Close your eyes for a moment and picture a video game that pairs the gameplay style of Gears of War with a theme and storyline similar to Ridley Scott's Gladiator. Ok, now open them...
When I first put the disc in for RYSE: Son of Rome, I didn't know what to expect in terms of how to play or what the campaign mode would like. Right away, I was blown away by the graphics and scenery. The detail was incredible. I really didn't think that there would be a visual difference between the XBOX 360 and XBOX One, but I was wrong.
Then, as I progressed through the introductory level, I realized that the gameplay and camera/viewing angle was just like Gears of War and Mass Effect, two of my favorite game series. Needless to say, it wasn't hard to catch on after that element revealed itself, especially since RYSE is one of those games where it tells you how to play and what buttons to push at the very beginning, so you're not left in the dark and don't get your ass kicked by the AI right away.
Unlike Gears of War, but similar to Mass Effect, RYSE is a game based on earning experience points that you can use to improve your character, Marius Titus, in order to make clowning barbarians more entertaining, climb the ranks of the Roman Legions, and achieve Marius' ultimate goal: avenging the death of his father, mother, and sister.
Experience points earned in battle can be spent on attributes like health, focus, combat skills, and several variations of executions (pretty much like the famed "finishing moves" from Mortal Kombat). Executions are what make this game awesome, which is where RYSE shines.
As you're dueling with a single enemy or taking on several at once (like Neo vs. 100 Agent Smith's... But not quite 100), you'll strike your opponent(s) and deplete their health until your victim(S) reach a critical health level, indicated by a little symbol above their head. When this happens, and you get the signal to go in for the kill, you press the first button your HUD indicates in an upcoming combination of finishing moves.
Time slows down for Marius just like it did for Neo in The Matrix; the camera angle zooms into Marius and his foe, background noise is muffled, and the sound effects generated when you slit your enemy's throat, amputate his arm, break his bones, or execute him Legionary-style are all amplified and super dramatic (I recommend playing with at least 2.1 surround sound). Each button you press and move Marius makes is singled out and emphasized too. It's a pretty cool part of the game, albeit pretty gory too. Viewer discretion is advised.
Another great feature about the gameplay in RYSE is being able to do hand-to-hand combat, while simultaneously commanding the rest of your legion. For instance, if you are about to lead your boys toward a structure being defended by archers, you'll tell your soldiers to form a legion and march forward.
Once you can tell that the archers ahead are getting ready to fire, you give the command and your men basically form a turtle shell for the group; the men in front raise their shields while the men in back hold their shields overhead. This helps to protect all of you from arrow fire. Then, after the arrows have hit your shields, you march forward until the archers fire again.
In addition to marching formations, you'll command other things on the battle field as well. Sometimes you'll find yourself being swarmed by the enemy, but luckily you have archers standing by for back up. Give your archers the command and they will take out your surrounding enemies to give you better odds.
Though I'm only about 25% of my way through the campaign mode of RYSE, I really like this game and find it very entertaining. There's even a whole gladiator-style mode I haven't tried yet where you only fight in the arena, solo against enemies, one-on-one, or with your comrades against another team. The goal in this mode being to win your way up to Sparticus and Maximus status, earning new weapons and armor along the way.
RYSE is a hell of a game overall. If you liked the Gears of War games and have a soft spot for Roman history (both fiction and non-), I would give RYSE a try. I bet you'll like it.