Liquid Entertainment ambitiously tells the tale of King Iolcus and his quest to save the one he loves in Rise of the Argonauts. This alternative take on the mythological tale of Jason and the Argonauts rewrites the story that has been told and re-told throughout the ages. Late in 2008 gamers will get search out the magical Golden Fleece in this intriguing action role-playing game.
From all material I have seen on Rise of the Argonauts prior to playing the game I was expecting a God of War styled action game. I was expecting Jason to come in with Kratos-like over-the-top combat sequences and hard-headed one liners... well the one-liners are there, but the over-the-top action is not so over-the-top, and boy is there a lot of talking. Just because Rise of Argonauts is an entirely different experience than I expected doesn't mean it wasn't any good, to my surprise this is a really strong game that unfortunately has a few snags that keeps it from becoming a solid hit. Rise of the Argonauts is an action / role-playing game. Split between each genre you will walk the walk, and talk the talk as you search out the next bit of action. The action takes a backseat to the amount of "role-playing" you will have to do, however like Fable this is a action RPG, so it feels more like an adventure game than anything.
In the newly constructed ship called the Argo, Jason travels across the various lands in Greece in battling all sorts of mythological monsters and bottom feeding humans. Jason isn't alone on this journey as he is joined by a group of characters called the Argonauts. The Argonauts are made up of five characters (including Jason) who help search out the Golden Fleece. In the start of the adventure you will already be working closely with the first member of the Argonauts, Hercules, and the son of Zeus. Later on you will find Pan, the horse-tailed Satyr joining your group with the rest to follow. Encase you are not familiar with the legendary tale; I will not spoil the other members identities. I myself wasn’t overly familiar with the tale and found it refreshing and interesting when I stumbled upon a new member to this all-star mythological clan of ass whooping.
Searching for the Fleece
The reason why the King of Iolcus needs the legendary Golden Fleece is restore is his wife-to-be who is killed by a black tongued assassin on their wedding day. Surrounded by sorrow and grief Jason sets outs against popular belief to do the unthinkable, bring the dead back to life. This voyage and how you progress is up to you as you search out the Fleece on the lost Isle of Colchis. The missions are linear in nature, but you have the freedom to travel to each location. The order you complete the game is up to you and depending on which area you travel to you could have a little extra help from the friends. Each location in Rise of the Argonauts is islands which are all based on a different Olympian god in Greek mythology. Apollo (God of Light and Knowledge), Ares (God of War and Bloodlust), Hermes (Messenger of the Gods, God of Swiftness), Athena (Virgin Patron of Athens, God of Wisdom and Judgment)
Why Fight, When You Can Talk?
So far, "Argonauts" has been fairly solid, but a few nuances drag down the game from a "must have" blockbuster to an "above average" adventure. The first problem is the absurd amount of dialog you have to sit through before the game progresses the storyline. Literally you can be out of the action for more than an hour before you get to but heads with the enemy. Thankfully the storyline is strong in the game, but the delivery can be a little dragged out too long. Besides taking its time jumping into the action you will have to do needless walking around taking with whomever. Half the time I didn’t mind the cat and mouse navigation, but the other half of the time it can be annoying. The first part of the game you will be lost running around Jason’s palace before you get to set out on the sea and start the adventure. This is the worst section to slow the game down because as soon as things get started, they stop, which might be a permanent stop for some gamers. If you can take in everything the game has to offer like multiple dialog paths and talkative NPCs then you will likely start to feel right at home searching each port for clues.
Save and Re-Play
Keeping things annoying is the unfriendly save system in Argonauts. You can save at anytime in the game by throwing up the menu, however this doesn’t mean the file is saved at that exact moments. There are invisible checkpoints running behind the scenes which can throw you progress out the window if you don’t save at the right time. The problem is, you don’t know when they are. During my quest to find the Fleece, I had to replay many parts of the game which start to be frustrating. This should have been fixed before the game shipped, its a quality that I haven’t seen in a long time as the next-generation has almost squashed this problematic issue.
Finally, The Combat
The action in Rise of the Argonauts is your standard hack n’ slash styled gameplay with upgradeable skills and multiple weapons which you can change on the fly. Actually, you can start and finish a combo with a different weapon which is pretty cool. The controls are simplified making each weapon feel natural in Jason’s skill arms. The enemy A.I. isn’t the best, but it also isn’t the worst. Few enemies will really challenge you as an avid gamer, but the enemies will try their hardest to block, perry, and surround you with a gang mentality. There is no HUD in the game, so it is a little hard to tell if you are close to death, until the action slows and the music changes. I would have a liked a little more notification so I could have balanced the combat a little more evenly between defence and offense.
Each weapon actually changes the way you approach each enemy. The three weapons that are at Jason’s disposal is a bone crunching mace, a quick and fast sword and the extended reach of a spear. Depending on your playing style you will likely gravitate towards a particular instrument of death. In my game I kept a healthily balance with a slight liking to the dismembering sword. Jason also wields a large circular shield that stays by his side for the adventure giving Jason an excellent wide blocking area, along with a bulldozing motion to push enemies back. Jason is the be-all-end-all of warriors in the game. Even the invincible hero Achilles will be challenged by Jason’s formidable skills.
Pick Your God
Your equipment in the game can also be switched up with improved equipment that you find on your travels. Everything from different swords to new armour will become available so you can customize Jason however you wish. Digging deeper, Rise of the Argonauts has a fairly in-depth upgrade system based on the different gods in Greek mythology. Completing dialog trees and actions in each gods favour will give you points that can be broken down and spent on new skills. This non-combative way of handling the upgrading is a little different for an RPG making Rise of the Argonauts unique to itself. It is an interesting way to handling the traditional approach for character improvement, although I would have liked the standard level up approach worked into the favour of the gods deal. If you are playing Rise of the Argonauts on the Xbox 360 then you might be customizing your player in hopes for a few achievements, rather than in-game satisfaction. Playstation 3 owners sorry, Rise of the Argonauts doesn’t support trophies.
The Blood and the Blur
The quality of the game in terms of animation, voice-work, and overall graphic quality is in a constant state of flux. At times the presentation is rock solid, almost movie-like, and then other times it can be a shamble of a game. The characters for the most part look solid with a lot of little details making the overall look more interesting. The details are better seen from a far because the close you get up to the characters the more flaws you will see. With the camera set a mid distance from the on screen action, Rise of the Argonauts looks great, but a lot of muddied textures and pop-ins can be found with a little more examination, or magnification. The bloody action is extremely satisfying to watch, the animations could have used a little more polish as they loosely jump around during battles, however the few dismembering slashes included in the game help the player forget about the iffy battle animations.
Sounding Off with Mr. 300
The sound is mixed with a dramatic score that hangs overhead which becomes more intrusive at the perfect moments in the game. Composed by Tyler Bates (Film: 300, Doomsday, The Watchmen) the music helps build up the atmosphere to match the storylines classic, yet epic vibe. The voice over work is huge in Argonauts with most of its being acted out by adept actors. I really enjoyed the god-specific response system and how the words didn’t act out word for word with your choices, Jason would adlib a fair amount making dialog feel more natural. The audio is defiantly one of the strongest aspects of the game which tells a lot given the amount substance in the storyline. Too bad the graphics couldn't overachieve a little more to keep up with the excellent audio production.
It is apparent that Rise of the Argonauts could have been so much more of a game then it is. 2008 is already crowded as it is, so I don’t know why Codemasters didn’t apply another coat of finish to truly make Rise of the Argonauts the title it wanted to be. I could have waited until mid-2009 to get my hands on a more devoted version of Rise of the Argonauts. A little more balancing and traditional role-playing elements would have boosted the games appeal. That behind said, Rise of the Argonauts is here and it’s not as bad as you might think. This tale of classic Greek mythology is done with conviction to the art of conversation and storytelling while putting a unique spin on the famous tale of the Golden Fleece. The action isn’t superstar, but it is good enough to get you into the game feeling like an ultra-strong King that is in the favour of the gods.
Since the writing is strong it is easy to get hooked from the vary moments of betrayal in the kingdom. It’s too bad that everything that right about the game has a counter weight of wrong. For action, the combat is fun with a dynamic upgrading system and then it is also sloppy, routine and uninformative. The story is detailed, emotional, interesting and entertaining and it also drawn out with lame run around missions and too long winded for its own good. Take a little bit out, mix it around, and spit it back out and Rise of the Argonauts could have been a sleeper knockout hit.
So Rise of the Argonauts isn’t the best action RPG on the market, but it’s no where near the worst. If you enjoyed God of War, or action role-playing games with a mythological twist then you should check out Rise of the Argonauts. Depending on your love of dialog, this could be a hit or miss. Either way, buy or rent, Jason and his Argonauts deserves a look this holiday season.
Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy | 12.30.08