Every console launch needs a rock-solid action game to show off its graphical chops while giving players something familiar. For the Xbox One, that game is "Ryse: Son of Rome" from developer Crytek.
"Ryse" tells the story of Marius Titus, a soldier-turned-centurion-turned-general in the Roman army during the reign of Emperor Nero. The game weaves a fairly interesting story of revenge and conquest while delivering a brutal, entertaining combat system, all drenched in buckets of blood.
You may not remember "Ryse" a few years from now, but if you've just picked up an Xbox One and want to have a little fun while seeing some impressive next-gen graphics and animations, it's an easy enough recommendation.
"Ryse" is a third-person action game in the vein of gory hack-and-slashers like "God of War." During the course of the game, Marius will cleave his way through hordes of barbarians as he and the Roman army seek to quell the rebellious colonies of Britannia.
Combat takes center stage in "Ryse," and the fights are gripping from start to finish. Marius can swing his gladius, bash enemies with his tower shield, and parry or dodge enemy blows. For distant enemies, he can pick up pila (Roman javelins) and hurl them.
The system is admittedly very similar to almost every other combat-oriented action game on the market, but "Ryse" sets itself apart with its inventive finishers. As you progress through the game, you'll have the option to take down enemies with gut-wrenching finishing moves that require well-timed button presses to execute properly.
At first, these finishers can only restore Marius' health, but he'll soon learn to increase his damage output, his XP gain (used to buy special skills) and his Focus bar (used to slow down time and make short work of tougher foes).
Coupled with the game's simple level-up system — which lets you improve your health, your Focus and your combat prowess — "Ryse" maintains a brisk pace and helps you feel more powerful as the game progresses.
The ability to select your combat bonuses at will helps players discover their own pace. Less-experienced players will want to stick with health and Focus regeneration, while those breezing by most encounters can increase their XP output for long-term gains or tear through enemies with increased damage.
While it's true that the combat system in "Ryse" has been done before — and, arguably, done better — it's still a fun and reliable backbone for the game's admittedly short campaign.
Multiplayer and replayability
“Ryse” offers a few cooperative multiplayer modes that pit you and a friend (or a random stranger) against increasingly difficult waves of enemies. As you progress through the challenges, your character will gain experience and be able to tackle tougher challenges. The mode appears to be fairly simple, but building up an avatar is entertaining and allows some room for customization.
At the time of writing, the multiplayer servers are not yet up, so Tom’s Guide will investigate this feature when it goes live.
MORE: Xbox One Review
There are a number of doodads to collect in "Ryse" that help expand on the story and show off some of the game's gorgeous artwork, but unless you're dying to collect them or max out Marius' stats, there's not much reason to play through the game more than once.