PlayStation 5 Reviews Video Games

“Rise Of The Ronin” Review


It’s always struck me as odd how some video game fans — and some video game critics — get annoyed when you compare a game to another game in a review. Or even just mention another game in passing.

Well, those people are going to be really annoyed by this review of Rise Of The Ronin (PlayStation 5), an epic, third-person, open world, hack & slash action / adventure game set in ancient Japan that’s a lot like 2020’s Ghost Of Tsushima, an epic, third-person, open world, hack & slash action / adventure game set in ancient Japan (and which, by the way, is coming to PC on May 16th).

Except that once you get deep into Rise Of The Ronin, you realize it’s as different from Ghost Of Tsushima as it is similar.

Rise Of The Ronin

Set in the 19th century,

towards the end of the Edo period (which puts it six hundred years after Ghost Of Tsushima), Rise Of The Ronin casts you as one of the Veiled Edges, twin warriors whose skills are put to the test when something terrible (and personal) happens, and you’re set on a path of revenge…albeit one that often has you helping other people, and may influence Japan’s future as well.

Like Ghost Of Tsushima — and, admittedly, a lot of open world, role-playing-esque action games — Rise Of The Ronin has you wandering the countryside, completing missions that further the story, while also running errands for people that may seem like busy work, but are actually helping you become a stronger and better warrior.

Even when it feels like another game — like when you clear out an area of bandits and it does that Far Cry thing of showing the area transition — it’s often something you did in Ghost Of Tsushima as well.

But while the bulk of the combat in Rise Of The Ronin is of the hack & slash variety, you can kill people in other ways. And it’s here that Ronin begins to distinguish itself from Ghost Of Tsushima.

Rise Of The Ronin

For starters,

while both games have you using ranged weapons, such as a bow & arrow, Rise Of The Ronin‘s relatively more recent timeframe means you also have rifles and pistols.

It’s also why you get to visit such cities as Yokohama, which is a much more urban setting than anything in Ghost Of Tsushima.

Rise Of The Ronin also has a rather different tone than Ghost Of Tsushima. While the latter was very serious, and clearly influenced by the samurai movies of Akira Kurosawa — it even had a “Kurosawa” mode — Ronin seems more game-y, like its Kurosawa influence comes not from such movies as Seven Samurai and Yojimbo, but from games that may or may not have been influenced by those films.

Rise Of The Ronin

For instance,

when fighting this one boss in Rise Of The Ronin, you’ll be reminded of Soulcalibur VI when your enemy uses their gun to juggle your body in the air.

Similarly, you have a grappling hook for when you need to get on the roof, but it can also be used to throw barrels of highly flammable oil or poison at people…and then watch as the pieces of the barrel magically disappear.

You also run into enemies who are comically large. And not in an Andre The Giant kind of way, either. More like Kingpin in the comics when the artist has him towering over Daredevil or Spider-Man. Y’know, like a boss.

Rise Of The Ronin

It also helps…

that Rise Of The Ronin sometimes recalls other games as well. Like the Batman: Arkham games when you jump off a cliff and instantly deploy wings that help you glide to safety. Or when you use your grappling hook in combat to pull enemies towards you, including when you’re above them; a move that will also remind you of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.

Spidey’s game also comes to mind when you use the grappling hook to swing from one grapple point to another to, say, ascend an otherwise unascendable tower.

Then there are the conveniences that suggest the good people at Team Ninja who made Rise Of The Ronin have played a lot of similar games themselves.

For instance, you can fast travel to any unlocked hub from anywhere in the world, as opposed to only being able to fast travel from one hub to another.

Though you just take your horse. Who, like Roach in The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, will come when you whistle. It also seems like you went to the same equestrian academy as Roach’s owner since, like him, you know how to pick up plants and other resources without having to dismount.

Rise Of The Ronin

Rise Of The Ronin also…

takes a hint from every game that ever had you team up with an A.I.-controlled character by not only making them autonomous, but actually helpful. Doubly so because, if you fall in battle, you automatically take control of them (though you can always revive your real self and switch back if you like).

Similarly, while Rise Of The Ronin has you getting new weapons, armor pieces, and other items by looting the bodies of your dead enemies, it avoids one of the most common irritations of loot-heavy games (I’m looking at you Diablo IV and Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands) by letting you carry up to 2000 items at a time. Which means you don’t spend half the game running back to town just to empty your pockets.

All of which makes Rise Of The Ronin an effortlessly fun game. Y’know, like Ghost Of Tsushima. And while its differences don’t make Ronin feel completely different, playing it if you’ve already played Tsushima won’t feel redundant in much the same way playing the recent remakes of Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space didn’t feel redundant.

Well, unless you play Rise Of The Ronin and Ghost Of Tsushima back-to-back, of course.

Rise Of The Ronin


Rise Of The Ronin does have some issues. Including some that Ghost Of Tsushima avoided.

For starters, some enemies have poor situational awareness, and don’t notice you killing their coworkers, even if they’re within shouting distance.

The difficulty in Rise Of The Ronin can also be rather uneven. While most enemies feel like they’re in line with your choice of difficulty (which include “Dawn” [a.k.a. easy], “Dusk” [normal], and “Twilight” [hard]), you occasionally run into someone who’ll make you wonder if you accidently bumped yourself up a notch. And I don’t mean the comically large people, either.

Rise Of The Ronin also has a mechanical issue that sets it apart from Ghost Of Tsushima because it doesn’t work as well: blocking. Unlike Tsushima, in which blocking was intuitive and fluid, it’s so precisely timed in Ronin that it’s rather tricky to pull off, even when you’ve become a skilled warrior.

Granted, it did get better when I went into the “User Accessibility” menu under “Options” and switched “Guard” from “Hold” (i.e., “only guard when LB is held down”) to “Toggle” (“Press LB to switch between guarding and your primary weapon”). But even then, it sometimes worked better to just dodge attacks by jumping out of the way, like you do in God Of War: Ragnarok.

Rise Of The Ronin

Rise Of The Ronin is also…

one of those games where you have stamina that drains, a mechanic that’s as fun as having weapons suffer wear and tear, or not being able to pause even when you’re playing alone because it’s always online for no reason.

Even worse, your stamina in Rise Of The Ronin drains at times that don’t make sense. Like when you’re using your glider wings. Stay up too long and you’ll become winded and fall to your death.

Rise Of The Ronin also automatically locks onto enemies during a fight. And I say “locks” because it’s really determined to hold on tight. Which gets really annoying when you want to revive one of your downed allies, or your real self, but can’t get to them because the game keeps locking you onto an enemy no matter how many times you tell it to let go.

I also wasn’t engaged by the story. I can’t really say why without spoiling something, though is it really a spoiler if someone will see it coming a mile away?

Rise Of The Ronin also…

has an issue so common that I just cut and paste this paragraph into every relevant review: Some of the text is too small. If you sit at a reasonable distance from your TV — y’know, like your mama told you to — you’ll have trouble reading the menus, the button prompts, and especially the training messages. Which is weird given that the options for the captions include size and background.

The thing is, while the annoying bits are, well, annoying — especially the inconsistent difficulty and the drain on my stamina — Rise Of The Ronin still manages to be effortlessly engaging and exciting. When facing off against enemies who are challenging, and not punitive, the combat is nicely varied and engaging. The same can also be said for what you have to do during the missions and side quests. And performing a stealth kill on an unsuspecting enemy, especially when you’re delivering death from above, is deeply satisfying.

Rise Of The Ronin

In fact,

Rise Of The Ronin is almost as good as this other game I could mention but won’t because you never talk about other games in a review, even if they’re similar enough that it would be helpful to say that if you like one the older one, you’ll like the new one almost as much.

SCORE: 8.0/10



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