Rise of the Ronin Review

The name's Bond, forging bonds

By Paul Hunter

Team Ninja has taken their signature combat and brought it into a huge open world in Rise of the Ronin for PS5. Over the past two weeks, I've plunked more than 50 hours into this big game and nearly completed everything it has to offer. Let's take a closer look at what Sony's latest exclusive has in store.

Gameplay is the main draw here, as anyone who’s played a Team Ninja game would expect. Combat is exceptionally refined and makes you feel like a true Ronin with your precision strikes, Ki stamina, parries and special moves.

Like prior Team Ninja games, there is a huge variety of weapons like paired swords, odachis, polearms, and oxtail blades. Because this game is set in the Bakumatsu Period (when Americans, British and French arrived in Japan) you also get Western weapons like bayonets, pistols and revolvers. Each weapon has a 25-level upgrade system and three combat stances—Ten, Chi, and Jin—that have advantages over certain types of enemy weapons.

Rise of the Ronin is in this uncomfortable spot where the open world isn’t as vibrant, beautiful and alive as Ghost of Tsushima, nor is the combat as nail-biting as Sekiro. But where this game does succeed is its excellent traversal systems (glider, horse, grapple), charming cast of characters and Team Ninja’s signature battle mechanics.

There are three huge regions to explore, each taking 15-20 hours to complete all main and side missions. The open-world activities are fun, but they’re not groundbreaking. It’s the usual fair of liberating towns, finding shrines to pray at, and hunting down wanted fugitives. While familiar, I still enjoyed side activities like finding cats, following white ghost wolves, horseback archery, and gliding challenges.

The story starts off with a bang, then there’s a lull for a while and then the story really starts to pick up again at the midway through the first region. You'll be making lots of choices over the adventure including who to kill and who to spare, as well as which sides of the conflict you wish to align with.

Performance mode is my preferred setting with the game mostly hitting a smooth 60fps. The exception is when you use the glider in busy towns: you can feel the framerate drop by 10-20 frames. As soon as you land the fps tends to quickly go back up to 60. Graphics are a straight ok. The game doesn’t look bad but it doesn’t look all that great either. There are moments of beauty where the visuals impress, but it’s far and few between.

Rise of the Ronin has the same loot system as prior Team Ninja games where even after the first five hours you’ll have 500-1000 pieces of loot. I’ve grown a bit tired of this system as it means you can spend hours rooting through loot, most of it junk. Thankfully you can auto-sell or auto-dismantle loot under a rarity level you specify and I highly recommend doing so.

Next to the combat, my favourite part of this game is the Bond system. Every main NPC you meet, including enemies you can choose to not kill after defeating them, will have a bond meter that increases as you do co-op missions with them or give them gifts. As you raise the bonds they’ll teach you new weapon stances or give you rewards. Each map is divided into around 15-20 regions and each region also has a bond level. Raising these bond levels will reveal points of interest on the map.

Another cool aspect is you can choose to be pro-shogunate (in favour of having a treaty with the Americans), anti-shogunate (with the goal of destroying the treaty) or you could aid both sides or stick to a more neutral path. If you regret any choices you made, you can redo missions and change history through the Testament of the Soul found at your Longhouse home base.

The Verdict

Rise of the Ronin may not push the boundaries of the open-world genre, but it’s an enjoyable game with superb combat, deep mechanics and a great cast of characters. Highly recommend it if you enjoy samurai games like Ghost of Tsushima or past Team Ninja games like Nioh and Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty.

Final Score: 8/10 - Great

Rise of the Ronin details

Platform: PS5
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Genre: Action Role-Playing
Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

A key was provided by the publisher.