You know that feeling of when you see a game a long time ago, then all of a sudden you get it as part of a winter sale and realize how it should’ve gotten attention? That’s the feeling I get when I rediscover the interactive movie phenomenon The Order 1886. Games that are marketed to be launch titles but then fall to the wayside in comparison to larger name brand recognition, like Killer Instinct (2013), Halo, and Gears of War to name a few. It’s a shame, considering this is a pretty awesome game in play, graphics, and story.
Ryse: Son of Rome, developed by Crytek, is a third person action hack and slash with strategic elements. First released to be an Xbox One exclusive release, it was used to be one of their starting titles of games. Crytex’s stand alone boasts of a solid story and familiar but not too familiar gameplay.
You play as Marius, a soldier turned centurion in a Roman Empire-esque civilization, seeking out revenge for the people that killed his father and family. Marius then attends a campaign against the island of Britainnia and the barbarians that have supposedly invaded them. After the bloody campaign, it is revealed that the Roman Emperor and his sons had organized his family’s murder after his father sought for equality in the roman people. Marius is then struck down and thought to be killed. Now, by chance, Marius awakens, surviving his fall, and is told by a goddess that Nero and his sons are responsible for the murder and mayhem. So, what better way to take revenge is by donning the armor of a specter of death and go on his own campaign?
The gameplay for Ryse is interesting for an action beat-em-up. While beating enemies is the main deal, you have to create combination strings in order to defeat them, then finish with an execution timed to specific buttons. Your basic combo strings will either consist of mashing the primary sword and shield buttons in a “slash and bash” basic combination. Then, either dodge or perfect block enemy attacks. When you get into the rhythm of combo strings a la the Batman: Arkham series, it becomes easy to pick up. As you build up your strings, you get the ability to go into a focus state, allowing you to dispatch enemies quickly. To do this, you need to perform executions or perfect combo strings. Also, your combos can add more damage, gain health or experience, or add more focus bar depending what you’ve chosen via the Directional Pad.
Between combat segments, you are in short but vibrant environments, either storming a British beach or in a moving coliseum. These areas allow you to find tiny collectibles throughout the world, though the combat stages, or in corners. These areas provide railroad-like directions to other segments in the game chapters, thus creating scenic pathways for you to go down to either find collectibles or enjoy the computer generated graphics with trees blowing in the wind or realistic water. Hey, people play games for different reasons, either for environments or to complete it for gamerscore.
As this is a launch title of the Xbox One, there are some technical dissonances that are present; PC doesn’t normally have a Kinect hook up to it, which is fine other than the lack of the “voice command” gimmick and other voice related mechanics. Also, the multiplayer function that Ryse has is alright… as long as you have someone who has the game to play it with. If there’s anything to take away from the multiplayer, it’s that it was half baked from the start and even the developers were concerned as to why there had to be a multiplayer addition to a stand alone title.