Rise of the Ronin is Comfort Food

April 22, 2024

Written by Jamie Galea

Have you played a video game that you know isn’t going to blow you away or change your perception of what a video game is, but it’s doing exactly what you need it to do and nothing more? That’s Rise of the Ronin for me. I’ve been playing the game thanks to a code sent by Playstation, and I’m glad I was able to check it out. Not just because it’s a game worth your time, but it’s also one that’s comfort food to me, and that’s all I needed it to be.

I bring this up because, truthfully, there isn’t anything that Rise of the Ronin does that you haven’t seen in other games. At its most reductive, you could take one look at Rise of the Ronin and think it’s Team Ninja’s take on Elden Ring. It’s not hard to imagine given it’s an open world game with Soulsborne style combat. In execution, it comes closer to Assassins Creed, thanks to the abundance of side activities and general size of its open world. Not to mention it’s a game that also plays with history and has plenty of historical figures to interact with. I’m absolutely all for it.

A lot of why I’m digging it is that the game does a great job of presenting its content in a way that never really feels overwhelming. If you’re particularly time poor, you can knock out a few things and still feel as satisfied as if you had more time to invest in it. It helps that there’s no real stuffing around either – missions and side activities are short and sweet, and there’s plenty of them.

Complimenting this is that the combat is satisfying and rewarding enough to really making getting into fights or doing the more combat centric tasks a blast. It’s something that developer Team Ninja has always excelled at over the years. These things together making for a game that is absolutely perfect if you’re time strapped, and as more video games want to you to treat them like jobs, this feels like a true rarity.

One other cool thing, you can make your character look real sharp, and it rules. The fashion game is on point.

The other thing that I think is really worth celebrating is Team Ninja’s continued commitment to make these kinds of game more approachable than their contemporaries, and their big difference is the inclusion of difficulty settings you can toggle between. Refreshingly, the game doesn’t care if you want to play it as intended, let alone any easier or harder. It just wants you to have a good time, and as someone who doesn’t always have the level of patience required to master a FromSoft game, I’m happy for any means of helpful progression.

For as much as I’m enjoying my time with Rise of the Ronin, there’s some parts of the game I wish were more fleshed out. There’s a speechcraft system where you can use specific skills during dialogue choices to achieve certain outcomes. It’s something I adore in any game that has this, and should be an automatic win. After all, if you can talk your way out of a fight, or achieve your end goal without ever getting into a fight, that’s far more satisfying to me than mastering the games combat.

Which is why it bums me out that these skill checks never appear often enough during dialogue to really feel like a viable thing to do. When you do get a dialogue tree, your choices are mostly yes/no, with some occasional flavour text to flesh out the world. Not to mention most of the time that I’ve gotten to use a speechcraft skill, I don’t feel particularly satisfied with the result. It feels like I still would’ve gotten the same result regardless if I used the dialogue skill, which isn’t satisfying.

Then there’s the story, which I wish did more than what it does. It kinda falls into the same trap that Nioh 2 & Wo Long did, where because it’s a game where you need to make a character, there’s no real writing or any direction to your character at all. You’re present as history is going down, but you do not matter in the slightest.

Going through Ronin’s plot, I miss having a character in the vein of William Adams from Nioh or the wild card that is Stranger of Paradise’s Jack. The plot is just barely interesting enough to not completely skip, but it’s uninteresting enough where I’ve quickly read the subtitles and buttoned through dialogue where I can.

It’s a shame, because I genuinely do enjoy the setting that Team Ninja have set the game in. The Bakumatsu period of Japanese history is one I find deeply fascinating. It’s a period of contrast between the deep traditions Japan still holds crashing up against the wave of modernisation as the nation finally opened up to the rest of the world. If there’s one takeaway from this piece, I urge you to read up on this period and how it shaped Japan for many years to come.

With all that said, Rise of the Ronin is worth a look if you’re after a good action game to tide you over. It’s far from perfect, and offers little new or exciting from previous Team Ninja games, but as pure comfort gaming it excels. It does a great job of respecting your time and skill, and in true Team Ninja fashion, is rewarding and satisfying to play through. If you’re after something good, not great, definitely check Rise of the Ronin out.

Review code provided by the publisher. When he’s not too busy reading up on the Bakumatsu period, give Jamie a follow on all the social media over at @jamiemgalea

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