Fri. May 17th, 2024

Rise of the Ronin: A Comprehensive Game Review

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Get ready to embark on an exhilarating adventure in Rise of the Ronin, an open-world action RPG developed by Team Ninja and published by Koei Tecmo, exclusive to the PlayStation 5. Set in the late 19th century Japan during the Bakumatsu period, 300 years into the tyrannical rule of the Tokugawa shogunate, this ronin game immerses you in a time marked by profound conflicts and upheavals.

As you step into the shoes of a masterless samurai, a ronin, you’ll have the opportunity to shape history and align with different factions such as the pro-shogunate Sabaku, the anti-shogunate Tobaku, or the Western forces Obei. Prepare to witness key historical events like the arrival of the Black Ships in 1853, the Sakuradamon Incident in 1860, the Kinmon Incident in 1864, Taisei Hokan in 1867, and the Battle of Toba–Fushimi in 1868. With a release date set for March 22, 2024, this new samurai game for the PS5 promises to be an action-packed journey through a pivotal era in Japan’s history.

Gameplay Mechanics

Rise of the Ronin’s gameplay mechanics revolve around a parry-heavy combat system reminiscent of Team Ninja’s previous titles like Nioh and Wo-Long: Fallen Dynasty. The game emphasizes dueling enemies, requiring players to attack and parry to deplete their stamina (Ki). While stealth is an option, most missions eventually devolve into parry-fests. The game’s self-imposed restriction of human-only enemies exacerbates the monotony of combat, with repetitive enemy types primarily consisting of “Very Large Men with Two Swords”.

The combat system, inspired by Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, features a rock-paper-scissors matchup system based on weapon types. Players can switch between allies with different fighting styles to gain an advantage. The game includes a variety of weapons, armor, and trinket pieces to equip, all with slight percentile bonuses and cosmetic designs. Crafting and gear upgrades are also available.

Other notable gameplay elements include:

  • Skill trees for each primary stat, with points invested in one stat boosting associated stats
  • Side quests that reward character bonds, conversations, upgrades, weapons, gear, and items
  • The Long House, a home base for character customization, decoration, and more
  • A time-travel system allowing players to redo missions and make new choices
  • Character creation with customizable blade twins and character classes like Killer, Breaker, Seducer, Sapper, Beginner, and Unsharpened
  • Advanced techniques like Countersparks (parrying) and Martial Skills (powerful Ki-draining attacks)
  • A Karma system, where defeating enemies and completing missions earn Karma, transformable into skill points
  • Online and AI-controlled co-op, with players choosing allies with specific strengths and skill bonuses
  • A new difficulty level, Midnight, unlocked after completing the main story, allowing players to replay missions for a new tier of gear

Open World Exploration

Rise of the Ronin’s open world is set during Japan’s Edo period, immersing players in historic cities like Edo, Kyoto, and Yokohama, as well as sprawling rural environments of forests, fields, and villages. The game features fully open world streaming and ray-traced reflections, allowing for seamless movement across the landscape without loading screens or barriers. The visually appealing world is filled with beautiful landscapes and a peaceful atmosphere.

Exploration and interaction with the world are core elements of the game. Players can use the touchpad to navigate the map and employ a grappling hook to reach difficult areas. New parkour and mobility skills are available, including:

  • Grappling hooks for scaling buildings
  • Sprinting and leaping across gaps
  • Using a hang glider to soar overhead

Horseback riding is also available for faster long-distance travel. As players progress through the open world, more content is unveiled on the map, with an auto-run feature for easier exploration. Fast travel allows players to quickly move between discovered points of interest (POIs) by unlocking Veiled Edge Banners scattered around the map. However, fast travel is not available during missions or in combat with enemies.

The open world is filled with various tasks to complete and items to discover [10]. Side activities include:

  • Collecting cats, foreign books, and photographs
  • Engaging with dynamic events like enemy camps and village invasions
  • Infiltrating bandit hideouts
  • Participating in a photo mode and shooting galleries

However, some of these activities may feel like busywork over time. The open-world design, while functional, lacks originality and innovation, with activities that are often unengaging and uninspired. Side quests and collectibles can become repetitive, although story missions and side quests tend to be more interesting and involved. The game also suffers from pop-in issues with foliage, shadow maps, lighting, and NPCs, especially in city areas or while riding on horseback.

Technical Performance

Rise of the Ronin’s technical performance on the PlayStation 5 has been a topic of discussion among gamers. While the game has been built exclusively for the PS5, taking advantage of features like fast loading times, haptic feedback, adaptive triggers, Tempest 3D AudioTech, and ultra-high-speed SSD, it has faced criticism for its resolution and frame rate.

The game offers three modes:

  1. 60fps performance mode
  2. 30fps graphics mode
  3. 30fps RT (ray tracing) mode

However, each mode comes with its own set of issues:

  • Performance mode offers a smoother combat experience but with significant graphical compromises [21].
  • Graphics mode struggles with evenly paced frames due to frame time capping, causing irregular cadence and judder.
  • Ray Tracing mode performs well within the Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) range, maintaining mid to upper 50s frame rates and consistent frame times, even in heavier battles.
  • All modes run real-time cutscenes at capped 30fps, causing incorrect frame pacing issues.

The game’s engine, which has been in use since 2005, is seen as a potential issue, with comparisons made to Nioh’s long development period and its eventual release on PS4. The PS5’s optimization for the game has also been questioned, with comparisons made to Ghost of Tsushima, which runs better on PS5. Rise of the Ronin suffers from image quality and frame-rate issues, including:

  • Most open areas rendering at or below 1080p in performance and RT modes
  • Pop-in, low-grade anisotropic filtering, and FSR2 upscaling artifacts
  • Issues with contrast, colors, and lighting quality compared to Ghost of Tsushima
  • Low resolution causing shimmer and soft image quality
  • Obvious shifts in geometry due to pop-in

Some users have suggested that a PS5 Pro could potentially improve the game’s performance, but others argue that it’s a matter of poor optimization rather than hardware limitations. The reviewer experienced stuttering in the performance mode, even though the frame rate doesn’t drop below 48 FPS, and VRR didn’t work on three different TVs tested.

Graphics Modes Comparison

Rise of the Ronin offers three distinct graphics modes to cater to different player preferences:

  1. Performance Mode:
    • Targets 60 FPS with minor hiccups in crowded spaces, but mostly achieves a smooth framerate [30].
    • Runs at 1440p resolution.
    • Recommended for its superior framerate and minimal visual compromise.
  2. Graphics Mode:
    • Prioritizes visual fidelity while maintaining a steady framerate between 30 FPS and 60 FPS.
    • Dynamically scales to 1440p with TAA reconstruction or checkerboard 1080p low.
    • Runs at 4K resolution with a target of 30 FPS, but can drop in large crowds or with complex particle effects.
  3. Ray Tracing (RT) Mode:
    • Incorporates ray-traced reflections and ambient occlusion at the cost of resolution.
    • Runs at 1080p dynamic or possibly reconstructed from 1600x900p base
    • Noticeable ray tracing effects are sparse, and the utility of this mode is lacking.

While the game’s visual appeal stems from its art direction rather than raw visual fidelity, it still impresses with good textures, impressive shadow cascade and filtering, and effective use of long shadows, soft contact hardening, and high precision. All modes run a 4K UI and are scaled to 4K.

Motion blur, depth of field, chromatic aberration, and vignetting can be adjusted in the settings. However, some critics find the game’s graphics to be outdated and lacking technical polish, with the art design helping to offset these shortcomings.

Reflections and Resolution

Rise of the Ronin’s HDR implementation is satisfactory, with a peak brightness ranging from 2,000 to 3,000 nits and a black level floor close to zero nits. The game also features a screen brightness setting that can be adjusted from 0 to 20, although this does not impact the HDR black level floor.

Despite the decent HDR performance, Rise of the Ronin’s visuals have some notable shortcomings:

  • Character models can appear shoddy at times
  • Environments may seem simplistic in certain areas
  • The game’s graphics have been likened to PS3-era titles, suggesting a lack of significant advancement in visual fidelity

These issues can detract from the overall visual experience, especially considering the game’s exclusive development for the PS5 hardware.

Character and Story

Rise of the Ronin’s narrative revolves around the journey of a masterless samurai, a ronin, during the tumultuous Bakumatsu era in late 19th century Japan. As the protagonist, you are a member of the Veiled Edge, a skilled group of warriors aiming to overthrow the Shogun. The game’s plot is compelling, offering an in-depth examination of the era from multiple perspectives, allowing you to experience the human stories of those for or against the shogunate, the gradual exposure to Western imperialism, and the innocent bystanders caught in the turmoil.

The bond system is a key element that affects the story and your choices. By completing side quests, you build relationships with characters and provinces, unlocking new fighting styles and passive bonuses. The best of Rise of the Ronin’s levels are its Bond missions, where you join samurai allies in missions, enhancing friendships, and engaging in conversations or giving gifts. The game also features a Veiled Vow system, allowing you to pursue more romantic relationships with certain characters.

However, the game’s narrative and characters have been criticized for being underwhelming and lacking depth. The protagonist is described as bland and silent, with uninteresting allies and a forgettable journey. Despite this, the historical narrative is fascinating, and the characters and events are worth experiencing. Your choices and side missions influence the story in cool ways, and the game features numerous great boss fights with former friends. Rise of the Ronin marries a cool setting, Team Ninja’s mastery of tough-but-fair combat, and smart RPG design, even when map clutter and junk loot can get in its way.


Rise of the Ronin, an exclusive action RPG for the PlayStation 5, offers an immersive journey through the tumultuous Bakumatsu era in late 19th century Japan. With its parry-heavy combat system, open-world exploration, and bond-building mechanics, the game provides an engaging experience that allows players to shape the narrative through their choices and relationships with allies. Despite some technical limitations and occasional repetitive elements, Rise of the Ronin successfully combines its historical setting with Team Ninja’s signature gameplay style.

As players embark on this adventure as a masterless samurai, they will witness key historical events and align with various factions, ultimately influencing the fate of Japan. While the game may not be without its flaws, it remains a captivating and challenging experience that transports players to a pivotal moment in history. For those seeking an action-packed journey through feudal Japan, Rise of the Ronin is a worthy addition to any PS5 library.

4 OUT OF 5


Q: Should I consider playing Rise of the Ronin? A: While Rise of the Ronin may not compete with the grandeur of other big-budget games, it offers a captivating journey through Japanese history and culture. It stands out in the recent wave of Japanese games as a tribute to the samurai genre, with a strong focus on engaging gameplay rather than just cinematic flair.

Q: What genre does Rise of the Ronin belong to? A: Rise of the Ronin is an action-role playing game developed by Team Ninja at Koei Tecmo and released by Sony Interactive Entertainment. It debuted on the PlayStation 5 on March 22, 2024, and has garnered generally favorable critiques.

Q: How much time does it take to complete Rise of the Ronin? A: Around 20 hours for the main storyline

Q: Does Rise of the Ronin allow character customization? A: Yes, Rise of the Ronin enables players to create their own characters. Players will engage in combat with era-specific weaponry and explore historical urban and rural settings, all while making decisions that can alter the course of the story.


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