Rise of the Ronin PlayStation State of Play Open-World Gameplay
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Rise of the Ronin Preview – Nioh in The Open-World

Team Ninja’s latest Rise of the Ronin game is just a few weeks away from its launch on PS5 and after two hours with the game, I can confidently say that it is shaping up to be another excellent title from the Nioh studio. I have played way more than two hours but this preview is based on the few opening chapters in the game.

In classic Team Ninja tradition, Rise of the Ronin loads up to a robust character creator where you can craft your playable character. It is as in-depth as you would hope it to be and after a few minutes, I was ready to go. I also need to add that the character creator actually makes you create a second person too. This character is known as your Blade Twin.

Rise of the Ronin

I am not one to obsess over character creators, to be honest. I usually just make an attractive male build. Someone who I wouldn’t mind looking at for the next few hundred hours. Easy on the eyes, a nice butt and some built pecs.

Rise of the Ronin lets you save your creations and even generate codes with what you made to share with friends. I am sure people are going to create all sorts of wild characters when the game launches. The option to paste in a code and automatically tweak the look of a build to something unique makes this creator even more appealing.

Character creator aside, Rise of the Ronin kicks off quite abruptly. After a few minutes in a tutorial, I was thrown onto a ship where I had to assassinate enemies and eventually have a showdown with the captain. After a series of unfortunate events, which I won’t spoil here even though I can reveal information according to the embargo, the game’s title appeared and I was thrown into the world.

Rise of the Ronin

There are some major changes to the classic “Nioh” formula which might take some time getting used to. For example, Rise of the Ronin has ditched the episodic mission gameplay for an open-world setting. So instead of jumping from one mission to the next, you’ll now explore a large map completing all sorts of side objectives while you’re on your way to your new main mission.

The new open-world mechanic also means that instead of focusing solely on the main story in the game, Team Ninja has been able to create unique storylines with characters. This whole system is called a “Bond” and each comes with its own set of perks and unlockables which are obtained by levelling up their relationship. This leads to new missions, new combat styles and various items which help in different ways.

Rise of the Ronin

Some of these characters can even be taken on missions with you and with a quick press of a button, you can take control of them. This means you can take advantage of their combat style and equipment. It also means that when you get downed, the game will automatically switch to them and you essentially have an extra life.

While this feature does allow for more creative freedom in your combat, I don’t see myself using it often. I would prefer to stick to my own character and master the gear and styles I decide to use. Especially considering that the open world, where most of your time is spent, is done with your created character.

Rise of the Ronin

However, the added NPCs do add some variety to the game. Apart from their combat style, they also come with their own storyline to develop. Gonzo, for example, uses an Odachi with the Nodachi Jigen-Ryu combat style. He is slow but his overhead attacks hit like a truck.

This is just one of many combat styles available available for the Odachi. The Katana, which is a weapon I have mained, includes nine different combat styles. Keep in mind that each style also comes with its own set of skills which are also gained through various objectives and Bonds.

Each style is also “countered” in a way by another. Enemies show how effective your style is against them and attacks have a greater chance to deplete their Ki which causes stagger and opens them up for a critical hit.

Rise of the Ronin

If you have played Nioh, this might sound very much the same because it is. Throughout my time with Rise of the Ronin, there were a lot of familiarities between the games. For example, inflicting two different status ailments on an enemy would inflict Ying-Yang. As a result, they would slow down and be more vulnerable to attacks.

The combat styles and the favourable weapons also reek of Nioh here. Nioh has always leaned towards the Katana more than other weapons so the “nine” different combat styles compared to the three or four across other weapons won’t be surprising. Unfortunately, this also means some weapons are simply horrible to use. The Spear has been given the Nioh treatment too and felt underpowered and incredibly weak.

This has been an issue in all Team Ninja games. The studio somehow thinks that because a spear has a greater range than other weapons, its damage output needs to be half that of other weapons too.

Rise of the Ronin

The good news is that while there are various new mechanics to dive into in Rise of the Ronin if you’re familiar with Nioh, it will be easier to pick up. The open world is likely the biggest new mechanic and it changes the entire flow of the game.

In a way, this new direction feels quite refreshing. I am a huge fan of Nioh but the rinse and repeat mission system could get tedious at times. Especially when the side missions didn’t offer much excitement apart from “Go here and kill this weak enemy”. We know the main missions held the best action and the same can be said for Rise of the Ronin.

The world is vast and holds various side objectives. Public Orders, for example, are towns and camps taken over by bandits. Clear them out and you’ll unlock a Veiled Edge Banner which acts as the game’s bonfire. Yes, this is a soulslike game and there are banners throughout the world that reset enemy spawns.

Rise of the Ronin

The difference here, however, is that these banners act as deposits for your XP. So you don’t level up when you touch them. Instead, you deposit XP into the banner which progresses your Karma and unlocks skill points as you do so. You’ll always want to drop off your XP as often as possible to avoid losing it.

Say you have a large bar full of XP and you die, a portion of that bar is left with the enemy under what the game calls a “Vendetta”. To get the enemy back, you have to either kill them or perform a critical hit. This gives back the XP.

There were often times when I attempted to clear out a high-level Public Order only to die like a fool. I had to find that enemy and take him down. Thankfully, stealth attacks act as Critical Hits so I crept around and even lept from a roof onto the enemy. The attack restored my lost XP and I quickly scurried off in fear.

Rise of the Ronin

The open world does feel great to explore. There isn’t an overwhelming amount of content to undertake but everything feels as if it is contributing to something. Each region, for example, has a checklist of stuff to do. Once done, you’ll earn completion rewards which are great incentives for checking all those boxes.

If you aren’t unlocking fast travel Veiled Edge Banners, side activities also contribute to some character Bonds. Bonds is a new relationship system in Rise of the Ronin which acts as a sort of checklist of objectives for various NPCs too. These checklists vary from character to character and you’ll have to complete different open-world objectives (and other things) to level up your Bond with each of them.

Rise of the Ronin

There’s so much more to cover in Rise of the Ronin but I will keep that for the review. So far, the game has me hooked. The various systems linked to the open world work well together. However, the combat is truly the game’s real feature. It feels incredibly fluid and rewarding. I didn’t expect less from Team Ninja in this regard.

Enemies come with various threat levels and combat styles which constantly force you to switch up your attack style to counter them. Not to mention that blocking attacks and countering with a critical hit looks incredibly stylish. When I wasn’t chopping heads off, I was creeping through the grass taking out enemies like an assassin.

Of course, I do have some concerns. How much open world is too much? I am also not entirely impressed by the game’s visuals. They leave much to be desired at this rate. However, we’ll tackle all that in the review.

I will share my full thoughts both good and bad when the review embargo drops on 21 March. You can expect to see my review live at 13:00 CAT.

Marco is the owner and founder of GLITCHED. South Africa’s largest gaming and pop culture website. GLITCHED quickly established itself with tech and gaming enthusiasts with on-point opinions, quick coverage of breaking events and unbiased reviews across its website, social platforms, and YouTube channel.

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