Codemasters and Liquid Entertainment have just unleashed the fury of Jason on the Xbox 360, PC, and PlayStation 3 with the release of their epic action RPG, Rise of the Argonauts.
Loosely following the ancient Greek myth of Jason's quest for the Golden Fleece, Rise of the Argonauts seeks to raise the bar for action RPGs, with more realistic combat and a leveling system that has you making offerings to the gods in order to advance, adding a layer of story to a mechanic that normally draws you out of the game.
Have they successfully created an RPG of mythic proportions, or does Rise fall flat on its face? We consult the gaming oracles for answers.
Though Rise of the Argonauts' biggest problems are the same ones associated with many action-role-playing games, it's got more than its share of fundamental mechanical and technical issues. The game looks like something that spawned on the original Xbox and was then ported to the current generation of consoles. Many of the environments exhibit a flat, generic look, doing little to push any sort of interesting style, so the game fails to stay entertaining even on a purely artistic level — it?s pretty disappointing, considering that it uses ancient Greek mythology as its source material. Worst (and most embarrassing) of all, most of the character models vaguely resemble a rejected cast of characters from some long-lost Masters of the Universe spin-off (the worst culprit: Argonauts' hulking rendition of Hercules and his tiny coconut head).
Let's begin with the framerate. After a couple hours playing this game, you might question whether or not you should go to the doctor. Your entire world will be stuttering. I'm an incessant camera turner, but like a dog getting his nose hit with a newspaper, I soon trained myself to stop. It was just that chunky. Thankfully it doesn't seem to be quite as bad in the combat arenas, where you'll need to control the camera for sure.
Getting blood isn't a problem for Jason whose combat prowess pits him against man and beast across all of Greece. Rise of the Argonauts focuses on combat above all else: you're granted three hot-swappable weapons-lance, mace and sword-which you can switch between with a tap of the bumper buttons. For all weapons, pressing the X button initiates a basic attack and Y a more powerful one; moreover, holding down the right trigger allows you to augment your blows for greater damage. It's a simple, yet satisfying system that performs well enough. Swapping weapons isn't nearly as smooth and seamless as promised, but Jason moves with great agility and you're given plenty of flexibility in varying attacks.
Over the course of the game Jason will gradually become more powerful, a result of better weaponry and armor types, but it's difficult to actually gauge how powerful. So while you'll be comfortable with the knowledge that you're enhancing Jason's abilities simply by virtue of activating larger and larger numbers of passive abilities and finding the occasional sword, mace, spear, or armor, which represents the entirety of the game's equippable loadout, you never get a good overall sense of how much you're improving. The game does provide a range of effects, from enemies moving more slowly when hurt to blood dripping from wounds to indicate what's going on during a fight, but these don't really address the ambiguity.
Putting aside the inventive RPG mechanics and buggy technical presentation, Rise of the Argonauts serves up a fairly rote action-RPG adventure. The shortfalls aren't enough to ruin the experience completely, and they are further buoyed by the abundance of unique ideas on offer. Still, prepare to be frustrated by the game's unfulfilled potential. Rise of the Argonauts is a bit of a backward step for action-RPG gaming, but it still succeeds in delivering an engrossing story and an entertaining interactive experience.
I get the sinking feeling this didn't turn out as good as I had hoped.