At the Xbox Lounge at Comic Con International, Microsoft made Xbox Ones available for a demo of Ryse: Son of Rome. The demo was the same featured at E3 earlier this year and I was able to get some hands-on time with the game.
Ryse focuses on Roman General Marius Titus and how he rises to command the Roman Army. By no means is it historically accurate, nor is it meant to be. It's meant to be a lifelong journey in the shoes of Titus and about his rise to a certain form of power. The demo has Titus’ command storming a beach, facing archers, creating phalanxes and showcasing some of Titus’ fighting and command skills.
The combat felt fairly heavy, which I suppose makes a fair amount of sense. Large physical specimens fighting with heavy armor and weaponry shouldn’t lead to be to characters light on their feet. Still, Titus felt a bit slow and never seemed to pick up the pace despite how much I was trying to push him. The camera was slow enough to match his pace so at least there was a good sense of consistency, but it felt almost too cinematic at times. Sword fighting felt comfortable enough in but even though I was using a large shield to defense myself, I felt vulnerable in most fights. I sustained damage fairly quickly and technically “died” a few times, though the demo never made me actually start over as a result.
Much of the sword fighting included quicktime events and not even necessarily as finishing moves. Ryse ideally won’t over-require these types of actions as I could see it significantly slowing up the gameplay. However, it does allow for Titus to take solid advantage of his surroundings. For example, when I fighting a couple of attackers on a bridge, the quicktime event allowed me to throw one off the bridge as a finishing move. I advanced towards the base of the bridge to take on the other foe. After a few blows that knocked him closer to the wall, the QTE allowed me to pin him against the wall and enact a finishing slash.
Once I moved further up the beach, my command was met with a staggered wall of archers. A prompted button hold created a phalanx to ward off incoming arrows. Most of the arrows were easily deflected as the prompt gave you enough time to get your phalanx set. Only a delayed reaction would cause a few arrows to get through and take down some of my soldiers. The phalanx formating allowed for spear-throwing retaliation that targeted almost too many archers simultaneously. I was able to wipe them out a bit too quickly and so it felt a little too powerful on my part.
After that, I got into a couple sword fights (where I encountered my QTE example above) while my soldiers were taking care of the necessary tasks of overtaking a catapult and taking down a tower. Button prompts had Titus yell his commands and from there I awkwardly waited. I fended off a few attackers but mostly walked around the area while my soldiers to completed their tasks. I would preferred to see Titus more involved with the action or serve a greater purpose than a temporary guard.
Overall, Ryse: Son of Rome was fairly enjoyable and comfortable enough to play, but I didn't have much of a desire to keep the demo going or to get my hands back on it. Multiplayer was unavailable, but that portion of the game has been announced to include a glatidator arena setting. Whether it will be something worthy of a day one pick up for the Xbox One shall remained to be seen, though.