Ryse: Son of Rome / 17th of October 2014
Crytek Frankfurt’s Kinect only based, Xbox 360 hack and slash Ryse: Son of Rome, found its way, and thankfully so, to becoming a highly anticipated launch title for Microsoft’s latest console, as a showcase for its considerably more potent graphical grunt, and what a centrepiece it was! Arguably, the game still ranks as the best looking game released on either PS4 or Xbox One to date, and whilst its critical reception fell considerably short of the mark, Crytek also managed to craft a solid-if unspectacular-gaming experience, yet they had no delusions about the game that they created, it was never meant to be a ground-breaking piece of interactive entertainment, it was simply meant to be a spectacle, and that it most certainly achieved. So, now that the game has arrived on PC, does it still hold up?
When one considers that the target platform for the title was switched midway through its development cycle, the end result that Crytek created comes across as being something of even greater merit, and I am very eager to see just how far they can push the Xbox One hardware (I’d also happily purchase the Crysis trilogy again, so that’s certainly something to consider guys). Traditionally though, Crytek are a PC developer, and a damn good one at that, so with the game finally landing on the platform, the company once again have the opportunity to fully flex their technical muscles and make Ryse another blistering demonstration of just what exactly the latest generation of CryEngine is truly capable of. And once again, this, it is fair to say, is something that they have more than accomplished.
Surely though, when the development team have already fashioned what is potentially the best looking game ever, there’s nowhere to go, right? Wrong. This PC iteration features several new graphical additions, such as 4k support, improved texture resolution, Super Sampling and improved shadowing, so whilst the character models of Marius and co. may have looked outstanding on Xbox One, they now look utterly incredible. The look of materials in the world, particularly the metal of the Roman soldiery’s armour is nothing short of spectacular, as are the flame and particle effects, not to mention the foliage-though Crytek always seem to excel in this particular field anyway-just look at the first Crysis game if you need proof of that fact.
The visuals will always be Ryse: Son of Rome’s biggest allure, yet contrary to popular opinion, there is also a more than solid game to be found lurking underneath this glossy exterior. Typically, the game pits players up against waves of enemies who must be dispatched with a combat system that seems to replicate the free flowing battles of Arkham Asylum, except with one major addition, executions. Fights are broken up with colour coded QTE sections that allow players to perform a vast array of gruesome execution moves that allow them to earn some health back, garner additional experience or Focus, or even deal additional damage. This is a brilliant addition by the team that adds an essential hint of strategy and a tad more depth to the proceedings, likewise, to prevent players from simply succumbing to button mashing, players are rewarded for dealing out perfect strikes, these being made possible when the player begins a follow up attack exactly as their first one strikes the enemy. Undertaking battles with groups of enemies is immensely satisfying, with players having to be mindful of their surroundings, setting up opponents for a multi-enemy executions with well times hits, and expert use of the dodge and shield functions that can create openings in an enemy’s defence. There is an immense feeling of physicality to it all, and as a result, combat feels robust and satisfying, and besides, with its attention to detail and beautiful animation, it also looks incredible.
The downside to the game, is that it doesn’t really change at all across the full six hours or so of its campaign, there are moments where the game does mix things up a little, typically having Marius march forward towards fortified enemy positions with a group of men, shielding themselves from the barrage of arrows that the opposing archers let fly towards them. This does mean then, that for some, the game will seem far too repetitive, yet the campaign is sufficiently short enough to prevent this becoming too much of a problem. Personally, I found that after completing the story mode on every difficulty, I was actually yearning for more, preferably some single player DLC to fill in the gap in the story that sees Marius make his own way back to Rome from Dover as this felt like a particularly noticeable weakness in the narrative, unless it had been done deliberately for the purposes of selling on additional content, but this does not appear to have been the case. Overall though, the narrative, whilst showing yet more progression for the company in terms of its ability to craft and tell stories, is somewhat unspectacular and rather predictable, yet how many videogames have stories truly worth mentioning? Not many.
There are also several boss battles too that break up the flow of Ryse’s single player mode and add in some additional variance to the gameplay, though none of them are exactly spectacular by any means, they certainly do the job that they were intended for. The highlight is unquestionably the battle with Glott, the Minotaur Chief, which sees Marius striving to save his friend and compatriot, Vitallion, from being sacrificed in a giant wicker man; as the battle goes on the wicker man erupts into to flames and the whole thing turns into a rather impressive visual spectacle as the fire reflects off of the wet ground, embers pierce the darkness of night and the burning effigy eventually crumbles to the ground.
This PC release features all of the DLC that has been made available on the Xbox One, meaning that Survival mode is available straight away, and the whole online side of things has been beefed up somewhat as a result. Personally, I rather enjoyed playing co-op on the original release, though it was quite limited, yet here, gamers will be able to enjoy the coliseum in either two player or solo play (not recommended though as it can be brutally hard without having a friend on hand), along with Crytek’s take on Gears of War’s Horde mode, so there is plenty of content, it’s just a pity that they didn’t revive their idea to create a level editor for this side of the game, as it would have extended its replay value immensely.
Overall, I really enjoyed Ryse, and if you can appreciate it for what it is, there’s no way that you can’t have fun with it either. Its musical score reminisces Gladiator as much as its narrative-yet that is no bad thing-its combat system is excellent, it’s filled with spectacular set-pieces and it houses an entertaining multiplayer too. Now, if that isn’t enough for you, it is also indescribably beautiful, and as is a Crytek tradition, you’ll now be looking at what will be the PC benchmarking standard for a long time to come.