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It is a time of crisis. The Roman Empire is besieged by barbarian armies and is on the verge of collapse. In these troubled times, you command Roman soldier Marius Titus. When barbarians murder his family, he embarks on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge that takes him on a brutal campaign to the shores of Britannia as he climbs the ranks of The Glory That Was Rome.Ryse: Son of Rome is an Xbox One game developed by Crytek. Previously slated for an Xbox360 release, it was re-tooled into a launch title for the Xbox One.
Advanced Ancient Acropolis: Who knew that the Coliseum could transform its very foundation into a beachhead, a forest, and a marble platform in mere seconds? The big fancy elevator in Basilius's Den of Iniquity also counts.
Artistic License – History: Crytek themselves admitted they weren't aiming for historical accuracy. Hence why Nero is an old man with two grown sonsnote he historically died childless at the age of 31, why Commodus (best known as the bad guy from Gladiator) is Nero's sonnote he was emperor one century after Nero, and doesn't even hail from the same dynasty, why the Colosseum already existsnote it was not built for over a decade after Nero's reign and its original name was the Flavian Amphitheatre, named for the Flavian Dynasty that followed Nero's reign, and why Boudica sacks Rome with war elephantsnote Boudica herself is a mess of historical inaccuracies, the least of which is "she never had access to elephants of any variety".
Ancient Grome: Not to mention using Greek mythological figures instead of Roman ones. Damocles was a hypothetical character from a Greek moral tale, and Nemesis is a Greek goddess. And when observing the wickerman in Scotland, Vitallion makes reference to a "gateway to Hades" when he should really be saying Pluto.
Vitallion using a Greek term is not unlikely, most private teachers for the noble families were Greek AND Romans worshipped her as Nemesis themselves.
The Romans did establish the city of York (and Ivar the Boneless refounded it as Jorvik, which in turn was simplified to York following the Norman conquest of England), but they would not have referred to it by that name; the Roman name for York was Eburacum.
Not to mention the complete butchering of the Roman naming system.
Artistic License – Martial Arts: Because historically accurate swordfighting is rather boring, Rule of Cool provides stunts like impaling an enemy in the gut with a sword, then lifting them (while holding the sword with only one hand, by the way) over the protagonist's head for a body slam.
Artistic License – Military: one of the key elements of Roman success on the battlefield was that its legionaires moved in concert, with discipline. The maniple, consisting of 120 men, was the smallest tactical unit Rome fielded, and its soldiers never brawled one-on-one the way we see Marius doing... unless things have gone to hell in a handbasket. (Which, to be sure, they mostly have when Marius shows up, so perhaps this is a Justified Trope.)
Alone with the Psycho: While Marius himself isn't a psycho, it becomes increasingly clear to Nero as the game reaches its climax that he's trapped himself in the room with the man that has sworn to kill him.
Authority Equals Asskicking: Boudica, the Horned King, and even Commodus all put up boss-level fights against Marius. Marius himself is shown to be Asskicking Equals Authority, as his rapid promotion comes as he kills hundreds of dudes singlehandedly over the course of the game. Commander Vitallion is another good example.
Brick Joke: The intro cutscene has a statue of Nero weeping blood, seemingly hinting at a supernatural twist to the story. There is indeed a supernatural element to the plot, but this is not one of them; the tears of blood do get explained later. The statue was designed by Basilius to be able to cry. He was originally planning to fill the head with wine. Marius killed him and replaced the wine with the blood flowing out of Basilius.
Chekhov's Skill: The fighting techniques Marius's father teaches him are perhaps the only way to justify him being a One-Man Army, considering that in Real Life, actual Roman warfare relied on staying in formation and fighting as a group, not as a lone wolf.
Cutscene Incompetence: When Glott, the Minotaur King, is first introduced via cutscene, he defeats Marius in seconds and sends him over a cliff. It's perfectly possible when you face him later in a boss fight to soundly defeat him without taking a scratch.
Demythtification: While the supernatural is definitely present, the "minotaurs" in northern Britannia are actually merely wild men who wear bull skulls as helmets.
Deus ex Machina: subverted. After Marius takes mortal wounds killing Nero, Summer, the goddess who has been shepherding him the entire game, shows up to do... nothing, except let him expire on the spot.
Dirty Coward: Commodus. Though he touts himself up as an unbeatable general and fighter, not only is he the first to run when the Britons besiege York (taking the best armored ship and pushing civilians out of his way as he runs), he also resorts to tons of dirty tricks in Marius's gladiator fight with him.
Greek Fire or one of its variations was rumored to explode.
Face Death with Dignity: After being mortally wounded and under the mercy of Marius, Boudica just calmly tells him to get on with it. Marius does so, though albeit rather hesitantly.
A Father to His Men: Marius and Commander Vitallion. Marius especially does not leave a man behind, and there are multiple times where he risks his own well-being to make sure his men make it out alive, such as twice at the siege of York. The first time he jumps into a wagon containing a scorpio to provide covering fire for a retreating legion, the second time is moments later when he pulls You Shall Not Pass on the barbarian army as Vitallion and his legions evacuate on a ship.
Foreshadowing: If you look quickly at the pommel of the sword that a barbarian stabs Leontius to death with you can see an N on it. Where have you seen that before...?
General Failure: Commodus. Captured by barbarians in Britannia, and Vitallion later says that he let the legions sit in Rome while Boudica invaded the empire with a massive army instead of trying to stop them, leaving Rome itself in danger.
Gladiator Games: Marius takes part in one such game in the Coliseum while disguised as Damocles in order to kill Commodus.
Grim Up North: Britannia is at the very northern reaches of the Roman empire, and it is definitely grim up there. Taken Up to Eleven with the northern lands that are beyond Hadrian's Wall, which is a Death World where savage beastmen abduct travelers in order to sacrifice them by burning them alive.
Plus the Bigger Bad of the game turns out to be the god of the north wind.
The Hero Dies: The Oracle predicted that Damocles and Marius would slay each other. Her prediction comes to pass when Marius sustains mortals wounds while pursuing Nero before flinging himself and Nero over a railing. Nero is impaled on the sword of his own statue while Marius crashes on the ground far below. The goddess appears one last time and stays by Marius' side as he breathes his last.
In the original Greek legend he was nothing more than a minor court official who desperately wanted A Taste of Power, so his king, Dionysius, allowed him to sit in his throne for a day. Damocles was having the time of his life for most of the day until he saw Dionysius had arranged to have a sword hanging over his head by a single strand of hair, at which point he realized being a king has its own problems and promptly vacated the throne. Sounds like a pretty mundane Aesop, right?
But in this game, the legend of Damocles goes that he was a Four-Star Badass who got abandoned on the battlefield by his top generals. He was eventually slain after fighting valiantly, but the goddess Nemesis resurrected him as a ghostly figure clad in black armor who went back and murdered the men who abandoned him. Roman commanders have daggers with the visage of Damocles engraved on them to remind them that cowardice is not an option. Marius donning the guise of Damocles late in the game scares the living shit out of Nero.
Being named after a fictional character of a different culture does not imply that this Damocles is the same figure/individual in the Greek moral tale.
Hollywood Healing: Despite being exposed to poisonous gas in the Colosseum, Marius is suddenly right back to fighting at 100% health for the final phase of the boss fight.
Hookers and Blow: After the war in Britannia, Basilius spends most of his time partying it up at a nightclub with copious amounts of wine and plenty of strippers.
I Am Spartacus: In the second phase of the Commodus boss battle, he has five other pretenders dressed up in identical armor to throw at you.
It's All About Me: Commodus, who takes all of the Fourteenth Legion's victories as his own, including capturing Oswald and storming the beaches of Dover, both of which the Fourteenth was responsible for. While he does march north to try and put down the rebellion, he's defeated and as you see once you rescue him, is put in a tiny cage, screaming insults at his very rescuers.
Javelin Thrower: The famous Roman pilum is Marius' only ranged attack. When commanding testudo formations, you can command your men to throw pila at the enemy.
What happens to Commodus, thanks to Marius disguised as the vengeful spirit of Damocles.
Also happens to Boudica.
Karmic Death: Commodus is killed and decapitated by Marius, whilst boasting throughout the entire fight that he is a God. For extra karma, the camera angle and messy decapitation mirrors that of the "Minotaur" chief Glott, whom Marius rescued him from to begin with.
Lazy Backup: one of the places in which the game's seams show through is in the behavior of friendly AI. Your One-Man Army status becomes an Enforced Trope because, whenever the barbarians see Marius, they'll disengage from whoever they used to be fighting and dogpile him in a Multi-Mook Melee. Meanwhile, the abandoned legionnaire will just stand there banging his gladius on his scutum and trying to look useful, instead of (say) applying a Finishing Move to the enemy's exposed posterium. This behavior looks particularly egregious in light of your own combat tactics, which revolve around applying Finishing Moves to exposed posteriae.
The Man Behind the Man/Manipulative Bastard/Lou Cypher: All of the game's events are being manipulated by Aquilo, Nero's personal servant, who is really the god of the North Wind (best known in the modern day as Boreas), who is manipulating both Nero and the Britons to get Rome destroyed, because he really hates the idea of civilization.
On the good side, there's also an unnamed nature goddess, apparently listed as "Summer" in the credits, who helps Marius survive to rise to his endgame position as a general in order to save Rome from the decadence and corruption that threatens to bring it down from the inside. She may actually be Nemesis, the game is really vague concerning the gods and their motives.
Not So Different: Marius invokes this with Boudica, seeing as both of their fathers were killed by Nero & and his corruption.
Order Versus Chaos: What the entire game's plot boils down to, between "civilized" Rome and "barbaric" Britannia. Marius strongly believes that the Roman empire is a shining beacon of light in a lawless world and that if Rome falls, it will be The End of the World as We Know It. This is also the precise conflict between the gods: Aquilo wants to destroy Rome and its notion of civilization, while the goddess who aids Marius is attempting to preserve Rome.
Pragmatic Villainy: Defied by Commodus. King Oswald was willing to make peace under terms of his people being treated better and as equals. Instead, Commodus stabs Oswald to death whilst feigning acceptance of his terms, which not only causes the Britons to retaliate, but causes York to fall and the Romans losing Britannia.
While marching a captured Oswald & Boudica through the British countryside, Vitallion sees the Praetorian Guard punishing Britons with public floggings and crucifixions and notes that this kind of harsh oppression will only make pacifying the region even harder.
Praetorian Guard: The Praetorian Guard in the game. They have fancier armor than the regular legionaries, but when Marius returns to Rome after making it home from Britannia they're acting like thugs towards the population and insult Marius during any fights that he has with them. They aren't even really that experienced, as Marius is able to carve through them without much of a fight, though one of them does last a few seconds against him during his escape from the Coliseum.
Prophecy Twist: An oracle, whom Marius meets after killing Basilius, states that Emperor Nero can only die by his own sword. It is assumed that he can only be killed by killing himself with his own sword or by taking said sword to do the deed, but it turns out that Nero falls from a great height after being pushed by Marius, and impaled by a marble sword held by a tall statue in the likeness of Nero.
Marius: I became driven by one thought, one solitary desire: The desire for vengeance. Vengeance, against the Emperor Nero, who had my family butchered. Vengeance against his despicable sons, who betrayed. MY. LEGION!
The Queen's Latin: Every Roman character has a very British accent. The Britons, for their part, tend to sound slightly more Scottish or Irish.
Rain of Arrows: Present for both the Romans and Britannians. The Roman side is triggered by using either the voice command or holding down a trigger. During testudo formations, your only attack is to throw a rain of pila at the enemy while you defend against their rain of arrows.
Rated M for Manly: As stated in the Gorn entry, the bloody executions were really played up in the game's advertising campaign.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Marius's driving goal after his family is killed. He joins the expedition to Britannia to destroy as many barbarians as possible. The object of his revenge promptly switches after he realizes who really had his family killed.
Rousing Speech: Vitallion's speech to the soldiers after landing at Britannia and securing the beachhead.
Vitallion: "Rome is civilization. Rome is order. Rome is POWER! And out here...WE. ARE. ROME!"
There's also Marius's speech to his fellow legionaries just before they storm the beach.
Marius: Attention lads! A brave man tastes death once.Cowards, a thousand times over! Now we have already spilled barbarian blood, and we know they bleed as we do. (turns away from them.) Ready! (Legionaries start pounding their shields with their swords, yelling HA! with each strike) On me! Move!
Scenery Porn: It IS a Crytek game after all but even by their standards the amount of environmental eye candy is amazing. Special mention goes to the Colosseum.
Schrödinger's Gun: In the boss fight against Commodus, the real Commodus during the second phase will always turn out to be the last guy standing.
Shield Bash: Everyone who has a shield in this game uses them to attack just as frequently as they do to defend.
Shown Their Work: some players have wondered why Marius can't retrieve his thrown spears from enemy corpses. The answer is that, originally, the barbarians had the exact same question, and figured out quickly that the answer was, "no reason at all," much to Roman dismay. Thus the development of the pilum, a spear made deliberately to bend and deform on impact, so that it can only be thrown once. And Now You Know.
Siege Engines: The Romans make frequent use of the scorpio, a very large crossbow, as well as boiling oil in pots. Catapults are also present for both sides, and the Britannians employ siege towers during the assault on York.
Sliding Scale of Divine Intervention: Nemesis keeps to a Class 2, only offering vague advice and just a little bit of nudging in the right direction for Marius. Aquilo, however, is a Class 4, taking human form and directly manipulating events to his advantage. In the end, though, Nemesis's dialogue implies that Aquilo has broken some kind of celestial rule, and when Marius triumphs, Aquilo leaves without a word.
Stuffed into the Fridge: Marius's mother and sister appear for less than 30 seconds before being promptly murdered by barbarians. Scratch that; only his mother appears and says something. The only time we see his sister is as a corpse on top of her mother's body. His father lasts a little longer before he bites it too, though his death is more important to the plot.
Taking You with Me: Marius, at the end, body-slams both himself and Nero off a cliff. This is probably in service of Rule of Drama, as Marius was already bleeding out at the time and would have died regardless.
Special mention should go to his son Commodus, who's based off the same historical emperor as he was in Gladiator and Fall Of The Roman Empire. He even fights the main hero in a rigged gladiatorial match as in both films.
Villainous Valour: While Commodus is a preening buffoon who boasts of victories others won and resorts to cheating very quickly, he does turn out to have legitimate combat skills and puts up a good and long fight against Marius.