T.A.O. of RYSE: Son of Rome

You’ve seen Gladiator and Spartacus, or perhaps stayed at “Caesar’s Palace” on the Las Vegas Strip,  even ran across it’s rooftops in Assassin’s Creed. Did you join the “Imperial” Legion in Skyrim, or aid Caesar in the Post-Apocalyptic dystopian “New Vegas” of Fallout? Through out history, the magnificence of the Roman Empire has romanced historians, movie goers, and gamers with it’s grandeur and inevitable fall. With the coming of the XBox One, Microsoft has announced a console exclusive, RYSE: Son of Rome. And now, the official trailer:

Let’s begin with some history:

SPQR = Senatus Populuseque Romanus = The Senate and People of Rome. The official emblem for Rome. Chances are we’ll see these letters throughout the game, as you did in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. Now you know what it means!

According legend Rome was founded when Romulus kills his twin brother Remus during an argument of where to establish their city. Since it is Romulus who wins, the city is named “Rome”. AC:Brotherhood trivia: Romulus and Remus were raised by wolves. Thus, the Followers of Romulus wear wolf skins and howl like wolves when you kill them as an homage to their history.

As we begin the trailer, we see a series of scenes seemingly cut out of marble. Marble, obviously, being an integral building component in the Roman empire. Each model describes a specific aspect of the empire. The first one displays Rome in all it’s glory. History note: Rome began on 7 hills.

The 2nd, again describes the greatness of Rome. A great statue of Julius Caesar atop a hill side, and beasts being slaughtered for the feast below him.

3rd, we see the tell-tale helm of a Gladiator. Society’s bloodlust for combat entertainment continues today, as can be seen with the rise of MMA and the persistence of other competitive martial arts and Boxing.

The 4th, we see a model displaying the assassination of Julius Caesar, as he was done in by Brutus on the Senate floor.

“But the Gods know what once was can be again, if a son of Rome were to rise…”

As the dispersed models swirl about in the dark abyss, they finally come together to form a kneeling statue of a Roman Legionnaire. As some color is added to the marble, we zoom in to his face, and we see our (to-be) hero, Marius Titus.

at 1:20, the lights come up behind a unit of soldiers. From the back, Marius marches forth to the head of his squad. As he turns to his to his men, we see his eyes dart back and forth as he scans and surveys the scene. A few devices are being used here. First, you see him coming from the back of his squad. This reinforces the idea of “Rise”ing. our hero is starting from the absolute bottom, not even necessarily the best in his squad. He is, however, now in charge, and he has to motivate his men quick. As he turns and views his men, you can see the uncertainty all over his face. He was just thrown in to this leadership position in the middle of not just a war, but a BATTLE! His men are scared, chances are he’s a bit nervous too, but he’s got to rally them so they risk their lives for the glory of Rome.

“A brave man tastes death once. Cowards, a thousand times over”. This is a paraphrase from William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”. This is quite the rallying concept, and it pulls at the men’s egos and pride. Yes, you may die here, but it will be an honorable death. The cowards? they’ve already died several times, and will do so again. But the Brave? They taste death only once. Are you one of the Brave? ARE YOU?

“We’ve already spilled Barbarian blood. And we know they bleed as we do”. Again, acknowledging the situation. Even as he says the word “blood”, a flaming cannon ball strikes the in the background. So yes, this battle is in full swing. They’re not approaching the battlefield, nor are they lining up their phalanxes and getting ready for the charge. That time has passed, and the siege has begun

1:57 – Beat the shields a few times to ramp up the adrenaline, and let the advance begin!

2:08 – The gameplay video begins. First thing I notice is that the resolution is similar to that of the previous cinematic. Looks like the next-gen systems are showing some real promise! As the soldiers drop from their ship to storm the beach, we see more of the raging battle in the background. More explosions, fire, broken wreckages, and already a few fallen comrades. As they land, we see a giant stone take out an entire unit to the right.

2:12 – not even a full 5 steps, and the soldier to our right gets taken out by an arrow. Marius takes a brief moment to take that in, as it must be quite the shock to the system to see so much chaos in such a short amount of time.

2:20 – After another fireball lands on a ship, we see our first mission message appear on the bottom of the screen, “Destroy the Tower: Secure the Beachhead”. Now we have our specific orders. The main, over-arching goal is to secure the Beachhead. First item on our agenda is to “Destroy the Tower”. This lays the format on how mission updates will be presented on screen: “Immediate Goal: Main Objective”. Also noting the gameplay screen, there’s a distinct lack of, well, everything else. No mini-map, health/stamina bar, experience progress, weapon selection/options, compass, or really anything else. For now, we’re just going to take in all the beauty of, uhh, a 4th century city under siege?

2:30 – After running up the beach and ducking under another volley of flaming arrows, we get in a bit closer and see yet another one of our fellow legionaries struck by an arrow. As he rolls to his feet, we are greeted with the level of gore that will be present in this game, and it looks like it’s going to be pretty high! Through his screams, we see that the arrow has landed somewhere in his face, if not through his eye then very close to it. Again, Marius takes a moment to internalize it, but ultimately regains his focus and pushes on. By now, our mission message has moved to the top right corner of the screen. Still, no other HUD items on display.

Speaking of the upper right hand corner, INCOMING!! As everything goes muffled for a bit, we are then shown a Trireme crashing ashore with more men spilling out of it. Looks like they’re really pushing the confusion of war theme in this trailer!

3:05 – We enter our first battle encounter. For now, it will only be against a single opponent. It is HIGHLY unlikely that it will be this simple for the rest of the game, but let’s just ease in to the battle mechanics for now. As we can see, it is in the over-the-shoulder 3rd person view. As we circle around, Marius takes a few quick slashes to start it up. Then, at 3:10, we enter a slow-motion quick-time event (QTE). A blue “X” flashes above the enemy, and Marius performs a spectacular finishing execution.

3:15 – once the first foe is dispatched, enter another 2 enemies for Marius to deal with. In this flourish of sword play, we see him use his shield not only as a protective device, but also as a weapon. A few more sword slashes and shield bashes courtesy of more QTE’s, and we are treated with another few executions.

From these events, its is readily clear that these QTE’s are going to be integral in the combat mechanics. There was even a combo where the player was required to enter multiple QTE’s in succession in order to perform the execution in it’s entirety. From these 2 events, it should be noted the fluidity of the movements as the gameplay enters and exits combat scenarios. The camera automatically rights itself behind the player and there is no loss in rhythm.

3:36 – Momentarily between combat sequences, you see Marius raise his shield to nothingness before the enemy attacks. This quick little slip by the player indirectly shows another aspect of the combat mechanics: Blocking and counter! The player was anticipating an attack from the enemy, and prematurely raised the shield. If the player sucessfully blocks an attack with shield at the right time, will that automatically initiate a quick-time counter-attack sequence, much like in Assassin’c Creed? Also starting at this time, we see Marius enter a fight with multiple foes who are attacking him simultaneously. During the QTE’s, we see varying buttons appear above their heads and Marius dispatches them in succession with cinematic flair.

3:50 – A few things begin to take place. First, we hear a voice scream “ARROWS!!”, and a volley of arrows come storming in. We also see the mission message reappear at the bottom of the screen, only this time it reads “Destroy the Tower: Rally your Soldiers”. A few sword pumps later, we see a downward arrow appear in the battlefield, apparently where Marius is supposed to make a stand.

4:00 – As we make our way up the battlefield, we see a new message appear at the bottom, this time the “A” button with the message “Rally Formation!”  (Note: Though all the battle events, all the required button presses have been X, Y, or B. this is the first time A has been used. Keep it in mind that during battle sequences, it will never be “A”)

4:04 – Marius calls his troops forth, and we have a new message, “Destroy the Tower: Kill the Enemy Archers”. At this point, we enter an entirely new battle mechanic. With the men lined up with Marius, your shields are upright in front with your swords pointing ahead. The new action for “A” is “[Hold] Block Arrows”. As soon as someone yells “INCOMING!!” we quickly press and hold A and we see everyone bring up their shields and brace for impact.

Once the arrows have landed, our troops resume the advance with their newly received arrows as decor for their shields.

4:26 – After the 2nd volley, apparently the phalanx has pushed far enough for a new command to become active, “RT [Hold] Charge and Throw”. With this command, the soldiers reach back with their spears holding their shields up, and let them fly after the next volley of arrows pass. This happens a few times, with each volley taking out a few more. Just before the 2nd spear volley, we see highlighting arrows appear over the remaining archers to let us know how many are left.

One last volley of spears, and Marius pushes and rallies his men to refocus on taking out that tower

“In the interest of time”. In the original trailer gameplay demo, there’s more action to be seen. But, since it’s more of the same, we’ll skip ahead to demonstrate more gameplay mechanics.

5:00 – We’ve made it up the tower, and now our objective is “Destroy the Tower: Get to the Catapult Position”. As Marius jogs up the tower,, the mission objective arrow focuses on the catapult in question to guide our way. Also there’s a quick slide-jump over some rubble, showing a little bit of maneuvering in the environment. A quick Spartan Kick at 5:15, and we’re ready to capture the catapult.

A few words of encouragement to his troops, and we see the objective update with “Hold Off the Barbarians”. Excellent, an endurance round as we wait for our boys to secure and manage the catapult. Note: in both the Spartan Kick from before and the Boot Stomp in this battle, both actions involved the foot required the “Y” button. Another thing to keep in mind during the execution cinematics: If it looks like you’re about to kick/stomp, it’s going to be “Y”. In round 2 of this battle, we see Marius about to get overwhelmed by Barbarians. When this is about to happen, we see the option to call in some Archer Support with LB. A few more QTE’s and we’re back in business.

6:28 – “LB Fire!” Cinematic view of a giant rock hurtling towards the initial tower to be taken, and we get to see the tower crumble in defeat.

Cue sword spin, turn, and walk away like a boss. Remember, Badasses don’t watch explosions.

Once all this is completed, we are treated to epic horns and an epic panoramic of the rest of the legion rushing the gates and a devastating view of the wasted battlefield.

Cue title logo, Microsoft Studios, and Crytek.

WHAT TO EXPECT

  • This is going to be an Xbox One exclusive
  • Set during the height of the Roman Empire
  • Rise, or “Ryse” to greatness story
  • Lots of QTEs
  • Lots of blood and gore
  • Support from off screen allies
  • Counter attacks

What cannot be known from this trailer is the depth of the storyline. As stated in the beginning of this post, the Roman Empire has inspired a great number of artistic and dramatic works. To have a game where none of that is incorporate would be a disservice, in my opinion. Yes, there will be plenty of over the top action that will keep gamers entertained, there is no doubt about that. But for those who have been enamored by the history and legacy of the Romans, I hope that they are not let down.

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