rAge 2013: Ryse Does Its Best To Impress, But Still Has Something To Prove
There has been a lot to say about Ryse in the past few months, especially since it’s gameplay debut in June at E3. A few seconds in, gamers around the world were introduced to some heavy quick-time event gameplay, with nearly every single encounter ending in a slow motion, gruesome kill that is executed using a few well timed button presses. The internet was quick to jump on the bandwagon and point out Ryse for what it was, and the months following the reveal included numerous developers trying to convince us that Ryse had a lot more going for it.
I didn’t believe it, and I still don’t after playing the game at rAge. However, it’s not as black and white as it may sound.
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Ryse: Son of Rome started out as a Kinect only title from the minds over at Crytek, the people who brought us the awesome, and then not so awesome, Crysis series. Undergoing a bit of a rebranding with the reveal of the Xbox One, Ryse has turned into a Roman themed hack and slash, and has subsequently been dubbed the “God of War” for the Xbox. Not exactly a insult if you ask me, but with it comes some expectations as well, which weren’t exactly met in the months following it’s debut. After spending a lot of time with the game at rAge this year, I realised one thing: I had spent a really, really long time playing Ryse this weekend.
Why? Because it’s actually quite awesome when it grow on you. What seems like simple button mashing t first slowly turns into some sweetly timed combat, requiring you to time your direction blocks and slashes with some fine precision. Essentially there are three actions you can undertake: attack, block and shield bash. The latter is used for tougher enemies that required more than the regular button mashing madness, while blocks are used to counter and break oncoming attacks from all directions. Thing is, everything feels like it has a required amount of weight too it. You aren’t a nimble, thin acrobat, but rather a heavily armoured, bulky soldier that uses raw power to put tremendous power behind every hit.
What that translates into is a certain rhythm that takes some time to get used to, but ultimately feels just right when it kicks in. Sadly the code on show only had brief moments of this type of flair, usually involving tougher enemies that were either nimble enough to dodge any attack I threw at them or equipped with enough steel around their bodies to take any number of blows. Most of the time the demo threw weak, sword fodder at my extremely tough gladiator, making it seem like Ryse is first and foremost a QTE experience.
And that’s where the real problem with Ryse really lies; there’s just too many of these moments. Often I was fighting numerous enemies that all fell to the same formula, involving a few hacks and a button press to initiate a rather flashy, gory but ultimately cheap quick-time event. In fact, they’re so easy that you don’t even have to get the colour coded button prompts right to gloriously execute your foe, with only a seemingly meaningless score differentiating between a highly successful and utter failure of an execution. It was hard to overlook the glaring fact that this essentially made the game far too easy to play, but at the same time the demo on show wasn’t exactly a breeze to playthrough either.
Thankfully, having a partner along for the ride not only made the experience a tad easier, it also makes it a lot more fun. Although at time it was hard to differentiate between friend and foe, nothing could beat the feeling of pulling off a stylish execution, only for you to see your partner doing the exact same thing a few meters away. It’s a gratifying feeling, and something that I could definitely see myself enjoying when the full product launches.
On the visual side, Ryse looks just as stunning as I had come to expect from all the trailers we’ve seen, and it truly stands out as a next-gen title in this regard. It’s too early to tell how this WTE heavy gameplay will translate into a full single-player experience, but thankfully I enjoyed my time enough to give Ryse the light of day the next time I get the chance to play it. Granted, it’s probably not bound to hook everyone, but at the very least it isn’t the flop many might have expected after E3.