Ryse: Son of Rome

In Depth On Combat
by Matt Miller on Jun 12, 2013 at 09:08 PM
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Crytek
Rating: Mature
Platform: Xbox One

Ryse has taken advantage of this year's E3 to reveal an extended demo of Ryse: Son of Rome, which you can watch in its entirety. We sat down with the Crytek development team and quizzed them on how the combat system works, and learned how the many interlocking systems all support a visceral melee experience.

Several fundamental moves form the core of Ryse's combat system, and Crytek showed off three of them today. Protagonist Marius Titus' most basic move is a slash of his sword - a targeted strike against an enemy attacker. The push maneuver is mapped to another button, and encompasses shield smashes, kicks, and other maneuvers that are built to knock attackers back. Finally, the deflect move is a timed block that can be used to stagger foes. Timing is more important than facing when attempting a deflect; tap the button, and you'll automatically rotate to the correct facing. However, time your deflect well, and you'll stagger your enemy for a longer period of time.

In combination, these three attacks help Marius to take down enemy foes; once they are brought to a critical health level, the opportunity to perform an execution comes up. These quick time events are also timing based, and can sometimes even allow for double executions in one furious cinematic moment. Crytek has included approximately 100 different executions in the game, so you're guaranteed lots of variety. Strong timing on your executions results in an increase in your current health -- better timing equals a larger boost.

While much of Ryse focuses on Marius' own combat skills, another important element of the game is Marius as a leader of men. Many areas of the game allow Marius to call his troops to join him, and Marius' commands determine whether his squad of soldiers meet their objectives. In the demo, we observe Marius forming a cadre of Roman soldiers advancing on a fortified wall, occasionally pausing to raise shields and hold off blasts of arrows. Fail to time your orders correctly, and you'll lose warriors from your group - lose too many, and you'll reach a fail state.

Marius' leadership capabilities are evident in his more targeted orders during freeform fights, which can be implemented either with a press of a button or by speaking the orders out loud, which in turn is picked up by the Xbox One's Kinect. Either way, your soldiers will charge a siege weapon, fire off a volley of arrows, or any number of other activities. These commands are not as simple as one-use power-ups or timed boosts. Rather, using orders at appropriate times is essential. For instance, call for a volley of arrows and then move in to the back row of enemy attackers, and you could be the one getting peppered with shafts.

Marius' actions on the battlefield don't occur in a vacuum. Ryse also includes a scoring system that pays attention to your actions during a fight and applies a numerical value to your efforts. String long combos of original and varied attacks together without taking a hit, and your hit counter total results in a high score. In turn, that score is tallied at the end of a level and compared against your friends. Tablet smart glass support lets you examine your score in comparison to a friend, and even look at individual encounters in detail to watch how your friend's approach may have differed from you own.

Ryse's focus on brutal and often gory kills won't be for everyone, and quick time events take on a central role in the combat mechanics -- which might not delight all players. However, the battles on display in the demo make for some incredibly choreographed and exciting melees, and repeated viewings of the same demo reveal how many choices players have in how they approach a fight. The proof will undoubtedly be in the feel of the game once we're given an opportunity to get our hands on. Until then, Ryse stands out for its singular focus on cinematic combat, and is an early highlight for the Xbox One's launch.

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Ryse: Son of Rome

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