I’m going to be honest right off the bat here: when Ryse: Son of Rome, one of Microsoft’s flagship titles for the Xbox One’s launch day lineup, was announced, I could not have been less excited for it.  The trailers, while they looked amazing, made this title look like a simple hack and slash game with the dreaded Quick Time Events thrown in for good measure.  Nothing about the game made me want to play it.  Then curiosity got the better of me and I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy of the game from Microsoft.  What I experienced was far from what I expected to get from this game.

Ryse Screen (2)

Ryse: Son of Rome, developed by Crytek, in they CryEngine, takes place during the reign of Emperor Nero of Rome and follows the story of Marius, a simple centurion thrust into a war he never expected, and one that came very close to home.  Witnessing the murder of his family by the brutal Celtic Barbarians, Marius vows vengeance and follows his legion across the country in search of his family’s killer.  What he finds on this journey is not what he expected and threatens to alter his beliefs and the course of his life forever.

Visually, Ryse: Son of Rome is simply staggering.  Everything, from the vast and expansive set pieces to the incredibly detailed character models look like a live action film.  Every item in this game has been carefully crafted to look photo-realistic.  Ryse contains some of the best character model animation I have ever seen in a game, and the voice acting is spot on, bringing each character to life like no game before it.  Where clothing and armor were once “painted” onto a character, in Ryse, each piece of clothing is an item on its own, physically placed on top of the characters, leaving a life-like “actor” in its place.

Ryse Screen (1)

While there is certainly more than just centurion melee fighting found in Ryse: Son of Rome, the majority of it is a hand to hand combat game.  This is where some may look at Ryse and assume it’s a hack and slash title.  Looking deeper, it is certainly much more than that.  The controls are very simple to understand: the A button blocks, B dodges, X is a sword swing, and Y will push the enemy with your shield.  Hammering on these buttons like a button masher, however, will get you nowhere.  Instead, Ryse is a careful, determined, and rhythmic dance. Each press of the button should be timed skillfully to get that perfect series of blows that keeps the enemy off guard and never gives them a chance to hit back.  Once an enemy has been warn down far enough, the right trigger will initiate an execution move. This is where the Quick Time Events (QTEs) come into play, only they aren’t your typical QTEs.  Where a normal QTE requires the correct button to be pressed or else it fails, in Ryse, once an execution move has been started, it can not be failed.  As the enemy highlights in either blue (for the X button) or yellow (indicating to press Y), pressing the correct button simply results in higher points and bonuses.  Pressing the wrong button does not fail the event, it simply does not award you with points.  The combat in Ryse: Son of Rome is all about the intricate dance of combat in search of the perfect score and never allowing an enemy’s blow to land.

Ryse Screen (10)

The story of Ryse: Son of Rome was enough to keep me engaged and entertained all the way through its roughly 6 hour campaign and nothing about the game ever became boring or tedious.  With a game so heavily dependent on hand to hand combat, I would have assumed it would get old quickly, but the game’s pacing was perfectly balanced between combat, story telling, and exploration so as to never have too much of anything.  Ryse even ramped up the difficulty in a very natural way so that by the time boss battles were encountered, I felt prepared enough to be able to handle them without frustration.  This seems to be something of a lost art form in games these days and I was pleasantly surprised that Ryse: Son of Rome never had any unrelenting difficulty spikes.

I consider myself a complete convert when it comes to Ryse: Son of Rome.  There is much more to this game than it seemed and I am hooked.  I certainly haven’t even covered everything this game offers either such as character upgrades, collections, SmartGlass integration, Kinect voice commands, and online multiplayer arenas.  After completing the campaign, I have already begun to play it again from the beginning, not only to experience it once more and marvel and the sheer beauty that is this game, but also to gather all the collectibles that I missed the first time through.  If Ryse was a game you were unsure about, I can attest that I was in your shoes once and I am kicking myself for not playing this game sooner.  All I can say is, don’t play it like a button masher; learn the rhythm of the fight and keep calm and collected during every battle.

In short, Ryse: Son of Rome is simply epic. It is an incredibly beautiful game with massive battle sequences, and an epic story that will keep you captivated from beginning to glorious end.

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About the Author

Sean is an avid gamer and lover of all thing tech. He is a dedicated husband and the father to three beautiful daughters. In addition to taking his love of gaming to a new level with this site, Sean is also host of our podcasts: The OMG! Hour, Lost Treasures of Gaming, and Primetime as well as the bi-weekly podcast mashup show, Gamers Unscripted. Follow Sean on Twitter as @Xiantayne and this blog as @OMGnexus.