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Rise of the Ronin is Team Ninja‘s first-ever open-world game.
The storied developer that has made linear action games for decades is stepping out of its comfort zone for an action RPG in the vein of Assassin’s Creed or Ghost of Tsushima. Combine that open structure with the combat quality of 2023’s Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty and the underrated Nioh series and Rise of Ronin could easily find itself as 2024’s sleeper hit.
The game, which is set in late 1800s Japan sees the player take control of a nameless work-for-hire warrior known as a Veiled Edge. These Ronin are ruthless mercenaries travelling through Japan’s prefectures, working for hire and cutting down anything in their path.
“Nioh was set in what’s called the Sengoku period, or which is sort of the Warring States period, where there were samurai who fought in the very traditional style,” said producer Yosuke Hayashi speaking to Game Informer.
“But we wanted this new Bakumatsu, which is sort of the end of the Edo era, …it’s a lot more modern, so we thought it allows for a unique setting when we were thinking about creating a fiction story inspired by a certain moment in time. It allowed for a very unique setting for us.”
Rise of the Ronin’s Japan will feature three main cities as far as we currently know. Yokohama, Tokyo, and Kyoto will be the main playground through which your Ronin will explore, take missions, and take down his opponents. The game looks beautiful, and although Japan is a well-trodden path recently in video games, it’s always a joy to see how developers render the country’s historic architecture and stunning natural beauty.
The cities are rustic, with a mix of vast countryside and dense prefectures. Although set in a different era, the gameplay released so far is certainly evocative of Ghost of Tsushima, a high bar of visual fidelity that we’re sure the game looks to match. You can go around Japan on foot, via horse, but most excitingly, via a glider which gives us Just Cause wingsuit vibes.
Historic Japan is not only a setting for the game, players will also meet historical figures during their adventures who will be key to giving them sidequests and other items. Doing this will form bonds with those characters, a bond system which also applies to the different regions that the players will visit. “A lot of motivation for exploring the world is centered around these systems of bonds with characters and locations,” said Game director Fumihiko Yasuda.
A key distinction between Team Ninja’s previous work and Rise of the Ronin is that the fantasy elements of the previous games have seemingly been largely dropped. You’ll no longer be battling 50-foot bosses and demons around every corner, instead, you’ll be using your cunning and skill to get the drop on enemy Ronin.
Team Ninja has said that combat elements present in their previous games will be present in Rise of Ronin, such as Nioh’s swordplay and emphasis on parrying. Team Ninja also said to Game Informer that the game’s combat is based on studying the patterns of enemy combatants and failing over and over again until you improve and finally beat your foe. It sounds like the difficulty and high skill ceiling that Team Ninja made its name on is going nowhere.
While Rise of Ronin won’t be a Soulslike, some elements will remain. There’s a currency in the game known as “Karma” that will be dropped upon death and can be reclaimed by defeating the enemy that defeated you, but according to Team Ninja that won’t be the main XP system, which will hopefully make the game more accessible to those players that have been yet unable to get into the high-risk high-reward back and forth of the Soulslike genre.
Rise of the Ronin could be the next step that launches Team Ninja from a studio that’s well known among the hardcore gaming audience to one that delivers a mainstream hit. This kind of open-world RPG is still very popular with the wider gaming audience even if some of the core audience are tired of it. While it’s perhaps unfortunate that it shares such at-a-glance similarities with fellow PlayStation-exclusive Ghost of Tsushima, where Team Ninja always has the edge is in combat, it’s that element of the game that we’re extremely excited to try out for ourselves.