I played Ryse: Son of Rome and while the Xbox One title had more realistic graphics, the combat seemed to focus too much on quick time events. The hands-on demo is exactly the same as the E3 demo where you control Marius Titus and charge into battle. You can attack with Marius’ sword by pressing X, bash enemies with your shield with the Y button, block with A, and press B to grab an enemy for an execution. In the hands-on demo, time slows down when you trigger an execution and button prompts pop up. Hit those in order and Marius will brutally finish off an enemy.
Combat is similar to Batman: Arkham City or Sleeping Dogs since you can change targets by pointing the analog stick towards the next enemy you want to strike. As you move through the demo, Marius goes into "formation mode" which calls a group of soldiers to stand side by side holding their shields up to block arrows. You have to alternate between raising your shield and throwing pilums to defeat a wave of archers.
After that you storm a castle. The first enemy you see is conveniently standing by a ledge so you can kick him off. Marius commands his unit to destroy a catapult while he covers his squad from a wave of three enemies.
Ryse is supposed to be a combat focused game and my first thought after playing it was there was too much focus on quick time events. Also, it was way to easy to lock enemies into QTEs. It’s not unusual for demos to play different from the final game. For example, you can’t die in the Ryse demo and you have an unlimited number of troops that back you up in formation mode. This won’t happen in the retail game, which is slated for release as an Xbox One launch title. However, Ryse’s combat felt like it was very much a work in progress for a game just a few months away, so Siliconera pulled Crytek producer Michael Read aside and asked him a few questions.
When I played Ryse I noticed, that when you fight multiple guys you can just press the A button to block without worrying about the direction an enemy was coming at you. It seemed kind of easy, since you didn’t need to change the direction Marius is facing when it came to blocking.
Michael Read, Producer at Crytek: No. It’s not on this demo specifically. When they come in at a specific range, Marius will go into a combat pose.
It you’d like notice, that’s also on the combat side too. I mean if you have two guys that are spread apart; much in a similar way like [the] Batman [Arkham series]. You are attacking one [enemy]. You know that guy is over there. You push the stick and start hitting him and he [Marius] will charge over to him and hacking him. We are working on the block mechanics.
How is the combo system going to work? God of War is a combo heavy game, while in Ryse I only needed to hit an enemy once or twice before moving into an execution state.
This is why had need to do a deeper explanation because what we presented on the kit for E3 was being perceived as what the final game is going to be. And really, it was a very tiny slice. There are some scripted moments in there that we had to put in. There are a couple of guys you strike them two times – especially the first guy you strike in there he immediately goes into an execution state. This is the same demo that we used in actual E3 piece that we’ve shown online as well.
What you’re going to see in the final game, you’re going to see various levels of difficulty from easy mode I think up to nightmare. I don’t know if they have decided on that. But, what’s going to change in there is the amount of the damage that enemies is going to do to you and how accurate that you are going to do on blocking. And then of course what ties into that is execution state when you put them into that. Some of the higher archetype guys, I mean they are going to take a lot of hits to put it. We are going to throw some stupid guys in there, where it’s probably going to take two hits, especially early on in the game to get you used to the control system and how that all works. There’s a lot we should have explained. We didn’t do a good job of doing that.
What I had said in during the presentation was we work a lot on our own engine. We’re working with a development kit that’s still very much in development. One of the few games, if you look at a lot of the games that we are truly hands on the Xbox One, we are one of the few that are actually hands on the Xbox One. There was other running on kits like Dead Rising for instance. Some of those games, we had to go back, and go “OK, what’s in our combat system? What’s ready in our combat system we feel comfortable and bringing out and having our hands on with.” We have to shrink things down. Get very straight forward, very easy, to get people into it.
A lot of the design elements and balancing weren’t even in there yet. So, to throw those in and here to play the game, I mean, it makes for an awful experience. But I think at the same time, we simplified things a little bit too much but we didn’t do a good job in explaining the combat. Right now, you play the demo you have X is your hit, Y is your shield bash, A is your block, B will lead you into execution mode. [Pointing to the left triggers] So that’s for your call-outs. This will be like your focus. This [right trigger] is to throw out your pilums.
There are other functions in the general combat you’re going to get into. Pressing X will do your standard swing. Holding X down will do a heavier attack or heavy shield bash, for instance, with the other buttons. You also have shield bash and kick or block and kick.
When you enter into an execution state, we are going to remove the button prompts that you saw in this version. And they are going to be replaced with visual and audio prompts that people are going to have to learn over time. We have like a hundred executions in the game.
I saw on the Ryse Smartglass demo there were 120.
I’d say around a hundred. Let’s keep it to about a 100.
There’s not a failure state that is associated with the execution. But what is associated with it is, depending on how accurately you get those button presses in time with that, you’re going to get a bigger bonus. What you need to do before you go into combat, while you are doing combat, it’s what the D-pad comes to play. The D-pad for instance, I don’t know what final buttons that are going to be on this. [Pointing to the D-pad.] Let’s say this is health, this is damage, this is XP, that’s what we call focus. The focus mode, I can’t really go into full details on it, but it’s an interesting piece.
Let’s say you’re fighting in the game, you’re hacking a guy down. You’re getting beat from two guys behind. Your health is low. You’re like, damn, what am I going to do. I need health. Health doesn’t regenerate by itself, so I have to perform the execution mode to do that. So I flick on the health, I beat one guy down, and then I try to get those execution states, and I try to get those execution presses in time with that so that I’ll get a larger bonus to get some health back and beat these other two guys.
Let’s way I’m doing really well, we have XP for that. You know what, I want to unlock some of the special skills. I want to get higher in that, so I’m going for a XP bonus. You perform those executions and you get a XP bonus. There’s damage modifier and also focus as well. You can choose between these.
What’s going to happen with the button presses is when you go into the execution state, you’ll learn what the execution is over time. Let’s say it’s the right arm swinging, I know if I see the right arm swinging that I need to to press X. He’s going to kick on this, and then I need to learn when the button press is to do Y. And timing that along with it. Depending on the difficulty state that you’re in, it’s going to time it down to how accurate within the number of frames you’re going to have to be in pressing that button to get, to maximize the bonus.
I see, but how will I as a player know what button presses to make? It kind of reminds me of learning Mortal Kombat’s fatalities without someone telling you what they are.
Like up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A. I’m awful at fighting games. I’m really bad.
Is this why Smartglass and the hint videos is going to be so important?
I don’t think in terms of being “so important.” You have the help element that comes into play. You know you asking your friends, “Hey how do you do this?” You can share a video online with that. That’s not the only thing, but in terms of showcasing this is a first iteration of what we’ve been doing with the Smartglass technology and integrating it into the game. They show a much different thing like with Dead Rising  for instance where you can call an air strike.
What we showcased with the Ryse stuff, we didn’t want to get in that extra kind of stuff that really wasn’t working with what we’re trying to do with our game, but more to help Microsoft in building the menu experience that can build into the Xbox itself, and some of the cloud features that will be available.
Going back to learning the executions, let’s say I just unlocked an execution. How long does it take to learn it?
It will take you a little bit of time to learn it. I’m sure there’s going to be videos on YouTube uploaded to it. We talked about how it aggregate the videos and screenshots that kind of stuff where people can kind of show you where timings are and how that works. But again, like I said, there are going to be visual and audio cue associated with the executions.
Now, when you unlock a new execution and you do it for the first time, you probably not going to hit that bang on the first couple of times you do it. Then maybe you’re going to get to a point you are going to go, “Ah, I know when these button timings are.” It times in. we’ve done that because we want to time it in with the general combat itself. We don’t want to break the flow of combat, in general.
Everything we’ve talked about has been quite different from what I played.
I know. It was such a small core bit of what we were showing in the gameplay itself, and you know, maybe we should have shown more. Maybe we should have done a hands off piece and gone into a lot more detail.