Rise of the Ronin Review – Daimyo money, Edo problems

Rise of the Ronin Review - Daimyo money, Edo problems

The US are on your doorstep with ships where you have little navy, the Shogunate control the political power through military might, the imbalance between technology is massive and there’s large outbreaks of cholera and tuberculosis. It’s a bad time, but this is where the scene is set for Rise of the Ronin. Your clan has fallen apart and you become a ronin, a masterless samurai, trying to fix some of the upheaval in the country.

I want to talk about the story a moment. This is a huge time for Japan, and the outcome of this period will set Japan on a huge path into the future and potentially lead up to Japan’s inclusion in World War II, which wouldn’t happen until over seventy years after this game takes place. That’s the scope of what’s at stake here. Rise of the Ronin is sneaky in that its constantly teaching you history, whetting your whistle to read more about what’s happening. Japanese game design is very much about taking place in a scenario, where you are a supporting role to the main characters (in this case, historical figures), where games like Assassin’s Creed tend to have you as the central role, fixing all the plot points yourself. In this game, you’re supporting everyone else, making sure they can achieve their goals. It really works in this case.

This is Team Ninja’s first foray into open world games, and I’m not going to say it hasn’t been a bit challenging. The world itself looks lovely, but other than some basic collectables, enemy threats and random events that occur, but you can only deal with these things solo and they’re not insanely exciting. I didn’t mind doing them. I get that lil’ dopamine hit when working as an “icon janitor”, a term I saw recently for a person who cleans up all the icons on a map, so I was ok with doing the chores. The rewards are fine, so there’s that. The only other thing to really do on the map outside of myriad challenges (dojo fighting, shooting, horseback archery and gliding) which I enjoyed heartily, is one of the most annoying systems I’ve seen in a game recently; wooing the NPCs. All of the important NPCs you meet (and there’s a lot) have a reward for gaining their friendship. Sometimes it’s a transmog reward, but more often it’s a lot more important; skill points and mastery of fighting styles. These ones are critical, and giving gifts to NPCs is both time and resource limited, so it can become a real slog.

On the flip side, the combat is absolutely amazing. Team Ninja know their stuff, and I think this might be their best work. I fully admit that to play on the hardest difficulty which is unlocked at the end of the game, you need to be a bit of a cephalopod to grapple with everything happening at once. You’ve got two primary weapons, both of which have 3 fighting styles you can switch between as per need, then two secondary weapons, multiple NPCs to switch with, then juggling your consumables, your Ki meter which is a combination of stamina and poise, then dodging, countersparking attacks and the various attack types that come with each weapon, depending on your mastery. It’s a hell of a lot going on at once, but thankfully the easier difficulties are there to help alleviate that if you need it to. I played through on the medium difficulty, but bumped it to hardest.

Fighting feels a lot like a dance, in a way. I found myself listening to the rhythm of attacks so I could parry better, and this really worked for me. The clanging of weapons, or people’s grunts and groans gave away their attacks and this was the easiest way for me to deal with the counter system. You can dodge, but a lot like Lies of P, the parrying is where you’re going to get the most reward. This intense clashing reminded me of a samurai movie, and I have no doubt that’s on purpose. Combat is intense and frantic and when you pull through by the skin of your teeth, or better yet, without taking a hit at all; there’s few feelings like it.

Inventory management was a bit of a pain. If you’re like me, and hate seeing the ‘new’ mark on everything then you end up scrolling through a lot of gear to make sure you’re using the best stuff. About halfway through the game I found there was an auto-sell, or auto-dismantle system hidden in the menus. This did help, but oddly doesn’t cover all aspects of gear. No idea why this is. Also, the transmog system allows you to glamour any set of gear, we all know glamour is the real endgame anyway. As with the other systems, you have to scroll to remove all the ‘new’ dots on the gear. This doesn’t break the game, but if you’re like me it’s a real bugbear to deal with.

I was most surprised about the game length. I went into this thinking it’d be a 40-50 hour romp through the Japanese vista, but in reality it was almost 100 hours before I hit the credits, and much like Strangers of Paradise, this is where things opened up. New difficulty, new gear tiers etc bring a lot of extra challenge and reward. I was full of vim and vigour so I jumped right in, and promptly got my arse handed to me by enemies I had previously been able to assassinate. I am keen on diving more into this, but it’s tough as molasses, so I’ll need to ‘git gud’, as the old adage goes.

Rise of the Ronin was a surprise all the way through. I think the combat is right up there in best of class, but the ups of the combat and missions vs the downs of inventory management and the open world make this a challenging one. Second playthroughs fix a lot of this because you can only do the missions, but the it’s still not the most exciting thing out there. Regardless, this is a fun, exciting trip through actual history (with some creative liberties), and for me it was awesome to chat to historical people I had previously only read about. This is such an exciting time in history too, that when those big hits happen, they’re really big hits.

Rise Of Ronin Review Box

Rise Of The Ronin was reviewed on PS5 with a code kindly provided by PlayStation Australia.

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