Ryse: Son of Rome didn’t exactly get a warm reception when it was re-revealed a few months ago. It was criticized for seeming to rely heavily on quick time events. Is this the case with the as yet unknown Xbox One title? With the November 22nd release date drawing near, it was possible to play the challenge portion of Ryse at a recent event. One way or another, I was about to find out how what this game is all about.

Challenges are an additional Gladiator mode, separate from any story elements that Ryse may contain. The whole point of challenges is to literally jump in on any map and take on a group of objectives. An idea that has been seen in many other video-games. And yet, it felt somewhat revitalized when played on next generation hardware.

Expect objectives to revolve around killing a specified number of enemies or even burn tents found within an arena. It certainly wasn’t an easy task to kill enemies since they more than often adapted to character attacks. There were a few times where enemies also attempted to overwhelm me by surrounding the character and rushing in for a group attack. It certainly felt like a challenge to complete each of the objectives included in the challenges played.

This was made even more exciting by the use of various traps set around the arena. A quick push into an area and an enemy is left wide open to attacks after being surrounded by spikes. Interesting, however, is that enemies can also make use of these traps.

The crowds react to the player’s performance and will cheer wildly when the character is doing well. It’s a ego boost, but one that shows the kind of detail that players can potentially expect from Ryse. It’s slighly unclear what gameplay effects (if any) this has.

Controlling the character is fairly easy and the face buttons are used to attack with the weapon or defend with the shield. This is not the average button masher, though, since it is necessary to make every attack count. Enemies won’t just lie down and get defeated from half-hearted attempts. Both X and Y are used to perform two different attacks that are used to attack enemies with appropriate timing.

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The right bumper is then used to perform magic assigned to it. The magic power used during the demonstration made it possible to repel a group of enemies. An extremely helpful power when completely surrounded. A magic bar is depleted every time the power was used – making it less feasible to over-use it all the time.

Being able to chain attacks will result in building up a combo. This combo can result in the character earning bonuses such as the ability to recover health. This really gives a sense that Ryse is attempting to make players work for any benefits that are usually taken for granted. It will make the player want to use their weapon properly.

It’s possible to finish every enemy with an execution attack. It basically consists of hitting the enemy a few times and pressing B to stun them. Then it’s required to press the button that corresponds to the color surrounding an enemy. It’s a great way to avoid the use of quick time events and works rather well. The executions in the demonstration were fairly easy to do, but the gory outcomes more than made up for it.

All of this helps earning rewards and it makes it all the more satisfying. It’s clear that the best way to play Ryse is to make the most of the available tools. For example, each enemy requires a different strategy when defeating them. Enemies carrying fire weapons require the use of a shield swipe to knock them back – so it was then possible to attack them. As mentioned, enemies will also make use of the same tools found in each arena.

The possibility of playing with someone else is also greatly welcomed. Specially after dying from a particularly difficult objective. The other player can easily heal the downed character. It shows that Ryse is just as comfortable at being a co-op experience as it is at going solo.

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Now the real twist is that it’s possible for each challenge to never feel the same. Elements within the arena maps are randomly placed each time. This makes it far more feasible to want to come back and play each challenge.

On top of this, players can also build challenges to play or even send to other players. Interestingly enough, Crytek is making good use of the SmartGlass Xbox One integration. It makes it possible to create these various challenges on a SmartGlass supported device and even customize character appearance.

It’s not possible to change the weapons, but it didn’t make Ryse any less appealing. It looked incredible in action and fast paced. This felt like a true Roman action-game experience. Although the constraints on the arena did make it feel like it wasn’t really possible to explore much. Hopefully other maps are larger and with more intricate paths to follow.

The idea of being able to use SmartGlass in this manner is a great idea, and shows that the developers are trying to bring some new ideas to the genre. If anything, Ryse: Son of Rome far exceeded any expectations I had prior to actually trying the game.If the story is anything like these challenges, then this is certainly one launch title that can possibly warrant the purchase of the Xbox One required to play it.