Rise Of The Ronin Preview Roundup: Between Souls And Tsushima

Rise Of The Ronin Preview Roundup: Between Souls And Tsushima

Rise of the Ronin previews dropped this morning and the response has been cautiously optimistic so far. Many outlets have drawn the clean comparison between what the game is and what it isn’t. If you were hoping for something akin the Assassin’s Creed-like adventure of Ghost of Tsushima, you might be disappointed. If you were hoping for something with the crunchy, Souls-y combat of Ni-Oh, you might also be disappointed.

However, if you were looking for something that lands in the gap between those two games, this might be the title for you. Put another way, it isn’t Rurouni Kenshin, but isn’t quite Samurai X either.

As we like to do around here, we’ll be breaking our Rise of the Ronin preview roundup into two parts — the Australian outlets and the overseas outets. Without further ado, here’s what the critics are thinking so far.

Rise of the Ronin Preview: The Aussies

Gameshub enjoyed its time with the game so far, highlighting its surprising difficulty (cue a complete lack of surprise from Ni-Oh fans) and giving the story a bit of love. “Despite this surprising difficulty, Rise of the Ronin has consistently proved sleek and surprising in its first two hours, with a compelling narrative hauling the action along at a fast pace. The game’s devotion to historical accuracy, and its depiction of Japanese history, is marvellous, so far – and there’s plenty waiting beyond the preview window.”

Press Start’s preview was broadly positive, but spends quite a bit of time grappling with how to communicate the game’s identity. “If my early hours with Rise of the Ronin have confirmed one thing – it’s that this is definitely a Team Ninja game. It’s absolutely different in its structure, grounded nature, and approach to difficulty, but the identity that makes Nioh, Wo Long, and Strangers of Paradise tick is palpable here. This is far from a bad thing, but I am curious to see how Team Ninja’s typical design trappings fare after more time with this open world setting.”

Well Played’s preview is short-and-sweet, and possibly works too hard to avoid spoiling anything (nothing inherently wrong with that, but it does mean sacrificing some important detail). Overall, the vibe is cautiously positive though, with special shout outs given to the open world design. “My first couple of hours have left me with a mixture of feelings for Rise of the Rōnin, plenty of positive ones, but also a lingering question of whether the rest of my playthrough will see the myriad of gameplay systems and mechanics crystallise into a cohesive whole.”

Checkpoint Gaming, however, was happy to dive right in, offering quite a bit of praise and only faint criticism. “Unlike Nioh, the world of Rise of the Ronin is much more open. And whilst it may feel natural to compare the game to Elden Ring, the design actually feels a lot more similar to a Ubisoft open world. Broken into districts, you can traverse the map by horseback as you liberate towns from bandits, pray at shrines to acquire skill points, take on wanted enemies, find hidden collectables and caches, and complete missions. It’s a little bit more of a checklist game as you chase icons on a map rather than one of exploration and discovery. This admittedly is a bit of a shame, but it doesn’t take away from the moment-to-moment fun.”

The Rest of the World

IGN’s Final Preview is happy with what it’s seen so far, but is fairly tempered in its praise overall. “Rise of the Ronin is poised to give players a lot to dive into, and while it doesn’t quite live up to PlayStation’s first-party open-world exclusives in the graphics department, the developers at Team Ninja has focused on what’s important: an engaging story that has a great hook to keep you exploring, a fun gameplay system that will keep you striving to perfect your skills, and all of that is found alongside a smattering of fun activities to challenge yourself with.”

GamesRadar was fairly effusive in its praise, particularly the combat, but still came away from the preview window with questions. “Rise of the Ronin strives to weave humanity throughout its open-world sandbox, whereby your actions can have a direct impact on its inner workings, no matter how small or large. Again, this wider scope feels a little at odds with what we’ve come to expect from Team Ninja – Nioh, like its Souls series inspiration, adopted a light-touch approach to its narrative – but that is, of course, no bad thing. What it is is different. What it is is, indeed, the developer’s most ambitious project yet, certainly since the company’s restructuring 10 years ago. But what strikes at the heart of Rise of the Ronin is its combat – just like Nioh, Nioh 2 and Wo-Long Fallen Dynasty; just like Team Ninja-of-old’s Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive; and just like every ARPG and Soulslike the studio has drawn inspiration from, Rise of the Ronin’s deft combat mechanics are its piece de resistance. “

The Gamer was much more reserved, calling its early hours a fiddly, somewhat wobbly experience, but one with all the tools it needs to rise above. “There is hope if you stick with it. After throwing myself at the frankly nonsense first boss a dozen times (true Team Ninja fare, that), I found myself finally getting a feel for how essential footwork and positioning is. Dodging, strafing, and making openings for yourself are arguably more important than being able to hit the parry button at the right time. I’m eager to see if my current qualms with combat give way as the game opens up, or if it continues to be a slightly fiddly first outing for the Veiled Edge.”

Paste was a little more hardline, feeling that the open world wasn’t as engaging as it could be and that the combat didn’t nail the Soulslike fundamentals. “Once again, I’ll couch these criticisms with some important caveats: I only had a few hours with the game, and there is an upcoming day-one patch that might solve a few of these problems. Rise of the Ronin’s open world has the potential to be less bloated and tedious than what’s found in many other examples of the form, and hopefully, its performance issues will be sorted out before release. The game is packed full of progression systems, sports a seemingly vast backdrop, and lets you freely traverse via steed, grappling hook, and paraglider. But, at least so far, its action is simply not clicking for me, almost entirely because I don’t like how the parry feels. Sometimes, a single grave flaw can cause an entire experience to miss the mark, and I’m concerned that may be the case for Team Ninja’s latest effort.”

Eurogamer had less of a problem untangling the game’s identity than other outlets, though even it admits the number of inspirations it draws from create complications. “There’s a lot going on and all these different elements could end up as a right mess, but it all hangs together remarkably well, at least in these early stages. After a short, linear opening, you’re let off the leash with no Ubisoft-style extended tutorial shenanigans, free to start exploring the first few areas or push on with the storyline. The familiar components have been arranged in a way that is almost precisely to my liking, feeling like the end result of open world games’ slow metamorphosis into full-fledged RPGs. In my time with the game, there was very little that felt completely new, but even less that didn’t feel good.”

Finally, VGC’s Rise of the Ronin preview is a staid, stony ‘Not bad, not great.’ “So far, while we’re enjoying our time with Rise of the Ronin, we’re waiting for its standout moment. Other than some dated-looking visuals, every element of the game is fine to great, nothing so far is best-in-class. There’s plenty of room for that to land, especially considering the size of the game and Team Ninja’s pedigree.”

Image: Team Ninja

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