Ryse Son of Rome video review – Mario or Marius?

Crytek’s Xbox One launch game started out as a Kinect based game for Xbox 360, but has since evolved into a third person action brawler. Set in Roman times, the game offers plenty of hardcore action, but does it deliver the killing blow to become a must have game. Take a look at our Ryse Son of Rome video review for the full picture.

Ryse Son of Rome review:

Today we’re taking a look at Crytek’s Ryse Son of Rome which is exclusive to Xbox One and comes in as the premier launch game for the system. Whilst Nintendo has a well established Mario as a mascot, could the game’s leading hero Marius fill the same role for Microsoft.  Perhaps not, but still, if there’s a game that screams showcase for next gen graphics, then this is it.

Telling the story of a Roman soldier Marius who after seeing his family get brutally killed, becomes embroiled in a number of blood soaked skirmishes  and remains determined to seek revenge on those who orchestrated his family’s death. With a number of underlying plot devices, the story is fairly tame, and explores a more spiritual tale that is interwoven into the mostly believable scenarios. Nothing is out of the ordinary aside from the fact that Marius manages to recover from an almost death like state several times in the game. Helped by spiritual forces that reveal their intent towards the end of the story but don’t have any impact in how the game plays. So, there are no mythical beings to slay here other than an assortment of human opponents. There’s a bit of artistic license used freely in terms of mimicking real historic figures, but it’s not something that detracts from the copious amounts of enemy encounters.

The mainstay of the gameplay revolves around squaring up to several enemies at once and timing  soft or hard attacks, counter-attacks and dodges to survive.  Each enemy type has their own attack pattern to look out for and once learnt, are easy to spot and counter. It’s a gameplay mechanic used in a number of games and works well enough here but seems completely lacking in variety of moves. Sadly, despite the premise of some grand combat moments, the core gameplay is rather simplified to the extent where it leaves room for much more but fails to deliver.  During fights there’s a bit of free movement, but Marius becomes locked in a battle stance when enemies are close by and so each encounter becomes a battle to the end, resulting in lots of dismembered limbs and slit throats. What is neat  is how QTEs are masked and woven into play . Usually the bane of most games, QTEs are actually optional, but useful at the same time. At the touch of a button, players can choose what bonuses they receive from the game’s graphic QTE scenes or Executions. As players perform a successful execution, they are rewarded with bonus XP, health, damage or focus power, the latter being a time slowing special attack.  Having the choice becomes paramount to success early on in the game and less so once the story is beaten and any levels are replayed, but is neat all the same. Sadly, the executions could have been moves directly input by the player, but it’s obvious Crytek were going for a more encompassing game rather than something that rewards players who showcase a bit of fighting finesse.

Between fighting, there’s an assortment of linear levels to work through, with some minor deviations here and there housing collectible items. What is impressive is how varied each level is in terms of design, making for a game that doesn’t get tiring on the eyes at least. Thrown into the mix are some other combative elements such as tossing spears, commanding troops to fire volleys of arrows using Kinect, or bunching up as unit and moving forwards against groups of archers. These moments make welcome additions to the game and break up the regular combat into more palatable chunks. What is interesting, is how by design, using Kinect is faster than using the controller. It seems a deliberate tactic, to get more players using Kinect, but luckily is restricted to firing volleys than impacting gameplay.

Throughout the game, players are prompted to upgrade Marius’ skills which enable him to perform more executions, get additional health or focus and generally go from badass to even more badass than he already is, to the extent of making the game a bit too easy for seasoned gamers. It has to be said, there’s quite a difference playing the game on its toughest setting compared to default or hard. Encounters become far more tense and dangerous as enemy damage is increased dramatically, and  mix up their attack patterns a bit more. It’s a far more engaging experience, and allows gamers to go for high scoring combos, which is really the core objective once Marius is levelled fully. In this regard, the combat is quite fulfilling, although, there’s some cheap combo breaking enemy attacks and a smaller window for countering that becomes frustrating when enemies begin their attacks off-screen and lunge at you leaving little chance to evade.

In terms of graphics, Crytek has presented a fine looking game that does well to showcase the differences between last gen and current gen capabilities using its CryEngine 3. With impressive attention to detail on the main characters, showing off high res textures, dynamic lighting and excellent facial animations, the game does a grand job of presenting  the cinematic story elements through its cutscenes. When the game seamlessly switches to real time, there’s no disparity between the cutscene and in-game graphics which is commendable and highlights how far  in-game graphics have come.

Aside from the impressive visuals, there are elements that aren’t so great such as dips in the framerate which don’t necessarily kill the experience, but are noticeable all the same. The camera can also be a little problematic at times especially during combat, being too close at times, and the lack of interaction with the environment makes for a lifeless journey through each area.

Audio is of a very high standard with Marius being a man of plentiful but to-the-point words rather than a mute which is most welcome. This affords some excellent performances throughout, although the cast are pretty typical leaving little room for more emotional qualities other than anger, a bit of mystery, and blind rage. The classical score sits well within the game and is expertly produced, rising to suit the action when needed and residing neatly in the background  to compliment the shouting, screams and clashes of metal on metal.

In terms of longevity, Ryse Son of Rome can be completed fairly quickly especially on default setting with perhaps 6-8 hours to get through the story.  There is a hard setting available from the offset, but this is still possibly going to be too easy for most competent players.  The Legendary setting which is unlocked once the game is bested, is the real challenge, although players might not feel compelled to replay the game all over again. A shame, as the Legendary combat is essentially the best part of the game. During the story players can hunt for collectibles, but it seems this and any associated unlockable is relegated to a companion app that not everyone will have access to. This is quite an annoyance, and leaves the game pretty bare bones for those who want more beyond the basic story.

Players can jump into arena based combat, which allows for solo or co-op play with another online player. The solo offering is rather limited, with only three maps available,  but luckily each time you play there’s a random set of objectives. Players can boost up their purse and unlock additional elements for their multiplayer gladiator, but aside from this feels a bit empty. There’s a promise of leaderboards, but these aren’t live yet.  Teaming up with another player is lot more rewarding, but requires some team work to get the most out of it lest it simply becomes an extension of the same repeated sequences from the story.

To conclude, Ryse Son of Rome is a well produced showcase game that does well to bridge the gap between cinematic quality and gameplay. Marius is a likeable character, shallow but understandable, and makes for a typical hero from a time period that hasn’t been explored greatly in today’s games.  However, in terms of gameplay, with a lack of attack  moves  and no extras such as new weapons, the core game is perhaps too basic and lacking in depth to command any longer lasting appeal.  There’s a real disjointed approach with the game’s extras which is saddening, and while the multiplayer is fairly fun, it too feels  devoid of any proper incentives for longer lasting playing. That said, Ryse is a great looking game that offers plentiful entertaining moments and is well worth checking out as a must have launch game for Xbox One.

Score 8/10 – Review by Robert Cram




Written by: Rob Cram

Rob Cram has hundreds of video game reviews, thousands of articles under his belt with years of experience in gaming and tech. He aims to remain fair and free from publisher/developer influence. With his extensive knowledge, feels his gaming opinions are valid and worth sharing. Agreement with his views are entirely optional. He might have a bias towards cyberpunk.