Crytek’s upcoming historical action game Ryse: Son of Rome has gone through a few iterations already. Originally announced in 2011 as a Kinect-only title for Xbox 360, its slow development has seen it lose the Kinect requirement and get an upgrade to Xbox One launch title.
In a closed session, the game was exhibited to press by Crytek’s Wayne Cline and Ryse’s Senior Producer Justin Robey. Players will be cast in the role of Marius Titus, a soldier whose family is killed, leading him to seek vengeance against those responsible – yes, Russell Crowe’s Gladiator is a clear influence. Our initial impression was that Ryse would just be an attempt to cash-in on the shock-and-gore fanbase of God of War, and while the one-on-one combat here does borrow from the same playbook (onscreen prompts to execute gruesome killer blows, linear progression through areas, occasional environmental puzzles) it soon became apparent that despite the surface similarities, there’s more going on here than just a mythological pantheon swap.
Titus’ quest is grounded in reality, for one – Cline confirms that players won’t be crossing paths with the likes of Mars or Jupiter, unlike Kratos’ odyssey of deicide. The Roman gods are only present as background figures, worshipped by the culture of the time. Also, while the onscreen triggers might indicate very simple gameplay, timing will prove important, with better attacks or greater defence based on reaction time. While casual players will be able to button-mash through, precision will yield rewards. There’s also a level of strategy on offer, with Titus commanding platoons of soldiers and guiding them in armoured formations against rival forces.
Although Ryse is no longer dependent on Kinect, it does still implement the technology. During battles, you can yell out orders to your squadron of soldiers, guiding them towards objectives while you handle more direct confrontations. It’s intended as a quicker way to issue commands than with the control pad in the heat of battle, though manual instructions are still thankfully an option.
Like many titles shows at this E3, Ryse will also employ a number of second screen functions using SmartGlass. Robey, who lead development on this aspect of the game, tells us that the tablet service will chiefly serve as a “strategy guide tailored for you”. It seems to work as a bespoke digital hub for the game, allowing players to post their own gameplay videos, ask for pointers from friends, see what they may have missed in mission chapters, and so forth. The app uses the same user interface as the menu screens for the main game, so it should be an intuitive transition. However, we hope the strategy guide elements don’t become too pervasive – it would be frustrating to have your hand held through the entire game.
Where Ryse really stands to astound players is in its visuals. Crytek’s in-house CryEngine is put to phenomenal use with the game, with characters boasting realistic skin shading and texture, and a richly detailed world where even tiny particles – flecks of blood and grains of sand – are discernible. It looks amazing, and should prove to be a tempting exclusive for gamers sceptical of the Xbox One.