Of all the launch titles for the Xbox One, Ryse is the one that really stood out from the crowd of reboots, franchises and first person shooters; with a brutal, but visually stunning reimagining of ancient Roman warfare. Turns out, everyone used to be fairly nasty to each other in those days, and British, apparently. Ryse also mixes moments of strategy and commanding your legion, with epic one on one boss battles. But first let’s look at who we are, and it’s definitely not Russell Crowe. [beat] But it definitely is.
Taking on such an interesting setting should have opened up a world of possibilities. Instead, Ryse is basically split into two halves. Firstly we are introduced to Marius [Ma-re-us], this our protagonist and he is all the roman soldier you could ask for. Quickly though, we are plunged into a revenge story. Now there are essentially two source materials for making this game. The film Gladiator, and actual history. The revenge story is just too close to Gladiator for it to be ignored. But then, we go down a route of a mystical blonde woman giving us advice, and barbarians able to create chains that stop whole groups of battle ships in the water, and stone buildings full of giant mechanical doors, and it all gets a little far fetched. However, the second half of the game doesn’t just accept the more fantastical route, it revels in it, and what begins as a fairly dull campaign, soon turns into something genuinely gripping and satisfying. It’s almost as though the game tries to convince you that this is all bedded in truth and hard research, but then accepts that it’s over the top and just runs with it. It’s a short campaign too, about six hours, so stick with it.
This is helped by some awesome graphics. There are moments of detail up close, like the facial animations when characters speak, and moments of awe from a distance as you take in huge vistas and the low setting sun shining through the trees. Then there are moments of genuine anxiousness as you traverse a deep, dark forest being watched by masked barbarians in the distance. There is no denying how great this game looks, although sometimes people don’t seem to be able to walk properly for some reason.