You could be forgiven for having completely the wrong ideas in your head about Ryse, but to be fair it probably wouldn’t be your fault that you’re misinformed. It all stems from E3, with the off kilter showing the game had. It was one quick time event after another; one brutal slaying leading straight into the next one. It looked like a Kinect game with little depth to the combat. It isn’t.
Failing a QTE-ridden festival of gore, the next logical conclusion might be that it takes heavy inspiration from the mechanics and gameplay of God of War. It doesn’t.
Instead, I found myself reminded most of the Batman titles, which I was not really expecting from this game. You have a button to attack, another to push and shove with your shield a third to counter and a fourth to dodge. It’s quite simple and very effective.
The early encounters of the game, as you push forwards to defend the palace gates from barbarians and save Emperor Nero, see you facing enemies one by one. The blocking, attacking and counters work perfectly in this simple situation, and I’m easily afforded opportunities to trigger the special kills.
Alright, so there are still the QTE kills in the game, but they are presented in a fascinating fashion. Once an enemy has taken enough hits, you start the event with a pull of the trigger, and press the relevant buttons at the right time. These are signified by a subtle coloured highlight to your enemy, with blue for X and yellow for Y.
It is also still true that you can’t really fail these QTEs. Instead they simply don’t reward you with restored health, but it’s actually quite logical to remove that danger. I would otherwise be more likely just to slay my foes in the standard fashion rather than risk failing an execution, and this way I get to enjoy the brutal kills no matter how badly I do.
I will admit that I find the slow motion applied over enthusiastically, just to accommodate this, but as I build my combos, I’m always coming across new and more interesting slaughter to enjoy, with tons of killing animations and variety added with double kills and the like.
The Batman influence becomes much clearer when you start to fight groups of enemies. All of a sudden you’re being attacked from multiple angles, having to parry and dodge more regularly means you have to be wary of having your attacks interrupted by a second, third, fourth and upwards enemy. However, it was also quite fascinating to see the ability to flit from an enemy on one side of the arena to another on the other. All Marius was missing was a big flappy cape and some form of boomerang.
The opening push to the palace evolves naturally into escorting Nero to safety, as a plot device rather than an escort mission in the tradtitional sense, whereupon it swiftly pulls you back in time, to experience and see the story of Marius’ life through the rest of the game. Meeting his family for the first time involves a slightly jarring tutotial section, designed to teach you the abilities needed to combat more difficult enemies, who will also have shields and be able to block your attacks.
However, it’s far too finicky and, and I think it says it all when a few failures brought up the option to skip it, even if it is necessary to learn the combos for later in the game. You need to take on board how to combat those tougher enemies and harder difficulties, where enemies will attack more aggressively, the button press windows in QTEs will narrow and the colour highlights even disappear.
Breaking up the standard combat moments will be various other elements of gameplay. You will be able to work and use other elements of the Roman army in battle, calling upon archers to rain down arrows or working as part of a shielded turtle to advance.
There’s also defensive set pieces, where you are able to place your troops to cover certain avenues of attack, and then take control of a ballista to defend the weak spot. Shooting flaming cauldrons of liquid will help you from getting overwhelmed, while you can also call in archer fire and so on. A nice way to break up the action.
To finish, it’s time to address that one final myth, the long known fact that it runs at a so-called 900p rather than a native 1080p resolution, and that this means it won’t look great. In fact, it does look quite fantastically detailed. There’s maybe that slight loss of detail in certain areas, with a more noticeable shimmer to the edges of objects and a loss of fine detail for complex objects off in the distance, but it is still a very good looking game, thanks to an impressive outing for CryEngine 3.
Given the struggles that seemingly everyone but Turn 10 have had in attaining that 1080p dream, it’s not surprising that Crytek have also missed the mark just to get that solidity on day one, but it really hasn’t impacted the quite impressive visuals on show.
Ryse is not the game I was expecting, and upon first blush seems to offer something quite a fresh and interesting. It might not be an entirely original new take of the combat games, but feels quite distinct to others in the genre through a number of ways, and if successful should be a franchise that can develop into something more unique over time.