Rise of the Argonauts - Staff Review  

Fall of the Argonauts
by Michael "Macstorm" Cunningham

Rise of the Argonauts
Less than 20 Hours
+ Simple, yet enjoyable combat.
+ Executions are addictive.
+ Achilles is hilarious.
- Fight the camera more than enemies.
- Not enough character development.
- Map not accessible enough to be useful.
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   Rise of the Argonauts was released at the end of 2008 across multiple platforms with little fanfare. The game loosely follows the story of Jason and the Argonauts, yet with its own original twist by pulling other notable Greek figures into it. Making an RPG out of such a classic tale is a very unique concept, and it almost works. Some aspects of this game work quite well, while others just detract from the overall experience.

   Rise starts off with a bang. When the player first meets Jason, his wife Alceme is shot and killed right in front of him by an invading force known as the Blacktongues. This causes Jason to race off for vengeance and attempt to obtain the Golden Fleece in order to revive his lost love. Along the way he meets up with many other Greek mythological figures, such as the great Hercules, the cocky and hilariously sarcastic Achilles, the former Blacktongue Medea, and the amusing satyr, Pan.

   The game's story might end up being confusing or frustrating to someone well-versed in Greek mythology, especially if one expects the game to be true to form. For those like myself, only vaguely familiar with these characters, Rise of the Argonauts offers an interesting, if somewhat brief, storyline. The game does have some very entertaining dialogue exchanges. The sporadic banter between characters, especially anything involving Achilles, acts as the true highlight of the game. The main plot is rather transparent and not as deep as the complete mythological tale.

slices and dices He slices and dices!

   What Rise of the Argonauts is lacking in story content, it makes up for in combat. The game's battle system is straightforward, yet very satisfying. Players control Jason as he and two companions quest across the high seas in search of the Golden Fleece. Jason can swap between three different types of weapons: spears, swords, and maces. Each offers a unique fighting style and can be swapped not only mid-battle, but mid-combo. Along with basic melee attacks, Jason can also opt to perform a power attack that has a chance of breaking an enemy shield or quickly executing an enemy. Players need to be careful when using this attack, as it is much slower than standard ones, leaving Jason open to counters. Regardless, these slow motion executions are really enjoyable to perform, so it's understandable if they are used often. Each weapon also features a couple of unique attacks, such as being able to throw the spear at enemies from a distance.

   There are also a wide variety of special abilities known as god powers available that offer Jason skills such as healing him or boosting his attack. These god powers are part of the aspect system, a method of enhancing Jason which in turn helps to earn him favor with one of the four Greek gods: Ares, Apollo, Athena, or Hermes. Most aspects are passive traits that improve Jason's skills in place of experience points, while the god powers are active skills that can be used directly during combat. Aspect points are earned by completing heroic deeds and then dedicating them to a specific god. When dialogue options are presented, each reply will please a specific god, so players have the option of aligning with one or the other not only through deeds, but also in decisions. It's a rather awkward system of progression, but it does offer a good deal of customization.

   Jason also has AI controlled companions who cannot be ordered around, but they do a decent enough job of assisting for not being configurable. It would have been helpful had at least some options for customization been made available. One area that might cause gamers some problems is the horrible camera controls. The camera has a tendency to pan around, up, and down at the most awkward times, causing no end of frustration. Players can move the camera themselves using the analog stick, but it's still a maddening experience. Menus are also a mess to navigate, as accessing them requires that the game be paused, which takes an unusually long time. Players also have to pause in order to view area maps, since there is no on-screen mini-map. This is awkward considering that many areas are rather unremarkable and therefore easy to get turned around in, so having to wade through two levels of menus to find a map is very distracting.

Sexy She's really sexy... later.

   Along with those frustrations is the problem of pacing, especially in terms of the combat to exploration ratio. Often players will have to wander around an area for quite some time before encountering enemies to battle. There is also a lot of required exploration without combat on each of the islands that Jason and his Argonauts visit. Players will spend lots of time roaming back and forth hunting for the correct character to talk to, just to have to run back to the start point or find yet another character to converse with. This is only frustrating because these sequences are boring and add little to the story. Combat is the most entertaining aspect of Rise of the Argonauts, so it's a shame that more of the game isn't focused around it.

   The sound and visuals of Rise of the Argonauts are difficult to judge, as neither is really remarkable. Voice acting is prevalent, yet undistinguished. The music fits well considering the theme of the game, but the epic battle pieces are mostly drowned out by the sounds of combat, so it's difficult to enjoy. The graphics consist of mostly bland forest areas and dull, dark towns. The character designs make for some of the graphical highlights, especially bosses. At times, though, the graphics just look off. This could be due to the fact that Rise of the Argonauts is a multi-platform release, but often characters or background objects look hazy or blurred.

   Rise of the Argonauts is an overall less-than-stellar experience. While combat is enjoyable, and executing enemies in brutal fashion doesn't ever seem to get old, there just isn't enough of it. The game's story is a classic tale, but this presentation of it falls flat. The attempt to enliven things with entertaining dialogue is helpful, but there is just not enough in this short game. Jason's choices throughout the game play a unique role by helping to shape character development, but the decisions made have little impact on the overall story. After adding in the frustrating interactive problems such as poor menu design, a lack of ally control, and a nightmarish camera, Rise of the Argonauts is found wanting. The game has areas it performs decently in, but there are just too many aspects where Argonauts doesn't rise, it falls.

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