This blog is not about Ryse. Well, in the big scheme of things it isn't. I don't know why but Ryse: Son of Rome seems to get a lot of criticism. Some of it is blatant and obvious, and some of it is subtle and discreet. It's almost like people hear you're playing it and they snicker at you behind your back. As I play through the game I often wonder if I'm playing same game as the harshest critics or am I missing something. It's neither the best nor the worst game I've ever played - it is a fair game though. And it does introduce a change to the traditional Quick Time Event (QTE) that I believe is a step in the right direction, or at the very least, adopts a nice little method of making those of us who suck at Quick Time Events from hating the game for this reason, and this reason alone.

Before I jump into the fire, I will say this in defense of Ryse. The combat system reminds me somewhat of the Batman Arkham games - how you fight multiple opponents at once and can string together these multi-hit combos. It worked really well in the Arkham games, and it works really well in Ryse. One of the coolest things I've seen in the game was reminiscent of a particular scene from 300. In Ryse, the Romans move together in this "tightly-knit phalanx formation" with you in command. The enemy archers launch a barrage of flaming arrows, and when you block, your squad takes refuge behind their shields, leaving you a narrow slit of visibility. I dunno, just hearing the thwack of the arrows in your shield and seeing the flaming arrows burn, while you lower your guard and launch your own counter-attack. It was nicely done. Definitely an "Aw, yeah!" moment.

But we're not here to talk about Ryse, remember. We're here to talk about how Ryse made a relatively simple change to the traditional Quick Time Event and vastly improved the experience, at least for me...and who knows, maybe you too?

Before I proceed, it might be prudent to at least first talk about what a Quick Time Event (QTE) is and how I really feel about them.

In video games, a quick time event (QTE) is a method of context-sensitive gameplay in which the player performs actions on the control device shortly after the appearance of an on-screen prompt. It allows for limited control of the game character during cut scenes or cinematic sequences in the game. Performing the prompted action improperly or not at all results in the character's failure at their task and often in an immediate game over.

The term "quick time event" is attributed to Yu Suzuki, director of the game Shenmue which used the QTE feature to a great degree. They allow for the game designer to create sequences of actions that cannot be expressed through the game's standard control scheme, or to constrain the player into taking only one specific action at a critical moment. While some uses of QTE have been considered as favorable additions to gameplay, the general use of QTE has been panned by journalists and players alike, as these events can break the flow of the game and force the player to repeat sections until they master the event. (courtesy of Wikipedia)

If you've been a gamer for any length of time, chances are you have played a game that uses QTE. They're quite popular. Some of my most recent (and favorite) games that have used them are The Walking Dead and Mass Effect 2 and 3.

To summarize, a specific button or controller motion flashes on the screen and you have a split second to mimic the response or something bad happens. Usually death or serious bodily harm.

You can find plenty of opinions and postings about QTEs, and certainly this is true of how Ryse implements the strategy. Some gamers love them. Some gamers hate them.  I happen to like them...or the concept of them. But, if I'm being honest...I suck at them. I really do. I don't know how many games I've played that use them that frustrate me to no end because I can't get past a particular Quick Time Event. God of War, I'm looking at you.

And I don't know what's worse - the games where you fail it and die, or the games where you fail it and it basically makes you start a particular sequence over. Either way, you're starting over.

So, while I like the idea of a Quick Time Event being used to add a certain degree of interactivity to a particular scene, I am not a fan of them when they obstruct forward progress and punish those of us who might not be as nimble with the controller.

Ryse uses Quick Time Events as an element of its combat sequences, specifically when you pull off a "finishing move". But what separates it from some of the others, it doesn't necessarily punish you if you don't pull it off correctly...the action continues and just don't get credit (or the extra points) for pulling off the move.

To illustrate how the game uses this technique - whenever an enemy sustains enough damage a skull appears above their head. If you pull the right trigger, it initiates the "finishing move". The bad guy character flashes either blue or yellow, and you hit the corresponding button. Now if you hit the right color throughout the move, you get max points and are treated to a Centurion Execution. If you screw it up, like I tend to do, you get a Recruit Execution. The best I can tell, the only difference (besides the one to your ego) is the amount of points you earn. But the bottom line...the important factor to doesn't disrupt the flow of the game, yet it still adds a certain degree of interactivity to the experience. I make every effort to get the combination right, but I don't want to be blocked when I don't get it.

While this video kind of mocks the QTEs from Ryse, just think about how much it would suck for those of us who might not be all that great at them, if we were somehow punished every time we failed one. And also, the clip shows off the "tightly-knit phalanx formation" I mentioned earlier. Sweet, eh?

Whether you're a fan of Quick Time Events or not, or you agree with how Ryse adopted and adapted the concept to fit their game, the fact they implemented an innovative and fresh approach with this popular feature is praiseworthy, especially for those of us who enjoy the feature...but just aren't very good at it.