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Ryse Son of Rome – unexpected fun

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I had seen Ryse Son of Rome out of the corner of my eye several years ago (seven!) when it came out as the new Crytek graphics powerhouse that I probably couldn't run, probably wasn't all that compelling in gameplay, probably had a bland story, but allegedly looked amazing. The Xbox's version of The Order 1886 tech demo launch game.

Now several years later I remembered it and picked it up for pittance, suspicious that my desire to run things on my 4K (2160p) TV had once again put it beyond my graphical capabilities, but lo and behold it ran fine (for me) with my gtx970, and indeed looked absolutely gorgeous at times. What was surprising though was that the gameplay was really rather satisfying, and while the story wasn't hugely complex it actually had me quite interested and I'd say enjoyed it!


The detail is excellent on many things such as the armour you wear is great. Adornments, buckles, embellishments all crisp and glinting. Facial animations are plenty expressive and never looked silly to me, other than the odd npc soldier or enemy npc in the background in general gameplay. The cutscenes felt like watching a film though in 4K actually sometimes look grainier than the gameplay 😀 Furthermore the lighting is very nice in Rome, resulting in very nice vistas, even if the other half of the game is spent in a much greyer environment, which is a shame (this game seems like it was made for us Brits, given the accents and the story, but forgetting that we don't exactly love how grey the place looks).

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The story is rather reminiscent of films that I'm sure a lot of people will have seen and doesn't exactly have ingenious twists or themes but was certainly more in depth than I was expecting. There is more at work than just slashing the baddies. I also appreciated the settings' tendency to demonstrate interesting technology or information about the historical period. I hadn't ever heard of chain towers. Enough to make me sad about the regress of civilisation after Greece/Rome, especially in Britain which features quite heavily. The focus on Britain did make the game seem a little smaller in scope however, I was imagining the famous Roman Empire not just a few skirmishes with an island on the outskirts. The scenarios that the game puts you in are nicely varied however, over the course of the game, just the Britain bit drags on a little.


This will garner some justified annoyance I'm sure but the way I'd describe the combat is Arkham Asylum but not boring (sorry!! I am a heathen. Perhaps what I mean is a satisfying take on the pioneering Arkham model). It is similar, but with an extra button and Execution finishing moves. There is Attack, Guard Break, and Deflect (parry?) – the last of which is applied when an enemy is about to hit you, meaning that you will deflect the attack with your shield and giving you an opening to return attack or guard-break them. These moves can be chained together and the combat flows in a very impressive manner especially when several enemies attack and you are forced to deflect many attacks in succession. In addition a heavier attack can be used with both sword and guard-break by holding the button. The timing of your attacks and deflects affects the XP you gain from combat encounters, and a very well timed deflect is able to deflect otherwise unblockable attacks (perfect deflect), and sometimes guard breaks can be used to interrupt these attacks. In addition there is also the option to finish enemies with executions, which are dynamic QTEs that feel and look very satisfying, with XP rewards based on how timely your button presses are. While QTEs might put some off they do look very cinematic and flow well with gameplay, and there are even double executions when two enemies are on low health near each other. Very cool and several to unlock.

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There is the option of 1 of 4 different bonuses that you can gain from combat – health regen, XP, damage, focus. That last one Focus, is the final element to sword gameplay – a rage-mode that charges through combat, giving a time dilation effect and allowing you to Sparta kick your enemies across the screen and finish enemies much more quickly.

There are also the occasional cursory Scorpio (ballista?) turret sections, a bit of javelin throwing, some turtle shell shield formation marching against archers and also a battle reminiscent of Helm's Deep or Minas Tirith where the movable towers keep approaching and you have to kicks down ladders.


All in all I had a good time over the ten or so hours this took me on Centurion difficulty (3/4, Legendary Difficulty is locked until completion), some bland bits and some admittedly great moments executing foolish Barbarians who dare to defy Rome. Rest assured there is a gladiator bit and it's pretty cool. There's even a nightclub scene (?!). If I were to give it a number rating I'd say 7/10. With some 9/10 anti-Nero graffiti.


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