Rise of the Rōnin Review – Mastering the Way of the Sword

Rise of the Rōnin Review

Masters in the art of combat, Team Ninja has created a range of epic titles that allow you to become a virtuoso with the sword. With a focus on intricate battle mechanics and immersive historical Japanese settings, games by the legendary developers have garnered a devoted following. For their latest venture, Rise of the Rōnin, they embark on their most ambitious adventure yet, but will this departure from their traditional style resonate with fans, or will it dilute the core essence of their renowned combat-focused gameplay?

Set in the Bakumatsu period, you play as one of the Blade Twins, a talented duo who have been brought up under the care and guidance of the Veiled Edge after their village was burnt to the ground. With the nation in political turmoil and crime becoming more prevalent, you decide to tackle the corruption that imbues the government in order to restore peace to Japan. Side-stepping the mythology that enshrouds Team Ninja’s previous titles, Rise of the Rōnin is grounded in reality. On your adventure, you will encounter historical figures that provide insightful information and further immerse you in the time and era. Due to this, it is easy to delve into the wonderful world and get lost in the vast number of tales within.

The Twilight of the Samurai

The time period is particularly interesting as it helps the game strafe away from its peers. Due to the Western influences of the era, this leads to the inclusion of a large variety of weapons which adds an additional layer to combat. You can equip a primary, secondary and side weapon from a broad selection giving you several methods to decimate anyone who stands before you. Each melee weapon has pros and cons which will encourage you to experiment until you find a suitable accompaniment for your playstyle. As you progress, you will unlock different stances which will give you an advantage over certain foes. This leads to a glorious dance of death as you flit between enemies, altering your posture to quickly eviscerate everyone on the battlefield.

Similar to other games in its genre, stamina, categorized as Ki, significantly influences the outcome of battles. If you decide to repeatedly attack, your meter will quickly drain and you will be left vulnerable. As a result, you must wait for the opportune time to strike and be patient in fights. Blocking is vital and a strong method to quell the barrage of attacks especially when used in conjunction with other techniques. At times, enemies will unleash a ferocious attack that you must evade. Due to this, you will need to learn their pattern and maintain distance to not get overwhelmed. Their maneuvers are well signaled to give you time to react and parry. Doing so will dwindle their Ki and position them in a stagger state which allows you to execute a special attack.

Death From Every Angle

Range weapons such as guns and shurikens allow you to damage enemies from afar. This is particularly useful when trying to manage the variety of warriors that are out for your blood. Due to the implementation of the grappling hook, you can take to the rooftops to escape difficult situations. In fact, you can deal with many of your opponents before they even notice your presence. Stalking through the reeds is a thrill and adds even more variety to the deep and immersive combat.

Creating bonds plays a significant role in the adventure. Throughout, you will encounter characters and grow your relationship, calling on them to aid you in battle. You can strengthen your connection by giving gifts and developing their story through specific missions. The inclusion of dialogue choices creates a dynamic system where your decisions impact how people perceive you. With your partner by your side, you can switch personas during fights which is a great feature that allows you to lure enemies with one individual and strike with another. Although I was unable to test the stability, you can also invite friends to take on certain missions together. This gives even more variety to create a truly absorbing combat system that makes each fight a blast.

Behind the Mask

Although the game is difficult, there are several considerations in place to support engagement. With three difficulty options, you can select a suitable level and alter it whenever you like. In addition to this, there is also a ton of side content that allows you to gain XP and level up for a better chance against bigger and tougher bosses. Doing so allows you to personalize the experience further by creating a unique build through the expansive skill tree. Rather than just improving your stats, you unlock new abilities that develop your skillset.

The world itself is full of character with long countrysides that lead to quaint villages. With the aid of your steed, a wing-suit contraption and your grapple, you can quickly venture across the varied terrain. Conventions of the genre are burrowed within the design to emit an air of familiarity throughout your trip. Although it sticks to expectations, the core gameplay enhances typical objectives. While the environment is diverse and full of content, it lacks the visual spectacle typically associated with a Sony exclusive. Cutscene have cinematic flair reminiscent of classic samurai films but certain regions on your adventure are a little barren. This doesn’t detract from the overall experience, however, it’s not quite as remarkable as some similar offerings in the genre.

Rise of the Rōnin takes Team Ninja’s formidable combat system and lets it revel in a large open world. Swinging your blade has never felt better due to the number of options available to annihilate your opponent. Even though it follows the expectations of the genre and the visuals are mixed, each step in feudal Japan is exhilarating and pulsates with the spirit of the samurai.

***A PlayStation 5 code was provided by the publisher***

The Good

  • Excellent Combat System
  • Difficulty Options
  • Creating Character Bonds

The Bad

  • Conventional Open World
  • Visuals Weaker than Other Sony Exclusives
  • Inspirations Are Instantly Apparant