Ryse: Son of Rome was one of the more visually impressive demos during the Microsoft press briefing on Monday, and at the after-party that evening, we got some hands-on time with the game. It was the same part of the game that was shown, with Marius Tidus landing in Dover and fighting off swarms of barbarians, but this time, we got a feel for how the game actually handles. Encompassing the sheer brutality and personal nature of the combat in that era, Ryse seems to have a lot going for it.
The first thing I noticed was that the blocking and parrying of attacks is very much a player-driven skill based on proper timing. You have to visually scan the surrounding enemies and press the A button to properly deflect an attack, or else you'll take the hit. The focus is on combat using the sword and shield, and more often than not, you'll make use of them versus large groups of enemies, and they don't seem to simply take turns swinging at you. However, there are times when secondary weapons are used, such as the Pilum throwing spears to counter enemy archers while your fellow legionnaires form a defensive line around you.
Landing blows is a fairly easy affair, with the Y button performing your sword strikes in the direction you are facing. Again, keeping an eye around you is important so as to not leave yourself open to enemy attacks, but it's not too difficult to begin laying down some strikes on some poor barbarian and then effortlessly time a parry against one of his fellow combatants. It felt a lot like the style of combat recently popularized by the new Batman games, only obviously a lot more bloody.
However, as you damage enemies, a B button prompt appears over their heads, signifying that they are staggered to some extent and can be executed. Over 120 executions exist in the game, ranging from simply stabbing an enemy in the neck or stomping his face to dual executions involving two enemies if both are in a staggered state. During executions, the game slows down as it prompts for a button press. Failing to press the correct button allows the execution to continue, but doing them all correctly amounts to potentially more visceral final moves to finish them off.
The game will feature a multiplayer component, including some form of gladiatorial combat within coliseums. Unlike the single-player component, players will be able to customize their gladiator, though all other details of the multiplayer experience were kept tightly under wraps, and we were told that more details would be announced this summer.
Another functionality that was shown was the inclusion of SmartGlass for players to essentially have a tailored strategy guide that's curated by the developers. The guide also monitors game metrics and lets you know if other players have had some difficulty with an upcoming part of the game.
We'll be keeping tabs on the game during E3 and as it gets closer to the release date, but Ryse: Son of Rome has us intrigued. The setting is unabashedly violent and exemplifies the "six inches to six feet" style of combat used in that era, but it does so in a way that feels nuanced and fun. With a fantastic-looking new version of the CryEngine running under the hood, the title is downright gorgeous, and overall, it has all the markings of a highly anticipated Xbox One exclusive.
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