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  • Writer's pictureCourt Lalonde

A Sneak Peek into Rise of the Ronin

Rise of the Ronin

Rise of the Ronin wasn't on my radar. Even after the first trailer we saw at the State of Play in September 2022, I was still skeptical. The reason is Team Ninja was making the game, and usually, their action role-playing games with brutal difficulty spikes don't speak to me. I have tried many Soulslike games, and the difficulty spikes aren't my thing, but I respect the developer for their vision and storytelling. They are good games to some, and a large fan base even adores them. What I saw in that trailer made me wish I liked those games. As a huge fan of Assassin's Creed games because of the gameplay and the trips they take us through time, I always asked for a samurai Assassin's Creed game. When I played 2020's Ghost of Tsushima, I was floored and instantly fell in love with the game and its setting. When finding out that Rise of Ronin had difficulty settings during the first sneak peek, it jumped to the top of my excited-to-play list. Who wouldn't want to play a game set in the late 1800s in Japan during the Edo period that has you smack dab in the middle of a war between the anti-shogunate and the pro-shogunate? Don't worry; I'm not here to give you a history lesson, but if what I said intrigues you or you don't know much about it, I suggest you research it because it's fascinating.

I'm only going to discuss the first 100 minutes or so of the game, and I can promise there will be no spoilers, as I feel the story is meant to be experienced after playing the game. I will refer to what has been shared about the game through blog posts or trailers and my experience playing the game's first section.

Your protagonist is from the Kurosu clan, and you're a trained warrior of the Veiled Edge. The Veiled Edge is the name of the village where you live, where they also practice the Veiled Arts. You are a protagonist whose family was lost when destroyed by shogunate spies. At the beginning of the game, you and your Blade Twin are tasked to assassinate Commodore Matthew Perry. There is no relation to the Freinds star of the same name, but you can be sure the TV theme song jumped right into my brain as soon as I saw the name. During this battle, you are met with one of many decisions you will be made to make along your journey that shape how you play Rise of the Ronin. You will meet who I can only assume is the main enemy of the game, the Blue Demon, before returning to your village. Rise of the Ronin is a game about choices and how those choices shape your gameplay. I genuinely don't want to give any more away about the story, as I feel Team Ninja has done a great job weaving a web of choices and consequences through my playthrough so far that I want everyone to experience them for themselves.

Rise of the Ronin

Rise of the Ronin has a very in-depth character creator screen to make your protagonist look almost any way you see fit. I'm more of a default character type player on nearly every game I play, but I know many will enjoy this section of the game. As you progress in the story, you can even change how your protagonist looks if you change your mind. As I mentioned, Team Ninja made Rise of the Ronin about choices, and even how your character looks or sounds is up to you.


Twin Blade

After choosing how you would like your character to look and sound, you will be met with another choice. That choice is your playing style, which they refer to as the origin in Rise of the Ronin. Each origin has its perks, preferred weapons, and special skills. You must choose your origin and what you like to play like. You are not stuck with this origin if you want to switch when playing the game, as you can change that later on in the game when you unlock your Longhouse in Yokohama. The origins are Unsharpened, Beginner, Sapper, Seducer, Breaker, and Killer. I chose Breaker as my play style, and it is more stealthy, with your special skill being rapid assassinations. When playing action RPGs, I tend to lead towards a stealth approach when available, but I'm thinking about trying out Killer, which would allow you to take enemies more head-on, and your special skill is repelled arrows. Team Ninja, I feel, is having a little fun with the description of these origins, as Unshapended is described as "A weakling whose ineptness has resulted in their lack of a blade sharpening origin. These Veiled Edges know only the most basic of skills and have poor attributes to boot."

As mentioned, you can choose a difficulty setting in Rise of the Ronin. This was Team Ninja's most controversial choice, as it divided gamers on social media for some reason. I will never understand a community like gamers that always preach inclusivity but become divided on things that shouldn't matter, like how someone likes to play a video game. I would have passed on Rise of the Ronin if the game had had no difficulty options. The difficulty settings are Dawn, Dusk, and Twilight. Dawn is the least difficult, and Twilight offers the more Soulslike gameplay. Before the game's release, the produces of the game, Yosuke Hayashi and Fumihiko Yasuda, stated;

"It is obvious that Team Ninja titles are not designed to be easy to play for everyone, he said, but we wanted to make this title more accessible to a wide range of players. We have developed three distinct difficulty modes that players can choose based on their preferences. The first is for storytelling-oriented players who want to live the story and play without much difficulty. Then we have an intermediate mode for players used to this kind of experience. Finally, we have a more challenging mode that fits more closely with our previous games and meets the needs of hardcore players and Souls-like fans."

They offer some user accessibility settings that I sure took advantage of. All of these settings can be adjusted at any time during your playthrough. Everything from controller mapping to having it so the R1 and L1 buttons are presumed to be held down for your guard, ready sub-weapon, combat styles and weapons HUD. Some settings I took advantage of were automatic additional attacks, aim assist, auto collect items, auto crouch, and auto grab. Automatic additional attacks have the protagonist automatically perform basic combos with one press of the button. I feel auto collect items should be the default in most games. This may seem small to some, but they allow you to only hold down buttons once, like for a run, which will then continually do it until you press the button again. This makes the gameplay experience more enjoyable and puts less strain on your controller from holding the stick button down or a button. There are settings to adjust for input methods, game controls, control assist, vibration, camera controls, language, subtitle settings, audio, effects, and cinematics. Yes, you can turn motion blur off, which is set as default, so make sure you turn that off.

Rise of the Ronin

As you enter this open-world Edo period Japan, you will see the art style Team Ninja was going for. They have three graphical settings: prioritize FPS, graphics, and ray tracing. Ray Tracing can only be turned on in the start menu, but switching between FPS mode or graphics can be done in the game. I prioritized FPS as I want my combat to be as smooth as possible, and it is my choice in almost all the games I play. I would be lying if I said that, even when in ray tracing mode, the visuals blew me away. This is the only criticism I can throw at Rise of the Ronin during my playthrough so far. I wouldn't say the game looks terrible, but it doesn't look graphically as beautiful as, say, a Ghost of Tsushima Directors Cut or Horizon Forbidden West. I would say that during my playthrough so far, I have barely noticed because I'm too busy enjoying other aspects of the game and the art style that Team Ninja chose to follow. The game still looks great, but I do notice the draw distance from time to time and pop in of some elements in the foreground and background. The gameplay and story certainly make up for the graphical shortcomings.

The world itself isn't too large and doesn't take you endless amounts of time to cross the map or get to objectives. Rise of the Ronin, I feel, respects your time. I say this often when talking about video games because, in my day-to-day life, I don't have the absorbent amount of time to dump 80 hours into a video game. Far too many games lately have these sizeable open world maps but have nothing in between places of interest except a couple of MPCs and filler. Rise of the Ronin feels condensed and focuses more on the actions, as there is always something to do or enemies to fight around almost every corner. Whether using the glider, which is pretty awesome, or a horse, it takes no time to get across the map. The traversal system also helps get around the open world and is fun. Using the grappling hook to get up to high spaces or even combining it with the glider makes for some fun combos. You can even use the glider and call for your horse to transfer directly into riding from gliding.


The combat is challenging yet rewarding. Like most Soulslike games, it uses the parry system, and I did die a lot initially. When used properly, the parry system, called counterspark, can neutralize enemies' attacks. I felt the difficulty level was high early on in the game, but your character becomes more powerful as you progress, while the enemies around you don't. Each region doesn't level up to your character, stopping you from going rogue across the map to unlock other secrets, as the enemies there will kill you quickly. You can switch stances in mid-fight, and enemies will have red or blue indicators, letting you know if your stance will be used against that enemy. Your stance will also do the job if the colour indicator is grey. Each stance has move sets that you can do in combat, which you do get a tutorial on how to use, but if you need a refresh, you can see them in the pause menu under combat style. When an enemy flashes red before an attack, it will be their strong attack but don't worry. You can parry these as well, but it will need perfect timing. The brutality of the combat adds to the game. In many games, when using a sword they stay away from gruesome deaths, but not Rise of the Ronin, as chopping off heads and limbs with blood squirting out will be the norm. You and your enemies have stamina, which is called Ki, and it helps you inflict more damage on an enemy and slow you down when it is low. The amount of blood on your sword affects your Ki but can be replenished with a simple flick of the R1 immediately after an attack, which will flick the blood off your sword and replenish portions of your KI. You can instill fear into your enemies, making them more vulnerable to strong attacks from you, which you can see with a red circle on your enemy. The red circle will appear when the enemy is close to death or when you have made them fear you from an attack you placed on another enemy. The enemy types vary, and it doesn't feel like you're constantly fighting the same MPCs. Many training facilities across the map help you either with your combat skills or your traversal skills.

You can use assassination on unsuspecting enemies and almost clear areas without alerting nearby enemies. You can hide in tall grass or traverse rooftops to avoid enemy detection. In addition to your swords, staffs, and katanas, you have more modern weapons, like rifles, pistols, and throwables, to take down enemies. You can also craft items to use in combat and even use them to set your katana on fire to use in your attacks. Enemies are not only in the form of people, but the animals in the world will also attack you. As you progress, there are skills to unlock that will help you tame those animals, so you don't have to feel bad about killing them if that bothers you.

Rise of the Ronin

You won't be alone in the world, as you meet many companions who will help you upgrade your skills or assist you in battle. They have implemented a bond system in Rise of the Ronin that will grow if you choose to friend one of these characters, complete tasks with them, or give them gifts. I want the characters you meet along the way to be a surprise, but I'm sure you will have your favourites, as do I. One of the items you need to collect worldwide is petting cats. More games need to have you pet an animal in the game. The characters you bond with will be in your longhouse from time to time and will interact with you and the cats. You can give those characters gifts to increase your bond with them. The gift you can collect throughout the open world. Increasing your bond with characters will help you level up your character, unlock skills, and gain items.

There are many items on the map to collect, and they become visible as you unlock Veiled Edge Banners, which are all over the map but can be used for fast travel once unlocked. Unlocking Public Orders also unlocks villages that enemies have overrun. You will see them on your map with a red indicator or in the open world if you look for clouds of smoke. Once you kill all the enemies in the village, you will open up more icons on the map, gain skill points and increase your bond with that region. Shrines will be on the map as well, which you pray to unlock skill points to upgrade your character. They do an excellent job of not cluttering the map with too many items to collect or interact with. All items that show up on the map to interact with will give you skill points or rewards for your character.

As with many RPGs, there is a skill tree for your protagonist. The skills are located in the pasuse menu under Stats and are broken down into strength, dexterity, charm, and intellect. The skill tree isn't huge at all, but I suggest looking it over to see what skills you would like to upgrade based on how you want to play the game. Acquiring skill points is fairly straightforward, and you will find that you can upgrade your character rather quickly if you choose to clear the map before proceeding to the next story beat. Along with skills to upgrade, you will see in the pause menu the equipment you can change throughout your play as you upgrade your character. There are blacksmiths and black market shops to buy weapons and sub-weapons, but you can find enough chests or earn items from enemies or missions in the open world.

Rise of the Ronin

Regarding what level you choose to play on or your play style, Rise of the Ronin offers the players choice. If you decide to play this as a Soulslike, you can because they allow the player to play the game they want to play. Nothing feels forced, and the central theme I have noticed is the number of choices I get to make in how I play Rise of the Ronin. It's not the cinematic masterpiece like a Ghost of Tsushima that feels grounded as well, but it has a fantastic story so far, engaging combat with a bit of an arcade feel. Rise of the Ronin respects your time and is engaging. I have a hard time putting it down so far and have truly enjoyed playing it. I have liked it so much that I haven't been able to play any of the new content in Helldivers 2. In a gaming world of many live service games and 80 hour epics, it's fantastic to see a game with rewarding combat, compelling storytelling, and historic world-building. It feels like the game I need right now, and it allows me to get lost in this world and have fun simultaneously. It's shaping up to be one of my favourite games I have played this year, and I can't wait to finish this preview and go back and play some more. So get hyped for Rise of the Ronin because I think Team Ninja has something special here.

Code provided by PlayStation Canada


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