Role-playing games on the Xbox 360 are becoming a more common recurrence and in recent weeks we’ve seen some top-rated titles in this genre, such as Fable 2 and Fallout 3. Continuing this recurrence is Liquid Entertainment and Codemaster’s latest title, Rise of the Argonauts. Whether it can live up to the high standards of fellow RPG titles, is questionable.
RotA opens with a dramatic opening cut-scene, focusing on Jason, King of the Greek city Iolcus; having everything until his beautiful wife-to-be Alceme is assassinated on their wedding day. Once the cut-scene finishes, players take the role of Jason, who then attempts to hunt down and kill his wife’s assassin through the kingdom. The emotion and the urge to chase this assassin were there because of one of the most powerful opening sequences I have and will probably ever witness. The emotion expressed by this cut-scene is fascinating and one I will remember for a while. Unfortunately, from then on it was more-or-less downhill from there.
The first feature of RotA players will notice is the graphics. The lip-syncing and facial features look extremely realistic and have been very well done, though everything else is quite the opposite. From the poor-looking environments to the weak textures, the detail just makes the game look rushed, which is such a disappointment, especially as the story-telling has been done brilliantly well.
The story is told with masses of dialogue, and I mean masses. For the majority of the time playing the game, you will likely find yourself listening to various characters within the game talk (or running around but more on that later). Fortunately, it is told in a way in which it can easily be digested. If you don’t understand a particular element of the story, you can simply find characters and ask them for more details about it. For the more impatient gamer there is the option to skip them, though that means missing out vital information which could wrongly influence your decision when it comes to dialogue choosing.
In the same way to how Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect worked, players can choose what they say and ask characters within RotA from the options on-screen. These are selected using the left thumbstick and pressing A at the preferred option. With RotA focusing on Greek mythology (similarly to PlayStation title: God of War), at times, options are inspired by one of the four Greek gods: Ares, Apollo, Hermes and Athena. Choosing a particular god’s option contributes to the game’s deed system.
Throughout RotA, players will earn deeds, which are rewarded for completing certain tasks (such as side quests) and participating in certain objectives X amount of times (such as killing so many enemies). These can then be dedicated to a god of their choice, and by showing your dedication to a single god will result in gaining purchasable powers and abilities to assist you on your journey. These abilities include health regeneration of Jason and the Argonauts to damage increases. Whilst they give a major advantage, their long cool-down times mean you can’t use them as often as you’d perhaps like.
Deeds are not the only rewards from RotA. As with every other Xbox 360 title, there are the achievements. Maybe it’s just me but I’m used to unlocking an achievement within the first few minutes of playing the game, but I had to wait a good half an hour to an hour to unlock my first achievement in RotA. Looking down the list and from personal experience, it appears patience will be the key to obtaining the full reward on offer, plus multiple playthroughs on harder difficulties.
In short (and without giving too much away), the rest of the story consists of King Jason learning that a magical Golden Fleece artefact – carrying the power of resurrection – is the only way of bringing the love of his life back to life. Sailing on a newly constructed Argo, Jason recruits the Argonauts to defeat mythical creatures with the help of the gods and to retrieve the Golden Fleece.
Combat is the second major feature of RotA (along with the dialogue choices). Every so often players will be faced with the daunting task of taking on enemies, ranging from mythical creatures to demented humans. Jason carries three weapons and a shield at all times, all of which can be quickly and easily used within battle. Changing weapons in mid-fight with a press of the left or right bumper can quickly add to your combo and catch the enemy by surprise. Those disappointed by the combat in Fable 2, will certainly not be disappointed with it in RotA.
A rather gruesome yet rather attractive feature of the combat is the slow-motion once you’ve decapitated an enemies’ head. The blood spurting out of the body and the horrific sound effect of it just makes you cringe ever so faintly. Sadly, the graphics let this superb feature down as it looks more like tomato ketchup than blood.
The game’s weapons are as you would expect. Starting off as pretty basic low-level stick-type weapons, which can be upgraded throughout the game to some more advanced high-level killers with magical powers. The easiest way to do so is to search for them around the game’s environments, though this could prove to be time-consuming. Alternatively, players can defeat the game’s many bosses and have the choice of upgrading their weapon to their opponent’s ‘dropped’ weapon. Clothing and your shield can also be upgraded in a similar fashion. This upgrade system works fantastically well and whilst it isn’t particularly new, it feels completely refreshed from similar systems seen in similar titles.
As for the game’s soundtrack, I have somewhat mixed views. In a way, it suits the Greek style though it just feels too gentle for someone who is carrying a shield and an arsenal of weapons on his back. The sound effects are more-or-less what you would expect and I’ve got to give major credit to Liquid Entertainment for the excellent voice acting. If the voice acting was poor, I’m pretty certain the game would have been one to totally avoid.
Being a role-playing game, running around from place to place was something I expected. What I didn’t expect was to be walking at a fairly slow pace, constantly getting lost. Jason, despite being a tough, hard warrior, takes longer you would anticipate getting from A to B. It’s also quite disappointing to see a lack of fast-travelling as present in other RPGs. Not only that, but the in-game map isn’t the biggest of help either. Despite providing markers, the map isn’t the easiest to follow and is quite slow in getting up onto the screen. Neither fault is acceptable in a role-playing title.
To conclude, Rise of the Argonauts rises to the challenge but comes crashing down. It feels like a cut-down RPG, despite the rather broad dialogue options. The lack of any multiplayer and replayability really slims the chances of the game succeeding in what looks set to be a busy start to 2009. This may be one to rent if you like the look of it.