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Rise of the Argonauts Review

Tragically Flawed Design, Heroic Spirit Absent
by Joe Juba on Sep 22, 2009 at 02:00 PM
Platform PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Publisher Codemasters
Developer Liquid Entertainment
Rating Mature

It's easy to understand why Greek myths have been retold and reinterpreted for centuries. They are full of improbable feats, fickle deities, and epic confrontations – qualities that form the core of a great story. Unfortunately, the heroic spirit that drives classic mythology is utterly absent from Rise of the Argonauts. This version of Jason's quest for the Golden Fleece is more like a Sisyphean trial, demanding patience and sacrifice from any poor soul who plays it.

Equipped with a sword, spear, mace, and giant shield, Jason looks like a battle-hardened warrior. That may lead you to think that combat is a central component of the game, but don't be fooled: You're lucky if you have more than a few fights per hour. Most of the time, Jason is hoofing it from one end of a city to the other to deliver a message, talking to a guard captain, or performing other ridiculous errands that don't involve fighting at all. You don't feel like a part of an epic journey when you're hunting for a mead-maker because you accepted a quest from some drunk guy.

Once you clear out the enemies in your initial sweep of a new area, nothing stands in your way as you repeatedly trek back and forth across the maps. Not only is that boring, it also makes the world feel completely bloated, since your battles and interactions are so sparse compared to the amount of time you spend in transit. It feels like huge chunks of the game were just removed, with nothing left behind to take their place. Liquid Entertainment should have found a way to integrate combat better, because I could glimpse the potential for a fun game in the slivers of battle.

With three weapons, two AI-controlled companions, and a variety of unique skills, fighting in Rise of the Argonauts can be fun. Cool finishing moves, magic spells, and the ability to switch weapons mid-combo add some flexibility, but you are never required to learn the mechanics. Button mashing will work most of the time since the incredibly slim array of enemy types doesn't make you strategize or vary your tactics. The rarity of combat also makes it difficult to get acclimated; you only hit a regular flow of enemies in the game's final chapters, and Jason is pretty tough by then. It would have been nice to get a better sense of progression, but that's something the sporadic encounters can't provide.

As if the design weren't already a problem, a heap of technical issues also present obstacles on the Argonauts' journey. Frequent framerate hiccups, a bad camera, and even a couple of crashes contribute to the overall lack of polish. Those elements can be overlooked when the game is at its best, but even in the rare instances where everything clicks, Rise of the Argonauts is an average action game. The rest of the time, you'll wish you could take a swim in the River Styx rather than set sail on this dull, plodding sea.

Take Greek mythology and fill it with boring fetch quests and infrequent battles
Solid art direction with shoddy implementation. Environments and (most) character models do not look good
The best part of the whole game. There are a lot of repeating tracks, but at least they evoke the right mood
The map and objectives screen is buried way too deep considering how much time you spend wandering around
Unless you really love watching running animations, you won't find anything fun here
Moderately Low

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Rise of the Argonauts

PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
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