Why Ryse Is The Most Frustrating Game Of E3

“We don’t want the player to feel frustrated.” This is what I’m told. This is how it is explained.

Why then, I wonder to myself, do I feel so frustrated?

An enormous blistering historical epic, complete with sweeping string sections, stirring speeches, and arrows to the eyeball, Crytek’s Ryse was one of the surprise exclusives of Microsoft’s E3 conference.

It’s a game custom built to fit with the dead words we use to describe video games. Ryse is ‘cinematic’. Ryse is a ‘feast for the eyes’. Ryse is ‘accessible’. Ryse is ‘visceral’ — quite literally there is ‘viscera’. In reference to Ryse, mainstream media will write and/or say the words, ‘video games have come a long way since Pac-Man…’

Ryse is a technological beast and it’s all ‘real’. I have played the game, I have pushed the buttons that made the man do the thing, and I have buried the sword in the faces of the baddies. I can confirm that it is, in actual fact, a video game.

But Ryse is frustrating. Because Ryse won’t let me be frustrated.

In between superlatives regarding how good it all looked, one of the few complaints fluttering around the internet focused on Ryse's ‘quicktime events’. Ryse is focused on providing a cinematic experience and, in video game land, ‘cinematic’ usually means slicing throats, opening bellies and stabbing foreheads in glorious/gratuitous slow motion. Hence the quicktime events.

But Crytek isn’t calling them quicktime events, it’s trying to avoid that term altogether. Crytek just wants every kill to look incredible, to look precise. It’s willing to go to strange lengths to make this happen.

Allow me to explain.

I’m on the battlefield. I’m stomping through the corpses of my comrades swinging my sword at anything that moves. I begin a combo, I slash twice and then whooom slow motion is initiated, shit is about to get ‘cinematic’. A button prompt hovers elusively above the sword I’m about to drive into the throat of my enemy… argh I’m too slow! The prompt flickers, disappears.

I missed it. Damn.

But then somehow, for some reason, I still complete the cinematic ‘kill’.


Maybe it’s a bug I think, but no. Next time I deliberately press the wrong button. The kill goes ahead, no consequences. Then I try hitting no buttons whatsoever. The kill goes ahead. I put the controller on the table in front of me, the kill goes ahead.

What is going on here?

I ask one of the Crytek people hovering at the booth – is this a bug? Why am I completing kills when I hit the wrong button prompt? Or, worse, no button at all. Turns out it was a deliberate design choice.

“We don’t want the player to feel frustrated,” I am told.

Well it didn’t work. I didn’t work at all because I feel frustrated. I am frustrated because I am being denied the opportunity to be frustrated, denied the frustration that will motivate me to learn the game, to adapt.

Worse, I am being denied the visual feedback that informs me what I did correctly and what I did wrong, to the extent that the inputs I do make feel utterly meaningless. The buttons I am pushing do not control the avatar on screen and the disconnect is instantaneous. I am not in full control of what I do; I am not even partially in control.

Spare the rod, spoil the gamer. When there are minimal consequences to the inputs you make, the rewards you do receive feel empty. The idea behind this design decision, claims Crytek, is that players coming home from a hard day’s work don’t want to deal with the pressures and stress of playing perfectly. Instead of rewarding players with a gory cinematic for hitting the QTE correctly, players simply acquire a greater amount of XP or currency. But these are rewards that aren’t represented visually; the end result is that Ryse never feels fun to play.

It’s bewildering. Bewildering that a game would choose to move down this path; bewildering that Crytek believe completely removing any semblance of fair challenge would make players less frustrated; bewildering that they believe taking control from players would make them feel more engaged.

So frustrating.


    So it's a movie disguised as a game?

      So like LA Noire all over again? But in ancient Rome?

      Metal ...Gear?

    That sounds horrible.

    How about I just watch a movie instead?

      I think Microsoft would prefer if you watched television instead.

    The games looks amazing but they do need to change some things

      I would prefer this type of gameplay to be in the "Casual" difficulty option, and have QTE removed from every other difficulty altogether. Is that just me tho?

        Not just you. I thought Ryse looked amazing for the first few minutes, then the QTE's started driving me crazy. Every time he tried to kill someone it went slo-mo and a giant button pops up...That's not cinimatic it's just annoying. If it was just on the big bosses or something (There have been a few games like that over the years) I wouldn't mind but currently it just waaay too much.

          Skyrim is better! Because at least if you face an enemy you had the possibility of failing horribly or coming out victorious. And it still had awesome graphics for being on 360.

    That is so dumb. I wasn't that enamoured by it in the first place, zero chance of me getting it now (not that I was going to get an X1).

    This is the complete antithesis of Dark Souls, and the complete antithesis of good gaming.

      Even mario back on 64 was more challenging than ryse. And everybody back then loved it. The controller even gave half of us blisters defeating bowser in super mario 64.

        Wait only half? Okay which one of you asshats managed to not get blisters from fighting bowser...

    Did these people take any lessons in game design at all?
    If you are going to offer an obstacle in a game, the player needs a reason to overcome it. In Banjo-Kazooie you need to gather Jiggies. If the game just gave you them it would't be fun, it would be boring and 'lame'. Same goes here. Yes QTE are annoying as hell BUT they could have pulled them off really well here but they screwed it up by removing all challenge. Imagine getting a button press incorrect and the guy turns back and hits you for 50% health (it's an example). You would feel the need and be determined to succeed next time giving the QTE a purpose and making them fun.

      Now I just want to play Banjo-Kazooie again...

      Yeah, like watching Lara die in many varied and interesting ways in the TR reboot when a QTE was missed. I missed them deliberately sometimes just to see what would happen...

      What a surprise! A grumpy game design "expert" on the internet

        Grumpy? No.
        Befuddled? Yes. There is no way someone should be working on a AAA game if they make decisions like that. I aspire to be a game developer and that disgusts me how that is designed.

          Mhmm. They cut corners. What they lack Iin gameplay they replace with graphics. Its sad really.

    Wow. Dark Souls fans, avoid this game for sure! :P

    The game looks visually impressive, but the one thing I couldn't stand in God of War was the constant finishing QTE's. I'm not sure if making them pointless is better or worse. I suspect it will definitely be distracted.

    I can't get my head around why we're even still having this conversation - no one likes QTE's. I couldn't believe how many there were in Tomb Raider. I'd say almost everyone would just prefer to sit back and watch the cut scene in peace.

      Well, what's enjoyable about God of War's is that for many enemies (mini-bosses) they're a satisfying and gory end to a larger opponent, and they're optional. You can attempt them and fail, taking damage as a result, or you can succeed and rip your opponent to viscera. But you could also just attack the enemy until they die. Sure, the bosses' QTE's weren't optional, but overall they're a part of the God of War formula, and one that the game does best.

      Whereas in Tomb Raider they're tack-on, unsatisfying and clunky. In Ryse they're repetitive, visually boring and they take so much control away from the player that you may as well just be watching cinematics (especially when you don't have to press the button at all).
      Anyway, you may not like QTE's of any kind, but please don't assert the same for everyone. I think that if executed correctly, a varied and satisfying (better yet, gory) kill as a game mechanic can be quite fun. It's when the feature is just tacked-on or not satisfying in the slightest that I question the necessity for it to have been included.

        I didn't like them in Tomb Raider, but I actually thought that it was worse in God of War because of the repetition you mentioned. There were so many. I'd rather have awesome kills as part of the basic mechanic (i.e. Batman) than some tacked on mini-game at the end of the fight. I guess I shouldn't say everyone hates QTE's, but I can't think of a time when they are better than a well designed combat system.

          Which is what Shenmue 1, the very first game to have QTEs, demonstrated perfectly. Game designers are slow learners

          I think that both darksiders and space marine did it well. More QTE but totally optional. And in darksiders case not time limited.
          Plus the successful pulling off the move is space marine restored health, so even if it was repetitive (and awesome) there was a benefit to do so (over and above the glee of stomping on an orc)

          Yeah But i fell God of war can be slightly forgiven with some of them, Like smashing Circle after fighting a boss or mini boss, Just feels so fucking good after combo-ing so many attacks and evades, stabbing your blade again, and again with that same frustration of "JUST DIEEEEE" especially on difficult areas. there were the QTE's that were "hit the right button" but again, Can't think of a game that did QTE's "Right" since they already feel so Pulling from the game atmosphere whenever used.

    All this needs is motion controls to initiate actions rather than QTEs, and it'll be great

    Depending how you swing your wiimote or whatever, use the closest action to dispatch the barbarians you encounter in a stylish way.

      I always wondered why Sony didn't use this stuff more with the sixaxis. It worked pretty well with Heavy Rain.

    I was frustrated just watching the trailer. This game looks so pointless.

    Yeah.. these are exactly my thoughts - although i didn't realise it was impossible to fail!!

    When i saw the first footage i though "my god - this looks amazing!" as the guy ran up the beach and everything was going to hell. Then the combat started. I though "ohhh! this is goingto be brutal and awesome!"
    Then.. QTE...'hmmm... maybe it's just a finisher he pulled"
    Then another.. then another.. one for every damn guy - every time slow motion. It was at this point i just stopped watching. I HATE QTE most of the time, unless they are used sparingly in some boss battle - and this is just insane!!
    I don't think crysis quite understand who the core audience of this game will be. People play games to PLAY the game, not to watch it. If we didn't want to feel stressed/play, we'd watch a movie.

    I just don't get it. What could have been an awesome game is now something i'll never even consider buying.

      All the skeptical nonsense.. Doesn't it have multiplayer? Surely it's not as simple as people are making it out to be... I reiterate lots and lots people bought Heavy Rain.. Just saying

        Yeah but heavy rain did not play itself if you put the controller down.

          Yes, and I remember being attacked by the surgeon as one of the most intense gaming moments of my life. Because when he managed to murder me, I knew that it was irrevocable.

      Yeah - as the gameplay started I was enjoying the scale of things, and seeing waves of men get mowed down by arrows. When the combat started, I thought it looked visually appealing for a hack n' slash. I wasn't that into the QTE's for every single regular enemy though, especially in seeing that there are only a few animations and even then those didn't really look much more satisfying than simply killing the enemy via normal means. I wouldn't mind QTE's if it were for a much tougher opponent, perhaps as a gory and satisfying execution - perhaps used as sparingly as the 20% default modifier for kill-moves in Skyrim, or as an option (if they add more animations).

      Oh, small correction - you said "crysis" instead of Crytek ;) somehow I don't think crysis has reached that level of self-awareness where it starts critiquing video games :P

    What a stupid design choice for a game. Who makes these decisions? Don't they see how games like Dark Souls get rave reviews. Why not add this as an option to satisfy everyone?

    Make it an option for easy mode and that'd be fine but as a non-optional thing it will surely make the game feel like the anti-dark souls

    Seems to me they nerfed the demo so people who got a ten minute hands on at E3 didn't go away and complain about how clunky and frustrating it was. I really hope they unfuck that in the final release.

    poor design choice.
    This is the sort of thing I'd expect in an "easy" mode, and even then why prompt for the X button at all if there is no real point in hitting it.

    This is one of the Xbone games that I was disappointed to see as an exclusive as I love anything Roman, but reading about this, quicktime events just turn me off any game. Am I supposed to be watching a cinematic kill? Am I meant to keep an eye out for a button command somewhere on screen? The whole thing to me is just something tacked onto a game to give the player something else to do. If I wanted to play a reaction time game I'd download one from the Play Store.

    It's not mature, it's stupid.


    Reminds me of the kill-cam shots in Assassin's Creed. Every once in a while, often multiple times in the same combat sequence, you would get a slow motion shot of the attack you just did. Very epic. Very cinematic. Very tedious after you've seen it twenty times already. This just seems like that with a pointless button prompt.

    What's the point?

    In Arkham City, the last person you knocked out would always trigger one of these. That was somewhat acceptable because it served as a punctuation mark to the combat sequence. Not only that, you could manipulate it. The last person would always go down in a single hit. If that person was a long way away, you could fly across the room and kick them in the face or have a giggle as a batarang slowly made its way over to them. You had control.

    Here, you get no control. Games just aren't as satisfying when you're not the one doing the fun things. The game is just playing with itself. It's masturbating.

    Looking at the footage this kind of reminded me of Lair.
    I wonder if Ryse will suffer the same fate?

    I hope the QTE events were only for cinematic effect, to make the game look cooler. Or, at least have the option to turn off these events.

    To be fair, games like Heavy Rain/Beyond and The Walking Dead are basically just a series of QTEs - yet they are almost unanimously praised. Ryse could be considered as having a similar approach with more of a focus on minute-to-minute action, yet people are judging it solely against action-heavy games like GOW or Dark Souls.

    Yes, the fact that you can't fail the prompts is utterly ridiculous, no doubt about that. But if you're going to compare Ryse to other games it borrows influence from, consider that the developers likely aren't just looking at one genre.

    Also it used to be a Kinect game. I'm just happy that's changed.

    Edit: For clarification, this game is probably going to be terrible. Haha.

    Last edited 13/06/13 1:54 pm

      The games you mentioned are story-focused. If this one is story-focused, I will forgive simpler gameplay.

    Hell the game could give blowjobs, it doesn't matter. Since it is Xbox Kotaku is going to crap all over it anyway

    QTEs can barely be described as gaming anyway. Better they were left out altogether.

      so does walking dead, flower and journey

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