Ryse: Son of Rome review: one long fall

Ryse: Son of Rome can't rise above repetitive combat and sluggish pacing, resulting in a mediocre launch title.

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Crytek sure knows how to make pretty games. Ryse: Son of Rome is a feast for the eyes, with brilliant environments and detailed character models. But watching the game and playing it are two different things. Ultimately, its dull gameplay cannot come close to matching its awe-inspiring visuals.

Ryse follows the story of loyal Roman foot soldier Marius Titus, who works his way up the ranks of the fourteenth legion to become a high-ranking centurion. Along the way, he witnesses his family's murder and uncovers the conspiracy behind it, as he plows his way through armies of Britons. The rise of Marius is one of Ryse's few high points, as his character evolution is genuinely intriguing to follow, even if the plot takes a turn towards the silly at the end.

Combat in Ryse starts off promising. It's built on a series of counters and parries, with enemy strikes helpfully color-coded to cue players on which button to press. The same quick-time event system is used for executions, which can result in satisfying dismemberment. The D-pad is used to mix up player rewards for successful executions, which, on paper, sounds like a cool idea. Unfortunately, because executions are so easy, you can easily cheat this system to upgrade most, if not all, of your attacks about halfway through the game. Worse yet, there's no penalty at all for missing a cue, as hitting the wrong button will simply dispatch the enemy with a lower score.

While combat is initially promising, it doesn't evolve or ever demand more from the player. Even as different enemy types are introduced, the formula remains the same. Block, counter, parry, dodge, strike, execute. Lather, rinse, repeat for eight levels. Even the boss battles don't stray from the combat formula, except bosses will block more and use heavier strikes. Beyond that, they won't do anything else out of the ordinary. It becomes such a tedious process that you quickly learn to spam the Focus ability (the ability to slow down time) just to get the whole thing over with as quickly as possible.

Ryse attempts variety once in a while, but it's not always successful. Certain sequences will have Marius lead his army forward, having them raise shields to block incoming arrow volleys, and flinging spears when given an opening. While I appreciate that the game was shooting for authenticity here, these sequences felt sluggish and only slowed down an already-tiresome experience.

Unexpected tower defense sequences prove to be the most entertaining diversion. Players are given a choice on how to dispatch would-be attackers: direct combat, using a crossbow station, or directing the army to deal with aggressors. One version of this sequence had me dealing with rampaging elephants--that's cool. These areas offered some much-needed variety to an otherwise boring formula.

Although Ryse initially began as a Kinect game, the way it is ultimately implemented in Son of Rome is cosmetic, at best. You'll frequently receive prompts to yell orders to your army, such as "Fire volley!" to fire a barrage of arrows. Kinect proved accurate and highly responsive, a surprise given some of my aggravations with the last generation of Kinect. However, if you don't want to shout, there is an alternative: hold down the left bumper, which, by comparison, takes an excessive amount of time. It's a fun idea, but doesn't do enough to mix up the core combat.

Ryse: Son of Rome had potential, but Crytek did too little to expand upon its repetitive combat. While I ran through the campaign in about five hours, it honestly felt like 20. And with the formula becoming more and more boring with each by-the-numbers execution, the addition of throwaway collectibles, like vistas and scrolls, couldn't save this game. Ryse doesn't come close to living up to Roman standards. [5]


This review is based on early Xbox One code provided by the publisher. Ryse will be available at retail and for download on November 22 on Xbox Live for $59.99. The game is rated M.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty

  • reply
    November 21, 2013 3:00 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Ryse: Son of Rome review: one long fall.

    Ryse: Son of Rome can't rise above repetitive combat and sluggish pacing, resulting in a mediocre launch title.

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      November 21, 2013 3:01 AM

      ouch, so far the wiiu is the only console that has new, good, exclusive games?

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        November 21, 2013 3:06 AM

        I'm sure this will look slightly different in a year, but so far that's true, and also hilarious.

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        November 21, 2013 3:10 AM

        Forza got name one of the best games Adam Sessler has played for years from any genre. Hyperbole maybe but it got very good reviews all round for a launch game.

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          November 21, 2013 6:43 AM

          Some reviews are ssaying that Forza 2-3 were better though but that it's still a good game.

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        November 21, 2013 3:22 AM

        While not a retail title, Resogun is pretty fucking awesome on PS4.

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        November 21, 2013 3:22 AM

        It's also been out for longer than 3 days...

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      November 21, 2013 3:04 AM

      Ouch. Eurogamer gave it a 5 too.

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      November 21, 2013 3:05 AM

      It sounds like you were happy enough with the story? I might still get it if the story is decent as the visuals look amazing and even if the combat is a bit mindless if I'm not expecting much I don't mind.

      I was half expecting the review to be worse to be honest.

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        November 21, 2013 9:19 AM

        The story's actually pretty decent, but like I said, it starts to jump off a cliff near the end.

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          November 21, 2013 11:06 AM

          Cheers I may still give it a look but it's not on my first pull list of games.

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      November 21, 2013 3:07 AM

      I can't wait to pick this up in a year for $5

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      November 21, 2013 3:18 AM

      I don't like the cue system of hit Blue, now hit yellow..... What happened to games that required skill? I know consoles need to appeals the 8 year olds but man... can you dumb it down anymore? Its getting to the point that games play themselves. Its like playing a crossword puzzle and the games tells you where to put the letters. Cheap instant gratification.

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        November 21, 2013 6:52 AM

        There are still tons of "hard" and challenging games out there. Maybe not as many AAA ones but there is no shortage. I think you're being a little melodramatic.

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        November 21, 2013 7:44 AM

        You get rewarded if you read the animation and hit the buttons before they change color.

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      November 21, 2013 3:25 AM


      Kotaku gave it a Yes, but most of the reviews are below average.

      http://kotaku.com/ryse-son-of-rome-the-kotaku-review-1468780085

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      November 21, 2013 6:38 AM

      This looks slightly less family friendly than Super Mario World 3D. I think I'll stick with Mario this fall.

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      November 21, 2013 6:41 AM

      Welp, no Xbox for me for the time being.

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      November 21, 2013 7:24 AM

      Pretty but boring, sounds like A Crytek game.

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        November 21, 2013 8:45 AM

        Far Cry, Crysis and Crysis Warhead aren't boring, though.

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          November 21, 2013 9:13 AM

          I'll give you Far Cry.

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            November 21, 2013 10:05 AM

            I already got it so, no thanks.

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            November 21, 2013 11:00 AM

            until the trigens anyway

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              November 21, 2013 11:41 AM

              Far Cry was one of the best games ever with the worst final bosses.

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                November 21, 2013 12:01 PM

                I actually went back and beat Far Cry on the hardest difficulty level one time (I have no idea why I wanted to do that, but I did). That last boss was nearly impossible.

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                  November 21, 2013 12:23 PM

                  The one time I played through it I played it on Hard. Only way I as able to beat it and get past part of the last area was by standing in a corner by a door and spamming rockets at enemies who couldn't really get me because of how the geometry of the building/corner I was in and the door was.

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                    November 21, 2013 12:39 PM

                    I think I did somehow cheese that fight in a similar fashion.

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                    November 21, 2013 12:42 PM

                    Haha in did that same exact thing.

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                      November 21, 2013 12:43 PM

                      Everyone I've talked to about it has said they did the same thing. The end areas on Hard were just insane with how many enemies you had to fight at once.

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                        November 21, 2013 12:59 PM

                        I'm pretty sure that was the only way you could defeat that section.

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      November 21, 2013 8:05 AM

      :( , all well I am still going to get it, we shall see, I hope it is not as bad as everyone makes it to be.

      I love Golden Axe so I am sure this won't be that bad GA was one of my fav games in the Arcades. Other than juiceing up your magic(collect magic potions) and getting health meat chunks, and the odd dragon mount that was it hack and slash and it was glorious.

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        November 21, 2013 8:27 AM

        There are a couple of extremely positive reviews, they are the exception but it seems some people are able to enjoy the game a lot. There's nothing in the middle though either bland gameplay or a few very positive.

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      November 21, 2013 8:09 AM

      launch games...no surprise. i bet we don't see a system seller until spring.

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        November 21, 2013 8:48 AM

        Well also, this is Crytek being Crytek. Except this time they can't blame bad sales on PC piracy, and they probably got perks for making a launch game.

        Remember back when Far Cry 1 came out? And it was a little janky, but had huge expanses of levels that made for interesting FPS gameplay? That was almost a decade ago. How's Warface? Is it a real game?

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      November 21, 2013 9:01 AM

      was there any game play footage of this game out before release? i had a hard time finding any, just bullshit cutscenes. that shit is always so shady.

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      November 21, 2013 9:30 AM

      How is multiplayer?

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      November 21, 2013 9:59 AM

      Why doesn't Crytek know how to make good games anymore?

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        November 21, 2013 10:06 AM

        Cevat Yerli should GTFO as the CEO. That's why.

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        November 21, 2013 11:33 AM

        I want a real sequel to Crysis 1 :(

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      November 21, 2013 11:39 AM

      So apparently this game was in development for 5 years, and started out as a 360 Kinect game. Maybe this explains why the combat system feels too simple/repetitive?

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      November 21, 2013 11:42 AM

      Wait, people were really expecting it to be good?

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      November 21, 2013 12:18 PM

      YOU SPELLED SHACKNEWS WRONG ON YOUTUBE

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        November 21, 2013 1:07 PM

        "Ryse: Son of Rome - Shaknews Video Review"

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      November 21, 2013 12:24 PM

      Dude cmoooon! That's pretty unprofessional sounding VO. Get a pop filter for that mic and use a take where you can read the thing without stuttering. That sounds like johnnysbasement.com game reviews.

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        November 21, 2013 1:12 PM

        I thought the same.

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        November 21, 2013 1:38 PM

        Actually, it literally is! This was done with an Xbox One headset using the One's new Upload Studio!

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          November 21, 2013 1:51 PM

          oh my godddd it has one of my worst pet peeves -BREATHING INTO THE MICROPHONE. that shit is horrible

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      November 21, 2013 12:46 PM

      From previews I've seen it looks like a Sewer Shark Sega CD type launch title. Mindless non-stop quicktime events built on top of pretty good cinematics.

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      November 21, 2013 12:53 PM

      mancide is going to write you guys a strongly worded letter telling you that you're wrong and including a referral link

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        November 21, 2013 1:45 PM

        I like to think mancide respects my opinion. :)

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      November 21, 2013 1:42 PM

      Too bad they fucked up such a cool concept.

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      November 21, 2013 4:37 PM

      Looks boring : \