PS5-only Rise of the Ronin has a cool setting, but where’s the story?

A new behind-the-scenes look at Rise of the Ronin gives us a lot of info about the PS5 exclusive game's setting, but what about its story?

PS5-only Rise of the Ronin has a cool setting, but where’s the story?
Luke Wakeham

Opinion by Luke Wakeham


As we continue to sharpen our blades in anticipation of those Rise of the Ronin trophies, Team Ninja has released a series of behind-the-scenes videos to get us hyped. With Rise of the Ronin being one of the games on our list of PS5 exclusives for 2024, I've been keeping a close eye on this one, and I like what I see. However, after watching this latest video, I couldn't help but ask aloud: where is Rise of the Ronin’s story?


Will Rise of the Ronin's story be as interesting as its setting?

The first video in Team Ninja's behind the scenes series (embedded below) gives us an in-depth explanation of Rise of the Ronin’s historical and political backdrop. The game is set during the late 19th-century Bakumatsu period — a time of great upheaval in Japan because it marks the end of its isolationist policies. The introduction of foreign trade shifted power away from the hereditary military dictatorship (the shogunate) and various factions sprung up to challenge its rule.
The behind-the-scenes video, and indeed the game’s title, declares that players will take up the sword as a ronin — one who has been trained as part of a pair by a secretive group known as the Veild Edge but has since been separated from their blade twin. This all sounds very intriguing, but it has left me with a lot of questions about who my ronin actually is. Is he interesting? Will I like him and the journey he goes on? In summary: will I like Rise of the Ronin’s story?

Action-focused games in this Soulslike, Nioh-esq genre rely heavily on their settings and gameplay as their main draw and focus. If you try and explain the proper noun-heavy stories of titles like Nioh or Elden Ring to me, you'll have my eyes glazing over pretty quickly. The stories in these games feel more like an afterthought rather than a main focus. Elden Ring may have got George R. R. Martin involved, but there’s no real central character in that game, only snatches of conversation with disparate NPCs and bosses who just want to mulch you.

Yet, there is a template Team Ninja could follow here in the form of Ghost of Tsushima. In that game, the player also takes on the role of a samurai (one that turns ronin, one could argue) fighting against an invading army. Sure, there's an interesting setting there, but it's only a backdrop to the incredibly compelling, character-led story of Jin Sakai. It's compelling to watch Sakai struggle with his upholding of samurai principles and fighting with honor against an enemy that has none.
The Rise of the Ronin game page on the official PlayStation website does give us some clues that there will be a decent story in the game to follow. There's a section dedicated to character intros for those representing the three factions in the game; the pro-shogunate Sabaku, the anti-shogunate Tobaku, and the Obei western forces. These contain some hints of character, like Ryoma Sakamoto being “an endearingly earnest soul," but how these historical figures weave in and out of our protagonist's journey is yet to be explored.

I’m not one who craves to know everything about a game before I jump into it. Honestly, I love to go into games with a fully open and ready mind. However, the baggage of the crushingly difficult, action, souls-like genre has already make me a tad weary of these games (I'm still hoping Rise of the Ronin will be easier than Nioh at least).

I'm worried that if the combat is difficult and if too much weight is placed on crafting a viable character build, I'll bounce off the game without a compelling hook in the character and story department. A nice world is great and all, but there's a reason why a game like God of War Ragnarok is one of my favorites instead of Nioh: it has awesome combat, and awesome world, and an awesome, character-rich story. Here's hoping we see the same potential from Rise of the Ronin at some point.
What did you takeaway from the Rise of the Ronin behind-the-scenes video? Do you need a good story in games to convince you to check out one of the most intriguing upcoming PS5 games of 2024. I will be playing it when it releases on Friday, March 22, 2024. I just hope there is enough of a story to keep me playing it past that.
Written by Luke Wakeham
Staff Writer Luke is the quintessential dabbler. He likes to have at least one open-world, one rogue-like, and one action-adventure game on the go at any given time. So, he’s a big fan of Ghost of Tsushima, Returnal, and The Last of Us. He likes to know what’s going on in the world of Sony and always has one eye locked to the business news and upcoming releases.
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