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Spartan Scoop

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Spartan Scoop


Grappling hooks make games better
Courtesy of Team Ninja
Cover Art of Rise of the Ronin

Rise of the Ronin is a souls-like (a game similar to Dark Souls) developed by Team Ninja. The developer is most well known for their other souls-likes, such as Nioh and Wo-Long Fallen Dynasty. While the newest release by the team keeps a large number of gameplay mechanics present in both, it’s toned down on the enraging parts.


ROTR has an intense learning curve. It even actively deceives you as it teaches you how to play the game. The way the tutorial is designed doesn’t frame blocking as it actually is, trash. Counterspark on the other hand is just a parry move, but it is the most important mechanic in the game. A properly timed Counterspark refills Ki (stamina) and drains the enemies Ki. If you successfully parry the last attack in an enemy combo it deals increased Ki damage, and leaves them open to counterattacks.

This game boasts an insane level of diversity in weapons. Rifles, bayonets, spears, it doesn’t matter what you’re using, they all feel good to use. The combat is extremely responsive and favors extreme aggression, rather than the more passive playstyle that many souls-likes tend to favor. You’ll also need to be proactive in swapping weapons and stances based on the number and types of enemies you face. While a quick draw stance is good at defeating strong enemies, it’s not good at defeating groups.

Stances is the core combat feature of this game. Different stances tilt the confrontation versus weapon types in your favor. Even stances that don’t follow this stance countering feature still provide advantages in other ways. Shinobi stances let you deal lots of damage. First let you swap between enemies without having to use the mechanical skill that’s required in other weapons.

  Dealing damage deals health and Ki damage. Unlike contemporaries in the genre, you can tell when an enemy is getting winded because their Ki bar is drained. Managing Ki is far more important than health. If your Ki gets too low you’ll be left vulnerable, and if the enemies are emptied then they’re open to a critical hit. Critical hits will usually be what finishes any fight that you’re in. Different skills even let you spread hysteria among enemies. Psychological warfare after all, is the best warfare

All of that is only half of the combat. This game chose to have an emphasis on stealth. But not the slow methodical stealth that you’d see in games like Metal Gear Solid, but the Russian variant of stealth. You are encouraged to move fast, and the game gives you the tools to do this with additions such as the glider and the grappling hook. Rather than waiting till enemies to go into nice secluded places, go for the big groups. After performing a stealth attack it will temporarily terrify all nearby human enemies(animals are immune). This lets you press your advantage and eliminate a large group of enemies all at once.

The industrial revolution and its consequences…

The setting of the game is just as important as it’s combat. Japan in the 1850’s is when Matthew Perry arrives and forcibly opens up the borders of the nation. The game highlights the confrontation between the Pro-Shogun and Anti-Shogun forces. Both seek the improvement of Japan, as they acknowledge it is flawed. How they seek it is where the factions differ and choosing who you will  ally with changes the course of the story. 

Building a bond between the different allies you make as the game advances unlocks gear and stats. It doesn’t end with that, however, as you can even learn the combat styles of some of the characters. Advancing the bond with that character increases your understanding of the combat stance you learned from them. To learn their ultimate skill of their style you also need to defeat them in a training arena. 

Speaking of the dojo, that’s not the only side activity found around the map. There are gambling halls, shooting ranges, horseback archery, and gliding training. Aside from providing down time from the more serious aspects of the game, they even reward the player.

The world feels full and doesn’t suffer from Starfield syndrome, where most of the game is empty.  If you traveled a straight line across the map, you would encounter tons of random and set encounters. This is part of what keeps the game enjoyable. Plus once you hit the natural point of completing everything in the map, you transition nicely into a new part of Japan.


Souls-like games have a rhythm to fights. Most non-boss enemies can be easily exploited once you learn the tempo to their movements. This just doesn’t work in this game. It’s not because a rhythm doesn’t exist, but because they might as well be in 32nd time. Some enemy attacks move so fast that you’ll most certainly accidentally double tap the button. And this game buffers attacks, rather than canceling the input if it’s in another attack. When this happens your going to get smacked by the enemies. 

Why do you taunt us Team Ninja

There is also not a ton of diversity among the fighting styles of the smaller regular, so defeating them doesn’t become difficult. Only the big named characters have different moves. What the game teaches you in the first section is that if you see an enemy fight a certain way, then the player is also able to fight that way. Stances can even be unlocked by defeating fugitive enemies in that first part.

Then the second act throws that out the window. Repeatedly there are enemies and allies with the same weapons the player wields, but with different stances that the player can never use. Kaishu Katsu, who is a main character in the story, has an extremely unique Katana style. But we the player can not learn his stance. What’s worse is that in missions you can play as him, the game has the entire stance coded out for the player to use, but no the players actual character can’t use it.

There are also enemies with weapons that the player can not wield, unless we bring them into a mission. Weapons such as whip swords, and halberds shield combos, they’re powerful but unusable. 

Rise of the Ronin is a fast paced game. You move fast, and die fast. You also learn fast, and once you get over the learning curve the game becomes very interesting and fun. For rating I’m going to give it a solid Handgun Finisher out of Assassination.

About the Contributor
Matt Allen
Matt Allen, Reporter