Ryse: Son of Rome Hands On Preview: Are You Not Entertained?

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Ryse: Son of Rome looks beautiful and feels slick. It may just be one of the Xbox One’s “killer apps”.

Tucked away behind the closed curtains of the “Adults-Only” section at Microsoft’s Tokyo Game Show booth was a new playable demo of Crytek’s upcoming Roman-tastic action RPG: Ryse: Son of Rome. I got a chance to try out a co-op arena survival scenario, playing together with a Microsoft rep who was much better at the game than I.

You may recall that in my Deep Down preview earlier this week, I described the combat as “clunky”. Thankfully, there’s none of that to be had in Ryse, as combos flowed naturally, the control scheme felt great, and the combat was nice and smooth.

The simple light attack, light attack, heavy attack combo that is present in just about every action RPG ever served me quite well, but I was able to easily experiment with dodges, blocks, and special attacks to vary up the combat. Pulling off combos feels good, and rewarding, without being overly punishing if you mess up. Anyone who has ever played God of War will feel right at home.

The quizzical “quick-time-events-that-aren’t-really-quick-time-events” we saw last time we checked out the game were notably absent. Instead, when an enemy is ready to be finished, a skull appears above his head. Pressing any button while next to him initiates a finishing move.

Playing in co-op reminds me of another “of war” game: Gears of War. When your partner is downed, you have to run over and help him back up, and in the scenario I played, there were several mini-boss enemies that are much easier to take down if you work in tandem (one player distracts him while the other attacks). There didn’t appear to be any co-op specific special moves, but some of the regular special moves (such as the AoE stun) work great when you have a partner.

If Crytek are known for one thing, it’s making absolutely beautiful games, and Ryse is no exception. I confirmed that it was actually running on an Xbox One (as the Titanfall guys made the rather cheeky decision to be running the PC version at TGS), and was blown away by how beautiful the world was. Not only that, the little things, such as blood splatter and these beautiful “meaty” sound effects really helped paint a clear picture of the world around you.

The arena demo was a great way to showpiece the strong points of the game: its combat and its visuals, rather than the somewhat weak story that was showcased in the earlier demo. Enemies felt distinct, you were given a lot of toys to play with, and the “boss battle” I experienced was challenging, but not frustrating. At the end of the demo, I hungered for more, which is definitely a good sign. I was quite thoroughly entertained.

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