A Rough Start
Ryse began life as Codename Kingdoms, a Kinect Only Xbox 360 exclusive title back when Microsoft was determined to make Kinect the next best thing after the unimaginable success of Nintendo's Wii. Unfortunately, Crytek's work on that title eventually needed to mutate into an Xbox One launch game for various reasons and due to its motion-controlled design roots, Ryse comes across as feeling like half of a game. Where players would obviously be flailing around their arms to mimic vicious executions, we're given quick-time event (QTE) button prompts. Where players are encouraged to yell out commands to their archers or fellow centurions, there is an option to hold down RB and skip all of the yelling. What I find interesting is that this game began life as a Kinect-only title on a console that didn't require Kinect. Then, to be a launch title with a console that was sold with a Kinect...a console that was at one time considered to be built around Kinect, making the motion sensing peripheral "essential" to the Xbox One experience. Why did Crytek drop the motion gaming from this title again? My guess is that the core issue here is beyond anything Kinect can ultimately be blamed for... this game is just not that great.
Ryse has some solid concepts going for it. First of all, it's not a shooter, so good for Crytek at not making yet-another-Crysis game. However, the game's setting and characters are more than meets the eye. Having a game about revenge that doesn't necessarily feel like it's about revenge the whole time, is refreshing. I wouldn't nominate the story or the acting for any awards, but they're definitely serviceable. Also, the game is just stunning at some points. For a launch title, this game really has minimal visual hiccups and when it's firing on all cylinders, it's a perfect case for the Xbox One as a true "Next Gen" platform. The multiplayer, though I didn't get time to get and real experience with, is definitely a boon to the game and not something that feels unnecessary or tacked on. Again, something Crytek should be commended for here. I feel like Ryse is in the Assassin's Creed territory as far as the beginning of a franchise goes. I have a feeling the game has lots of potential to show massive improvement on its systems and feel in a sequel. However, as of this writing, there are many rumblings of trouble at Crytek and even reports that "Ryse 2" development has ceased. Even if this is true, I feel like Microsoft has invested just enough into the brand to make sure there is a sequel to get those "curiosity" sales. I would be very interested in seeing how this franchise could grow.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately Ryse was marketed as a game far beyond the level of quality it truly hits. Microsoft needed a gorgeous launch title that would look great on posters, in trailers, and on shelves, and that's what it got. Unfortunately, the game doesn't live up to the marketing hype. This is no new concept and I don't claim to have figured out something that no one else has, but in retrospect, as these Second Opinion reviews will always be, I have to say that this whole experience makes sense. Ryse could have easily been a sleeper hit for the Kinect, but as a launch title for the successor to the 360, it will have probably sold many more copies in the end.