Rise of the Ronin Review


Rise of the Ronin is an ambitious game, and the first time Team Ninja has set its sights on creating a fully open world. The setting is a time where Japan is on the precipice of change, in the years leading up to the Meiji Restoration. In real life, this was the end of the Shogunate era and the opening of up of Japan to the world. In Team Ninja’s vision, this time period is a good ‘what if?’ scenario. You can choose to align with the Shogunate or the Anti-Shogunate faction, but there’s little black and white clarity in this complex political and societal upheaval. Also, there is lots of combat.

First things first, you’ll start with creating your own character, and this comes with a huge amount of flexibility to manipulate almost every feature in minute detail. You can spend your time sculpting your character, or press randomise and let the game create a complete mash up. From there it’s the choice of your combat style, which varies from the classic katana wielding killer, to classes that use paired swords, sabres, and spears. This decision impacts upon the weapons that your character has the best proficiency with, and also unlocks a bonus skill in the strength, dexterity, charisma, and intelligence. However, just because you’ve picked a particular class doesn’t mean you’re locked out from other skills, and you can grab them later as you level up.

Combat is not just about the weapons you wield, but also the style you choose. Each style has its own move set and has its advantages and disadvantages against enemies. As you keep using a style your proficiency will increase with it, and unlock some new moves too. The core aspect to combat is Ki, essentially the stamina bar, which depletes for every action in fights from attacks, defending, and dodging. Enemies have the same bar too, so the real aim is to exhaust their Ki bar so that they stagger and let you perform a powerful attack. It is all about timing when fighting, and parrying is a key part of each battle to get openings at the right time too. When your own Ki bar empties you will be vulnerable to attack yourself.

Rise of the Ronin broken Ki

Fights vary from quite simple to really tough all depending on your equipment, level, and enemy attributes. Some enemies are fast while others take a much slower approach, making it all the more important to time your parry correctly. Due to the time period, you do have access to revolvers and rifles alongside bows for ranged attacks, and in most battles mixing between melee and ranged is needed.

You will pick up various gear from armour to weapons, ranging from common types to exquisite. Each item has its own bonuses, and some belong to particular sets granting additional bonuses. Rise of the Ronin practically throws loot at you, that it can be overwhelming. Thankfully, there is a setting where you can choose to auto sell or auto dissemble items that you do not want to keep. It is definitely recommended to do, otherwise you could be tediously going through item menus and marking each one to sell manually.

Rise of the Ronin open world

While combat is significant in Rise of the Ronin, it is far from the only significant part. The other is the world of mid-19th century Japan, mixing the old of the Shogunate and samurai, with the new of opening trade with the West. The game is split into three maps that open up to you in turn, starting with Yokohama and its surrounding area, Edo with its surrounding countryside, and Kyoto, which is the smallest of the maps but much more dense.

There’s a lot of things to discover and take on through each of these regions. This includes public order areas where bandits have taken areas over, and which you can clear out, and fugitives that you can hunt down. There are shrines to find too which grant skill points, landmarks to discover, treasure chests to find, and 100 cats to find. This is more than just a simple  collectathon though, as completing each side task strengthens your bond with an area, leading to discounts at merchants as well as impacting which faction each area is more loyal to. The world itself is really well detailed, and while graphically it won’t absolutely blow you away like some other games, the design of it means you soon get used to looking out for telltale signs for areas of interest. You can and will spend hours exploring each place.

Rise of the Ronin’s story is impacted by the choices you make and how you interact with the characters – and there are a lot of characters to meet. Every single side character you meet you can build a relationship, unlocking various missions for them, and giving them gifts. What makes things more interesting and more complex is that due to the overarching plot not everyone who you meet is friendly towards each other. You could be teaming up with someone in one mission, but then another facing off against that same character in a boss fight later on. Characters will question your relationships and ask why you are working for the other side too.

Team Ninja have put in a lot of effort into creating a fully fleshed out cast, and it is really commendable giving so much content linked to each character. On the other hand, there is trade off that you will not be interacting with all characters as much as others, and sometimes it means you lose track of who people are. Team Ninja has acknowledged this through the game’s dialogue, with your character able to ask someone who they are if you’ve not been around them for a while. The acting within Rise of the Ronin is really good, with the majority of characters feeling fully realised and not boiling down to simplistic caricatures. Outside of maybe a couple of characters, everyone has different shades of grey to their actions and motivations.

Things do not come to an end when you complete the story either, as a new Midnight difficulty is unlocked along with a new tier of equipment. When you activate the Midnight difficulty, completed public orders and fugitives reappear so you can take them on again at higher levels. Before the endgame, you also get access to be able to revisit missions and make different decisions, which will open up different missions, and change the fate of various characters. The screen where you can choose missions also shows scenes that have not been unlocked, giving you an idea of how much you are yet to see.



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