Ryse – Son of Rome accessibility review

Josh Straub6 minute read

RYSE made its debut during E3 in July of 2013 and received glowing marks for its graphics, but was heavily-criticized for the QTE-heavy gameplay shown. Upon its release, those criticisms rang true as well, but sometimes, what may be a “bad” experience for some is a good one for others. While Ryse may not offer up the depth of a God of War game, it would theoretically gain a lot from appearing to be essentially “QTE the game” in pre-release videos. Unfortunately, that doesn’t quite wind up being the case in reality. However, the game does feature a number of measures that wind up making the game more playable to at least some degree for those with disabilities.

Brightly-colored button prompts matching up with the face buttons pop up for item and object interaction, as well as battles. Given the size of the objects and characters in the game, they cover a lot of the screen make it fairly easy to figure out which button to push, which is a welcome change from God of War going from colored prompts to just single-color ones with alternating shapes. While going with the solid colors does hurt the cinematography a bit, it’s a price worth paying for the gains it gives to people with vision problems. The fast-paced action varies from GoW-style combat to projectile-shooting and group blocking as well as troop commanding, and does require a bit of individual analysis.

The bulk of the game’s combat isn’t just the QTE-fest people saw before it came out – those portions are limited to the violent executions, which aren’t the only way to kill enemies. You can also kill them with basic X and Y attacks after mixing up some blocking and shield shoves to open up an attack window. Rolling out of the way offers up a more sure-fire way to avoid damage than blocking does, but doesn’t give you as much time to attack – so there’s a great risk/reward system on display there. The basic combat feels a bit less visceral than GoW, but the executions are about on par with GoW’s most violent cinematic deaths and can be done in pretty much any battle you’re in. There’s no fail state with the executions, so if you press Y when you should have pressed X, don’t worry – you’ll still get the kill and the animation will follow through, you just won’t gain as much XP from the kill. It’s a fantastic system to help those whose reaction time isn’t the best, and helps prevent the game from being anywhere near as frustrating as the God of War series can be.

Projectile-shooting varies and turret-esque arrow-shooting segments. The latter involves using spears in an active battle that you get on the battlefield and aim with LT and use with RT. A bright red prompt lets you know when the best time is to attack, so if body language and positioning can’t be determined easily, this will aid those with visual impairment. The arrow-shooting sections see you command a crossbow with the goal to take out large groups of enemies. You can choose to take them out one at a time or blow a reasonably-large group of them up using bright red explosive barrels full of gunpowder…in ancient Rome…okay well it makes the game easier so we’ll let the logic gap slide a bit. These sections just require the use of the right stick and RT button, which is a bit easier to do if you’ve got minor motor issues, although the real-time tension in the bow replication with the force feedback motors might make things a bit tougher.

Troop commanding portions are rare, but quite friendly to those with motor skills issues who can’t handle the more fast-paced combat that sometimes requires not only multiple button presses quickly, but can require multiple buttons to be pressed at the same time – like when you’re commanding troops to do one task while taking out a horde of enemies. To make this job easier, you can just command them via the Kinect, which doesn’t just speed up the process, but makes it possible for someone unable to do the combat to help out someone who can by saying the commands. Ryse‘s support of the SmartGlass app is some of the most robust yet. The app is not only available on tablets and phone, but also on Windows 8 PCs – which makes it a bit more accessible. The timeline function allows you to gain access to a listing of what collectibles you have, and you can bring up a video guide showing you where stuff you haven’t found is located. The app also features an exclusive book, with large images that are easy to see for the visually-impaired. The app enables someone with motor skills who may be unable to participate in combat beyond the executions a chance to aid someone else and feel a sense of accomplishment doing so.

Visually, Ryse‘s lush graphics are a feast for the eyes. The character models have tons of detail and little things, like mud rolling off of armor, will dazzle you. Facial animations are realistic and for the first time, faces are able to convey minor changes in emotion fairly well. Environmental textures aren’t the best though, and you’ll be noticing that a lot since the game’s perspective is fairly zoomed-in compared to something like God of War. While this has the benefit of making it much easier to see your character and the environment, it also leads to a claustrophobic feel during a lot of the battles. As mentioned before, the bright button-centric prompts are nice, but may cause problems for the colorblind since the actual buttons aren’t shown – just their overall color. Otherwise, the game is pretty friendly for those with vision problems. The large size makes everything easier to see, the text size is reasonably large, and the markers for where to go next are clear to see against the background, although they could stand to be a bit larger.

Ryse‘s audio is largely fantastic, and is also very friendly to those with hearing problems. If you’ve got severe hearing issues, you may not be able to hear the epic soundtrack, but you can still get a feel for the combat without swords clanging and blood-curdling screams thanks to the rumble motors. They’ll go crazy during massive battles, and give you a satisfying feel after a successful kill. It’s a story-heavy game with a ton of dialogue, and you can thankfully turn subtitles on to better understand what’s going on with the plot.

Ryse‘s heavily-cinematic and somewhat lean level of interactivity means that while it may not be perfect as a game for someone with disabilities, it is pretty much ideal for watching in Let’s Play format. While point and click games are essentially perfect for that, this game fits it nearly as well since it’s so story-driven and if you can find someone doing an LP without talking over it, you can get the story without having to struggle with the game itself. The big downsides to that are having to lose out on some VQ due to the nature of technology never allowing a stream or recording to look quite as sharp as the direct feed to a TV and needing to ensure that it has subtitles if you’re hearing-impaired.

Overall Rating: Thoroughly Accessible

Visual Rating: Partially Accessible

Fine Motor Rating: Partially Accessible

Auditory Rating: Thoroughly Accessible

ESRB Rating: M

Game Informer Rating: 6.0

The Bottom Line for Disabled Gamers: Ryse, Son of Rome


– Bright colors show which buttons to press during combat

-Large character models are easy to see and text is reasonably large

– The bright colors do not showcase button names, making it tough on the colorblind

Fine Motor

– Bright button prompts nearly automate combat at times

-Adjustable difficulty lessens that issue by easing up on challenging fights

– Core combat requires fast reflexes and boss battles can be very tricky at any difficulty level


– Rumble motors get across the battles perfectly

– Subtitles are easy to read

– Unfortunately, those subtitles don’t include descriptions for the gut-wrenching screams of agony that help suck you into the game

This article has been transferred from DAGERSystem (now AbilityPoints). Scores, formatting, and writing style may differ from original CIPT content.

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