Game ReviewsGamingPC / MacPS5

Rise of the Ronin, PS5 Review

That sweet middle ground of an immersive open world RPG, combined with the challenge of a From Soft game has always been on my Wishlist. Now, before you take a breath to scream…” Elden Ring“. Yes, it was wonderful! But for me, the story and world lore were too convoluted to be engossing. And the combat, the bosses in particular, was just too hard for me…….so, a wonderful game, but not fun. Rise of the Ronin though, seems to sit in this sweet spot though, or I thought it was going to.

From Team Ninja, the developers of Ninja Gaiden, Nioh and Wo Long, Rise of the Ronin has taken the step into a full open world setting. Set in mid-19th Century Japan. When Japan is hanging onto its traditional Shogun roots, whilst adopting new western influences….. like guns! Rise of the Ronin tells the story of orphan twins, trained in a rare mystical combat art and are destined to help with the revolution that frees Japan from the centuries old Shoguns military dictatorship. 

The game opens with some story and context for these orphans, and one of the best character creators I have seen in recent years. Something I really appreciate in a 3rd person action game. Then I chose between the brother or sister characters I created, the sister being my choice (I went for a “Blue Eye Samurai”), and off I trotted into the open world. My initial feelings were positive. Sure, its not a pretty game, especially when compared to the elephant in the room, the Samurai epic, Ghost of Tsushima. But it was different enough to be fresh and the important combat and character skills were interesting.

Rise of the Open World Fatigue

Quickly though, doubt crept in. Just as it did with Ghost of Tsushima if I’m frank. The same open-world tropes I hate, started to appear in Rise of the Ronin. An array of map markers, the “cleared areas”, tick box exercises, the go here, do this, rinse and repeat gameplay loop became evident. Basically….. the destruction of true exploration was achieved by hour 2. 

I just don’t get it! Why put markers on the map! Just let me explore and see what I find! I hated the dumbing down of the experience to almost Ubisoft open world design-levels. Elden Ring was sooooo special for many reasons, but the main one for me was its dedication to the pure open world exploration available to me. It just baffles me what Team Ninja went the Ubisoft route and not with a From Soft approach. Instead of exploring and finding my way in the world, I was checking off maps areas and getting bonus XP for hugging cats.

The combat is a “From Soft-lite” version of a soul’s game. Tough, but with a touch more approachability. Like Sekiro, the parry and stamina bar are the crucial elements to master. Thankfully though, Rise of the Ronin is nowhere near as hard as Seikro. With each successful combat encounter Karma needs to be banked at torches across the map. Yep….its just the souls and bonfire systems from the Souls games. This Karma is the XP used to level up and unlock new skills and stances. Nothing revloutionary here, but easy to understand and work with.

Ronin Loves Loot.

Like Ghosts of Tsushima, as the enemies get tougher, different stances are needed and must be swapped to get the best damage output. These stances combined with the extensive skills, perks and customisability of builds is great. Actually the ability to create deep ‘builds’ was something that was very much missing from Ghost of Tsushima. These builds rely on loot too. Armour sets and weapons drop constantly, if a little too frequently. Menus and managing trash is a constant in the game. All items have perks and buffs which all interplay and go towards build crafting.  I would expect this to be massively important in the end-game experience.

Alas I will not be getting there. With my frustrations of Rise of the Ronin being another open-world game that thinks I’m an idiot, who would get lost if not told exactly where to go at all times. The other major element I need in games to hold my attention is good story and characters. Rise of the Ronin is woeful in this measure. The twins have no meaningful reason to be in this epic fight, the bad guys are bad because the game says so. And the odd character who did catch my attention only did so because they have the forced Anime cringe humour, which is there to be some sort of comic relief.

Not quite hitting the target.

As mentioned above, Rise of the Ronin is not super pretty. Perfectly serviciable when compared to PS4 games, but for a PS5 title, its looks sub-par for 2024. Textures are muddy, animations are far from smoooth and the horse…oh the horse! Its gallop looks like its wearing wet underpants and its trying to avoid nasty chaffing. As per the norm for this generation, the game is split between a 60fps mode OR and 4K mode, you can’t have both. Which I still find irksome in general, but I suppose I should move on. That said, PC players be warned too, as anidoctally the PC peformance is very sub par.

I wanted to like Rise of the Ronin. However, it is a amalgamation of elements from better games,and even with these inspirations. It failed to hit the quality or design calibre of the titles it has cribbed off. To be clear, its is not a bad game, far from it. It has perfectly servicable open-world mechanics and the combat has real depth to be mastered. But the open world genre is so chocca these days. So to grab my attention and hold it, a game needs to be something very special. Unfortunately, Rise of the Ronin is not that.