Rise of the Argonauts tries its best to copy the “modern” Action RPG stereotype set forth by games like Mass Effect and Jade Empire. As King Jason, you travel from place to place in an attempt to find the golden fleece and use it to resurrect your freshly assassinated bride. You’re always be accompanied by two companions. You spend some time killing large volumes of men, monsters and even myths in real-time combat. And you spend the rest of your time talking to a ton of folks, who often dish out random side quests and the occasional dialogue-based puzzle. And when everyone around is either dead or all talked out, you head back to your ship, the Argo, and sail to the next port to begin the process anew.
For the most part, the game succeeds in recreating everything that makes those other RPGs great. But it always falls slightly short in scale. You’ve got a colorful cast of selectable sidekicks, from the hulking Hercules and the mage-like Satyr Pan to bow-licious babe Atalanta. But the overall roster of “playable” partners is smaller than in other games. Plus, you can’t command them in battle – they’re totally on auto-pilot.
Speaking of battle, a straightforward combat system rewards you for swapping between your sword, mace, and spear, then tosses in very cool magic powers that you buy from one of the game’s four gods. This is one of the game’s strongest features, enabling you to customize Jason’s powers just so. But you don’t get new gear as often as in other games, your special powers recharge far too slowly so you can’t use them as much as you’d like, and as mentioned, you still have no control over what your partners learn or do. Most importantly, the camera is lazy, often giving you a terrible view of battle.
The game world looks great, with exotic art design and above-average graphics. You may think you know Greek mythology, but this is a fresh take on it. For example, there’s a city of stone people and a snake-haired medusa, but their relationship isn’t what you’d guess it is.
But there are countless little lapses, beginning with awkward idle animations and lips that don’t always move during cut scenes and ending with bigger things. We love that you can skip lines of dialogue with a button press, but that same button will end the cut scene early if there’s no remaining dialogue to skip through. We missed a critical plot development early on because of this, and when we reloaded our save game and tried again, the game simply skipped over the entire scene and then auto-saved – and since you’re only allowed one save file, we were pretty much screwed. Rise of the Argonauts has a nice story and something to offer, but shortcomings like this chip away at the fun and ultimately keep the game from matching its legendary sources of inspiration.
Jan 8, 2009