Rise of the Rōnin is the Dark Souls and Ghost of Tsushima mix I always wanted

Attaining zen in a game fueled by challenge and heartbreak

Rise of Ronin game screenshot
(Image: © Team Ninja)

Tom's Guide Verdict

PlayStation’s Rise of the Rōnin brings the ‘Shogun’ vibes in force, shaping a rich open world tinged with its own special magic. It blends some of the best elements from the biggest franchises in gaming all while keeping its sword-slashing, gun-toting combat fresh in a narrative that’s rooted in real-world history.


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    Historical-tinged world

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    Brutal sword combat and gunplay

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    Exotic tools for traversal

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    Interesting use of NPCs


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    World is a bit sparse

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    Graphics could be better

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    Story can be hard to follow

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Rise of the Rōnin review: Specs

Platforms: PS5 (reviewed)
Price: $69
Release Date: March 22, 2024
Genre: Action-role playing 

Rise of the Rōnin is the no-holds-barred, sword-clashing epic I’ve longed for, allowing me to dash at breakneck pace through mid-1800s Japan. Its open world, though scarcely populated, is as inviting as it is grueling, uplifted by a narrative fueled with intrigue and surprises writ large. Eloquently underpinning this third-person action-adventure is a cultured zest all its own, a welcome departure from most modern experiences in its category — and well beyond. 

It’s not for the weary traveler, though, as Rise of the Rōnin is equal parts mesmerizing as it is challenging. It allows me to take on the role of a blade twin in this quest of uncovering the potential behind Sony’s newest masterwork. At $70 and locked to the PlayStation 5, Rise of the Rōnin is a mountain of promise that a mighty few can reach — but it’s totally worth the entry fee and ranks among the best PS5 games for those itching for more Ghost of Tsushima or the masochistic appetites a la Dark Souls and Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

Take up your sword and join me in the lands of Bakumatsu-era Japan. 

Rise of the Rōnin: Cheat Sheet

  • What is it? Rise of the Rōnin is an action RPG set in Bakumatsu-era Japan that follows a master-less samurai in the throes of a power struggle between Tokugawa Shogunate loyalists and Anti-Shogunate factions.
  • Who is it for? Fans of challenging FromSoftware-esque experiences and Nioh outings will have the most fun in Rise of the Rōnin. It's a tough game with multiplayer co-op on story missions, making this ripe for those looking to test their sword-slicing and gun-toting abilities with friends or on their own. 
  • What is the price? Rise of the Rōnin costs $69 on PS5. There is also a digital Deluxe Edition, which includes an additional DLC pack, and costs $79.
  • What other games has the developer made? Rise of the Rōnin comes from Team Ninja, the Japanese developer behind Nioh, Ninja Gaiden, and Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty. 
  • What games is this similar to? Rise of the Rōnin is a nice blend of Ghost of Tsushima, Dark Souls, and a dash of Sekiro, with minor elements reminiscent of Far Cry and Assassin's Creed. 

A dance with steel and gunpowder

Rise of Ronin game screenshot

(Image credit: Team Ninja)

Rise of the Rōnin does well in keeping itself wholly original despite cherry-picking several of the best elements from video game series like Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed, and Dark Souls. It’s a clear Nioh successor, bred by the talented Team Ninja, who aptly put accessible yet still challenging combat at the forefront of its experience. 

Sword fighting is both brutal and fun. It takes some getting used to, especially the parry system that requires you to press triangle at the most opportune moment when an enemy strike lands. Varied sword fighting techniques set across the vast armory of weapons, which includes everything from katanas to spears, also give those harrowing clashes of steel ample personalization and diversification. 

And the guns! Adding a secondary form of attack in ranged weaponry gives combat that extra oomph — not unlike Bloodborne or Ghost of Tsushima before it. When being charged with an unblockable attack or in a rut with limited Ki (aka Stamina), simply pull out your rifle and headshot the opponent before they can even strike. Easy peasy.

Rise of the Ronin gameplay screenshot

(Image credit: Team Ninja)

Better still is the stealth mechanics in Rise of the Rōnin, which allow you to silently take down an encampment by knifing enemies in the back or using a bow and arrow for ranged efficiency, leaving you little room for an untimely demise. Some stealth encounters can be a bit janky, with baddies often looking directly at you and not being alerted to your presence, but these moments are rare in the face of the occasional foe wandering upon fallen comrades. 

Beyond its combat though, Rise of the Rōnin is steeped in tantalizing exploration. Journeying across Japan is made all the more delightful via tools like the grapple hook (looking at you Sekiro) and a pair of gliding wings (looking at you Far Cry 3). These mechanics not only aid in your ability to traverse the landscape in fascinating ways but also give you fun side quests to accomplish, namely aerial time trials. 

Rise of the Rōnin features an in-depth skill tree that’s set across four main aspects, including Strength, Dexterity, Charm, and Intellect. Skill points can be acquired in a variety of ways, like unlocking a shrine, petting a cat, or taking down notable foes. You might find yourself wholly engrained in its world, to the point where you forget to use those skill points or even check your inventory, but it’s important to go through these menus to ensure you can keep up with the challenges ahead. 

Loss and purpose as a lone wolf 

Rise of the Rōnin takes place at the tail end of Japan’s Edo period, circa 1853 to 1867, as Western influences gain prominence. The story revolves around (as the name suggests) a masterless samurai thrust into varied conflicts and power struggles led by the Anti-Shogunate factions and Tokugawa Shogunate loyalists. 

When starting Rise of the Rōnin, you’re first welcomed into an incredibly in-depth character creator, wherein you must design not one but two playable characters. Without spoiling too much, there are implications behind this that will prove rewarding in the long term. Thus, there’s this subtle emphasis on the story that feels interconnected with its world as you journey through it.

Rise of Ronin gemplay screenshot

(Image credit: Team Ninja)

Later character interactions help shape how you’re perceived. These NPC bonds are where the game finds its originality. The more Favor you attain with a particular NPC — my favorite being the laid-back, pleasure district-loving Ryoma Sakamoto — the better their Bond with you will grow, allowing them to join you on story missions. And don’t fret about falling in combat, as you’ll just take up the reins of your cooperative NPC and continue the bout. 

Multiplayer co-op also brings some nuance to the experience and can help if you’re having a tough time on certain bosses or story missions. But, for the most part, NPCs are more than enough aid throughout the game, especially given that multiplayer is limited only to story missions, which might be a disappointment for some. 

Herein lies the inherent replayability of Rise of the Rōnin. With such a vast pool of weapons and gear to use, not to mention its many varied sword stances, there’s ample opportunity to re-explore its story — whether that be alongside friends or not. 

A vastness under the rising sun 

Rise of the Ronin gameplay screenshot

(Image credit: Team Ninja)

Rise of the Rōnin is a world with a rich history and depth that corrals three major cities: Kyoto, Yokohama, and Edo (aka Tokyo). As an avid fan of Japanese culture, it’s a welcome place and period to explore, one I recommend playing in Japanese audio for full immersion. But if there is anything that Rise of the Rōnin lacks it’s a more densely populated overworld. 

Elden Ring this is not, after all. Rise of the Rōnin sets itself apart from the rest through this very nature, though. It’s not out to waste your time with nonsensical fetch quests or consistent liberation of enemy encampments. There’s an avid level of breathing room between towns and villages, letting you see and feel the world at your own pace — without the constant pressure of being bombarded with alternative tasks and side quests. 

Rise of the Ronin screenshot

(Image credit: Team Ninja)

The map seemingly grows and grows the more you traverse its landscape. You can venture out and experience the world all on your own or follow along with its overarching story. There’s a variety of collectibles and things to discover, like cats, shrines, landmarks, new characters to bond with, as well as enemy fugitives on the run willing to take up the sword to outlast their freedom. 

Japan in 1853 never looked so beautiful and ripe for exploration. Team Ninja’s open world may feel empty in parts, but it’s a powerful meditation on designing an open world that doesn’t feel like it strangles the player or wastes their time. Plus, you have the added benefit of visiting places of historical importance, wherein some of the game’s most harrowing narrative twists give rise to ever more intrigue. 

Rise of the Rōnin: Verdict

Rise of the Ronin gameplay screenshot

(Image credit: Team Ninja)

Rise of the Rōnin is an epic escape into rural Japan. Clashing sword fights blended with ranged attacks in guns, bows, and more, give it a fresh new spin to the hack-and-slash formula. It's the perfect getaway for those hungry for more like Sekiro and Ghost of Tsushima. 

Interestingly, Team Ninja’s Rise of the Rōnin arrives amid Hulu’s “Shogun.” Both works do well in immersing you in Japan’s time of swift change and evolution as it opened up to the world, falling victim to myriad cultures and peoples that would inevitably influence its future. 

Is Rise of the Rōnin worth the price of entry? Given that it’s locked behind a $70 price tag and a $500 console, it truly depends on your drive for the challenge. While I don’t think it quite hits the same heights as Ghost of Tsushima, especially in terms of its story and graphics, I do think the experience presents an ample escape for those who adore a slick adventure with a grueling challenge.

Overall, Rise of the Rōnin is a true masterclass in hack-and-slash combat and open-world exploration, dropping you into a land ripe with history and culture that few games present so eloquently. From gliding through the open countryside to harrowing sword fights under the silver moon, there’s a lot to cherish in this game and more than enough content to lose oneself in — especially for those looking for a fun co-op experience in the lead-up to Elden Ring’s DLC.  

Ryan Epps
Staff Writer

Ryan Epps is a Staff Writer under the TV/AV section at Tom's Guide focusing on TVs and projectors. When not researching PHOLEDs and writing about the next major innovation in the projector space, he's consuming random anime from the 90's, playing Dark Souls 3 again, or reading yet another Haruki Murakami novel.