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Rise of the Ronin Review: Brutal Samurai Action Meets Open World

The release of the PlayStation 5 exclusive Rise of the Ronin could hardly be better timed. After all, the mini-series Shogun is currently enjoying enormous popularity on Disney. In keeping with this, the samurai adventure takes you to Japan at the end of the Edo period, which is slowly opening up to the West. The new game from NioH and Wo Long makers Team Ninja relies on a powerful and excellent combat system, but shows weaknesses in technology and world design. Our Rise of the Ronin test reveals more.

Rise of the Ronin at a glance

Title Rise of the Ronin (official website)
Genre Action / Open World
Developer: Team Ninja Team Ninja
Publisher Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release date 22. March 2024
Platforms PlayStation 5
Number of players 1 – 3 (online co-op mode)
Price € 72.99 *
€ 72.99
€ 79.99
Auf Lager
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€ 59.95
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€ 64.90
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Rise of the Ronin Test: A story of conflict

An impressive combat system, a varied game world and an exciting setting. And, of course, cats that we can stroke. Rise of the Ronin for the PlayStation 5 has a whole host of plus points on its credit side.

At the same time, the new adventure from the studio Team Ninja, known above all for its tough Souls-like adventures such as NioH or Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, opens itself up with different difficulty levels for a whole range of players who are not keen on timing every attack and every parry perfectly.

Yes, Rise of the Ronin does a lot of things right and I really enjoyed it during the test, even found it captivating in places. However, the samurai adventure is by no means free of weaknesses.

But let’s start with the story first. The adventure begins with the creation of not one, but two main characters, which we cobble together in the extensive editor. As so-called twin blades, the siblings belong to a clan that is rebelling against the Shogun. After years of training, the duo are sent on their first mission, which goes badly wrong.

A masked samurai kills one of the siblings and also burns down the clan’s village. Driven by revenge and the thought that your twin might still be alive, you set off on your journey and try to unravel the tangled threads in the background.

Rise of the Ronin Gameplay

This is not always easy with several main and secondary characters, parties such as the Americans, the Shogunate and various other factions within the story of Rise of the Ronin. In narrative terms, the exciting premise also falls somewhat short of expectations and unfortunately cannot maintain the high level of other PlayStation exclusive titles (the comparison to Ghost of Tsushima is very obvious).

But that’s only half as bad, because the story can also be quite easily neglected. Although Japan fans are well served here with historical facts, accurately realized monuments and typical customs.

Varied and brutal battles

So what Rise of the Ronin lacks in substance in terms of plot, the open-world action game makes up for with an excellent combat system. How fitting that the battles make up a large part of the gaming experience.

This is one of the aspects where the developers’ Souls-like roots come to the fore. But don’t worry: the battles are not quite as merciless, at least on the lower difficulty levels. But if you like, you can also get a tough challenge on request.

In the fights, you always have to keep an eye on your opponent’s movements and react precisely with dodges, parries or counters. Perfect timing is essential in order to stagger your opponent and quickly empty the stamina bar, which opens up space for several quick or particularly powerful attacks or allows you to use particularly powerful finishers.

Rise of the Ronin
Image: Sony Interactive Entertainment

And this plays just as well in Rise of the Ronin as it does in Nioh, Dark Souls and the like, especially as the developers have garnished this already successful combat system with plenty of variety.

We equip our character with two different weapons, which we can (and often have to) switch between in battle. These range from fast double swords and katanas to slow but particularly powerful polearms or odachis. A total of nine different types of weapon are available for close combat.

As if that wasn’t enough variety, there are also different fighting styles for each type of weapon and even ranged weapons such as rifles, pistols or bows.

Just like the weapons, you can even change your fighting style in a duel. And it is often necessary, as some enemies are particularly vulnerable to one style, for example, but completely block the other according to the rock-paper-scissors principle.

Rise of the Ronin Kampfstile
There are different fighting styles to choose from for each weapon class

The effectiveness of the selected fighting style is indicated in-game by small arrows next to the enemy’s life bar.

With all these options, the battles are not only extremely nimble, but also pleasantly variable and fun to play. At times, however, the controls seem a little overloaded and it is not uncommon for us to mistakenly switch to a ranged weapon instead of adjusting our fighting style or pulling out our mighty katana.

Talented assassins

Team Ninja incorporates light role-playing elements into Rise of the Ronin. We collect experience points for winning battles or completing main and side quests, which we then invest in new skills in four talent trees.

These increase, for example, our life energy or the damage we cause, allow us to tame wild animals or give us the opportunity to intimidate or lie to our opponents in conversations. However, specialization is not necessary, as the game provides you with the required skill points in abundance, so that we gradually unlock all talents anyway.

Rise of the Ronin
Image: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Rise of the Ronin is similarly wasteful with new equipment, because every few seconds we stumble across new weapons, supposedly better head armor or slightly better gloves.

However, this does not diminish the joy of finding a new, particularly rare and golden weapon. Especially as all items come with sometimes more and sometimes less powerful bonus effects and additional attributes.

These attributes become increasingly important, especially in the higher difficulty levels. The approach also plays an important role here, as silent sneak attacks, explosive barrels and critical backstabs can give us an enormous advantage even before the battle begins.

This is incredibly motivating and plays extremely well. Especially as Rise of the Ronin differs greatly from other soulslikes. The (optional) stealth focus in particular works brilliantly and is reminiscent of the Assassin’s Creed games in parts.

Rise of the Ronin

A good pinch of Souls also flows into the open-world game, of course. If you bite the dust, some of your experience is left behind and can be collected again. Flagpoles serve as fast travel points and retreats to stock up on heilitems and ammunition. However, resting ensures that all nearby enemies return.

A picturesque open world with weaknesses

An open-world game like Rise of the Ronin stands and falls with its world design. It must not lack variety, but also substance. Unfortunately, the samurai adventure is a little weak here. Especially in comparison to modern genre greats such as Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom or Red Dead Redemption 2, a lot of things seem a little old-fashioned.

The Assassin’s Creed comparison also fits very well here, as the side missions range from liberating a camp and collecting runaway cats to photo tasks and searching for shrines.

None of this is really innovative and unfortunately the tasks become repetitive too quickly in the long run. But honestly? Sometimes that’s exactly what you want, isn’t it?

Rise of the Ronin
Stroking cats is incredibly relaxing after a bloody fight

During the Rise of the Ronin test, I really enjoyed completing the sometimes simple and short side quests. Precisely because I know exactly what I’m getting into and how quickly they can be completed.

Only a little time? That’s enough for two or three cats and a camp. If I have more time, I go in search of shrines and photo motifs or continue the main story. Exploring the open game world on the back of our horse or with the help of the Zelda-inspired glider is also pleasantly swift. All purely optional, of course.

If you like, you can simply follow the story through the game. However, this also lacks a little variance, as the missions often boil down to getting rid of all the enemies in a certain area. I admit it: I had much more fun with the side missions and discovering the picturesque world than with the main story.

Rise of the Ronin Gleiter
We cover large distances quickly with the glider

In a direct comparison with Ghost of Tsushima, which follows a very similar path and will finally be released on PC in May, Rise of the Ronin is inferior in all areas. That has to be said clearly.

Rise of the Ronin review: The technology

Unfortunately, Rise of the Ronin also lags far behind other major PS5 exclusives in terms of graphics. You can clearly see that the somewhat outdated engine from Nioh 2 is being used here. Although the virtual Japan scores with varied landscapes and a harmonious atmosphere, on closer inspection many textures are rather poor in detail and muddy.

The low-resolution textures are particularly noticeable in FPS mode, which reduces the graphics quality slightly for a better frame rate. Especially as the title does not maintain a constant frame rate here either. At least the battles always run smoothly.

The situation is different in graphics and ray tracing mode, which are currently struggling with heavy stuttering. The urban areas such as Yokohama or Kyoto also look rather lifeless compared to the genre competition, and unsightly pop-ups repeatedly spoil the overall impression.

Rise of the Ronin
There are some atmospheric scenes. But other PS5 exclusive titles look much better

But Rise of the Ronin is by no means a total graphical failure. And I really can’t subscribe to the “PS3-level graphics” either. The samurai adventure conjures up some really beautiful lighting moods and a dense atmosphere on the screen, which comes to life with loving details.

The title scores points for its soundtrack, which impresses with successful German voice actors and an atmospheric soundtrack.

Rise of the Ronin review: Conclusion

With Rise of the Ronin, Team Ninja delivers a fun and enormously atmospheric open-world action game that doesn’t reinvent the wheel in terms of gameplay, but keeps you glued to the screen with an incredibly complex but by no means overtaxing combat system.

When I have to switch not only weapons but also fighting styles between attack and parry and constantly keep an eye on my opponent, it not only really gets my blood pumping, it’s also a lot of fun. Especially as the game opens up a number of possibilities beyond direct combat. Be it from a distance with a rifle and bow or silently with a sneak attack.

Unfortunately, the story remains somewhat pale and the old-fashioned technology, including stuttering, is annoying. The game also lacks any really fresh ideas in the open-world activities. But that doesn’t bother me one bit. After all, the world is small enough to prevent it from turning into a boring chore and yet big enough to fuel my thirst for discovery.

And so I sit there and think to myself “just quickly liberate a camp” or “oh come on, take the cat with you”, while another two hours of play have already passed.

Anyone who appreciates open-world games for precisely this reason and is interested in Japan and its culture will get their money’s worth with Rise of the Ronin. However, the game’s main problem is Ghost of Tsushima, which is superior to the Team Ninja adventure in every respect. If that doesn’t bother you, you’ll have a lot of fun with Rise of the Ronin (as I did).

Rise of the Ronin Test: Silver Award

Pros
Contra
Story
77%
exciting era
different factions
some interesting characters
– Plot too superficial
– confusing narrative
– pale main character
Gameplay
87%
complex, gripping combat system
several weapons, fighting styles and possibilities
successful gadgets
– repetitive mission design
– uninspired tasks
Balance
87%
different levels of difficulty
controllable NPCs online co-op
many checkpoints & save points
– Controls seem a bit overloaded
Scope
90%
25-30 hours for the main story
several more hours for side activities
Replay value through factions and more
– a little too little variance in the areas
Graphics & Sound
75%
varied, atmospheric world
very good soundtrack
– muddy textures
– Performance problems
– partly choppy animations

Rise of the Ronin

Story
Gameplay
Balance
Scope
Graphics & Sound

83/100

Atmospheric samurai adventure with an excellent and varied combat system, but which suffers from a somewhat unimaginative open world and technical inconsistencies.

€ 72.99
€ 79.99
Auf Lager
Buy now* Amazon
€ 59.95
auf Lager, Lieferzeit 1-3 Tage
Buy now* netgames.de
€ 64.90
Auf Lager; Lieferzeit: 2 Werktage
Buy now* alza.de
€ 74.99
Lieferung in 1-2 Werktagen
Buy now* Saturn.de

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The release of the PlayStation 5 exclusive Rise of the Ronin could hardly be better timed. After all, the mini-series Shogun is currently enjoying enormous popularity on Disney. In keeping with this, the samurai adventure takes you to Japan at the end of the Edo period, which is slowly opening up to the West. The new game from NioH and Wo Long makers Team Ninja relies on a powerful and excellent combat system, but shows weaknesses in technology and world design. Our Rise of the Ronin test reveals more. Rise of the Ronin at a glance Title Rise of the … (Weiterlesen...)

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