New game-Ryse: Son of Rome – review

Xbox One; £44.99; Crytek; 18+


So good looking, you want to ask it on a date, but Ryse: Son of Rome is let down by its combat gameplay


Sing, O goddess, the anger of Nick, son of William, that brought countless ills upon Ryse: Son Of Rome. Many a time did it send the new Xbox One controller down to the floor, and many a cup of tea did it yield while lengthy loading screens greeted the reviewer, so were the counsels of the Guardian Games Blog fulfilled from the day on which Ryse and great Nick first fell out with each other.”

 Yes, I know the above is nicked from the Iliad and technically that’s out of place because Homer was Greek and not Roman. But what the hell, I’ve been told so many times by Briton enemies that they were about to send me to Hades rather than Anoan that I think I can get away with it.

 Ryse is set in the ancient world, but its plot is more of a grab-bag of sword and sandals tropes. There are searing pitch battles in the streets of Rome and bloody confrontations in the wilds of Briton. There are gladiatorial skirmishes in the Coliseum and a siege battle in a crumbling town. There are sneering patricians, howling barbarians and at the centre of it all is a stoic Roman soldier fighting for the very soul of the eternal city. The logic the plot follows is barmy to say the least, but it’s all pretty enjoyable.

The fact that it comes packaged in some of the most beautiful visuals to ever grace a console certainly doesn’t hurt. In fact, it’s not overstating things to say that Ryse is about as great a graphics showcase for the Xbox One as Forza 5: Motorsport. Character models and fight animations are meticulously detailed and every environment in the game is achingly beautiful. The voice-acting and mo-cap performances are top notch and some of the set-pieces – including an attack on the beaches at Dover and an elaborate contest in the Coliseum – are suitably epic.

Ryse’s biggest problem is that that its combat fails to match the rest of the game’s ambition. Players battle a series of repetitive enemies use a sword and shield as attacks and evading damage with a counter or a dodge-roll. If they manage to pull off a sustained attack on an enemy, a little symbol will appear above their head, and then the player can pull the right trigger. This allows them to deliver a brutal finishing attack using QTEs, which usually douses the screen with claret and sends the odd limb flying.

This is all initially as fun as it sounds, but tedium quickly sets in once one realises that by the end of the third level, they’ve pretty much used every fight combo the game has to offer. The other problem with the combat is that it lacks any sense of rhythm or flow. Players can counter most attacks even if they’re in mid-swing against an enemy. This lends the whole exercise a rather disjointed feel, which is amplified by the fact that, for most of the game, players will be fighting against the same parade of identikit barbarians yelling the same series of threats.

Occasionally players will take a break from sword-fighting to man a turret, lead a troop formation or hurl spears at ranged enemies, but overall Ryse is really thin in the gameplay department. This also affects the multiplayer, although the fact that bouts take place in the Coliseum in matches where the dynamics, goals and even the environment shift from battle to battle, lends online mode a ramshackle charm. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect is the fact that Ryse contains a bunch of micro-transactions allowing players to unlock talent trees and cosmetic baubles with real-world cash. You don’t have to hand over money as in-game grinding earns Valor (sic) Points, which do the same thing, but even so, this feels slightly cheeky.

So Ryse is impossible to recommend without a few caveats. Its mechanics are thin, its micro-transactions are annoying and the plot in the campaign makes the story in Call Of Duty: Ghosts look like high art. But if you fancy thumping barbarians and you don’t mind the lack of depth, Ryse is arguably the most beautiful hack ‘n slash you can play on the Xbox One.



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