HomeNewsRise Of The Ronin Review - It's Just Fine

    Rise Of The Ronin Review – It’s Just Fine

    Developed By: Team Ninja

    Published By: Sony Interactive Entertainment

    Platforms: PlayStation 5

    Reviewed On: PlayStation 5

    Review Code Provided By: PlayStation Asia

    Team Ninja is a studio with a pedigree of creating some of the most successful series of games such as Dead or Alive, Ninja Gaiden, and Nioh. More recently they ventured with interesting results with Stranger of Paradise a Final Fantasy spin-off game and Wo Long which came out last year to generally positive reviews. To be honest, from that list the only game I have tried was Nioh but I couldn’t get into it which was strange for me as I am quite a fan of soulslike games. I think it was less about the difficulty and more about what felt like an overwhelming number of mechanics to wrap my head around.

    Thanks to PlayStation Asia, I had an opportunity to play through Rise of the Ronin. I admit I knew very little of the game but it did intrigue me due to the open-world nature of the game bringing some Ghost of Tsushima vibes with it. After spending quite a bit of time with it I went through a range of emotions and ended up with just mixed feelings.


    Rise of the Ronin starts with an interesting character creator in which players would have to craft not one but two characters later introduced as Blade Twins. Players will then go through a brief tutorial section before being sent on a mission to retrieve secret documents above one of the Black Ships. When things don’t go according to plan your main character will go into seclusion only to re-emerge 5 years later in Yokohama as a ronin and it is here that the game truly begins.

    The main story is quite interestingly structured where instead of just a straightforward story of revenge, players are presented with RPG-like dialogue choices in the game which promises to unfold the story in different ways. From character Bonds that players can forge to the Pro-Shogunate factions or Anti-Shogunate factions that players can favour or not added to my curiosity on how I can mould my journey.

    I get what they were aiming for but throughout my time, these choices just did not feel weighted enough that I as a player would knowingly encounter the consequences of said choices in a meaningful way. Even though after acquiring some extra conversation skills like charming, intimidating, or lying; whichever choice I made just felt like I was constantly just favouring everyone in a middle-of-the-road kind of way. I never felt like favouring one choice would lock me out of a different path in my journey and eventually I just felt like it was hard for me to be invested in the characters or the story threads that were unfolding. Things just happen and you as a player just do them.

    I wouldn’t say that as a whole it was bad but it just felt like it should have been better. One of the biggest things for me that drives me forward is how compelling the characters are and the stories told within the game but I just never got it. I can even point to a recent game I played which is Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden and it just felt like that game drove me forward with how much care went into the multitude of characters introduced that as a player you want to see out their stories which in turn also carries the main narrative effortlessly.

    This is in part due to the world-building around them that also makes the effort to make the story believable but it felt like quite an afterthought in Rise of the Ronin. For instance, in one side quest, a geisha is now living in a beautiful-looking mansion but you are left unimpressed walking into it as it is merely an empty room with boxes. Also, there was another quest where I had to get some blowfish from a banquet that ended up just being a normal typical bandit camp that you have encountered so many times before with no explanation around it. That kind of stuff just breaks the investment.

    Graphics & Sound

    The game comes with three graphical modes which are Performance, Graphics, and Ray-Tracing mode. I tried all three but settled on Performance due to some stuttering in busy areas with the Graphics and Ray-Tracing modes. I wouldn’t say that there is a very stark difference between all three modes. All three feel like they are trying to run at 60fps but each mode does dip occasionally at certain times. What I can say is that at least those dips are few and far between. When it comes to the art style and how impressed players will be with the game will come down to personal preference. Considering this game feels very close to Ghost of Tsushima it is hard not to make a personal comparison of a game that released in 2020 looking better. It’s not an ugly game but doesn’t feel like it pushes the graphical boundary.

    The sound design is a little strange as I actually can’t remember a single memorable track in the game that stuck with me. Voice acting can be a mixed bag as well as some characters sound pretty good but others can sound just a tad off. When it comes to combat however the clashing of swords and guns sounds loud and effective. Each encounter can feel tense to immerse players in the fighting. Also, a lot of cat meowing in the game. Cats are cool and you get to pet them.

    PS5 features are ok for the most part. Loading times are fast but not instant, I also don’t remember there being any haptics or adaptive trigger implementations. If there is it felt too light and unmemorable. There have been games with great haptics and adaptive implementations that make you go “Wow I love this”. This won’t be one of them.


    The gameplay of Rise of the Ronin is where it kind of shines. I say kind of because it does a lot of things very well but there are a few things that also feel very weirdly implemented or downright dated. Veteran players of previous Team Ninja games will see that the Ki meter makes a return here that functions as both a stagger bar, for offensive abilities as well as how well you can soak up attacks. Players will get access to three stances (Ten, Chi & Jin) that will need to be switched out according to the enemies faced to be more effective. Each stance also will grant access to Martial skills that players can utilize to do more damage or disrupt enemy attacks. One of the most important skills that players will need to master is the Counterspark skill where when the enemy readies a glowing red attack which functions as a counter that staggers them and opens them up to your offense. The Counterspark also can be utilized for normal attacks that once you get used to can result in a very satisfying back-and-forth encounter.

    These stances can be further upgraded the more players use them to unlock alternate stances or martial moves as well as making them more effective. I quite like this mechanic as it provides a tactical incentive instead of just being able to go through enemies with the same moveset. What I didn’t love (at least early on) is how even though the game has three difficulty modes, the normal mode can result in encounters lasting a little too long for normal enemies or you get just outright bulldozed for boss fights. This is due to how the enemy staggers you easily but the only way for you to stagger enemies is to master Counterspark. Some boss rush attacks just feel hard to get right as they move insanely fast for the average player. Dropping down the difficulty does make it much more manageable.

    When it comes to the open world there are a lot of activities for players to discover. There are camps to clear out which will repopulate the area opening up side quests or vendors to purchase items from. Players can also pray at shrines for skill points, take photos at scenic locations for vendor items, and seek out characters to Bond with that can be utilized in missions and also increase your standing with them to unlock more martial skills, stances etc. There are standard side quests that are associated with some characters as well that develop the relationships faster. There are cats to find which award cat points that you can then exchange at the right vendor as well, the same goes for fugitives. Players are also given access to the horse and glider to traverse this open world.

    What’s strange about the open world is how it’s never really explained why almost all of the camps are taken over by nameless bandits. You are just meant to defeat them and it’s repopulated by civilians. It never feels like an evolving world event but more of just something you need to do to unlock fast travel and also vendors which you may or may not ever use. A lot of the activities also feel like busy work only to be able to purchase things from designated vendors. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the recent shift in how activities can add an extra layer of world-building which feels absent here.

    There are a few QoL things that can be interesting but imperfect. Like your horse has an autorun function but regularly gets stuck due to the pathing not working as intended. Loot in the game is abundant and players will be swimming in different loot tiers but you have to choose between selecting each one manually to break down or sell. Or you can choose the option (oddly hidden behind in the gameplay options menu) where you can choose to automatically break down or sell below an item rarity level. That weird middle ground that is missing feels like something of an oversight. The glider as well can feel cumbersome and although you can upgrade it to make it more manoeuvrable or give you speed boosts; it just feels like things you shouldn’t have to work for.

    One of the most interesting things is how close to the mid-way point of the game you will unlock the Testament of the Soul which allows you to replay missions or to replay branches to rewrite the in-game history but feels like it comes in way too late or to have a significant impact the way I expected it to.

    The game also has an online function where you can join 2 other players to do missions with and even see their created characters in camps around the world to assist you or duel with. I thought it was a nice touch that added to the players not feeling like they were alone in their journey.

    What I Liked

    • Combat – Grounded, tense and challenging. It requires one to master the Counterspark which can result in very cool encounters.
    • Characters – Cool designs and quite many characters to be bonded to.
    • Online Features – I thought it was a nice touch that players can see other created characters in their instances as well as other interactive engagements.

    What I Didn’t

    • Open-World – There is a lot to do in the open world and even multiple provinces to clear out but it all just feels like a means to an end but never as impactful as it should have.
    • Characters – Even though there are quite a number of them, doing their side-quests can kind of be confusing due to the allegiances but also how light their plot threads end up being.
    • Main story and choice variations – I dig what they were trying to do. I just wish it went deeper and had more widespread consequences. It’s things like this that get me invested but personally, it didn’t do much for me.
    • Gameplay Loop – This might be a point of contention because although Rise of the Ronin isn’t reinventing the wheel, it does feel like a game that’s dated in many ways.

    Your Time Has Come… Rise As One

    There are most definitely going to be a lot of comparisons between Rise of the Ronin and Ghost of Tsushima. I would say as similar as both these games are there is also quite a bit of difference. As a whole package though, one question that played in my mind throughout my playtime is did this game need to exist? It’s not a bad game at all but coming from Sony itself which published the very successful Ghost of Tsushima it feels like déjà vu only not for the better.

    I actually wouldn’t have minded if it took whatever worked in Ghost of Tsushima and made it better but it didn’t and will ultimately draw some unfavourable comparisons. It has a healthy length that sometimes can feel longer than it needed to be as well but time will tell if this will end up a cult classic or forgotten too soon. I had to pace myself playing through it as even though I was knocking down quests and exploring here and there eventually I realized I was doing them for the sake of doing them and not because I was invested in it.

    That is just my personal feelings on it but I am quite interested in seeing how other reviewers or players will reflect on their journeys. I for one wished that there was that little bit of magic that drove me forward with more interest to see what comes next.

    Final Score – 7/10

    Jashvir Sandhu
    Jashvir Sandhu
    Proud barbarian to her monk, Wondrous Peashooter to her Sunflower, Blue Yarny who will never let go of his Red Yarny, Loving husband of Cadet Cuddles. Also on PSN known as ZDKilljoy

    Latest News