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By Thomas McKinnon 23 February 2009

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Greek mythology - with all its heroes, gods and underlying moral messages – is quite literally the perfect setting for an action-RPG. Epic battles with lots of philosophical chit-chat in between based on solid historical fiction; by Zeus could there be a better foundation for a game?

The Rise of the Argonauts is a twist on the story of King Jason of Iolcus, and his endeavour to locate the Golden Fleece, a powerful artefact descended from the Titans. The Fleece apparently has the power to save his new but dead wife, Alceme who was assassinated by the Blacktongues. The plot revolves around Jason travelling the known, and unknown, Greek world assembling the Argonauts, a team of elite warriors, who join him on his quest to find the artefact, rescue the girl and save the world.

Schmoosing gods and dressing up

As a RPG, The Rise of the Argonauts offers some unique elements in gameplay. Much of the game is focused on Jason building a rapport with Aries, Hermes, Apollo and Athena, his patron gods. Winning the favour of the gods will unlock both passive abilities and god powers that will make Jason a more formidable warrior.

To win favour you must dedicate Jason’s deeds (anything from killing enemies to enlarging his company) to a particular god, with each having a skill tree of some 25 aspects. This dedication system is very novel, bringing an interesting dynamic to the game.

A complete lack of stores is another novelty for an RPG. Jason must collect or win all his weapons and armour. He carries with him a spear, a sword, a mace, a shield and wears body armour at all times. The collected weapons and armour are stored in his trophy room aboard the Argo, which can be visited before and after each leg of the quest.

The game also makes use of a Mass Effect type conversation system which helps to provide context and bring you up to speed on Greek mythology. Throughout his quest Jason can chat to just about anyone he comes across, offering up information or insight. Jason’s answers affect his relationship with gods as well, although there is no difference in the outcome of Jason’s quest. The dialogue is however poorly scripted, has poor voice acting and is rather time consuming, giving the game a rather unbalanced feeling.

 

Hack and Slash

Standing between Jason and the Fleece is a myriad of mythical monsters and every flavour of baddy. Basically game developer Liquid serve up a smörgåsbord of rogues for you to hack and slash. Combat controls are uncomplicated with light, heavy and special attacks easily executed; every weapon using the same set of controls. This makes multi-weapon combos possible from the get-go. Unfortunately it also means that combat becomes a little repetitive as a light/ light/ heavy attack will generally do the trick in most fights.

The game’s biggest faults are its poor graphics and dodgy frame rate. While you would expect epic landscapes and detailed character models from a next gen game it’s just a bit flat.  As you explore some of these rather uninspired environments you will also notice that you start dropping frames. While this won’t make the game unplayable it is rather irritating. A less severe issue is the fact that there is no default HUD (head-up display) setting giving you information on Jason’s health or any idea as to your location. While you can change the settings to display health there is no way to display a mini-map.

Does it please the gods?

The Rise of the Argonauts isn’t a game that is going to win any awards or generate much hype. Marred by a number of technical issues and suffering from a definite pacing issue due to a lack of balance between combat and RPG gameplay, it just lacks a certain polish. That being said the game can be extremely interesting and fun to play thanks in part to a number of very clever RPG features. It is this novelty value that should go a long way to winning it some fans.

PROS
The ability to change weapons on the fly is great and the control scheme is very simple.
CONS
The game tends to drop frames and the game suffers from pacing issue ?? there is way too much talking and not enough action.
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