Rise of the Ronin Review

Rise of the Ronin Review

The OMG Review
Our review format is not your usual fare and we’ve broken it down into 3 very simple ratings!

“Buy it!” means that the game deserves a place in your collection. Be it day 1 or a slightly delayed purchase, it’s hard to go wrong with this title. In numbers, this is around an 8/10 and above.

“Wait for it…” means that while the game is good, it probably isn’t worth it at its day 1 price point. We suggest you wait for a sale before jumping in. In numbers, this is around a 5 – 7/10.

“Ignore it!” means that the game is not something we’d recommend playing, whether it be now or in the near future. Maybe ever. Let’s not even go to the numbers for this one.

Sneak Peek
  • Release Date: March 22, 2024
  • Platforms: PS5
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Similar Games: Nioh, Nioh 2, Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty
  • Price: starts at $69.99

If there’s one thing that is often associated with the PlayStation 5, it’s that the console has many exclusives that make it a great place to play. From the likes of Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 to the more recent Final Fantasy VII Rebirth, there is no denying the gaming pedigree on show on Sony’s current console. Now, we can add one more to the list in the form of Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo‘s Rise of the Ronin, an action role-playing adventure that takes a more grounded approach and largely builds on the successes of the games that came before it.

Indeed, the influences of past Team Ninja games like Nioh and Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty are clear and distinct in the team’s latest offering, but Rise of the Ronin adds its own flair to the proceedings. Intense combat is well complemented by a semi-open world ripe for exploration, character motivations and development are key aspects to monitor, while the choice-driven narrative is also an interesting and engaging way of keeping players invested.

Taking place in the 19th century, when Japan was in its Bakumatsu period, the game drops players into a period of strife. The anti-shogunate factions are vying for control against the Tokugawa Shogunate, all while Western influences become ever more prevalent in the country. It is against this backdrop that the game reveals one of its more compelling features: the idea of choice and consequences.

Rise of the Ronin review screenshot 1

As history blends with creativity, there will be plenty of opportunities for players to make certain decisions throughout the events of Rise of the Ronin, which creates diverging timelines. Perhaps certain allies will no longer lend their aid, some will perish, and specific missions will become unavailable, charting a story that is of your own making. There’s definite tension with each choice and path taken, and it is made better with the use of the Testament of the Soul, a mechanic that allows key pivotal moments to be replayed and different choices made, resulting in another timeline altogether that tells a differing tale.

The cast of characters is also something to look forward to, as the past once again plays a huge role in putting the pieces together. While the studio has certainly taken some creative liberties, there is still a sense of being part of something bigger when historical figures like Ryoma Sakamoto (last seen in Like a Dragon: Ishin!) and Matthew Perry, just to name a few, are part of the fun. This is a clash of ideology that involves a country, and naturally, there will be many who have vested interests one way or the other.

They are not just part of the furniture either, as many characters are capable of building bonds with the players, paving the way for more character development through side quests, gift-giving, and even intimate moments. And while the rewards for developing a better relationship are certainly worth chasing, such as new weapon styles and materials, the narrative component of it all also helps create a more organic progression that makes sense.

Rise of the Ronin glider 2

Team Ninja has also taken the opportunity to move beyond its linear level system and shift into an open-world experience this time around, filling the three main regions with plenty to see and do. As players ride, glide, or use the grappling hook to navigate through the countryside and civilization, there is a sense of purpose beyond just getting to the next story beat.

Unruly areas need to be pacified, hidden treasure chests can be sought out for valuable rewards, scenic spots need to be photographed, and there are fickle cats to be found. In addition, there are also more gameplay-specific diversions as well, such as horseback archery and the dojo, where players can face off against notable warriors to hone their skills. All of these contribute to an area’s bond level, which brings further rewards for the willing player, a consistent theme that sees Rise of the Ronin unwilling to waste players’ time.

However, the main meat of the entire adventure is the robust combat system that continues to be refined by the developers at Team Ninja. The idea of precise parrying, counterattacking, and managing Ki are familiar tenets of such a game, and fighting is made better by the sheer variety of enemies and the assorted range of weapons available to both friend and foe.

Rise of the Ronin review screenshot 2

The katana is fast and reliable, the paired swords are always a crowd favorite, while the polearm and the spear provide an extended range that is unmatched, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Add in the ranged options of bow, pistol, and rifle, and every encounter becomes a puzzle to solve and overcome. Enemies wield different weapons and combat styles, so players must constantly stay on their toes to press advantages and turn weaknesses into strengths. Learning is part of the fun, as attacks and combos come at different speeds, forcing players to adjust their parrying timing just to survive. Should you ever find yourself running out of precious Ki, then get ready for a world of pain thanks to the merciless enemies.

At least, that is the case when facing off against the countless bosses and mini-bosses that lie in wait in Rise of the Ronin. These are some of the more challenging fights that require your utmost attention and investment that Team Ninja has ever put together for its run in the action RPG genre, making it a joy to experience and that sense of accomplishment cannot be understated. That is not to say the common enemies are going to let you walk all over them, they can most certainly cut down anyone who is unprepared, but they remain generous even with the numbers advantage, giving players time to breathe without raining down attacks incessantly, which is understandable.

And those numbers can be reduced with the use of stealth. The way environments are designed, there can be various paths to take toward an objective, and when you have the glider and grappling hook, curious players can discover new routes that help them get the drop on unsuspecting foes, perfect for stealth kills to thin out the herd. Whether it be in the open world or the more structured missions, having all of these tools will always come in handy.

Rise of the Ronin review screenshot 4

Furthermore, players can count on the help of allies and co-op patterns alike. The former sees a growing list of characters that can be chosen to join the player in those pivotal story missions, lending their arms to the cause, while the latter allows up to three other human players to join in the fun. Although there wasn’t an opportunity to test out the online co-op aspect of things, knowing the track record of Team Ninja and the performance of the AI companions, it will only make harder missions easier to complete without tweaking the actual difficulty.

As players come to grips with the combat, they will be earning XP and leveling up, earning skill points that can be put into the four skill trees that govern the base stats. Instead of focusing too heavily on stats like health and defense, players are instead encouraged to invest in more actionable unlocks. For example, unlocking the ability to repel arrows and bullets is always a good option, as is the ability to execute enemies who have their stances broken instantly, and investing enough points in a tree will raise the relevant stats as well. This more streamlined way of progression of a character is a welcomed change, and the option to dive deeper into the minutiae of min-maxing stats is still there for those who prefer it that way.

Despite everything pointing toward a grand adventure that is well worth your time, there are still some issues about Rise of the Ronin worth mentioning, and depending on your preferences, it might determine how much you are willing to put into the journey.

Rise of the Ronin review screenshot 3

For starters, the excellent combat can sometimes be hampered by the camera, especially in more contained areas with lots of objects. This can prevent enemies and attacks from being seen entirely, and considering the ramifications of messing up a parry, the consequences can be dire. Stealth can also be overpowered, with enemies having too big of a blind spot with detecting the player, which renders the effort to be more measured with movement a little less impressive.

It would have also been nice to see the distinction between certain decision paths made clearer, especially regarding timelines. It makes little sense for players to embark on missions with characters that they had just fought against due to political differences. Outside of having a common enemy or objective, this can happen too frequently and can be quite counterintuitive to the story the game is trying to tell.

Graphically, it is clear that more attention was paid to the key character models, which makes sense, but in performance mode especially, the lack of details in both the environment and the other characters can make for a jarring comparison. It is not a dealbreaker by any means, but the disparity is not something that is easily ignored.

Look past all of that, and you still have one masterful game in Rise of the Ronin. Taking its cues from history both literally and figuratively, Team Ninja has managed to craft another awesome adventure that players who love calculated combat and a history lesson will definitely not want to miss. And even if you don’t fall into that category, the action RPG is still an exciting romp as a samurai epic.

What we liked:

  • Engaging and satisfying combat system.
  • Choice-driven narrative delivers plenty of lore and replay value.
  • Progression is meaningful in almost all aspects.
  • An open world full of possibilities.

What we didn’t like:

  • Visuals can be far apart in quality, and the camera is not always conducive to combat.
  • Stealth can be too overpowered.
  • Mission structure can be confusing due to the timeline.

Verdict: Buy it!


The good times continue to roll in 2024, with Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo’s Rise of the Ronin adding to the amazing selection of action role-playing games available on the PlayStation 5.

Whether you are engaging in its fantastic combat or diving into the rabbit hole of Japanese history, every hour spent in this world is always meaningful and fun. Just avoid looking too closely and getting stuck in tight spaces, and you will definitely have a great time as a ronin determining the course of history.

*Rise of the Ronin was reviewed on a PS5 with a review code provided by the publisher.

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