RYSE: SON OF ROME
Published and Developed by Crytek
Available on Steam
With Rome under siege by barbarians from overseas, General Marius Titus of the 14th Legion leads his army through the hordes and guides Emperor Nero to his secure vault. Nero is in fear of his life, frightened that Damocles is out to get him. Damocles is just a myth. It’s other men he should be wary of. Curious as to who his protector is, Nero questions Marius. It doesn’t matter what his name is, however. What matters is his story.
Third-person action videogame RYSE SON OF ROME breathes life into the Roman Empire and delivers it to gamers worldwide as it tells the 10-year story of soldier-turned-general Marius Titus. From the offset, it’s clear to see the incredible detail dedicated to the look and feel of the videogame. The cutscenes are cinematic masterpieces, bringing the story to life with stellar voice acting and performances of the characters. When the cutscenes end and you’re thrown into the gameplay as Marius, the immersive sensation continues as you make your way through the rich environments, whether it’s trudging through the forests of York, battling your way through the debris at a battlement, or taking in the roar of the crowd as a gladiator in the colosseum. Even as you walk the path as Marius, the clinking of his armour can be heard through the speakers, and you can see the rise and fall of the parts of his armoured uniform. The entire gameplay is a sight to be relished, especially when we get to the combat system.
When it comes to fighting, the gameplay is fairly simple but it requires using the correct techniques and an element of timing to overcome your opponents, many of whom will swarm you in groups of three or more. For the bulk of the combat gameplay, you use four buttons: to roll out of harm’s way, to push/break the defence, to attack, and to deflect. With most opponents, if not all, wielding weapons, it’s important to counter their efforts by timing the deflect just right. This will allow you to follow up with some strikes. An opening will need to be made by those who carry shields and like to block your attacks, so the push attack is a great way of opening them up to follow up with two strikes. Some foes are just too strong, so a dodge roll or perfectly timed deflect is the only way to counteract their attack before you can make your own. Those wielding two weapons will often strike three times, so you have to deflect that many attacks before making your own. After you’ve delivered enough damage yourself to a foe, a skull marker appears above the enemy’s head, which is an indication that you can perform an execution. By hitting the execution button and then following the quick time event prompts, you can perform some bloody brutal finishes on your opponent that would make any colosseum spectator scream with delight. This is truly a moment to saviour, not only for the gory animations but also because it gives temporary respite before dealing with your next set of foes.
There’s other elements to the combat which can benefit the player, such as Focus which slows down the action and lets you easily perform attacks on your enemies, often with exaggerated damage. You can also choose benefits on the fly, from Health, XP, Focus and Damage, so that with every kill you can receive points that are delivered specific to your choice. If you’re low on health, then choosing this option will mean with each successful kill, you’ll be able to regain back some health points.
The enemies, whilst they come in a range of shapes, sizes and appearance, are, for the most part, very similar throughout the game. It’s mostly barbarians you’re fighting, so you come across their archers who are easier to kill with melee weapons, whereas fat barbarians wielding a shield and sporting nipple armour, or six-foot muscle-bound barbarians wearing horned helmets, are much harder to kill. It can feel a little repetitive at times when you’re constantly battling the same types of enemies, but the gameplay outside of this more than makes up for it. Should you succumb to your foes, then the game allows you to restart from the last checkpoint with full health so you can go in once more refreshed. You’ve also got the chance to use Valor (experience points), which you can use to improve your health, focus, damage, and executions.
Fighting against opponents isn’t all about close quarter melee combat. Sometimes you’re required to take to a static cross bow, called a Scorpio, to take out archers and enemies. Other times, you must lead your soldiers and march them as a pack to confront enemy warriors. Getting into formation and defending using shields to protect your men from archer attacks, and preparing some spear attacks of your own, is a rather satisfying element of the game. They don’t come too often, but there’s a good five or so times in the game where your leadership skills are tested.
The storyline of the game sees you heading over to Britannia and back home again to Rome, and with that come some sights and situations. As Marius, you get up close with a wicker man and some tribal warriors, before heading back to Rome to take on fighters in the arena. It’s such a splendid, varied gameplay, with some terrific environments, that I wanted to stay lost in them forever. Compared to open world games, RYSE: SON OF ROME is quite linear. You don’t really have much option to explore, as paths you’re not meant to take are often blocked off in some fashion, so it’s obvious which way you’re meant to go. But the locations are incredible and it’s clear the detail the developers Crytek have put into this game. As the devs of Crysis, it’s plain to see that making a world feel real and alive is very much at the heart of their company.
RYSE: SON OF ROME isn’t a long game, with my gameplay coming in at around 7 hours, but there’s multiplayer options should you wish to continue playing, where you can partner up and fight collaboratively online with another player and take on the colosseum. I’ve only had one online session so far but it was thrilling and incorporates the combat elements used in the game as you take on various enemies in a variety of staged environments. There’s opportunities to level up, gain coin and experience with each online match to buy upgrades for your warrior, from potions to outfits. Saying the game came out almost 10 years ago, the online mode still seems incredibly active. I got paired up with someone immediately and the Steam forums show that people are still quite active on multiplayer mode.
A cinematic thrill of a videogame, RYSE: SON OF ROME is an experience I didn’t want to end. Crytek have knocked it out the park once again. I’d love to see them revisit the Roman Empire in the future as this period in history deserves more of this level of gameplay that Crytek has delivered.