Rise of the Ronin Sends Players Into a Chaotic Japan

After decades of designing linear video game adventures such as the Ninja Gaiden and Nioh series, Team Ninja has dropped the guardrails and loosed players into an open world.

Its latest offering, Rise of the Ronin, is set during the mid-19th century when Japan opened its doors to Western influence and the last of the shogunates was nearing its end. Players step into the armor of one of a pair of warriors, referred to as “Twin Blades,” and take on missions from either those aligned with tradition, or those pushing for a more modern Japan.

After stealing a letter containing secret information early in the game, the player’s ronin, or masterless samurai, must decide which faction most deserves it. By making these types of decisions throughout Rise of the Ronin, some of the narrative can be altered.

“It was a time of chaos,” Yosuke Hayashi, the game’s producer, said in an email. “Japan’s long period of isolationism was at an end and such significant upheaval resulted in various sets of values coming into conflict.”

Fans of the combat in Team Ninja’s previous work will not be disappointed. Battles in Rise of the Ronin are lightning fast, full of parries, counterstrikes and flying sparks as steel meets steel. As the camera revolves around the action, it can feel like players are in a Formula 1 racecar driven by Akira Kurosawa.

But the studio’s first experience building an open world, where players are given a large area that they can explore as they see fit, shows how challenging it is to construct one.

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