Rise Of The Ronin – Hands-On Preview

Rise Of The Ronin - Hands-On Preview

Rise of the Ronin snuck up on me a bit. I have a bit of a penchant to skip any pre-release information around games; be it trailers, press releases or gameplay. The irony isn’t lost on me here, but stick with me. This means when I get around to playing a game for the first time, it’s a relatively clean slate. I don’t know what I’m getting into, so any preconceptions are missing. I do this, but I don’t look down on those that love soaking up all that juicy content. Hopefully that’s why you’re here anyway.

Regardless of this, I have a certain level of faith when it comes to certain developers. I won’t name the list, but Team Ninja are on it. I trust they’ll at least make an interesting game, if not a gem. Rise of the Ronin is looking like it’ll fit that mould too, from what I’ve previewed so far.

Stepping through the character creator, you’re tasked with the novelty of creating two characters. Apparently, your characters are part of the Veiled Edge, a shadow group in a nice hidden forest village who work as ronin. Your two characters are Veiled Twins. Apparently, all members of the organisation work as a pair, and you are to treat your partner as an extension of yourself. In combat, this means you can switch on the fly between the two characters, and they may have unique styles of fighting or weapons.

I didn’t find the need to switch between characters too often, but it’s a nice-to-have. I think as the game expands it’ll be more important to switch up. If one character is downed, it gives you the opportunity to get them back up or finish the fight as your partner. Either way, it’s a fun mechanic.

Speaking of combat, I enjoy it quite a bit. It’s fluid and fast, watching the enemy’s attacks and using the counterspark action to parry the attack feels good. The importance of this isn’t just to stop the attack but it also burns through their Ki gauge, which is used as a combination of stamina and poise. Emptying the gauge opens them up to a nasty counterattack and means they also might not be so easily able to dodge. Hitting the enemy with normal attacks reduces their maximum gauge until it’s critically emptied; it’s worth keeping an eye on this also in combat. It’s a lot all at once, so it’s great when it all works perfectly.

Once the first mission is done, the world opens up dramatically. I found the missions to be a bit linear, but outside of missions it seems like all of Yokohama is your oyster to enjoy. As of current preview I saw a bunch of collectables to find; including cats to pat, small outposts to liberate, treasure to find and landmarks to discover. After watching my wife play a tonne of the newer Assassin’s Creed games recently, it feels oddly reminiscent of that. Hopefully the world isn’t huge and crammed with busywork, I find that very droll in general. I did also see a few random encounters, many of which boiled down to beating up some people beating up someone else. The cycle of banditry.

There’s a lot of potential here. Looking through the menus it’s clear there’s a lot more weapons to play around with, and fighting styles. Both of these can be switched up in combat too, fighting styles work a bit like a rock-paper-scissors system where things are weak against some things and strong against others. It also mixes up the way your attacks work, so that’ll be fun to mess around with. Switching between two weapons in combat has also been a blast. It looks like there’s some skills to unlock that allow the switching to be more fluid too, which will add yet another layer to combat.

I also very much dig the time period. There’s some liberties taken, obviously, but the Bakumatsu period of Yokohama is alive and well. It’s something I’ve read about quite a bit about this period in Japan’s history, so seeing some of the more prominent figures pictured. I honestly hope that the ishin shishi play a large role in the narrative, most of which has been quite light so far. It’s early days, so here’s to hoping. Even if you’re not a big history buff, the characters and period should be entertaining.

Rise of the Ronin snuck up on me, and it’s been laying very strong hits on my surprised form. If it keeps up at this pace I’ll be mustard to see where it goes. Even if you skip the story (shame on you), the combat has been very enjoyable. Very Team Ninja, and that’s more than enough for me.

Time Until Launch (March 22, 2024)

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