Ryse wishes to mimic Hollywood’s glorious sword and sandals costume epics, but only as video games would see them. There is no Technicolor – only splashes of red. Charlton Heston doesn’t star either. The violence does.
Muscular and masculine, Ryse’s expends all of its energy on swords. Their ability to sensationally impale becomes a mindless and efficiently cruel fantasy. To an extent, it’s decorative, swiftly choreographed with splendid strikes, counters, and butting shields. Armor plating bows with the motion. Ryse’s accomplishment is mastery of showmanship, utterly empty yet a stalwart of game-doms most public cruelty.
At the heart are feeble politicians, either incompetent or effeminate. To Ryse, it’s reason enough to kill them. If you’re without brutish adages and a weapon, you’re useless. It’s absolute fantasy, not because of its spiritual end, rather for its saturation of dick-wagging potency. Ryse is an advertisement. “This is next-gen,” it shouts. All the while, boats explode and thinly drawn lead character Marius joins a march on Roman beaches in early A.D.’s own D-Day. Ferocity and sweat are Ryse’s currency.
Little patience is evident. Ryse is a sure launch title. Set up bloodshed and go – someone paid $500 for the novelty of stabbing abdomens and erasing limbs, so it is better to rush into the melee. Ryse showcases how affluent it is in M-rated swordplay, spending eight plus hours mascaraing a barbarian race because they’re not Romans.
If Ryse were true, Marius would be honored in textbooks as history’s greatest killer. Were he a WWII pilot, his dogfight stickers would have covered the body and cockpit window of his aircraft. The game’s lone extension is still broader violence – exchange XP for lengthier killing blows. Marius stabs his foe once; level up to stab twice, and again to maybe jump to four. The reward for killing is better killing where the killee is sufficiently killed again. “Double tap” was the term used in 2009’s splendid undead spoof Zombieland. Ryse introduces the “sextuple tap.” This lacks the same linguistic kick.
Unquestionably, there is a gross satisfaction in such merit-less, purely gleeful depravity. It’s like video games of old – Here is a thing. It must die. In pieces and short bursts, Ryse carries a heft like few others until the scenario is drug through another six hours of ambulatory stoppage. Its high point is either the bombastic beach assault or a grisly (but sightly) conflict under a burning wickerman, set upon a mountain of human skulls. Scenery, when not blocked by another detached limb, has an eye for artistry. A few years on, Ryse is still a beaut in terms of transcribing realism at better resolutions than what came before. It’s a shame all anyone wants to do with that power is cut things.