Ryse: Son of Rome SchmameReview
I should probably give a review of the Xbox One itself since I think I’m the only Schmamer who purchased the console. But I’ve only played two games on it so far and really haven’t done much else with it yet. Both games were created exclusively for the One. Let us discuss the game that actually has a storyline.
I enjoyed the game. Didn’t hate it. Didn’t love it. It was entertaining and sometimes that’s the best that can be said of a video game.
Ryse is a beautiful game. Despite its breast physics, the people look realistic without falling into the uncanny valley. You can see detail both in the people and the environment. Let me just that a Roman version of Saving Private Ryan is breathtaking. Biremes dropping off hundreds of Roman soldiers on a beachhead is a sight to see.
Could have been triremes. I honestly don’t remember which and I’m too damn lazy to look it up. Rome is a vision. Light and glorious. Britannia, the realm of the barbarians, is a dark and forbidding place that kind of makes me feel like I’ll get lyme disease. To match it’s visual prowess, Ryse has some superb voice acting. For me, all that means is I don’t feel like it was cheesy or forced.
To go along with its stunning visuals and probably pretty good voice acting, Ryse presents a compelling if often predictable storyline. It gives you enough to want to keep going without blowing you away. Basically, when you get to a twist you just think, “Yeah. That makes sense.” I don’t know if this falls under storytelling, visuals, or gameplay but I swear to Jupiter one character in particular could not be thrown from a war elephant that many damn times and still live. I strongly suspect that falling off an elephant once in the middle of battle will end a life very quickly.
Speaking of the gods, I feel the developers missed a real opportunity with the Roman pantheon. The whimsy of the gods plays a part in the story but could have been handled better and even expanded upon. The couple gods involved don’t even have their names revealed. War and no Mars? Messengers and no Mercury? Come. On. Get your damn head in the game, Crytek. When in Rome, use what the Romans gave you! (And what the Greeks gave them.) Not to mention, there could have been a far better description of the ranks of the Roman military. I suppose I’m really just pissed that there was a great opportunity for teaching about Rome in this game and it was all pretty much brushed over. I don’t care if it is set in an alternate history Rome. Not every aspect is alternate. History nerds like myself love to unlock things that give us information, even if it’s stuff we already knew. Because we’re just psyched that somebody else cared enough about it to put it in a game. The Assassin’s Creed franchise does this well.
What makes falling down on a teaching moment even more unforgivable is that Ryse goes about it with linear and repetitive gameplay. I understand that we would all love Rome to be open world. When telling a story that’s not always possible. I can accept that. What I cannot accept is a ridiculous short game (like 6 hours max) being nothing more than simple button mashing. Seriously. Let me tell you how to beat anyone right now. Press A to block their attack. Follow up with a series of X (strike) and Y (push/shove). Finish them off with a right trigger execution. Repeat for each and every enemy including bosses. You don’t even have to use the B button to dodge if you block correctly. Each execution can regain you health or focus or gain you more experience points to unlock new executions or character upgrades.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Ryse was its integration with Kinect voice commands. It was rather fun to yell “Archers, cover me!” and “Catapult fire!” and then keep on fighting while your legionnaires follow your command.
I don’t know if games on the 360 did this with Kinect because I did not bother to purchase a Kinect then.
Ryse is a play. Because what the hell else are you going to play on the One right now, anyway? I can only drive around a track so many times in a day before I need to give Forza 5 a rest. So. Unless you plan on going heavy on the multiplayer, I say Ryse: Son of Rome is a decent rental. You’re going to want to play it. But you aren’t going to want to play it twice.