact, although the game is not necessarily a great one, it fulfills all the requirements necessitated by a launch title, and shows off the potential of the Xbox One very well. The gameplay, visuals, story, and multiplayer all amalgamate into a solid game that should be checked out by Xbox One owners.

    Ryse is an incredibly pretty game, as it should be. Being a launch title, the game successfully shows off what a “next-gen” game is truly capable of looking like. The environments are all vibrant and realistic, the water effects are great, and the armor glistens beautifully in the rays of the sunlight. The only problem I have with the visuals in Ryse are the characters’ faces. Whereas the rest of the game is such a pleasure to look at, the faces in Ryse don’t look nearly as nice as the environments surrounding them.

    Ryse chronicles the story of Marius Titus, a Roman who begins the game seeking revenge after the murder of his family. After successfully ascending the hierarchy of the Roman army, Marius eventually rises up to the position of general. Unfortunately, through his journey Marius begins to see that not all is well in the Rome, as corruption runs rampant throughout the empire. Citizens and politicians are unjustly murdered, enemies are treated with brutal force, and the democracy of Rome turns out to not really be a democracy. Although a simple story in premise, Ryse intertwines several underlying narrative threads through the duration of the game, creating a story that actually has quite a bit of depth.

    Gameplay in Ryse, on the other hand, is quite a bit less complicated. Marius has four main moves: dodge-roll, sword attack, counter, and shield bash. At the start of the game, enemies can be taken down by merely mashing a few buttons. As the game progresses, however, enemies end up having larger health bars; but more importantly, enemies begin using different tactics to fight back. No longer can you press the “X” button repeatedly. By the end of the game players will be rolling around dodging attacks, countering an array of enemy attacks in the middle of a combo, and shield bashing in order to break the defenses of an enemy. Others have complained that the combat within Ryse can get boring and repetitive quickly. I completely disagree with this, as throughout the game there are constantly new types of enemies being thrown at you.

    The developers also implemented some deeper mechanics into Ryse in order to prevent a button-mashing fest. Timing attacks correctly nets players a perfect combo and eventually a super attack, so simply mashing the “X” button simply will not work. Furthermore, the element of executions adds even further depth into the combat. After enemies have been dealt enough damage, players can initiate an execution. At this point the game will enter into a cinematic sequence where players must press the buttons corresponding to the color of the enemy. The only consequence for pressing the incorrect button is a lower score, so I would not necessarily consider it a quick-time event; however, those grabbing the game should be a bit weary of a large amount of button prompts.

    Nevertheless, even though some may not appreciate the executions, they provide a nice little twist on the normal gameplay formula. Not only are the executions very cinematic and nice to look at, they provide a bonus or perk when successfully completed. Players can choose from four perks, whether it is boosted XP, restored health, focus, or boosted damage. These perks can be switched at any time, so if you are lacking in health you can switch to a health perk instantaneously, or if you would prefer boosted XP, you can switch to that with a click of a button.

    After earning enough XP, the game allows players to purchase various upgrades and additional executions. All the abilities, such as boosted health or increased damage, can be purchased using the in-game currency. Microsoft did also implement a micro-transaction system, however. Players can purchase additional in-game currency using real-world money if they wish to get additional upgrades. Fortunately, this is not a required part of the game, and I got through the game fine without ever having to spend a dime in the game. This is an unfortunate part of the game, however, and one which must still be considered.

    When done with the singleplayer campaign, players can move into the game’s multiplayer mode. Yes, the word “mode” is singular. Unfortunately, Ryse’s multiplayer mode is pretty shallow, as it functions as a co-op hoard mode arena fighter. The game flings two players together into an arena, then the players take out waves upon waves of enemies. Sure, you can unlock stuff as you level up, but the same game mode can only go so far before getting pretty boring.

    Overall, Ryse is a solid launch title that checks off each of the boxes on the list of requirements. Yes, the game is very pretty and there is an online mode. The story in Ryse is sound and the game is fun to play. Unfortunately, Ryse fails to go above and beyond anything that is required of it. The game is a solid launch title, but fails to become anything that is actually memorable.

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