Marius and Link! Two sword wielding warriors. Facing two epic journeys. Both love smashing pots and amphoras looking for coins. They have practically nothing else in common.
I’m currently playing two very different games at the moment – The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds on the Nintendo 3DS and Ryse on Xbox One. They are games that both Nintendo and Microsoft are banking on big time to help promote and sell hardware units in the upcoming holiday season. I’ve had a chance to play a couple of hours of both games and these are my initial impressions.
I bought Ryse despite the game getting some pretty ordinary reviews on Xbox One’s launch day. It’s short. It’s repetitive. It’s simplistic (it was originally developed as an exclusively gesture controlled Kinect game for the Xbox 360). What I wanted from Ryse was a flashy spectacle that showed off the Xbox One’s graphical capabilities. To that end, Ryse delivers exactly what I’m after. The game looks absolutely beautiful and the image quality is an order of magnitude greater than the finest 360 games that I can think of.
After my first play session where I’ve learned the basic combat mechanics and completed the opening chapters of the story, I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised. The fighting mechanic is very similar to the Batman: Arkham series where Marius typically fights a cluster of enemies and you have to nail the timing of your attacks with parries, blocks and Mortal Kombat style executions. It’s not particularly inspired but its not nearly the bland QTE extravaganza I thought the game would be either. The Roman setting makes for a good spectacle and the story is serviceable if not predictable. I think the families of Roman centurions have worse survival rates than blond virgins in Eighties horror films.
As for The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, the game is a sequel to a twenty year old classic and I came in with much, much higher expectations that I had for Ryse. Happily, A Link Between Worlds is an exceptional old-school top down Zelda game that plays and feel exceptionally familiar to A Link To The Past on the Super Nintendo. This might sound like a criticism but its not intended to be. LTTP is a game that has aged gracefully and none of the recent Zelda games have played anything like it.
The game is a jarring shift in design philosophy from the overbearing hand holding of the recent Zelda games on the Wii. I can still remember the unskippable, repetitive instructions and hour long tutorial sections of Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword. In A Link Between Worlds, you’re handed a sword after five minutes and sent out into Hyrule which you can then explore at your leisure. You can have your pick of the dungeons and what weapons you choose to bring with you. It is shockingly free-form and open ended for a game franchise that is largely known for its rigid linearity.
Two very different experiences but at least on first impressions, both have plenty of good things to offer.