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Rise of the Ronin review: Slicing through an open world

The image has two Japanese men with katanas ready to duel

Rise of the Ronin has a deep combat system that’s fun to experiment with, but our review shows that the same can’t be said about the uninspired open world it’s set in.

Team Ninja is best known for crafting deep, multi-layered combat systems, and Rise of the Ronin is a culmination of all of their past games. Players can dive into Team Ninja’s latest creation without having to sample any of those older games, but those who have played Team Ninja’s catalog will find grasping Rise of the Ronin’s combat that much easier.

Combat makes a Team Ninja game, and Rise of the Ronin showcases just how well the developers know brutal, fast, and punishing combat systems. Players familiar with Team Ninja’s work will see shades of Nioh, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, and even Ninja Gaiden in Rise of the Ronin.

That’s a good thing, because those games offered some of the best combat in all of gaming. But is that combat enough to carry the game, or do Team Ninja’s efforts fall short in other departments? This Rise of the Ronin review will make everything clear.

The Good:

  • Deep and engaging combat system
  • Plenty of content to find on the game’s map

The Bad:

  • Nearly everything in the game gets repetitive after a while
  • Visuals may fall short of some players’ expectations

Review Details:

Platforms available: PlayStation 5

Reviewed on: PlayStation 5

Official release date: March 22, 2024

Assassins in open-world Japan 

Rise of the Ronin takes place in 19th-century Japan and is centered around the Boshin War, which spelled the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The setting is historical, but Rise of the Ronin is an entirely fictional story about two children. The “blade twins” survive the massacre of their village by the Shogunate and are raised as assassins.

The blade twins are blank slates to be molded by the players, and the game has extensive character customization options to help. Right from the start, the story grabs one’s attention. The first mission involves sneaking aboard a ship from America and assassinating Commodore Matthew Perry. The game doesn’t waste time throwing players into the action and sets its tone immediately.

The story then moves to even more significant events, with historical figures to meet and major missions to complete. Players get the choice of joining factions opposing or aiding the Shogunate. The Rise of the Ronin has impactful decisions to make that affect the very future of Japan. But while many choices are left to the player, some events happen regardless of the player’s choice.

While the Japanese setting is exciting and offers many different locations, the open world is where Team Ninja falters. Rise of the Ronin is the developer’s first attempt at an open-world game, and it took inspiration from Ubisoft’s school of open-world design. There are a ton of markers on the game’s map, each offering some activity to tackle. While the activities are typically optional, it can still be daunting for completionists.

After a while, the cycle gets stale. Defeat enemies, collect loot, rinse and repeat. The loot itself offers incremental changes in stats and is, most of the time, uninspiring. It feels like Team Ninja had to check all the boxes for an open-world RPG.

The graphics are also a sore spot in Rise of the Ronin. They look serviceable at best and aged at worst. Performance issues sometimes conspire to take the fun out of the superb movement and combat. It’s a poor recipe.

Rise of the Ronin has satisfying combat despite flaws

Few developers like Team Ninja are making brutal but fair combat, and our Rise of the Ronin review shows that it’s no exception. The combat is the highlight here and another victory for Team Ninja. It can best be compared to Nioh, a Souls-like game made by the same team.

The game lets players use a standard katana in fights, but plenty of other options exist. Spears are great for keeping enemies at bay, Western sabers offer good damage, and firearms are even available. There is a lot of variety here regarding weapons, further increased by varied fighting styles. The katana alone has eight combat styles, including one based on Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden.

Rise of the Ronin has some interesting mission design, but generally, they are of two types: encounters strewn across the map and dedicated missions. The open-world encounters are seamless and can be tackled any way the player wants. The standalone missions are like those in Nioh and Ninja Gaiden, tasking players with completing a set mission.

Image shows a man standing on a cliff overlooking a city

The game lets players take two additional A.I.-controlled teammates into combat. The chosen teammates can be switched at any time, adding variety to the gameplay and providing a potential tactical advantage. The A.I. is good enough, but the real fun lies in taking two friends to these missions in co-op. Specific missions have the option of bringing friends in on the action, but there is no way of knowing if a mission is solo or supports co-op prior to getting to it.

Solo missions are a mixed bag; one mission could have players sneaking into a location to steal something, while another could be a tired fetch quest. The biggest drawback is the lack of clarity, as players who only want to play the excellent co-op cannot always do so. There are missions to develop bonds with characters, and some even lead to romance options. Despite some missions being a drag, the excellent combat in Rise of the Ronin keeps things fresh most of the time.

gameland.gg’s bottom line: Rise of the Ronin offers great combat in a fascinating historical setting, but its repetitive open world offers limited benefit and overstays its welcome.

Score: 7/10

Author image

Written by Bilawal Bashir

Bilawal is a software engineer who loves video games, comic books, and anime. But he will never love pineapple on pizza. In over two decades of gaming, he has only broken two controllers. His work has also been featured by TheGamer and WhatIfGaming.

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