Rise of the Ronin – Preview

Rise of the Ronin Preview Featured Image

Rise of the Ronin is the latest open-world game from Team Ninja, creators of the Nioh series. The game emphasizes player choice in a Japan that’s recently been turned upside down with the appearance of Commodore Perry onboard American ships. You and the historical figures you meet along the way will determine how best to ride out the wave of change.

This preview of Rise of the Ronin covers a generalization of the major and minor events until a certain chapter in the main story and all the features shown during that time. It will not go into detail about the characters, cinematics, plot points, gameplay sequences, or anything else that’s key to the main story. However, a spoiler warning still needs to be issued.

The game starts on the character creation screen. You will create two characters while on this screen: one who becomes the protagonist and the other your Twin Blade. Together, they form what’s known as the Veiled Edge.

Character customization combines cosmetic options with sliders to create a hybrid system that is more or less robust enough to create the two characters you have in mind. Or at least the closest to what you want them to look like. I wasn’t expecting this level of depth in customization. However, you still follow a generalized mold for a character for cutscenes and such. But at least you are not locked to a handful of pre-determined options.

The game’s combat and item management system has been greatly influenced by Nioh 2. You have two primary weapons that you can swap between at any time to deal with different weapon users. Think of it as a rock, paper, scissors but half-counters and full counters. All weapons in the run on a mastery system that unlocks more attacks the more proficient you are with them. There are also several martial styles for each weapon type that you can unlock after taking down masters of said styles.

What I’m trying to get at is the game offers a lot for your chosen fighting styles. Thankfully, it starts slowly and you gradually build up these styles the more time you invest in the game’s world.

The protagonist also has a full suite of secondary weapons to support them in battle. Surprisingly, the game put a lot more emphasis on the skill aspect of the secondaries, far more than anything seen in the Nioh series. (You’ll just have to see it for yourself.) These include, but are not limited to; rifles, pistols, bows, shurikens, and an assortment of gourd bombs. Standard fare if you’re familiar with how Team Ninja handles such weapons.

If you’ve ever played any of the Nioh games, you will be very familiar with the flow of combat in Rise of the Ronin. Of course, some changes were made to accommodate human enemies. There is a greater emphasis on countering enemy attacks, for instance. Bringing the right weapons and style also determines how easy or hard the fight will be. As well as the right allies to have at your side.

My only complaint is how limited your options are in the early game. When we start getting the option to change stances and have more moves, that’s when we’ll see the full potential of the game’s combat.

The best way I can describe the open world in Rise of the Ronin is that it is a mix between Ghost of Tsushima and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. The areas outside of city centers are fully explorable with many points of interest dotting the whole map. , You often find yourself riding from point to point on your trusty steed, gathering all sorts of resources to craft essentials. Similar to that of GoT. Minus the patrolling bands of Mongol invaders.

The urban setting contrasts Western brick architecture and traditional Japanese wood buildings. If you look closely enough, you can see the line where the old world ends and where the new one starts to take shape. It all takes me back to the old Assassin’s Creed games before the great reset happened.

The biggest disconnect I’m experiencing is the lack of climbable surfaces in both urban and country settings. You don’t instantly climb up buildings like you do in Assassin’s Creed or Ghosts. You have to run around the block until you find low buildings or a grapple point to hook onto. I’m assuming that we will find more gadgets to reach higher elevations as the game progresses. In the meantime, the ability to climb up is something I dearly miss right now.

For what it’s worth, you get the glider fairly early on in the game. It allows you to get a bird’s eye view of the land below and is used to get the jump on unsuspecting enemies. That’s all I can about that, for now.

Rise of the Ronin is most definitely an open-world game with all the trappings associated with it. There are a myriad of side activities to do and bounties to bring to justice all across the map. All of that didn’t surprise me. What surprised me were the companion missions that are unlocked as the story progresses. These were like the ‘stranger missions’ from Red Dead Redemption. You start with an interesting first meeting and then do stuff for that person. It has nothing to do with the main story. But I just felt compelled to see it through and see where the side stories go.

The final bit I want to talk about in this preview is the game’s presentation. The graphics aren’t anything to write home about. It’s a bit of a downgrade from the visuals of Nioh but I can see that they wanted to go for substance over style. And I respect that. The cutscenes look great, if that counts for you. I can’t show them here but Team Ninja did a great job on the action sequences.

The character and costume designs are what intrigued me about the game. This only extends to the Japanese main characters within the scope of the preview. I like the Japanese Steam Punk aesthetic they are going for. It’s like they took the best-looking parts of Western clothing and applied it to Japanese clothes. The idea is nothing new but I don’t think I’ve seen it implemented in this way before. It is but another reason to stick around and see the story through to the end.

Check back with us again when we have our full review of the game later this month. Rise of the Ronin is set to release on March 22, 2025, exclusively on the PlayStation 5.