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RYSE: Son of Rome Xbox One Review: Quantum Satis

RYSE: Son of Rome is one of the biggest Xbox One launch titles. But is it the epic we're all hoping for?

Perhaps because of its impressive looks, RYSE has been one of the most talked about next generation launch titles. But now I’ve had the chance to pick up a controller and play the game, I've quickly realized that graphics alone aren't enough to make a game fun.

Starting with its strongest elements, RYSE’s cinematics are top notch, and you can definitely see where developer Crytek put most of its resources. The story that they convey is solid, and is made even more interesting by the game's high quality voice acting.

However, the gameplay doesn’t match the quality of the cutscenes. Things start out well enough, with a quick tutorial that helps you learn your character’s basic abilities. Once you have those down, you're off. The controls are relatively simple – cut down an opponent with a few well-timed attacks, and then finish them off with an elaborate execution. While you can parry and use precise timing to achieve better results, there really isn't much to the combat. It didn't seem to matter whether I perfectly timed the attacks or not, other than it taking a little longer to kill an enemy. More often than not, it seemed I could just hack my way to victory.

The game’s executions are entertaining, but unfortunately they’re all performed via Quick Time Events (QTEs), and it doesn’t take long for them to become monotonous. Whenever an execution is performed, you can gain a variety of perks. These range from a health boost to an experience boost, but for the most part I only found one or two of them really useful.

The gameplay is changed up occasionally by different kinds of challenges, such as commanding troops or manning larger weapons to take down hordes of enemies. But for the most part, it’s all about the fighting. RYSE’s tightly positioned camera angles help to immerse the player into the game world, and that aspect of the game works more effectively than most other games of this type.

Objectives are generally marked by an arrow, but it's not always clear exactly what it’s pointing to. I found myself running around more than I'd like to admit because I couldn't figure out exactly where the next objective was, because once I was in the vicinity of the objective, the arrow disappeared and I was left to my own devices.

The multiplayer aspect of RYSE offers a small change from the single-player campaign in that you basically become gladiators in an ever-changing world. You can use a variety of new perks, and it's fun executing waves of enemies with a friend. However, that fun only lasts so long and in the end you're still performing the same basic actions as the single-player mode.

The best hack and slash games often ramp up in difficulty as you inch your way toward the final boss. While bosses in RYSE do offer slightly different challenges, they still feel like longer versions of normal fights. Some bosses have unblockable attacks or special requirements to defeat them, but the game generally goes out of its way to warn you of these, making the fights that much easier. This is offset with some bosses having a regenerating health bar, but this just feels like an artificial way of making things more difficult. In reality, all it does is make the fights longer instead of changing the fight mechanics or adding an additional challenge.

RYSE is not a bad game. If you're a casual player who’s looking for something easy to play through at launch, it’s probably your best choice. It offers a ton of gore, and has one of the best stories you'll find in the genre. However, if you’re a more experienced gamer after something with new features, and challenging gameplay, RYSE is not for you.

RYSE's stunning visuals, solid story and a nearly unmatched cinematic flair, are unfortunately offset by simple and repetitive combat, and gameplay that offers little challenge.
3/5

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