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Rise of the Argonauts
Score: 72%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Digital Addiction
Developer: Liquid Entertainment
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:
Rise of the Argonauts can be quickly summarized as an RPG God of War. At least, that is the initial impression you would get. Here, we have a great Greek hero on a quest, receiving various powers from gods and leaving a path of destruction in his wake. But since Rise of the Argonauts is most definitely an RPG and not an action game like the other title, there is far more story, and far less fighting. But more on that later.

Visually, Rise of the Argonauts has a lot to offer. Not only are the various locations in the game a sight to behold, and each area has its own feel, but the characters and ambience of the game shines through really well. However, there were quite a few graphical glitches that I couldn't help but notice. The main one is the occasional disappearance of character models. I saw this more on my first run through the game than the subsequent ones, but Hercules in particular occasionally simply didn't show up on the screen. This was especially disheartening early in the game when Jason goes up to Herc and asks him to join him on his quest. But these graphical issues weren't as prominent as the audio ones.

For the most part, the sound aspect of the game was quite solid. Voice acting only occasionally felt phoned in and the music felt very fitting of the time and location. The biggest problem was when I was in a conversation with someone and no audio played. When this happened, quickly pausing and unpausing the game started up the audio clip, but it got quite annoying to have to do that. And, of course, since this game is an RPG, it was very dialogue heavy.

All that being said, while far from flawless, the presentation definitely goes a long way in this game.

Rise of the Argonauts has all the earmarks of an epic game full of rich story and massive battles. Unfortunately, while the game more than delivers on the story, the battles themselves leave something to be desired.

When our tale begins, Jason, King of Iolcus is about to marry his life-long love, Alceme, Princess of Mycenae. The wedding ceremony is interrupted when an assassin from a cult thought long-dead appears and kills Jason's love. Now Jason, with the blessings of the gods, takes to the seas to find some way to revive his queen. While the story for this game is only loosely based on the myth (quite frankly, many of the details and motives don't match the myth at all), it is still a grand adventure. Jason (and his friend Hercules) first travel to Delphi, the home of Apollo's Oracle. It is here where he is told to find the Golden Fleece in order to bring back his lady. It is here where he is told the only way to get the Fleece is to find decedents of three gods, Ares, Hermes and Athena, and it is here where his quest truly begins.

The game is divided into several parts. First, there is what happens on Iolcus before Jason even sets sail, then his trip to the three islands where the descendants can be found and finally Jason's battle to actually get his hands on the Golden Fleece and his return to Iolcus. Along the way, Jason will meet many people from the different lands, and several of them will join him on the Argo. These include the huntress Atalanta, the master blacksmith Daedalus, Achilles, Pan, the witch Medea and, of course, the three descendants of the gods.

As I mentioned before, what Rise of the Argonauts really needs more of is fights. That isn't to say there aren't any, there's just not enough. I'm a fan of dialogue-heavy games as much as the next person (heck, my library of adventure games is a testament to the fact), but if there were any few actual fights in this game, it would be an adventure title. Put simply, the game is filled with long story and character development quests peppered with short fights against several waves of enemies. Once the fight is done, you put your weapons away and go on to more dialogue and quests.

As for the fights you do have, they were typically fun and got my heart pumping quite a few times, but most of them weren't really challenging. The combat system itself is interesting in that you have three weapons: a mace, a spear and a sword. Each one has various pros and cons and can be used effectively in conjunction with your shield. During your adventure, you will find newer versions of these weapons, and each has their own benefits. Each weapon is also favored by one of the game's patron gods and the more skillfully you use them, the more favor you gain for that god (but more on that system later).

As you might have guessed, dialogue is an important aspect to Rise of the Argonauts. When talking to the many people of the world, you will be asked to make choices in what you say. Well, that isn't entirely true. No matter your choice, you will always say basically the same thing... you will pretty much always get the same end result, the choice you get is how you say it. There are up to four different ways to respond in a dialogue tree, one for each of the four gods (Ares, Apollo, Athena and Hermes). Answering the different ways will illicit different responses from some NPCs, but for the most part, it will just curry favor with a particular god and give you more points towards them (again, more on this point and god favor system later).

Rise of the Argonauts's difficulty is quite laughable at times. Without realizing it, I played through the game the first time on the hardest setting, Legend (the other two being Human and Hero). I found the fights really easy and was shocked when I found I had the game set to the hardest it could be. Besides a couple of boss battles (like against Medusa and the final couple of bosses), I never died.

I don't know if I just had a good head on my shoulders during my decisions on what god powers to use or if my fellow Argonauts were just really helpful, I just know that I could have felt a bit more challenged throughout the game as opposed to a couple of really (really) hard fights scattered about.

Game Mechanics:
Rise of the Argonauts has a really interesting upgrade system. As you progress in the game, you will achieve various goals. Most of these are your main quests and side quests, but others are simply based on the number and types of enemies you take down, or what weapons you use to kill with.

Each one of these goals is represented by a star in a constellation, and each of these deeds can be dedicated to one of the four patron gods (Ares, Hermes, Apollo and Athena). By dedicating these deeds, you fill up a meter for each of the gods and once that meter is filled, you gain an aspect point that can be used to buy a new ability from that god's favor tree. The abilities themselves are aligned to the god they are under and will grant a wide variety of powers. For instance, Apollo may grant better health, while Ares has a rage type ability. Hermes gives you speed, while Athena lets you rain down lightning.

As an added bonus, completing a constellation grants you another deed that can be donated to a god. While I really do enjoy this system and it is one of the reasons I replayed the game several times, based on those replays, I think it is impossible (or damn near so) to actually get all of the stars and constellations. One of the reasons I believe this is because each god has a star that is granted when you get all of the powers for that god, and quite frankly, I don't know that there is enough of a game to get enough points to actually fill up all four god's meters 25 times. Also, one of the constellations is filled with deeds for completing other tasks. For instance, you get a star for reading all of the Herms (statues that talk about the history of the game) in the game, or one completing all of the constellations. But there are also stars for getting all of each god's powers. This means that in order to finish this particular constellation, you have to somehow manage to get all 100 abilities, and like I said earlier, it doesn't seem possible.

I had hoped when I beat the game the first time that it would allow my second play through to have me keep my character (and stars) as they were at the end of the previous game. That would have meant that I could actually complete everything (in a similar way that Mass Effect does), but in the end, my second and subsequent plays had me starting from scratch. The last time I replayed it, I did so in a very meticulous manner with a walkthrough at hand to make sure I got all of the side quests, but even then I was only able to fill two god's ability trees and most of a third's. It was just very disappointing to have a side quest that asked me to complete all four god's ability trees and not actually be able to do it.

While I did enjoy Rise of the Argonauts a lot and had a good time playing through the ancient story, the length of the game doesn't necessarily warrant more than a rental. If there was a better chance of actually getting all of the constellations and abilities, then maybe the replay value would be higher. As it is, the subsequent replays that I went through felt more like a chore and due diligence than something I did just for the fun of it.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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