“You do not stumble over mountains, you stumble over stones. Step carefully over the stones and you will step over the mountains.”
Venture into the realms of gods and monsters as you step into the sandals of Jason in Codemasters’ action/adventure romp Rise of the Argonauts. The idea of merging the combat and atmosphere of God of War with the storytelling and dialogue of Bioware’s finest is an intriguing concept, and one I wish was achieved, as the game I played certainly didn’t fit that description.
The game will see you take part in essentially three activities; walking, talking and fighting, none of which are handled particularly well, as you quest to find the Golden Fleece.
When traversing through the game world, throughout some well known and some lesser known places, from the underworld to the Oracle at Delphi, you will find yourself consistently under whelmed. Level design is exceptionally linear, and not in a way that other linear games present themselves to give a sense of a wider world around you such as the level design in the Half Life series. The attempt to dissuade the player that the levels are linear by twisting the levels about lends only to cause frustration and confusion, especially due to the fact you have to navigate the pause menu to view the map as no mini map option is available. This all feels a shame as the vibrant tone of the game, thanks in part to the unreal engine it utilizes, creates characters and buildings that look astounding, if only they had filled these levels instead of leaving them as sparse as they did.
If this were a minor part of the game, it could be forgotten to the point of forgiveness, however, this is not the case. You spend a disproportionate amount of time running through these bleak landscapes, often backtracking, all the while having the age old problem of the third person adventure game. The badly designed camera. Add this to the sloppy animations whenever Jason runs on any surface that isn’t one hundred and eighty degrees flat, pile on the cringe-inducing invisible walls that pop up when you are in combat and you are already off to a bad start.
Now we’re on the subject let’s get into combat, sluggish and repetitive it only gains favour in the weapon swapping mechanics allowing you to change up combos mid way by changing weapons. Each weapon has its different strength and weakness ranging from speed to precision and from range to the strength to shatter shields. The game consists largely of uninspired and unchallenging enemies, broken up by the occasional boss encounter with unfortunately dismal AI and uninteresting strategies for completion.
Whilst you are able to change and improve your weapons and armour throughout the course of the game none of these vary the combat in the way such a change affects the seminal action adventure franchises of God of War or Devil May Cry. The changes you can make, however, do add a degree of interest to the otherwise bland area of combat. As you work your way through the game, you are privy to a vast array of mini achievements ranging from killing x amount of enemies, completing storyline y or solving problem z. These build into an aesthetically pleasing starscape, which each sub-section of achievements forming its own constellation. After unlocking them, you may dedicate them to one of four Olympian gods – Ares, Apollo, Athena or Hermes – each of which will grant you powers or abilities pertaining to their nature, for example, Ares will grant you more combat related abilities whereas Apollo will verge towards the healing arts. Shrines to dedicate to these gods are scattered about the world, and even on your own ship, but as you are able to do all this in your pause menu this addition to level design seems somewhat irrelevant.
The other main element of the game, as mentioned earlier, is talking. Much like games like Mass Effect, they have tried to incorporate branching dialogue, however, no choice you make no matter how brash or how timid seems to make any change to the arc of the storyline. It also certainly does not have any mass effect on the world (see what I did there?) Whilst the voices are acted well they are let down sometimes by poor dialogue, however, the grand failure on conversations most certainly has to be the animations (Jason’s especially). Their posture remains almost static and their expression unchanging, what could have been a highlight of the game is let down merely by poor execution.
Rise of the Argonauts billed itself as a spectacular adventure game, but ends up falling flat. It tries to be a lot of other games, but ends up just being one mediocre experience. If the choices you made actually impacted the game, and the locales were made with more care, perhaps Jason could have brought me along with him on his adventure; at the moment, I’m just staring at a drab painting of what could be.
Reviewer’s note: The Xbox 360 version was tested for this review
Great visuals, hampered by lacking animation, bad camera usage and sparse environments
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Sluggish combat, repetitive situations, monotonous boss battles plunge this score down
From the chink of weapons, to the musical score all round, to decent voice acting.
A decent length, especially if you want to explore, but replayability seems non-existent
A mediocre game biting off more than it can chew