Ryse: Son of Rome

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Ryse: Son of Rome
Ryse box art.jpg
Developer(s) Crytek Frankfurt
Publisher(s) Microsoft Studios (Xbox One)
Crytek (PC digital)
Deep Silver (PC retail)
Director(s) Cevat Yerli
Producer(s) Vidanjor Niyazi
Designer(s) Cevat Yerli
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 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. The Windows version was published by Crytek and Deep Silver.

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 features a two-player co-operative 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 set to be a first-person Kinect-only title for the Xbox 360, the game was later re-designed 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 re-introduced as Ryse: Son of Rome at E3 2013. It was developed simultaneously with six other projects 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.

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 take revenge for 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 a ranged weapon.[3]

The game's combat puts emphasis on "flow", in which players can move on to fight against another enemy upon defeating and killing an enemy with little limitations in between.[4] Combat is combo-based, in which players are able to build a long combat sequence if their attacks are not disrupted by enemies. Rewards will be given to players who are able to build a long combo. Marius can block attacks to break enemy combos to counterattack. 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 varying types of 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 will determines the type of resource that will be granted, when an enemy is executed. Upon completing a successful execution sequence, players will be granted the type of execution that was selected. There are four perks available for players.[6] One of these perks increases the player's damage for a duration after the execution, another refills the player's Focus bar, which allows players to slow down time to increase combat efficiency, one of them allows players to regain lost health, while the last type will significantly boost 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 and Focus bar capacity, and also to unlock additional execution moves.[8] The game will still automatically complete and finish these execution sequences, even when players fail to press the highlighted buttons. However, a much smaller reward will be given to players.[9] Lining up two or more weakened enemies in close proximity will allow the player to perform a double execution sequence, which greatly increases the reward granted.

In several segments of the game, Marius will be 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 assists such as calling in arrows and catapult.[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 Roman Colosseum, a gladiator arena setting.[11] The environments of the Colosseum change dynamically in a match in order 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]

The game begins with a tutorial section in the middle of the story, with Roman general Marius Titus 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' adventures 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 to foreign lands, he enjoys a return to his family in Rome and the adulation of his father Leontius, who is himself a former Legion general and current member of the Roman Senate. Marius' visit is cut short as a barbarian incursion takes place, which, after a running battle through the streets of Rome leading to the Forum building, 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, where 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, impressing Vitallion enough to earn a promotion to Centurion.

After 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: he has been traded to the men north of Hadrian's Wall, who are fearsome in reputation. Basilius orders Vitallion and Marius to bring back Commodus. 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.

Commodus continues to intimidate Oswald. Negotiations break down when Commodus murders Oswald. Meanwhile, Marius realizes that the band of barbarians he encountered years ago had invaded Rome and slain his father at Nero's instigation and with his blessing, as a means of eliminating political rivals to the Emperor. Even worse, 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 due to political expediency, and in that guise, avenging his family and his comrades, and saving Rome.

In the guise of a mysterious masked warrior calling himself Damocles, Marius takes advantage of Emperor Nero and his sons' interest in the gladiator sports, and decides to enter the gladiatorial ludi in order 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. After that, Marius confronts Commodus in the Colosseum itself, emerging victorious after a grueling set victories over one-sided battles stacked against him. As "Damocles" and Nero jointly call for each other's deaths, Marius escapes, meeting up with Vitallion. According to Vittalion, Boudica have gathered enough barbarian support to storm the capital 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 as well as the duel 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, and 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 the entire time and whose stated goal is to cause the collapse of Rome. However, Summer helps Marius claim the victory, tossing both Nero and himself off a parapet to their mutual deaths.

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

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".[14][15] 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.[14]

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.[14]

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 pre-rendered trailer with minor gameplay footage.[16] The gameplay footage features players using their own body gestures to control the protagonist to fight against enemies, and perform actions like sword wielding, blocking attacks with shield, and head-butting.[17] The trailer served as a test for Crytek to see whether the general audience liked the Kinect features or not.

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.[18][19] It also became one of the six projects the company was working on. Development of the game continued after its E3 2011 reveal.[20] 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.[14]

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 to play, and that Kinect may not able to detect players' 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.[21] 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".[22] 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.[21] 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.[23] In June 2013 at the E3 Microsoft Conference, Crytek showed a gameplay video. Kinect is no longer part of the active battle but has 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 would like to be a part of it.[24]

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.[25] The game also put focuses on precision and timing, in which it tasks players to hit enemies in the correct time and position in order to gain greater rewards. The developer also hoped that players will deploy creativity when dealing with enemies.[26] A concept called "mashing to mastery" was introduced in Ryse, in which the game's combat was designed to be accessible for both new players and players who are new to the genre, and be challenge when players wanted to master the game.[27] These execution sequences feature 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.[28]

Ryse's intention is to build a cinematic story. The team put emphasis on building the game's character. The protagonist, Marius Titus, was described as a character with three different sides. The game's director of cinematic, 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.[29] The game also put a lot of emphasis on the protagonist's motion capture.[30] To achieve this, the team collaborated with The Imaginarium Studios to develop the cinematic and motion-capture technology of the game.[14] According to Yerli, having good motion capture technology can help "create the ultimate emotion".[31] They 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 can show "claustrophobic brutality" from it. According to Crytek, having a close up camera has always been the game's core element.[32]

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.[32] Unlike Crytek's previous projects, the game is set in ancient Rome, a place where the developer thought was underrepresented in video games.[33] Set in Rome, the game features different Renaissance-inspired imagery. In order to create an accurate environment, the team visited different locations in Rome.[34] 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.[32]

Crytek contracted Ruffian Games to develop a competitive multiplayer mode for Ryse, but the feature was later cut from the final game.[14] Despite that, a co-operative multiplayer mode was introduced, and it tasks players to fight against waves of increasingly difficult human enemies. The team originally hoped to add sea battles, and animals to the game. However, after internal testing, these features were removed as the development team did not think that these features would worked out well.[35] 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.[36] However, Crytek announced that the development of this feature had been ceased in February 2014.[37]

The game's music is composed by Borislav Slavov and Peter Antovszki, Crytek's in-house composer. 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 composed 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.[38]

Release[edit]

Ryse was originally revealed as a Xbox 360 title that was set to be released in early 2011.[14] Revealed at E3 2010 as Codename Kingdom,[39] The game missed its release window and its official name was revealed during E3 2011, as Ryse.[40] It was re-introduced as Ryse: Son of Rome at Microsoft's press conference at E3 2013 with a gameplay demo.[41] The game served as a launch title for the Xbox One, and was released on November 22, 2013.[42] The seasonal pass, featuring different in-game bonuses and items, was released on the same day.[43] 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 features new maps and modes for the multiplayer portion of the game. A Legendary Collection, which features the base game, the game's seasonal pass, and all the additional content released for the game, was released on October 7, 2014.[44]

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.[45] The PC version was released on October 10, 2014.[46] Crytek published the digital version of the PC version of the game, while Deep Silver published the retail version.[47]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings (XONE) 64.30%[48]
(PC) 63.20%[49]
Metacritic (PC) 61/100[50]
(XONE) 60/100[51]
Review scores
Publication Score
Destructoid 5/10[52]
EGM 7.5/10[53]
Eurogamer 5/10[54]
Game Informer 6/10[55]
GameSpot 4/10[57]
GamesRadar 3.5/5 stars[56]
Giant Bomb 3/5 stars[58]
IGN 6.8/10[59]
VideoGamer.com 7/10[60]

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[48][51] and the Microsoft Windows version 63.20% based on 10 reviews and 61/100 based on 27 reviews.[49][50]

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, which he thought was disappointing.[59] Hollander Cooper from GamesRadar strongly praised the game's graphics and the level of details.[56] Simon Miller from VideoGamer.com thought that the game's fulfill its purpose as a Xbox One launch title, and demonstrated the power of the console.[60] Andrew Reiner from Game Informer considered that the game's cinematic as "towering achievements of visual design".[55] Brad Shoemaker from Giant Bomb thought that the graphics had successfully surprised players.[58]

The game's gameplay received polarized reception. Marc Camron from Electronic Gaming Monthly called it "basic". He thought that despite the combat was fluid and smooth, and that the addition of the reward system added a layer of strategy to the game, the game's execution system hindered the flow of the game as he thought that it slowed down the overall pacing of combat. He added that the game's combat lacked complexity and depth, and was too repetitive for players to enjoy.[53] 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.[59] Cooper thought that the game's combat was satisfying, as he thought the game's swordplay had successfully captured the sense of weight and impact. However, he also considered the system repetitive.[56] Reiner criticized the execution sequences, which he considered excessive and over-simplistic.[55] Shoemaker also thought that the game lacked both variety and depth.[58] Mark Walton from GameSpot thought that the game design was too linear, and that the game discouraged any form of exploration.[57]

The game's story also received praise from critics. Camron praised the game's voice-acting and setting, who 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.[53] Albert admired the game's story. He thought that the story was handled with great care. He added that the game's plot is easy for players to follow, even though the game features multiple unexpected twists.[59] Cooper described the game's narrative as surprising. He further added that the later part of the game successfully added personalities to both the game's heroes and villains.[56] However, Walton called the game's script as "laughable". He added that the dialogue in the game made the plot unbelievable for players.[57]

The game's multiplayer portion's reception is also not well received. 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.[53] Miller echoed this statement, and thought that the multiplayer mode failed to hook players.[60] Walton thought that players would not return the mode after experiencing it once, and he described the mode as "bland".[57] Albert, in contrast, considered the mode an unique addition to the game, and thought that it had successfully added some strategy elements to the game.[59] Chris Carter from Destructoid thought that the multiplayer mode was better than the game's main campaign. He described it as a "pleasant surprise".[52]

The amount of content featured in the game received mixed reviews. Miller thought that the game only revolves around one idea, and that led to its simplistic gameplay.[60] Camron and Cooper thought that the campaign was too short for most players.[53][56] Shoemaker thought that as a full-priced game, the game lacked content.[58] Reiner furthered criticized the game's low replay value.[55] Carter thought that players should purchase the game when the game's price dropped. He added that while the game features lots of ideas, most of them failed to deliver.[52]

While no exact sales figure was revealed, Yerli expressed his disappointment with the sales of Ryse for the Xbox One in August 2014, in which he blamed the low sales of the Xbox One.[61]

Sequel[edit]

According to Yerli, Ryse: Son of Rome is not a "one-off" title and that it would serve as the beginning of a new franchise.[62] 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, something Crytek could not agree to, so both parties decided not to continue.[63] Cevat Yerli denied this in an interview with Eurogamer, and added the relationship between Microsoft and Crytek remains strong and positive.[24] Ryse was among one of the last titles developed by Crytek before Crytek entered financial crisis and re-construction.[64] The new Crytek would focused on developing free-to-play games and focused on being a "game service" instead of a video game developer. Despite that, Ryse is still an intellectual property owned by Crytek.[24]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Yoon, Andrew (November 6, 2013). "Ryse: Son of Rome preview: pretty, boring". Shacknews. Retrieved August 10, 2015. 
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  4. ^ Grubb, Jeff (September 3, 2013). "Xbox One’s Ryse features combat with ‘rhythm and flow’". VentureBeat. Retrieved August 10, 2015. 
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