Rise of the Argonauts
It wanted so very badly to be a thrilling action adventure.
Rise of the Argonauts wanted so very badly to be a thrilling action adventure and sought to draw gamers in with a combination of entertaining gameplay and stunning visuals. However, this adventure falls flat with a disappointing mix of substandard graphics and mediocre design. An inventive skill system rises to the occasion, but it's not nearly enough to save the game from epic shortcomings.
- Inventive skill system, varied combat system, solid action
- Substandard graphics, bland level design, meaningless dialogue choices
Rise of the Argonauts had mythic origins -- it's based on Jason's legendary quest for the fabled Golden Fleece -- but the only thing epic about it is the amount of failure it produces. Solid action and a cool skill system isn't enough to save a game marred by a poor presentation and dull design.
The story, which was long ago told by Greek bards and here rewritten, crowns you as the fabled King Jason of Iolcus. Following the unexpected murder of your wife Alceme, you vow to find the Golden Fleece in a desperate effort to bring her back to life. As the Oracle at Delphi explains, recovering the elusive relic requires an arduous journey to track down the bloodline of the gods themselves.
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.
Basic role-playing elements ensure you're rewarded for exacting massive damage on enemies thanks to an inventive skill tree that's tied to your combat performance. A star map outlines deeds that Jason can perform to curry favor with the gods Aries, Athena, Hermes, and Apollo. These range from killing a certain number of enemies to completing specific tasks. You're constantly acquiring news deeds, which you then commit to one of the four gods to receive an aspect point; you then use these points to unlock more skills, so the more deeds you finish and aspect points you earn, the more powerful and diverse your skill set will be.
This concept successfully elaborates on a fundamental cornerstone of role-playing games: character development. Since each god entertains a distinct set of skills related to their divine attributes-for example, Aries, the god of war, grants skills focusing on aggression and combat-you're given a wide variety of skills with which to tailor your character. It's a rather phenomenal breed of strategic character development.
Talk To The Hand
Other role-playing conventions find their way into the game, although with less aplomb. Traveling in search of the Golden Fleece means conversing with locals of the various domains you visit. The gods play a role in the rudimentary dialogue trees as well: Aries responses are naturally hot-headed while Hermes responses are witty. Sadly, your choices don't hold much consequence. Conversations are boring to begin with thanks to dull writing and knowing your choices rarely matter only encourages you to flip through through as quickly as possible.
The level designs also leave much to be desired thanks to an unnecessary amount of backtracking. Unimaginative, often silly objectives force you to waltz back and forth to instigate lame conversations or activate switches. Perhaps if the visuals were more pleasing it wouldn't feel like such a chore but the graphics are underwhelming to say the least. Most of the characters and environments are lifeless and ugly, which is shocking considering the game's built on the Unreal Engine 3-the original God of War looks better in spots.
It's a real shame that the developers didn't surround the solid action and innovative skill progression concept with better presentation and design fundamentals. If they had, perhaps the game could have lived up to the epic majesty of the myth that inspired its creation.
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