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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Ryse: Son of Rome PC impressions: Face meets sword


By on 11:15 AM

A few weeks ago, we saw Dead Rising 3 (an Xbox One exclusive launch game) come to the PC with updated graphics and features. In October, it'll be Ryse: Son of Rome's turn to make the move from the Xbox One to the PC. I was recently able to try out an early demo of Ryse for the PC, featuring the first and fourth levels. Although the quick snapshot doesn't reveal much about the plot, it does show a lot of gameplay. Players take the role of Marius Titus, a Roman centurion with an unrivaled talent for killing barbarians in gruesome ways. The first level introduces him by throwing the player into an all out barbarian invasion of Rome, and the fourth level has him traveling alone through a trap and ambush laden forest.
Let it be known that Ryse: Son of Rome is a gorgeous game. Few games comes close to matching its graphical complexity. Characters have skin textures so realistic looking that you can practically see the sweaty sheen on their porous skin. You can see how they're in need of a shave. Sunlight, shining through tree leaves, dot a character's hair and move as the leaves sway with the breeze. Although the demo supports 4K displays, as will the final release, I don't have the hardware to try out. However, if the game already looks this good at 1080p, I have no doubts about the game's super high definition fidelity.
Things became a little less impressive once I started looking past the graphics and got into the gameplay. Ryse is a pretty straightforward action game, where the player bash on enemies until they're weak enough to for an execution move. Executions are supplemented with quicktime events, where the player has to press a button that corresponds with a color. The enemy dies violently, whether the player presses the matching buttons or not, but performing perfect executions powers secondary abilities like health regeneration or experience boost. For the most part, combat uses the same cycle of moves. Block an attack to throw an enemy off balance, get in some hits, and execute. Different enemies require some variation to the move combination, but not by much. The challenge primarily comes from how enemies will all try to attack all at once instead of one at a time, so it's easy to be overwhelmed, especially when dual sword wielding enemies are involved. Even with the limited levels and playing on normal difficulty, the combat started to become a bit monotonous. The loose response to hitting space to deflect traps got old really fast.
The controls are pretty much as straightforward as the gameplay. Thing that were originally assigned to the Xbox One Kinect controls like calling a fire arrow volley are now mapped to a shoulder button on the gamepad or R key on the keyboard. Although the game is clearly designed with a gamepad in mind, right down to the color-coded execution quicktime events, the mouse and keyboard aren't too shabby either. Sequences like aiming the ballista near the start of the game played much better for me when using the mouse. The default control scheme feels very natural, and the main challenge is learning to associate yellow and blue with right and left mouse clicks. What hasn't changed from the Xbox One version is that executions throw the camera off so that you can't see some nearby enemies, often giving them a free shot on you.
Ryse: Son of Rome releases for the PC on October 10th, and it promises to push even the most advanced gaming hardware to its limits.

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