Rise of the Ronin Review – The trusted blade by my side

Reviewed March 21, 2024 on PS5




March 22, 2024


Sony Interactive Entertainment


Team Ninja

Team Ninja’s latest action blockbuster has slashed its way into our lives, bringing a new take on 19th-century Japan and some familiar open-world setpieces. A nameless samurai with no set allegiances walks through a world ravaged by political unrest, allowing you to forge your own path in a game where roleplaying is lovingly facilitated. Yet it’s the ferocious and reactionary swordplay that will keep you coming back, even amidst the overused game design tropes.

Despite this developer’s most recent releases, Rise of the Ronin is more RPG than it is Souslike. This is a game where you can shape your own story and build your own identity. This is reinforced not just in the detailed character customisation, but also in dialogue options, branching narratives, the game’s relationship system, and even the conversations and modifications that can be made in your Longhouse. You play as a Ronin whose Twin Blade is ripped away from them at the start of the game. What bonds you forge, which factions you side with, and what relationships you grow are up to you.

The game’s Japanese setting further amplifies these character development opportunities. As ships from the West arrive in Japan, the world around you is thrown into turmoil as factions divide the people and you have to make choices that align with the pro-shogunate or anti-shogunate ideals. It’s a great backdrop for storytelling and one that uses historical events to frame the narrative rather than define it. Rise of the Ronin isn’t afraid to take historical liberties and in doing so can paint a more fantastical world. With characters pushed way more to the forefront of this experience than you expect, it is somewhat unfortunate that dialogue isn’t the game’s strongest suit. What you get out of the game’s narrative will vary, but at times it was a slight obstacle that impeded the game’s more impressive facet—its gameplay.

“What you get out of the game’s narrative will vary, but at times it was a slight obstacle that impeded the game’s more impressive facet—its gameplay.”

Taking inspiration from titles like Ghosts of Tsushima, Rise of the Ronin is a vast and exciting Action/Adventure RPG. An open world is yours to explore by foot, by glider, by grapple, or by horseback as you propel yourself from one attraction to the next. In between story quests, you’ll stumble across a variety of encounters that give the world life, but can devolve into busywork should you examine them too closely under a 19th-century microscope. Defeating fugitives, uncovering staches, finding cats, clearing encampments, praying at shrines and much more become your tasks as you stop by points of interest on your path to your next destination.

Attempting to clear every icon from the map will absolutely propel you into dull checklist territory, especially as the repetition of those activities sets in and new icons appear in areas you had previously cleared. Whilst those who love the completionist hunt will no doubt find the fun in it, I began to wish Rise of the Ronin was a little less Ghost of Tsushima and a little more Elden Ring as the charm of living in the moment within the world faded and made room for min-maxing my movements according to a map.

Thankfully Rise of the Ronin’s movements are a joy to experience and so the weight of its open-world trappings is diminished. Gliding through the skies on your paraglider and zipping off grapple spots never loses its charm. And galloping through forest trails always remains gleeful.

Taking those aforementioned traversal mechanics and applying them to combat feels even better. Tactically dropping from your paraglider to assassinate an unknowing target will never get old. Lining up a shot with your firearm as you gallop freehand alongside your target is pure joy. And grappling towards that pesky ranged foe on the rooftop before launching yourself into a flurry of devastating slashes is always exhilarating. No matter what distractions Rise of the Ronin throws at you, combat is always going to be at the game’s core and for good reason.

Whilst there’s a lot of depth to the game’s combat mechanics, many of the ideas presented can be understood at your own pace. This isn’t a Souls game where every encounter is punishing. Instead, so long as you have a good grasp on the basic attack, dodge, and parry moves—you’re golden. There are different weapon types, including ranged and close-combat, and each will have its own attack pattern, scale with different attributes, have strengths/weaknesses against certain enemies, and can be powered up through use. An energy meter will have to be monitored as you duel, executionss can be pulled off via stealth or by depleting the enemy’s energy meter, different fighting styles can be unlocked for each weapon, and environmental hazards come into play too such as the iconic explosive barrel. It’s a deep system once all the mechanics are introduced, yet one thing remains at the forefront—Rise of the Ronin’s reactionary and visceral feel.

“It’s a deep system once all the mechanics are introduced, yet one thing remains at the forefront—Rise of the Ronin’s reactionary and visceral feel.”

Every attack is punctuated by fantastic animations and impactful sound effects. In fact, the game’s audio design shows promise at every point. You’ll never get sick of the combat here because it’s always fast and ferocious without sacrificing tactical elements like timing and on-the-fly decision-making. Jumping from one character to another mid-fight only adds to the impressive choreography of a battle. Combat encounters often feel like a beautiful performance—with victory music as your applause and the head sliding off the final enemy’s torso as your bouquet of roses.

Stealth is a particularly useful and satisfying tool in your arsenal as you sneak up behind enemies for that quick execution. The game also does that endlessly gratifying trick where once you clear an encampment of baddies, time will pass and you’ll get to see all the townspeople return in merriment. I do wish the enemy AI was better. Specifically speaking, the foes within an encampment can be strangely unaware of your presence, even when you are not stealthy and are instead engaging in presumably loud combat mere feet away. It’s not a huge detractor from the experience, but it does reward and therefore encourage a tactless approach a bit too much for my liking.

Rise of the Ronin is a loot game through and through, which means you’ll frequently be upgrading your weapons and armour as new equipment eclipses the old. Whilst there are set bonuses and other key details to look out for, the changes from one piece of loot to the next are usually just bigger numbers or different incremental changes to passive stats. It’s rewarding, no doubt, but you will find yourself spending a decent amount of time in menus as you look at your new spoils or sell off your unwanted goods.

One of Rise of the Ronin’s best aspects is just how unpretentious it is by design. This is a game that doesn’t punish you and refuses to make you sweat the small stuff. It’s the tiny quality of life choices or design decisions that add up to an incredibly unobtrusive experience. It’s accessible by design, allowing you to jump into the difficulty setting that works best for you. Nothing is set in stone, as you can alter character stats or even appearance at any time. Find a cool-looking hat that’s not as good as your current one? No issue, you can swap the appearance of all equipment you’ve discovered from a simple menu. Even the way all loot is automatically collected when you clear an encampment or how forgiving the game is with fall damage. Fun is always at the forefront here, and at no point do you feel like something is impeding or obscuring that.

Cooperative play is also on offer but it does come in limited capacity. Certain missions of the game allow you to go online and play alongside a friend or two, replacing story NPCs. Even just revisiting these missions to try them co-op proved enjoyable, with online functionality working seamlessly. The limited capacity through which co-op could be experienced is a bit of a shame, though it’s hard to complain when what’s on offer functions perfectly as intended and many similar games simply wouldn’t offer co-op at all.




  • Action combat is oh-so-satisfying
  • Huge amounts of content to keep you occupied
  • Fantastic roleplaying opportunities and choices
  • Traversal is always a delight
  • Unpretentious design that encourages fun


  • Open world tropes can amount to busywork
  • Dialogue isn't always up to par
  • Enemy AI could use some finetuning

Rise of the Ronin is another action-heavy success story for samurai heavy-hitters, Team Ninja. The world and setting are perfectly suited to enhance the roleplaying depth of the game’s design as your unnamed hero makes important choices in a divided world. Fun is always at the forefront, even if certain open-world tropes lead to rinse-and-repeat content. This is because the moment-to-moment gameplay, including both traversal and combat, remains delightfully engaging throughout. The dialogue can be hit or miss, but Rise of the Ronin still finds a way to satisfy, in both its big action setpieces as well as those tiny little details.