Ryse is a gorgeous and gruesome surprise. The game is undoubtedly beautiful, as we’d expect from Crytek. But unexpectedly, the story that Crytek have created is actually entertaining. The campaign missions are fairly linear, it has to be said, but the tale of honour and vengeance keeps you thoroughly entertained.
You play as an honourable soldier fighting to avenge his family and protect Rome. Ryse is a third person hack and slash game with finishing moves and the ability to level up your character. The combat is fun, but it is unfortunately quite simple; you fight enemies with a limited choice of sword attacks and guard-breaking shield attacks. You can defend yourself by blocking incoming attacks with A, and you can dodge with the roll button B. As your opponent weakens, a symbol will appear above his head which indicates that you can perform an execution. The game will then enter slow motion and the enemy will light up in different colours which correspond with the buttons on your controller. The executions are especially brutal but they take some skill to execute correctly. If you mess up, don’t worry. You will still complete the move, but you just won’t get as many points to level up your character. You get the opportunity to be utterly gruesome, but that’s not all the executions are for. There are four different bonuses you can obtain from an execution with the D-Pad. You can boost your damage, making chains of kills easier. You can heal yourself, which is extremely useful in a single player campaign without potions or any other health items. You can also choose to boost your focus level, giving you a chance to use your focus power more frequently to slow your enemies. Finally, you can set it to increase the amount of XP you gain and spend that on new executions and more upgrades.
In the first few chapters of the game you may find yourself button mashing, but you’ll learn that this can’t be done if you want to gain rewards. You’ll benefit from timing your taps to reach the perfect hit ranks. Doing this will boost damage to your opponent and you’ll find that combat flows a lot better. You’ll also gain more XP if you time your moves correctly. XP comes in the form of Valor in the campaign. You can use this XP to upgrade your character. You can choose to upgrade their health, their focus gauge, and more. You can also use gold to do this, and you obtain this as a reward for playing in the Colosseum.
The campaign is short, unfortunately being around six hours long. However, the storyline and the stunning environments are enough to keep you entertained throughout the short duration of the game. The sword fighting does begin to feel repetitive, but thankfully it is broken up by thrilling scenes where you find you and your army advancing in a tortoiseshell formation, blocking fire arrows and throwing spears back at your enemies.
So what can you do after you’ve quickly finished the small campaign? Well, you can try and endure a gruelling replay on the unlocked Legendary Difficulty, or you can try out the Gladiator Mode. This is wave-based two-player co-op fighting mode, located in a Coliseum. Deliver complete combos and executions, and the crowd will be happy, but if you dodge roll around, not stabbing people, the crowd will get fed up.
The combat in the arena is tougher, too – it feels like the timing windows for blocking an attack are smaller and there are way more enemies. There’s a single player option, but that’s infuriating. You have no partner to help you, and twice the amount of enemies surrounding you. Basically, you’re going to die, unless you’re an absolute legend at the game. You want a challenge? Try this.
The great thing about Ryse is that it leaves me wanting more. It is a firm basis for a new series and a breath of fresh air. Graphics and looks wise, the game is beautiful. It is a genuine and successful representation of what the Xbox One is capable of visually. However, the game is fairly shallow, and needs more development on the story. But I guess that’s what we can expect with a brand new game, or the start of a new series. They are never perfect to begin with. Nonetheless, Ryse is an enthralling and satisfying experience.