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Published February 26, 2014

Having finally gotten up the courage (and, you know, savings) to order an Xbox One recently, I’ve spent the last week exploring a game that I couldn’t wait to buy the minute I saw a trailer for it so many months ago. Ryse: Son Of Rome was to me one of the most exciting aspects of the Xbox One release, and frankly one thing has been running through my mind during every minute I’ve spent playing: how has this game not been made before?

Okay, so it has aspects of the Playstation series God Of War, and you could even make an argument that parts of it play like Assassin’s Creed in a new setting. But this game plays up its story – that of the vengeance tale of fictional Roman general Marius Titus – in a way that made me think a bit further back to the epic films that popularized the gladiators and warfare of ancient empires.

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Gladiator is the most noteworthy example, and somewhat shockingly never managed to spawn a major successful gaming title. In fact, the closest thing you can find to a Gladiator game in any sort of popular forum is at the Betfair Casino, where there is a “Gladiator” slot machine featured. The game is quite clearly based on the 2000 film starring Russell Crowe. But while it offers an entertaining backdrop for a casino game, it isn’t exactly an action/adventure experience. Going a bit further, there are multiple action games in mobile app markets with gladiator themes, but they appear to be more closely based on the recent Starz series Spartacus.

300 comes to mind as well, and has also had very little success on the gaming front. There was a PSP game called 300: March To Glory, which was met with largely negative reviews. Additionally, there’s currently an app game called 300: Rise Of An Empire – Seize Your Glory, that is actually fairly enjoyable, but is essentially a gameplay preview of the upcoming film sequel.

So all in all, popular film franchises have failed to spawn the kind of game that I suddenly felt like I was playing in Ryse: Son Of Rome. It simply felt like a long time coming… as if little bits of Gladiator, 300, and even the Spartacus series were all sprinkled into what’s ultimately a very satisfying original console gaming experience. But what is there specifically to love about Ryse: Son Of Rome? Here are my five favorite things so far.

It’s A Beautiful Game

Read pretty much any review on Ryse and you’ll find the look of the game front and center. Taking full advantage of the Xbox One’s capabilities, the game is stunningly beautiful and shows off a variety of complex environments in breathtaking detail.

The Narrative Is Complex

To be clear, the single player campaign doesn’t last too long in Ryse. However, what’s there has an almost cinematic complexity, jumping back and forth in time to let you play out a dramatic “fall of Rome” story, while gradually showing you how things came to be that way.

Combat Repetition Is Fine

Read through IGN’s review, or really any criticism of Ryse, and you’ll find the action and combat repetition is the main issue people take. Personally, I don’t mind it so much. “Hack and slash” applies, and combat doesn’t ever get very complex, but these games are more about story, progress, and battle than about cleverness in combat.

Co-op Is Great

The co-op mode is inventive and enjoyable. Essentially, it puts you in the Roman Colosseum alongside a partner and lets you battle together, which adds elements to the combat of the game, as you have to protect one another. Another fun twist is that you choose a god to worship, and receive various boosts or abilities according to your choice.

There’s Potential For More

Most good games these days wind up being franchises, and it’s exciting to think that Ryse: Son Of Rome may only be the first chapter of more to come. This is pure speculation, but expanded, more complex editions would be amazing.

All in all, I’d recommend this game to anyone who asks. Be prepared for a short campaign, but otherwise, look at this as the sword-and-sandals gaming epic you’ve been waiting for ever since you first saw Gladiator and 300. Ryse is a blast.

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