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Rise of the Ronin review: Competent but bland

Rise of the Ronin review: Competent but bland

Rise of the Ronin

I was pretty hyped about Rise of the Ronin, a PS5 exclusive from Team Ninja, the folks behind the Nioh games, and Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty. When it was first revealed in 2022, Rise of the Ronin seemed like a lovechild between Sekiro and Ghost of Tsushima — two of my favourite games. Admittedly, I did find Ghost of Tsushima‘s open world a bit too formulaic, too “Ubisoft-like”. And unfortunately, the same can be said of Rise of the Ronin. It's competent, but doesn't bring anything new to the genre, nor does it surpass the games it borrows from. To be fair, the combat (at Normal difficulty) is more accessible than the Nioh games, and has more variety than Ghost of Tsushima. Meanwhile the ability to choose between three factions add some replay value. However, your in-game decisions only determines your allies, but ultimately do not alter history.

Quick notes

  • Real-life historical figures
  • Traverse a large open world with horse, glider and grappling hook
  • Master a variety of weapons, with different stances for each type
  • Join with up to two human players or AI-controlled allies in co-op mode for missions (not open world content)

Set in the chaotic Bakumatsu period (1853 to 1867), when the Tokugawa Shogunate was in decline, you play a ronin, a samurai without a master. You choose which of the three factions to ally with, and during the course of the story, your character will meet real-life historical characters like Commodore Matthew Perry (who also serves as the tutorial boss), and Ryoma Sakamoto. I'm not a Japanese history buff, so it was helpful that the game includes an encyclopedia to tell you more about the characters and locales. Your ronin will end up travelling to Yokohama, Edo (today's Tokyo), and Kyoto. Unfortunately, while Team Ninja has created authentic-looking structures, the visuals, even when prioritising graphics, aren't quite up to par. The horse-riding animation seems especially janky. The world looks bland, and doesn't pop visually like Ghost of Tsushima, despite the similar setting.

Rise of the Ronin
Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Rise of the Ronin is your typical open-world game. Which basically means clearing a to-do checklist, from killing bandits to finding treasure chests to praying at shrines. You can pet cats, which can subsequently be rented out to gain rewards like equipment, and items. There are also side-quests, and events that pop up in the open world. None of this is exactly new or that much fun. But the completionist in me cannot help but try to 100% these tasks. Combat is largely similar to other Team Ninja games, but there's only one button for attack. You can parry, block, or dodge enemy attacks. Parrying an attack reduces an enemy's Ki, which acts as a stamina bar. When the Ki is zero, it opens the enemy to a critical hit. There are also combat stances, a rock-paper-scissors system that determines the effectiveness of attacks.

Rise of the Ronin
Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

You can develop relationships or bonds with the NPCs encountered by your character. Gifts, or choosing the right conversation option can deepen these bonds. This can lead to rewards like items, or increases to your character stats. Some NPCs will become your allies in missions. Alternatively, you can play multiplayer co-op with two other human players in these missions. But there's no co-op in the open world. Like previous Team Ninja games, the game overwhelms you with loot. I ended up selling most, and just using the rarer or set equipment. At Normal difficulty, I found Rise of the Ronin to be fairly forgiving, and easier than Wo Long. Bosses rarely took more than one attempt, and I hardly used items to buff my attacks. Team Ninja says the hardest difficulty level should be similar to the Nioh games.

For fans of Japanese games, this year has seen one banger come after another. We already had Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth in January, and Final Fantasy VII Rebirth last month. Unfortunately, I wouldn't put Rise of the Ronin at the same level. It doesn't help that Dragon's Dogma 2, another highly-anticipated game launches on the same day (March 22). Moreover, Rise of the Ronin is priced like other PS5 games (S$97.90) despite not looking as good as PS5 exclusives like Marvel's Spider-Man 2. I think most gamers (unless you're a fan of Team Ninja or the samurai genre) can afford to wait for a price drop. But if not, Rise of the Ronin is available digitally from the PlayStation Store, or you can snag a physical copy from Shopee.

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Note: Review copy provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment

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Serviceable open-world with sufficiently entertaining gameplay

Buy it at Shopee
Buy it from PlayStation Store

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