PAX 08: Rise of the Argonauts
Greek mythology has been surprisingly absent in western RPGs. Sure, we’ve had games like Kid Icarus and Age of Mythology, but there’s been nary a roleplaying game that’s let players sink their teeth into some good old epic storytelling. Rise of the Argonauts is a new game for PC, 360, and PS3 that tells the tale of Jason and his search for the Golden Fleece. In a form similar to Mass Effect, Rise of the Argonauts provides players with a ship, crew, and destinations with quests that can by completed in any order desired. The hub of the game, The Argo, is a sort of base of operations – here you can change your weapon and armor loadout, talk to characters along for the voyage, and dedicate Deeds to the Gods (more on that later).
The game plays out like a fairly standard action RPG. After stepping ashore, Jason can visit villagers (or whoever happens to live on the island) and learn about quests he can undertake. Your party consists of only Jason and one other Argonaut, of which there are four to choose from – I was shown both Pan and Hercules, and two more are available to take into combat. While speaking with other characters, different dialogue choices win favor with four Gods – Apollo, Athena, Hermes, and Ares – corresponding to the intended outcome of the conversation. This is similar to the standard good/evil character trees seen in many western RPGs, only with two more options – and none are really good or bad. Deeds work in a similar way; after achieving some task, Jason can pledge to the Gods and be rewarded. These range from passive upgrades, such as a boost in attack power, to moves called God Powers. These are impressive combat manoeuvres like summoning a portal to Hades (really awesome) shooting lightning (also awesome) and other feats. Combat is billed as visceral and bloody, and, well, there’s not really anything else you could describe it as. In the opening cut scene, Jason chases down his bride’s assassin and bludgeons him to death – on screen – with a giant mace. It’s graphic, over-the-top, and definitely well done. It may be gruesome, but it’s not something you tend to see in RPGs.
Unfortunately, at the time of writing, Rise of the Argonauts has some glaring issues. While the art design is decent, the actual graphics are glaringly bad. Rough textures, boxy models, and piss-poor animation ruins any cutscene with potential. In some areas, it’s just plain lazy; knots in rope seemed to just be cubes textured with rope. The facial animations are also creepily put together, with Jason’s eyes often staring off into nothingness as his mouth jerks open and closed. If that wasn’t bad enough, the framerate is absolutely abysmal; at no point did the game run properly in my time viewing it. It’s not a pretty game, so running it smoothly should not be an issue, so what’s going on here? The choppy framerate makes the poor animation look even worse. This is a shame, because the rest of the game has so much potential.
If Rise of the Argonauts can be fixed in time for release, it will be a must-play. The concept of pleasing four different Gods with your actions makes for a lot of replayability, and the over-the-top style is fairly unique in the world of RPGs. In its current state, however, it’s just unplayable. It’s a shame, too, because it’s truly a concept worth exploring. Pray to Athena that the developers can devote some time to making the game run smoothly.
Probably not Ares though, he probably doesn’t care.