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Rise of the Ronin preview: 10 things we’ve learned from the game’s opening hours

Rise of the Ronin screenshot
Image: Koei Tecmo

Set for release on 22 March exclusively on PS5, Rise of the Ronin is the latest game coming from Team Ninja. An open world epic, it finds players becoming a ronin setting out on a journey to locate their “blade twin” who had previously been presumed dead.

We’ve had access to Rise of the Ronin for a few days and have played through the game’s opening hours. It’s safe to say we’ve been enjoying our time with the game so far. We’ve put together a quick list of 10 things we’ve discovered about the game in its first few hours that you might want to know before jumping in yourself.

1. There are three graphical settings, and you can unlock the framerate

Dig into Rise of the Ronin’s options menu and you’ll find there are three graphical settings to choose from. Like most games, you’ll find a prioritise framerate and prioritise graphics option, but there’s also a ray-tracing option, too. The good news for those that have 120Hz-capable TVs is that there’s also an option to uncap the framerate, which might allow players to play on a higher graphical setting while enjoying a better framerate.

2. It has difficulty options

While Rise of the Ronin feels very much like a Souls-like when you’re in combat — i.e. a punishing game where your sword skills are tested and you always need to be on your guard — some players will undoubtedly be happy to hear that there are difficulty options.

On standard difficulty, you’ll find quite a challenging experience (based on what we’ve played so far, at least) and while lowering the difficulty won’t make Rise of the Ronin a cakewalk, it does make it much more welcoming to newcomers of the genre and those who want to play it more like a typical action-adventure game.

Of course, there’s always the harder difficulty for players who are extremely skills or who want to challenge themselves.

Rise of the Ronin screenshot
Image: Koei Tecmo

3. You won’t have to wait long to get access to fancy tools

Aside from being able to use weapons and your athleticism to take on enemies and negotiate the environment, Rise of the Ronin also gives you some very nifty tools very early into the game. For example, you’ll start with your grappling hook which allows you to quickly climb up to high areas. It can also be used to latch onto explosive barrels and hurl them at enemies.

Before the preview ended, we also gained access to a glider, which allows you to gracefully glide from high areas, making traversing the world of Rise of the Ronin a pleasure. Needless to say, players will welcome having these tools so early on in the game.

4. It has a dual protagonist system

When you first start the game, you’ll find that you actually create two characters. That’s because of the faction you belong to: there, you work as pairs, known as “blade twins”. That means the two of them essentially work as one. While an unfortunate event occurs during Rise of the Ronin’s opening, which puts the status of one of the blade twins in question, you’ll quickly find that you’ll encounter other warriors in the world who are willing to find alongside you.

The good news is that you can switch between your character and their companion at any time during battle. Savvy players will want to make use of this frequently as your characters will have different skills and abilities, some of which are more effective against some enemies than others. It also might be useful to switch characters simply because one is in a more advantageous position than the other. Perhaps you could get in a sneaky back-attack while their attention is on the other character?

Rise of the Ronin screenshot
Image: Koei Tecmo

5. Rise of the Ronin has clear Nioh influences

Having spent a few hours with Rise of the Ronin, we can’t help but feel like it has a touch of Nioh in its DNA, particularly in its combat. Players can choose which weapons their characters are specialised in at the start of the game and can learn new fighting styles to customise their movesets. There’s also a Ki system, with players able to tap the R1 button at the end of a combo in order to quickly restore some Ki. That will allow you to go further on the offensive, or simply put you in a better position against your adversary.

Also, as you’re exploring the open world, you’ll encounter missions that feel rather like traditional Nioh quests, complete with boss fights at the end of them.

6. You have freedom to play however you want

In addition to choosing your starting weapons, which will largely determine your primary play style, as you explore the world of Rise of the Ronin you’ll often be given the option of how to play. You can be a brash warrior if you choose, facing your enemies head-on in open battle, or maybe you’ll choose the stealthy approach, making use your environment to sneak up on your foes to silently assassinate them. Ranged weapons are also an option, with everything from rifles to shurikens at your disposal.

There’s also a range of additional tools which can be used to distract or disorient your enemies, or you can simply use them to make an escape if you need to.

7. It has its roots in history

Like Nioh and many of Koei Tecmo’s previous games, Rise of the Ronin has its roots buried in real-world history. Set in 19th century Japan, you’ll find yourself on a mission to assassinate Commodore Matthew Perry, for example, who played a key role in ending Japan’s isolationism. Players will no doubt find more historical figures woven within the game’s story as they progress, giving gravitas and intrigue to the proceedings.

Rise of the Ronin screenshot

8. There’s loot

As mentioned earlier, Rise of the Ronin has some connections with Nioh. Another one of these is that it has loot. Throughout your adventure, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to discover new weapons, equipment and numerous other item types. Thankfully, it’s been toned down a lot since Nioh so enemies won’t be exploding quite like gear-filled piñatas here!

It does add a nice sense of progression to the game, though, with you able to try and put together an ensemble with numerous useful bonuses. You might even find set items that provide powerful bonuses if multiple matching pieces are equipped.

9. Its open world is beautiful

While you’ll have to complete a couple of short introductory sections before you can access it, when you are finally let loose in Rise of the Ronin’s world, you’ll find that it’s absolutely beautiful. The countryside is lush, filled with picturesque scenery and wonderfully-detailed flora and fauna, but it’s probably when you reach the city of Yokohama that you’ll really be impressed with the game’s visuals. Feeling alive and lived in, it genuinely has atmosphere and an impressive scale.

In a nutshell, the world of Rise of the Ronin is one you’re going to want to explore, whether to discover side quests, find loot, or simply enjoy being a part of. We’ve only scratched the surface, and we can’t wait to discover more of it.

10. Your choices matter

While we’re only a few hours into Rise of the Ronin, it seems like it’s going to be a game where you’ll often be left agonising over what choices to make. Raiding the hideout of a group of bandits, for example, it was only once we bested their leader in combat that he pleaded for his life. Ultimately, we were left with a choice: should we spare him and find out if he was true on his word of providing us with valuable items, or execute him so he can no longer be a blight on the land?

That’s far from the only choice you’ll have to make in Rise of the Ronin, and each one you make may have repercussions further down the line.

Rise of the Ronin is coming to PS5 on 22 March. Check back later in the month for our full review of the game.

Editor in Chief // An avid gamer since discovering the wonders of the Acorn Electron in the '80s, Rich has nearly played more games than he's had hot dinners. Not one to put all his eggs in one basket, Rich is happy to play games of all genres, but he particularly enjoys racing games and anything that's full of non-stop action, especially if it includes a good dose of humour, horror or crudeness!