Rise of the Ronin First Impressions: A Journey with Potential

Depending on what kind of a gamer you are, you might be in love with difficult experiences or hate them to the core. I’ve always been somewhere in the middle. While I am attracted to the appeal of games like Dark Souls and Nioh, the added challenge puts me off sometimes. But that doesn’t stop game developers from coming out with more grueling punishments.

Team Ninja, the makers of Ninja Gaiden, have released Rise of the Ronin, a multi-layered action RPG that packs a good amount of souls-like action. Thanks to a copy provided by Sony, my paired swords have been prancing around 19th-century Japan and battling practically everyone. While I haven’t reached the end of the road yet, I thought I would sit down and talk about it. So, with that, let’s begin!

Story: Scour Japan for Your Blade Twin

Rise of the Ronin takes place in 19th-century Edo Period Japan. However, this introduces us to a country where violence and bloodshed are everywhere. The Tokugawa Shogunate rules the place with an iron fist. In the same vein, foreign invaders in Black Ships are making their way to Japan’s shores. Amidst all this is us, a Ronin trying to navigate their tumultuous homeland.

However, we don’t start out this way. This game introduces us as an orphan who is, from an early age, paired with another friend. As they lose everything around them, the children are taken under the wing of “The Blacksmith,” a warrior of honor. What goes in are two orphans, but what comes out is a deadly pair called the “Veiled Edge.”

Rise of the ronin story
Image Courtesy: Sony

These warriors are sworn to protect their clan while remaining loyal to their code. As you would expect from games set in the same era, honor is a huge thing in Rise of the Ronin. Remember the Black Ships I mentioned? They are a US Navy Expedition hell-bent on convincing the Shogunate to open up access to the country.

We are sent into the lion’s den to capture a letter from Commodore Matthew Perry. Sadly, things go awry, and our other half, whom the game calls our “Blade Twin,” is supposedly killed, forcing us to run.

At my point in the game, the story has already taken various twists and turns. Scouring Japan for my other half definitely had me running in ten different directions while talking to ten different people. And from what it looks like, it’s about to get a lot more interesting.

Character Creation: Design Your Veiled Edge

Rise of the Ronin, at its core, follows a story that, while twists and turns, has a set path. Nonetheless, the game started me out by letting me design my own set of Veiled Edge. While the game does a good job of explaining the various aspects, I will confess that I did get a bit confused with it. However, that only lasted for a few minutes.

Character creation ronin 1

Once I was clear, I spent a good amount of time trying to design my own character from scratch. However, since I lack creativity in RPGs, I tweaked Team Ninja’s default formula a bit.

As expected, Rise of the Ronin follows a class system but has instead renamed it to “Blade Sharpening Origin.” Depending on your playstyle, you can choose from various ones that either make you a force to be reckoned with or a complete dullard. Being the deadly warrior I am, I chose Breaker and got to work.

Character Creation Rise of the ronin

Don’t stress over it too hard, though. You can go ahead and buy the skills in other classes. Nonetheless, I suggest taking a minute or two to think about it.

Gameplay: A Dance of Death

I’ll be honest when I say that I am not really used to souls-like experiences. Even though Rise of the Ronin is only partly that, it does come with some of the same elements. This includes respawning at banners when you die and the overall combat system. However, combat is treated a bit differently here. While games like The Ghost of Tsushima have a sense of stability in their movement and slashes, Ronin is much more free with it.

After sinking a few hours into the game, one thing has become painfully clear to me: it’s not going to be easy. Rise of the Ronin employs an eloquent mix of sword combat combined with quick wit and a variety of other gadgets.

Rise of the Ronin Combat
Image Courtesy: Sony

At its most basic, the combat is simple. Keep your sword ready and your reaction time quick. Parry as soon as the enemy attacks and then go in for the kill. Of course, that’s much easier said than done.

The AI in Rise of the Ronin is painfully quick and ruthless. Besides mashing the square button when you see an opening, the game forces you to not only keep up the pacing but watch your enemy intensely. Depending on the foe’s weapon and combat style, their methods can and will change, and so must you.

Rise of the Ronin First Impressions: A Journey with Potential
Image Courtesy: Sony

Even though I’ve started to get the hang of it, there are some things I hope I get used to. For starters, the mechanics sometimes felt a bit janky and unpolished. This translated to me getting stuck in animations and not being able to dodge even after perfect timing.

Credit where credit is due; however, Rise of the Ronin packs a lot of gore. After suffering for quite a while, it was amazingly fun chopping my enemies’ heads off and watching the blood gushing everywhere. I am happy that Team Ninja took a no-holds-barred approach here.

It’s way too soon to comment on the finality of the gameplay and combat mechanics in Rise of the Ronin. However, the amped-up difficulty Team Ninja is known for, combined with the nuances of this game, makes me feel hopeful for it all.

Stats and Combat Style Make It Easier

Besides the game’s basic combat, it has many elements to take the fight to your enemies. Being an ARPG, Rise of the Ronin puts a lot of focus on developing your character’s stats. The game has divided them into four attributes: Strength, Dexterity, Charm, and Intellect.

Skill tree ronin

The player ranks these up by gaining and spending Skill Points. As seen in games like Tsushima and even Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 (review), I found the skill tree straightforward to navigate. Depending on the kind of playthrough you want, you can spend your points strengthening your character in one way or another.

combat style rise of the ronin

The Combat Style, on the other hand, is a packed move list that differs from weapon to weapon. While the base buttons remain the same, Rise of the Ronin packs a slew of unique attacks that make you a force to be reckoned with.

As I expected, I could equip all unlocked weapons and armor through the Equipment screen. While it did get a bit confusing initially, Ronin’s conventional RPG approach helped me determine the best weapons and companion items to use.

Rise of the Ronin goes much deeper than these initial systems, and I plan to explore them all. However, like the other things above, it will require a fair bit of experimentation, and I am hopeful.

Rise of the Ronin Is a Journey I Want to Undertake

As I sat down to write my initial thoughts on Rise of the Ronin, I was full of mixed feelings. No, it’s not because I don’t like the game or was hungry. It’s mostly because I am weirdly excited about it. As someone who has only forayed into story-rich adventures for years now, this game is a fresh take on story and RPG while being something else entirely.

With combat mechanics that remind me of Dark Souls and a world that takes me back to Jin Sakai’s suffering in Tsushima, Rise of the Ronin is a game that follows a similar path while carving a new fork in the road. However, if the journey the game is taking me on is any good or not, it is something only time will tell.

Thankfully, you won’t have to wait too long as I am going through the game as we speak, and our full review should be out very soon. See you then!

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