Rise of the Argonauts Review
More action than RPG, Rise of the Argonauts offers a surprisingly well-written story that is dragged down by faulty gameplay elements.
Rise of the Argonauts was perhaps just released at the wrong time. During the pre-holiday rush, the game got lost among bigger titles out on the market. Also being often delayed and then deciding to release it last-minute did not help it any. But enough of the release details, lets get to the good stuff. Rise of the Argonauts is an action-RPG. With a big emphasis on the action, and RPG being a tacked-on addon rather than a full feature. It follows the story of Jason, a man out for revenge after his wife is killed just before they were about to get married (literally minutes before). And that's where the player takes control.
If you take your Greek mythology seriously, you should step away from ROTA as fast as you can. It seems all the developers have done is grabbed a bunch of names and locations and crafted their own story with it. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, those who appreciate mythology will find alot to laugh at here. The story of Jason begins in a non-mythological way. As he is about to wed his wife, an arrow comes flying out of nowhere and stabs her right in the chest. She almost instantly dies in Jason's arms, and fury overwhelms our main character as he starts off clearing his castle from the bad guys. After that is done, Jason refuses to give up on his loved one. Instead of burying her body, he chooses to set out on a quest to bring back the Golden Fleece, an item which was lost many centuries ago that is said to have the power to restore life.
Right off the bat, Jason has his friend Hercules to help him on his journey as you start off completing a couple of simple quests of "go there and kill the x amount of enemies waiting". While that may not sound very original (and it isn't) it surprisingly never gets old, perhaps thanks to the solid combat system which I will touch on later. During his journey, Jason is guided by the gods of Athena, Hermes, Ares and Apollo - each with their own "favor" stats that you can fill up. He also meets a few characters along the way which offer (and sometimes you have no choice) to join you in your quest for the Golden Fleece. What developers have done with some of these historical characters is outright laughable. I have to mention this again, if you appreciate Greek mythology, you should expect to have all your hopes and character impersonations dashed to pieces here. Why Hercules is a steroid-pumped bouncer, the oracle is very reminiscent of Alma from FEAR series, or why Perseus and Medusa love each other so much - we will never know. The biggest question of course is why such an epic adventure was turned into a soap opera. I'll let you know if Liquid Entertainment gets back to me. Of course, perhaps I am being too critical - If you know nothing about the actual story behind the game, then you will actually enjoy the story quite a bit here. One thing that puzzles me, however, is that the biggest story twist is revealed literally within the first 30 minutes of gameplay. Non-the-less, the story is worth experiencing and the conclusion is rather satisfactory, which you can't say for alot of games these days.
Gameplay in ROTA ranges from satisfying to just plain dull. First and foremost, you have the fighting sequences and bosses. Jason can wield a variety of weapons, one of each type - one sword, mace, spear. His trusty shield never leaves him and cannot be upgraded. You can switch among these weapons on the fly mid-combat, though there is usually no reason to unless you're looking for a specific type of bonus when fighting a group of bad guys. I had no problem going through the whole game not once touching my spear, except for a specific boss fight near the end where ranged attacks were required. Jason can effectively block with his shield, and only a few rare types of enemies can actually bash through your defense. You have two basic attack types, a quick attack that is a simple swing/stab at the enemy, and execution attacks which take a little longer to use but deal more damage. You will use the execution attacks the most, as their damage is worth the extra time they take to execute, not to mention chopping baddies in half or making their heads explode in slow motion never gets old. The controls work well with Mouse and keyboard, however the extremely poor camera has a weird tendency to swing really low behind Jason, almost console-like, so its often very hard to see the action in front of you. Our hero also has "god powers", which are various bosts and special attacks which can come in handy when you want to dispatch of baddies faster. One of our editors, however, actually finished the game without ever using a god power because he had enough buffs from his weapons to repel most attacks. God powers are of variable strength, and depend on how many points you have assigned to the god which gives this specific power. This kinda leads to the whole RPG element of the game...
...of which there isn't alot. ROTA has four gods as mentioned, and each give you various bosts and god powers. If you want to have any real use out of them, it is best to concentrate on two gods at most. How do you get these points? Through conversation options. That's right, in almost every conversation, Jason has 4 options (each assigned to a god) on how to reply or what action to take. Depending on what you say, a point is assigned to that god. That's it. That's about all the RPG elements in this game. What's even more dissapointing, is that no matter your conversation choices, the outcome is always the same one or two variations. So having Jason scream through the conversation (Ares) or apologize his way through (Hermes), the outcome will not be affected. And that's rather dissapointing for a game that dared to call itself and RPG. It should have been advertised an action game through and through, and it would have gotten it more attention.
On the technical side, the game seems stable, I only experienced one or two crashes during my full 10-hour time through. There were some sound issues which caused very strange glitches in character voices and sound cracking. After contacting support, our problem was not solved. Graphically the game looks nice. It is running on the UT3 engine, and it shows its age at this point. However all the animations are fairly fluid and character voices match them for the most part. There were a couple of frame rate issues we came across, but otherwise the game ran fine maxed out. Though that's not saying much, since the top resolution provided is a mere 1280x1024. Character models are poorly designed - instead of wearing a 3D necklace, for example, it is instead part of the character's skin and just looks strange and feels too old for today's game generation.
Rise of the Argonauts should have been bigger. It should have been louder. It should have probably released in January as original planned - giving devs more time and giving buyers a chance to notice the game. But alas, it was not meant to be. Liquid Entertainment tried, they really did, but the game unfortunately does not live up to its potential. They took the RPG concept and really cut out most of its core, and while the fighting is good, it doesn't nearly makeup for the missing elements. ROTA is an above average game, and should the time come after the New Year where you're feeling a lack of games to play, definitely give this one a try.