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Ryse: Son of Rome

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Ryse: Son of Rome
Ryse box art.jpg
Developer(s) Crytek Frankfurt
Publisher(s) Microsoft Studios
Crytek (PC)
Distributor(s) Deep Silver (PC)
Director(s) Cevat Yerli
Rasmus Højengaard
Producer(s) Michael Read
Designer(s) Patrick Esteves
Programmer(s) Chris Brunning
Carsten Wenzel
Artist(s) Peter Gamble
Writer(s) Steven Hall
Rasmus Højengaard
Peter Gornstein
Composer(s) Borislav Slavov
Tilman Sillescu
Peter Antovski
Engine CryEngine
Platform(s) Xbox One
Microsoft Windows
Release date(s) Xbox One
November 22, 2013
Microsoft Windows
October 10, 2014
Genre(s) Action-adventure, hack and slash
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Ryse: Son of Rome is a third-person action-adventure hack and slash video game developed by Crytek Frankfurt and published by Microsoft Studios. It was released on November 22, 2013 as a launch title for the Xbox One, and was released on October 10, 2014 for Microsoft Windows.

Set in an alternate version of Rome, Ryse follows the life of the Roman centurion Marius Titus as he becomes one of the leaders in the Roman Legion. He is on a quest to murder Nero, the Roman Emperor, whose followers murdered his family. Gameplay revolves around Marius using his sword to strike enemies and shield to deflect attacks. Execution sequences are also featured in the game, which are quick-time events that serve as an extension to combat. The game's combat emphasizes on "flow", a term referring to a player's ability to move on to fight against another enemy upon defeating an enemy with few limitations in between. The game features a cooperative multiplayer mode, which tasks players to fight against waves of enemies in maps that are changing dynamically.

The game's development began in 2006. Originally it was set to be a first-person Kinect-only title for the Xbox 360. However, the team later made three new prototypes, and redesigned to become a third-person hack and slash game, with Kinect serving a diminished role. The development of the game was originally handled by Crytek Budapest, but was later transferred to Crytek's headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany. Revealed as Codename: Kingdom at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2010, the game was reintroduced as Ryse: Son of Rome at E3 2013. It was among one of the six projects developed simultaneously by Crytek.

Ryse: Son of Rome received a mixed critical reaction from reviewers upon launch, being praised for its visuals, story and high production values but criticized for its repetitive and simple gameplay. Cevat Yerli, CEO of Crytek, added that he was not satisfied with the sales of the game. Upon launch, the game was supported with several multiplayer-focused downloadable content, but the originally planned Challenge Editor was cancelled.

Gameplay[edit]

The game's protagonist, Marius Titus, is equipped with a sword and a shield to fight against enemies. The game is powered by the fourth generation of Crytek's CryEngine.

Ryse: Son of Rome is an action-adventure hack and slash game played in a third-person perspective. Players assume control of Marius Titus, a Roman general who is on a quest to avenge his murdered family. Throughout the game, players gain access to weapons that can be used to assault enemies or defend themselves. For instance, players are equipped with a sword that can be used to strike and kill enemies, and a shield that can be used to deflect enemies' attack and break their defense.[1] The strength of each attack can be decided by players.[2] In addition to melee-based combat, the game features spears and javalins, which serve as ranged weapons.[3]

The game's combat puts emphasis on "flow", a term referring to a player's ability to move on to fight against another enemy upon defeating and killing an enemy with few limitations in between.[4] Combat is combo-based, and rewards are given to players who are able to build a long combo. Marius can block attacks to break enemy combos to counterattack.[5]

When players deal enough damage to an enemy, they can activate an execution sequence. Once the execution sequence has been initiated, enemies involved in the execution are highlighted automatically with colors by the game, and players can perform a series of quick time events by pressing the appropriate buttons.[5] These execution sequences serve to grant additional resources to players, depending on how well the execution is performed. At any time prior to initiating an execution, the player can select one of four categories of executions to perform upon weakened enemies; the selected type of execution determines the type of resource that will be granted when an enemy is executed. Upon completing a successful execution sequence, players are granted the type of execution that was selected. There are four perks available for players.[6] One boosts the player's damage for a short period after the execution; one refills the player's Focus bar; one allows players to regain lost health, and the last significantly boosts the amount of experience points received from the kill.[7] These experience points can be used to purchase upgrades for various attributes, such as health, damage, or Focus bar capacity, and to unlock additional execution moves.[8] The game still automatically completes and finishes these execution sequences when players fail to press the highlighted buttons, but provides a much smaller reward. Lining up two or more weakened enemies in close proximity allows the player to perform a double execution sequence, which greatly increases the reward granted.[9]

In several segments of the game, Marius is involved in large-scale battles. Players are tasked to co-operate with, or command, other non-playable characters to defeat large numbers of enemies.[10] The game features Kinect voice integration, in which players can issue commands to other characters to provide assistance, such as calling in arrows or catapults.[11]

There is also a co-operative multiplayer mode, in which two players team up to accomplish various challenges and fight against waves of increasingly difficult enemies in the Roman Colosseum, a gladiator arena setting.[11] The environments of the Colosseum change dynamically in a match to add variety to the mode. Players can gain access to increasingly advanced armor and weapons as they progress through these multiplayer matches. Microtransactions are also featured, allowing players to purchase in-game upgrades with real-life currency.[12]

Plot[edit]

Ryse: Son of Rome is set in an alternate version of Rome. The game's tutorial section depicts Marius leading the defense of Rome against oncoming Celtic barbarians led by Boudica. Marius hands a small, nondescript sack to a subordinate with the instructions to display it from an elevated position, then helps secure the Roman emperor, Nero, in a private safe room. At the emperor's behest he begins to tell his story; the rest of the game is an extended flashback depicting Marius' story up to this point.

Marius begins his story as a soldier having just successfully completed his training, who is about to leave Rome to serve his duty in the relatively sedate II Legion, holding a post in peaceful Alexandria. Just before his deployment, he enjoys a return to his family in Rome and the adulation of his father Leontius, a former general and current member of the Roman Senate. Marius' visit is cut short by a barbarian incursion; a running battle through the streets of Rome results in the death of his parents and younger sister. Commander Vitallion, a friend and former comrade of the slain Leontius, transfers Marius to his XIV Legion, and promises Marius vengeance for his murdered family. Vitallion leads the XIV Legion to Britain, but the fleet is ambushed off the coast; Marius leads the counter-attack, rallying the surviving Roman troops and nearly single-handedly preventing the destruction of the remainder of the fleet, which impresses Vitallion. Marius is promoted to Centurion.

After receiving reports of a rebellion at York, Marius heads north to aid the defeated legion stationed there. Upon capturing King Oswald and his daughter Boudica, Basilius, the son of the Emperor, reveals that his brother Commodus has been captured by the barbarians, whose whereabouts are unknown. Basilius, threatens and forces King Oswald into revealing the location of Commodus, who has been traded to the fearsome men north of Hadrian's Wall. Basilius orders Vitallion and Marius to retrieve him. After crossing the border into Caledonia, the party is ambushed, Vitallion is taken hostage by barbarians, and Marius is separated from his legion. Marius makes his way into the enemy camp, freeing and rallying captured Roman soldiers along the way. He kills the barbarian leader Glott and rescues Commodus and Vitallion from being burned inside a giant Wicker man.

Commodus continues to intimidate Oswald and murders him, causing a breakdown in negotiations. Meanwhile, Marius realizes that the band of barbarians he encountered years ago had invaded Rome and slain his father at Nero's instigation as a means of eliminating a political rival. Furthermore, the Celts, led by a just-escaped Boudica, lay siege to York, with XIV Legion tasked with defending it until Commodus can escape. In the end, Marius sacrifices himself to buy time for the final ships to sail, but is resurrected by the goddess Summer, who tasks him with taking on the mantle of Damocles, a legendary Roman general who was abandoned to his enemies for political expediency. In that guise, Summer tells him to avenge his family and comrades, and save Rome.

"Damocles" takes advantage of Emperor Nero and his sons' interest in the gladiator sports, and enters the gladiatorial ludi to confront Nero and his sons directly. His demonstration of martial skill gains him the sponsorship of Nero's son Basilius, and Marius is then able to slay Basilius during a private audience, where he is also informed by a captive Oracle Priestess that Nero can only be killed by his own sword. After this, Marius confronts Commodus in the Colosseum itself, emerging victorious after a series of unfair battles. As "Damocles" and Nero jointly call for each other's deaths, Marius escapes, meeting up with Vitallion. According to Vittalion, Boudica has gathered enough barbarian support to storm Rome itself. Vitallion agrees to help Marius put an end to Nero's destructive rule. Their efforts are successful, but Vitallion is slain by Boudica during the attack. Marius takes up the command and defeats her in turn, though his victory is tempered by their shared realization that they are both victims in Nero's power plays.

This brings Marius to the "present day" of the game's narrative: he gives the small sack, containing Boudica's severed head, to his subordinate, escorts Nero to his safe room, and tells his tale. Nero, who has since deduced that Marius is Damocles, flees deeper into his bolt hole. As Marius gives chase, he is temporarily distracted by Aquilo, the god of the north wind, who has been aiding Nero and whose stated goal is to cause the collapse of Rome. However, Summer helps Marius claim the victory, and Marius tosses both Nero and himself off a parapet, where Nero is impaled on the sword of his own statue, fulfilling the Oracle's prophecy. Marius falls to the ground and dies from his wounds as Summer and Aquilo both vanish.

The story ends with the barbarians retreating from Rome, disheartened by the loss of their leader, and with Marius being posthumously hailed as a hero for his efforts to fend off their attacks.[13][14]

Development[edit]

Ryse: Son of Rome was originally developed by Crytek Budapest. In 2004, Crytek released its debut title Far Cry, and in 2006, Microsoft Studios released Xbox 360 and was working on a prototype for Kinect called "Project Natal".[15][16] Ideas for Ryse originated in 2006 by Crytek's CEO Cevat Yerli, who was eager to expand the studio, and wanted the studio to work on multiple projects simultaneously. Early work and concept development began shortly afterwards, with Crytek working on a pair of fantasy games that were set in the same Medieval universe. They were Kings, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, and Kingdoms, a first-person action role-playing game. They hoped that with Kingdoms, they could create an "up-close" and "visceral" experience.[15]

Crytek then pitched the game to different publishers, and eventually, in 2009, the company pitched the two projects to Microsoft. According to Nick Button-Brown, the general manager at Crytek, the game was not functional at that time, and only served to prove to the publisher that a first-person melee game was fun for players. The representative from Microsoft, Phil Spencer, admired Crytek's intention to expand, and thought that Microsoft's games line up for the Xbox 360 was lacking a first-person melee-combat game. As a result, they accepted to publish Kingdoms, and rejected Kings. The two companies agreed that the project would be a natural fit for Microsoft's yet-to-be-announced Kinect.[15]

An excerpt from Ryse's E3 2011 gameplay trailer, showcasing the first-person perspective originally planned for Ryse.

It was originally revealed as Codename: Kingdoms during Microsoft's E3 2010 press conference, along with the announcement that the game was being developed by Crytek. During the Microsoft Press Conference at E3 2011, Ryse was announced as a Kinect-only title. The announcement entailed a prerendered trailer with minor gameplay footage.[17] The gameplay footage featured players using their own body gestures to control the protagonist to fight against enemies, and perform actions like sword wielding, blocking attacks with a shield, and head-butting.[18] The trailer served as a test for Crytek to see whether the general audience liked the Kinect features or not.[15]

In early 2011, the game's direction was shifted from building a world of "high fantasy" to building a realistic ancient Rome, and the development of the game was shifted from Crytek Budapest to Crytek's headquarter in Frankfurt, Germany. The Budapest office was significantly downsized afterwards, and its focus was shifted to develop smartphone games.[19][20] It became one of six projects the company was working on. Development of the game continued after its E3 2011 reveal.[21] Different experiments were carried out for the game to see what elements would work and what would not. A team at Crytek Frankfurt proposed to turn the game to an on-rail interactive movie, which the team believed was suitable for Kinect's features and would able to showcase the power of CryEngine. The idea was later scrapped.[15]

Microsoft and Crytek sat together at a table and said, 'Are we still doing this game Kinect-based?' Then effectively we and Microsoft, though nobody dared to say it to each other [at first], found that this was not the right way to go forward. [We were both worried] core gamers may not yet be convinced to use Kinect.

— Cevat Yerli, CEO of Crytek

During the game's development, the team worried that the game may be too tiring for players, and that Kinect may not able to detect their movements accurately, leading to frustration. As a result, the team developed three prototypes for the game. The first prototype allowed players to play the entire game with Kinect, the second one tasks players to play the game with a Xbox 360 controller, with Kinect features, while the third one completely removed the Kinect features.[22] Crytek eventually chose the second prototype, and shifted the game's perspective to become a third-person video game. In June 2012, Phil Spencer, corporate VP of Microsoft Studios, maintained that the game was still in development. and added that Kinect will only be "part of the game".[23] With the changes in the game's control scheme, the game's focus also changed, with the team aiming to create a cinematic and character-focused experience for players.[22] The change also extended the game's development process, and eventually, in May 2013, Ryse was confirmed to be a launch title for Microsoft's next game console, Xbox One.[24] In June 2013 at the E3 Microsoft Conference, Crytek showed a gameplay video. Kinect was no longer part of the active battle but had a diminished role by providing squad commands through speech and gesture.[11] The team at Crytek decided to make it a launch title instead of delaying it for further polishing, as they considered the launch of Xbox One an "emotional" event and wanted to be a part of it.[25]

Ryse's combat puts lots of focuses on "flow" and crowd control. As a result, the team introduced a rhythm-styled combat which is similar to that of Batman: Arkham Asylum. The flow was described to be one of the most important part in the game's mechanics, and the artificial intelligence of enemies were designed to break and disrupt players' flow. The team later chose to introduce the execution mechanics as they found that the combat was proven to be too difficult for players, and that the execution mechanics provided an easier way for players to defeat enemies.[26] The game also focused on precision and timing, tasking players to hit enemies at the correct time and position to gain greater rewards. The developer also hoped that players will use creativity when dealing with enemies.[27] A concept called "mashing to mastery" was introduced in Ryse, in which the game's combat was designed to be accessible for newcomers and be challenging for hardcore players.[28] In order to achieve the "mashing to mastery" mechanic, the team introduced the execution mechanic, which is a series of quick-time events, as the team at Crytek hoped that it would make these scene more rewarding to players, as well as allowing the flow of combat to continue.[29]

Ryse's intention was to build a cinematic story. The team put emphasis on building the game's protagonist, Marius Titus, who was described as a character with three different sides. The game's cinematic director, Peter Gornstein, considered that adding personalities to characters as one of the most important features in creating a good story, as it allows players to care for and emphasize the character. He also hoped that the character is consistent throughout the game. As a result, the team developed transition sequences, in which gameplay can fluidly transit to cinematic.[30] The game also put emphasis on the protagonist's motion capture.[31] To achieve this, the team collaborated with The Imaginarium Studios to develop the cinematic and motion-capture technology for the game.[15] According to Yerli, having good motion capture technology can help "create the ultimate emotion".[32] The game's camera was originally set to be controlled by artificial intelligence, drawing inspirations from Seven Samurai and Children of Men, but the idea was later scrapped and a dynamic camera was designed to replace it. The camera was also made closer to the playable character than other hack and slash games, as they hoped that they could show a "claustrophobic brutality" from it. According to Crytek, having a close up camera has always been the game's core element.[33]

The developers claim to have drawn much of the inspiration for the game's combat and tactics from "...the innumerable Roman campaigns that led to the modern concept of total war". Fifteen hero level characters were given full motion capture with the same detail as Marius.[33] Unlike Crytek's previous projects, the game is set in ancient Rome, a place which the developer thought was underrepresented in video games.[34] The game also features different Renaissance-inspired imagery. In order to create an accurate environment, the team visited different locations in Rome.[35] While the game is set in Rome, its story is not entirely historically accurate. Crytek described it as a "historical mash-up", in which the team selected their favourite historical events and put them together into the game.[33]

Crytek contracted Ruffian Games to develop a competitive multiplayer mode for Ryse, but the feature was later cut from the final game.[15] Despite that, a co-operative multiplayer mode was introduced, and tasked players to fight against waves of increasingly difficult human enemies. The team originally hoped to add sea battles and animals to the game, but after internal testing, these features were removed.[36] A Xbox SmartGlass feature called the Challenge Editor was set to be introduced to the game after its launch. It allowed players to create custom challenges for the game's co-operative multiplayer.[37] However, Crytek announced that the development of this feature had been ceased in February 2014.[38]

The game's music is composed by Borislav Slavov and Peter Antovszki, Crytek's in-house composers. Slavov had previously led the soundtrack development of Crysis 3 and Warface. The soundtrack development began in February 2013, right after the completion of Crysis 3. Slavov considered composing the music for Ryse a great challenge for him, as he had to compose 250 minutes of music within a short time frame. Crytek also hired an external composer, Tilman Silescu, to help compose the music for the game.[39]

Release[edit]

Ryse was originally revealed as a Xbox 360 title that was set to be released in early 2011.[15] Revealed at E3 2010 as Codename Kingdom,[40] the game missed its release window, and its official name was revealed during E3 2011 as Ryse.[41] It was reintroduced as Ryse: Son of Rome at Microsoft's press conference at E3 2013 with a gameplay demo.[42] The game served as a launch title for the Xbox One, and was released on November 22, 2013.[43] The season pass, featuring different in-game bonuses and items, was released on the same day.[44] The game was supported with downloadable content upon launch. Mars’ Chosen, Morituri Pack, Duel of Fates Pack, and Colosseum Pack were released from 2013 to 2014 and featured new maps and modes for the multiplayer portion of the game. A Legendary Collection, which featured the base game, the game's seasonal pass, and all the additional content released for the game, was released on October 7, 2014.[45]

On August 7, 2014, Crytek announced that Ryse would be released for the PC platform in the fall of 2014. This version of the game is stated to support 4K resolution and included previously released downloadable content.[46] The PC version was released on October 10, 2014.[47] Crytek published the digital version of the PC version of the game, while Deep Silver published the retail version.[48]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings (XONE) 64.30%[49]
(PC) 63.20%[50]
Metacritic (XONE) 60/100[51]
(PC) 61/100[52]
Review scores
Publication Score
Destructoid 5/10[53]
EGM 7.5/10[54]
Eurogamer 5/10[55]
Game Informer 6/10[56]
GameSpot 4/10[58]
GamesRadar 3.5/5 stars[57]
Giant Bomb 3/5 stars[59]
IGN 6.8/10[60]
VideoGamer.com 7/10[61]

Ryse: Son of Rome received mixed reviews. Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic gave the Xbox One version 64.30% based on 47 reviews and 60/100 based on 77 reviews[49][51] and the Microsoft Windows version 63.20% based on 10 reviews and 61/100 based on 27 reviews.[50][52]

The game's visuals received critical acclaim. Brian Albert from IGN thought that Ryse would be the perfect title for people to show off their console due to its high graphical quality. He also praised the game's wide variety of environments and fluid character animation. However, he criticized the game's boss-design.[60] Hollander Cooper from GamesRadar strongly praised the game's graphics and the level of detail.[57] Simon Miller from VideoGamer.com thought that the game fulfilled its purpose as a Xbox One launch title, and demonstrated the power of the console.[61] Andrew Reiner from Game Informer considered that the game's cinematic as "towering achievements of visual design".[56] Brad Shoemaker from Giant Bomb thought that the graphics had successfully surprised players.[59]

The game's gameplay received polarized reception. Marc Camron from Electronic Gaming Monthly called it "basic", and thought that despite the fluid and smooth combat, and the addition of the reward system which added a layer of strategy to the game, the game's execution system hindered the flow of the game by slowing down the overall pace of combat. He added that the game's combat lacked complexity and depth, and was too repetitive for players to enjoy.[54] Albert also thought that the combat system was too basic. In addition, he noted the repetitive pattern of enemies. He also criticized the game's over-emphasis on graphics, which led to the simple gameplay.[60] Cooper thought that the game's combat was satisfying, and thought that the game's swordplay had successfully captured the sense of weight and impact. However, he also considered the system repetitive.[57] Reiner criticized the execution sequences, which he considered excessive and over-simplistic.[56] Shoemaker also thought that the game lacked both variety and depth.[59] Mark Walton from GameSpot thought that the game design was too linear, and that the game discouraged any form of exploration.[58]

The game's story also received praise from critics. Camron praised the game's voice-acting and setting, which he thought was "intriguing". However, he thought that the narrative was too basic, and missed many details that could have further improved the game's story.[54] Albert admired the game's story, and thought that it was handled with great care. He added that the game's plot was easy for players to follow, even though the game features multiple unexpected twists.[60] Cooper described the game's narrative as surprising, adding that the later part of the game successfully added personalities to both the game's heroes and villains.[57] However, Walton called the game's script as "laughable" and said that the dialogue made the plot unbelievable for players.[58]

Critics had divided opinions on the game's multiplayer. Camron thought that it was a nice addition to the game, even though he thought it lacked the complexity a multiplayer mode should have, and that it failed to extend the game's longevity.[54] Miller echoed this statement, and thought that the multiplayer mode failed to hook players.[61] Walton thought that players would not return the mode after experiencing it once, and he described the mode as "bland".[58] Albert, in contrast, considered the mode a unique addition to the game, and thought that it had successfully added some strategy elements to the game.[60] Chris Carter from Destructoid thought that the multiplayer mode was better than the game's main campaign. He described it as a "pleasant surprise".[53]

The amount of content featured in the game received mixed reviews. Miller thought that the game only revolved around one idea, which led to its simplistic gameplay.[61] Camron and Cooper thought that the campaign was too short for most players.[54][57] Shoemaker thought that for a full-priced game, it lacked content.[59] Reiner furthered criticized the game's low replay value.[56] Carter advocated that players purchase the game when its price dropped. He added that while the game features lots of ideas, most of them failed to deliver.[53]

While no exact sales figure was revealed, Yerli expressed his disappointment with the sales of Ryse for the Xbox One in August 2014, blaming the low sales of the Xbox One.[62]

Controversy[edit]

A Federal Trade Commission investigation uncovered an undisclosed paid endorsement deal between Microsoft Studios and Machinima Inc. Microsoft Studios paid for fake organic reviews, and bound Machinima Inc. to “not portray [Microsoft], the Xbox One, or the Launch Titles in a negative manner”. Ryse: Son of Rome was specifically listed in the FTC document as being one of the titles to receive fake reviews, and price quotes for these reviews range between $15,000 and $30,000.[63]

Sequel[edit]

According to Yerli, Ryse: Son of Rome is not a "one-off" title and will serve as the beginning of a new franchise.[64] However, several reports claimed that Ryse 2 was cancelled because of a conflict between Crytek and Microsoft over who would own the rights to the franchise. In exchange for funding Ryse 2's development, Microsoft wanted to take over the Ryse intellectual property. Crytek would not agree to these terms, so the project was cancelled.[65] Cevat Yerli, however, denied that the game was cancelled in an interview with Eurogamer, adding that the relationship between Microsoft and Crytek remained strong and positive.[25] Ryse was among one of the last titles developed by Crytek before the company entered financial crisis and re-construction.[66] The new Crytek is focused on developing free-to-play games and being a "game service" instead of a video game developer. Despite this, Ryse is still an intellectual property owned by Crytek.[25]

References[edit]

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