Rise of the Ronin wallpaper

Sharpen your blade and hone your senses to prepare for Team Ninja’s latest samurai epic in our Rise of the Ronin preview!

Since their rise to fame in the ’90s and early 2000s with Dead or Alive and Ninja Gaiden, developers Team Ninja have been known for two things: gratuitous violence, and traditional Japanese influence. Often creating games with punishing difficulty and drawing upon the likes of ninja and samurai culture, their games ooze a distinct action style (in addition to pools of blood).

Rise of the Ronin graphics

Beautiful Japanese open world and riding a horse? I’ve played this before…

Following the release of Sucker Punch Production’s Ghost of Tsushima in 2020, it seemed that Team Ninja’s status as samurai developers had begun to slip. That was until the announcement of Rise of the Ronin, a promising and expansive new open-world title exclusive to the PlayStation 5 and published by Sony themselves.

We were lucky enough to get hands-on with Rise of the Ronin ahead of its launch this month, and we’re here to take you through its opening sequence. So does it set the scene for a samurai epic of grand proportions? Or is Team Ninja’s blade chipped and dull? Find out in our Rise of the Ronin preview.

Rise of the Ronin Preview – First Impressions

To make things clear, in this preview our coverage is limited to approximately the first two hours of the game, which takes the player through character creation, learning basic combat, and beginning to explore its sprawling open map. It’s such a small portion of the game and really just a taste of what’s to come in the full release!

Rise of the Ronin preview character creator

Real samurai have body hair.

As with most modern action-adventure games, you’re immediately greeted with a character creation screen to customise your Ronin to your liking. All aspects of appearance can be changed, offering an impressive amount of depth for your custom character. The difference here? You’re asked to make two characters at once: Blade Twins.

Rise of the ronin Ryoma Sakamoto

You’ll meet up with, and fight alongside, real historical samurai throughout the game.

Bound to each other as fierce warriors, Blade Twins fight together until death do they part, as some of the most revered masters of the blade. Initially, you’re given the option to play as both Blade Twins, which can be swapped back and forth during combat. As the story progresses, you’ll eventually need to choose just a single character to stick with before being given reign to explore the expansive countryside of Japan.

Rise of the Ronin Preview – Exploration

Where many prior Team Ninja games were based around individual missions with smaller maps, Rise of the Ronin allows you free roam of an entire country. Upon completion of the opening sequence, you’re unleashed upon Yokohama itself. No, not the modern metropolis a quick train ride from Tokyo. This is Yokohama of the mid-1800s, where East meets West in a bustling port as a once-traditional country begins to open its borders to trade and technology.

If only real life looked this good.

Much of the countryside feels very familiar, especially to those who have recently played Ghost of Tsushima. You’re given the option to traverse either on foot or horseback, and will regularly stumble across hordes of bandits, secluded temples, or smaller villages that have been invaded. Slaying enemies in each of these locations increases your bond with a region, providing you with valuable experience and stats to hone your blade.

Rise of the Ronin glider

The Legend of Ronin: Breath of the Glider

What’s most unlike Ghost of Tsushima are the bustling city centres, as these feel particularly modern with Western influence creeping in. The bustling port town of Yokohama felt particularly exciting, as we explored just a small fraction of its interwoven streets. Eventually, you’re given access to even more creative ways to travel (such as a glider), which opens up vertical travel across the city’s towering buildings.

Rise of the Ronin Preview – Combat

Team Ninja excel in providing polished combat systems in their games, and thankfully Rise of the Ronin is no exception. Drawing influence from the likes of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Ronin’s combat is heavily based on staggering your enemy’s stamina through depleting their “Ki”.

Rise of the Ronin preview combat styles

Two characters; one fate.

Each hit you land on an enemy will lower their Ki, while perfectly deflecting their attacks with a well-timed parry (AKA “Counterspark“) will send their Ki plummeting. Once depleted entirely, you’re given a small opening to hit your enemy with a powerful critical attack, which kills most weaker enemies and deals significant damage to bosses.

Rise of the Ronin preview combat

In addition to blade-based combat, you have at your disposal a variety of additional weapons: traditional samurai gear like shuriken and grapples, or Western armaments such as rifles, pistols, or muskets. These add more variety to the combat, allowing you to play quick and stealthy, or to literally go in guns blazing.

Rise of the Ronin gunshot

Unfortunately for you, the enemies have guns too. 🙁

Even in our first couple hours with the game, we encountered a tonne of weapon variety and loads of equipment to kit out our character. These vary in rarity and offer helpful stat boosts, extra abilities, or enhancements based on your chosen playstyle. There are clearly plenty of options to ensure all players feel catered towards.

Rise of the Ronin Preview – Final Thoughts

In such a small portion of the game, merely just the first couple hours, Team Ninja have packed in as much as possible. Drawing upon the glorious open world of Ghost of Tsushima, the polished combat of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and their own blood-soaked style, this has the potential to be one of the best samurai games of this console generation. So will Team Ninja reclaim their title? Keep an eye out for our full Rise of the Ronin review later this month.

A preview code was kindly provided by PlayStation Australia for our Rise of the Ronin preview. If you enjoyed this, be sure to check back soon for our full Rise of the Ronin review and join us over on the Qualbert Discord to chat with us about the game!

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