You might have done a double-take when you saw what games Microsoft was giving you for free this month with your Xbox Gold Live membership, but it’s no April fool’s joke.
If you’ve never heard of Ryse: Sone of Rome, it’s a big budget action hack n’ slash placing you in the role of a Roman centurion.
The second game on the new roster is Darksiders which is another excellent action-orientated game where civilization is in ruins, and there’s fewer spectacles than Ryse but also a more fleshed out experience.
Below I’ll review the both of them to give you a heads-up on what to expect.
Available April 1 - April 30
Nobody can deny that Ryse: Son of Rome sports gorgeous locations ranging from Alexandria to Caledonia (Roman for Scotland).
Playing as Marius Titus, you’re a Roman Centurion who is flung into the thick of it after his unit is ambushed. You’ll be impressed with the beautiful graphics from the get-go, and the animations are also spectacular.
The 6-hour campaign has you slogging your way through an almost endless series of vicious fights, with you fighting Spartan style with sword and shield, and hacking your way through to the boss fights.
The enemies you fight are varied, and they all have their own styles of weapon and fighting techniques such as dual wielding, unblockable attacks and the like. There’s always a way to counter the unblockable attacks, however, so it doesn’t feel cheap.
The fighting is the main focus of the game, and it doesn’t always live up to the high standards that are set by the graphics and animations. Not to say that the fighting isn’t good, just that it can get repetitive.
As you fight and make kills you gain experience which can be used to upgrade attributes like health, damage, and extra execution moves
It’s also worth noting that there are plenty of upgrades, but they’re all passive bonuses so once you’ve mastered the combat, you can’t change things up with new special moves and the like.
One thing that will keep you playing is the gradual revelations of Marius’ past which you experience via playable back flashes. The story is entertaining and does enough to keep you wanting more, which is why Ryse is a good game overall.
Lastly, there’s also a 2 player co-op gladiatorial combat mode which mixes things up. You and a friend can pit yourselves against successive waves of enemies and show the crowds of Rome your brutal fighting style.
Overall, Ryse: Son of Rome is not a challenging game. It is undeniably very fun, however, and well worth a couple of hours of your time – especially while it's free.
Available April 1 - April 15
In Darksiders, you are War, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. While typically a figure of fear and horror, War is actually the good guy in this game.
Microsoft has clearly had complaints about the difficulty of previous Games with Gold titles as Darksiders, like Ryse, is also very forgiving when it comes to the combat. It’s very easy to learn, and even a novice to the genre can successfully link chains of combos and feel like a pro.
This isn’t necessarily a downside and will be welcomed by many gamers. Not everybody wants to play a challenging game all the time in the vein of Darksouls. Sometimes you just want to have mindless fun, and Darksiders delivers this in volumes.
There are around 15 hours of single player action to enjoy, and there’s plenty to do. As well as the expected slaying of innumerable minions, there’s also puzzle dungeons to encounter and explore. These will gift you with new gear or weapons to upgrade War with and give you a good sense of progression throughout the game.
In keeping with the combat, the puzzles aren’t too challenging either and mainly serve in breaking up the constant fighting.
The bosses you encounter at the end of these dungeons look great but won’t really test your skills.
An awesome feature in Darksiders is the ability to ride on your horse, Ruin, and partake in some excellent mounted combat in the more open areas.
As you fight, you will reap souls from defeated enemies and then trade them at vendors for upgrades to your weapons and abilities.
The animations are smooth, and there are some great cartoonish graphics that give the game its unique feel. It’s not trying to be a frustrating, challenging game. It’s a fun, easy, action RPG placing you in a world where something’s gone horribly wrong – the apocalypse has come!