Rise of the Argonauts Xbox 360 Review

May 29, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, Xbox 360, Xbox

Liquid Entertainment, the developer of Rise of the Argonauts, always classed their game as an RPG, albeit a streamlined one. But the end result is missing so many important facets of the genre that, at times, it can hardly qualify as an RPG.

One important area that Rise of the Argonauts does have of the RPG bloodline is a heavy emphasis on narrative. It makes liberal use, but is also a re-imagining, of Greek mythology, much in the way that God of War is. It follows Jason (or to give him his full majestic title: King Jason of Iolcus) who in the opening events sees his fiancée, Princess Alceme, killed before his very eyes, and at their very own wedding nonetheless. So begins a story fuelled around Jason’s revenge as well as his attempts to bring his “almost” wife back from the dead by seeking out the Golden Fleece.

The story is compulsive and has some interesting characters, voice-acting is largely of a reasonable standard, though like the script it’s occasionally a bit cheesy, which actually gives the game a certain charm. The universe is rich in its back-story and everyone and his dog seems to want to enlighten you with a story of it, which allows for much depth and believability for what is a fantastical world.

Conversing with characters works similarly to Mass Effect, you’ll often get a choice of how you want to answer questions, though largely these decisions do little to change the outcome, apart from perhaps winning favour with certain gods. Though it’s still rather nice to have some degree of choice in proceedings, even if it has little effect when it comes to the grand scheme of things.

When you first take charge of Jason, things don’t exactly get off to a promising start. Walking through doorways can be more challenging than the game itself, whilst Jason seems to just generally have a hard time navigating his environment (maybe something to do with his muscle mass) and not just because of the lack of a helpful map, but also because of technical issues. This annoying lack of polish makes the game harder to play than it should be, but it’s never bad enough to make for a truly broken game.

Away from the exploration aspect you’ll be doing plenty of fighting. Combat is of the real-time hack and slash variety. Jason has two types of strikes, a quick wounding strike and a much slower but more powerful execution attack; he can also bash enemies with his shield, which can briefly stun them. You have four weapons that can be switched between at will, even during combos. With all aspects taken into consideration, it could quite easily have made for some strategic encounters, but such opportunities for thoughtful fighting have been squandered by the developer and instead we are left with a game that rewards lowly button bashing above strategic thinking.

Defeating enemies in Rise of the Argonauts, doesn’t net you experience points, as it does so in so many RPGS. But it doesn’t stray so far away from its intended genre bracket that there’s no form of character growth whatsoever, so worry not. Instead there’s a deed system, of which rewards you with deeds for carrying out certain tasks, such as defeating so many of a certain type of enemy for example, or using an attack a certain amount of times. Such deeds can be offered to any of four gods, which can result in you gaining an aspect point that you can purchase new skills with (each god bestows you with characteristically different abilities: Ares, the god of war, strengthens your attacks for example, whilst Apollo, the god of healing, will give you soothing healing spells) Though on the normal difficulty at the very least, it’s rarely necessary to do anything other than bash buttons, as if you hate them.

That’s really as far as the RPG elements go in Rise of the Argonauts. Strip away its comprehensive narrative and character interaction and it could quite easily be another in a long line of action adventures, with RPG elements implemented. There’s no treasure to find strewn around the world, no money to amass. Being only around ten hours it’s also very slight for a genre that is filled with forty hour epics. It may very well have enough for it to slot into the RPG genre, but it’s certainly one at its most streamlined and casual appeasing, obviously not one that is going to please those who have a geeky passion (don’t worry I’m with you, you’re not alone) for level grinding and seeking out valuable loot then.

Visually, Rise of the Argonauts fails to truly impress. Character models are nicely detailed, but overall in a world that is crying for visual splendour to better illustrate it, it’s rather ugly, which takes away from a universe that is otherwise well imagined.

Though there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s a bit rough around the edges and the combat isn’t anywhere near as strategic as it so easily could have been, Rise of the Argonauts is far from being a bad game. It has a fascinating universe and a cast of characters that are steeped in Greek mythology, both aspects of which come together to create a memorable storyline and if there‘s any reason to play it, this certainly comes ahead of the weaker aspects that make up the rest of the experience.