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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Rondina

Rise of the Ronin Review

Rise of the Ronin offers an epic journey through feudal Japan in Team NINJA’s most ambitious adventure yet, my full review.

When Rise of the Ronin was first announced, I was intrigued by what the game offered: a rich gaming experience crafted by veteran developers, set against the backdrop of a captivating historical period. Rise of the Ronin has you embark on a journey during Japan’s tumultuous Bakumatsu period, blending fictional historical story beats with action-adventure elements that come together to deliver a unique experience. The game leverages a lot of developmental talent with Team NINJA’s signature combat from the Nioh series at its heart, coupled with Koei Tecmo’s expert historical narrative approach.

"The game leverages a lot of developmental talent with Team NINJA’s signature combat from the Nioh series at its heart, coupled with Koei Tecmo’s expert historical narrative approach."

This is the biggest, and most grand open-world experience Team NINJA has ever undertaken, but do the sum of its parts offer the experience fans are looking for? In this review I’ll explore whether Rise of the Ronin hits the mark or falls short in its vision.

Rise of the Ronin Details

Platform(s): PlayStation 5

Developer: Team NINJA

Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Genre: Action role-playing

Modes: Single-player, multiplayer

ESRB Rating: M for Mature 17+


Forge your legacy in feudal Japan

Set against the backdrop of the Boshin War, Rise of the Ronin tells a tale of political intrigue and personal vendetta. This period of upheaval saw Japan teetered on the edge of a new dawn with the clash of Eastern traditions and Western influences marking the end of the Shogunate. Enter the “Blade Twins” into the fray, two characters that you create from scratch before venturing out on your journey. The character creator is excellent offering plenty of options with how you design your protagonists. As your characters enter the world of Rise of the Ronin, they hit the ground running assigned to assassinate a high-ranking foreign official. As you can imagine, things don’t go as planned and you are left picking up the pieces.

As you progress, the narrative weaves historical figures and fictional characters into your story while, at the same time, honouring the era and providing a fresh perspective. One of the more interesting parts of the story is that it doesn’t just have you witness history; it invites you to shape it creating an authentic, yet fresh portrayal of one of Japan’s most transformative eras.

"One of the more interesting parts of the story is that it doesn’t just have you witness history; it invites you to shape it creating an authentic, yet fresh portrayal of one of Japan’s most transformative eras."

The story can become convoluted at times but it kept me engaged as I could choose to align myself with different factions and alter the course of history.

Gameplay sharper than a katana

The gameplay in Rise of the Ronin is far and away the best part of the experience. Combining the strategic depth of a souls-like with high octane combat, the game offers a variety of playstyles, weapons, and approaches to combat. Wielding an arsenal that ranges from the traditional—such as samurai swords and piercing bladed spears—to the more modern and destructive, like pistols and even flame throwers, you are given plenty of agency in terms of how you can approach each confrontation. This is one of Team NINJA’s games that allows you to adjust the difficultly, so as much it can be hard, it’s not brutally unforgiving like some souls-like experiences can be. There is plenty of excellent nuance to the combat that is both fun and challenging. There is a parry system called, “counterspark,” where if you can pull it off you can reverse a strike and deal massive damage. Not all is perfect with the combat, enemy AI often doesn’t engage you when you are battling another foe, even when you are in plain sight. This can be immersion breaking at times, because the world doesn’t always react to your presence which is odd.

Traversal is varied and fun

Besides exploring on foot with excellent traversal mechanics you can also ride around on horseback, zip around with a grappling hook or use a glider to navigate the skies. This can lead to some incredible moments, I was able to grapple to a rooftop, jump off its highest perch then glide over an enemy and drop down to assassinate them. The gameplay is designed to be both historically evocative and dynamic, offering a rich, action-packed experience that honors the spirit of the samurai while pushing the boundaries of combat mechanics.

Rise of the Ronin Graphics and Performance

Visually, Rise of the Ronin looks good, but leaves a lot to be desired, especially as a PS5 exclusive title, I was hoping it would take greater advantage of the hardware. Overall, the attention to detail in the recreation of 19th-century Japan is evident, from the bustling streets of Osaka to the serene countryside but there are areas that are very empty. In terms of the game being a PS5 exclusive, I thought the visuals would pack more punch, comparing it to a title like Ghost of Tsushima I thought it would be more comparable. It’s not a bad looking game by any stretch, it just isn’t as visually impressive as many of PlayStation 5 first party offerings this generation.


Rise of the Ronin Gallery


Graphics vs. Performance Mode

The game’s different graphics mode options really make a big difference in your experience. There could be a significant patch coming to address some of this at launch, but for now I recommend playing with “Performance Mode.” At first, I started the game with the “Graphics Mode” hoping to capture more detail and overall visual fidelity in my screen captures. Later, I dabbled with the “Performance Mode” and overall, I found it far more enjoyable. The fast-paced combat and character movement really benefit from the boost to framerate, and it feels like this is the way the game was meant to be experienced.


An overabundance of content

Rise of the Ronin offers some excellent secondary quests, its open world bursting with activates and some very smart systems. For example, I loved having “The Longhouse” which acts as your home during your time with the game. Here you can talk with allies, adorn it with weapons, and even use it as a hub to replay certain missions in the game later. Also of the note, the skill tree is great to build out your character with intelligent bonuses that help to support your playstyle in meaningful ways. Unfortunately, there is too much bloat when it comes to loot, allies, and a majority of side quests.

"Unfortunately, there is too much bloat when it comes to loot, allies, and a majority of side quests."

Loot for example comes in droves and is too excessive with minor effects that don’t affect gameplay, it also takes a lot of time to sift through it as well. The same is for your “Personal Bonds” with characters you meet and join you on your adventure. Some are notable and great but soon they become a “dime a dozen,” and it just didn’t add much to the experience for me. Finally, the side quests while offering great variety also seemed to have a lot of filler, especially toward the end of the game. Cutting down and streamlining these elements could have made for a better, more focused and cohesive experience.

Final Thoughts on Rise of the Ronin

Team NINJA’s latest adventure does a great job encapsulating a Hollywood-style samurai epic, offering a great blend of historical narrative and tight combat within a rich open world. The game not only allows you to witness a different perspective in time, but provides a gameplay experience that is as strategic and dynamic. It is dragged down by a lot of excess with side quests, loot and companions. Outside of that, if you enjoy games like Assassin’s Creed and Nioh, Rise of the Ronin should be one to checkout.

 

Rise of the Ronin Pros

+Interesting setting

+Deep, satisfying combat system

+Gliding and grappling offer fun moments


Rise of the Ronin Cons

-Some open-world elements feel like filler

-Character development could be deeper

-Story gets convoluted

 

Overall Assessment of Rise of the Ronin

Gameplay: 9/10

Graphics: 7/10

Sound: 7/10

Replayability: 9/10


Overall Rating: 32/40 (80%)

A copy of the game was provided by PlayStation for the purpose of this review.

 

About the Author - Matthew "Dapper Tux" Rondina

Matthew has been involved in all things gaming since the 8-bit era. He is a veteran of the video game and tech industry who has been passionate about technology and gaming for over 20 years. Along with being the Managing Editor of dappertux.com, he has bylines with Best Buy, Cineplex Entertainment, Mobile Syrup and Walmart. Follow Matthew’s gaming + tech adventures on multiple social platforms with the handle @dapper_tux via "X", Instagram, Threads, TikTok and join in on the fun!

 

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