Iím fond of Ancient Greece and the mythology that surrounds it, I devoured the old tales and loved the original Jason and the Argonauts movie with stop-motion animation by Ray Harryhausen, so when a game with Greek myth turns up I always take notice. This review is somewhat late mainly because itís taken us a while to actually get the game for one reason or another. However this game is an underrated title and deserves some attention, so letís get to it.Story
On the eve of his wedding Jasonís bride Alceme is slain and thus begins Jasonís quest to find the only thing capable of bringing her back to life. The Golden Fleece, itís a typical Greek Tragedy kind of story with a dose of western style storytelling. Jason must assemble the crew of the Argo and set sail to find the mystical Island of Delphi.Gameplay
Liquid Entertainment were mostly known for the Battle Realms series of games, a superbly made RTS that went against the popular grain of the modern titles and introduced specific new features. So I was a little surprised to find that they had developed this title. Liquid have approached Rise of the Argonauts with the same enthusiasm that they did with Battle Realms, removing the HUD and providing a slimmed down experience in that respect that allows them to concentrate on the story and dialogue, two aspects of the game that are highly polished and entertaining.
Gameplay is similar to Mass Effect and KotoR in that itís a 3rd person action adventure, you have a central hub between missions (the mighty Argo, Jasonís ship offers you a chance to talk to the various characters and so on) and rather like the aforementioned titles you can tackle the various islands of Mycenae, Saria and Kythra in any order that you choose. Your adventure begins with only one Argonaut, the son of Zeus: Hercules and youíre thrown right into the action with a simple tutorial as the aftermath of the attack on your Iolcus Palace still rages on.
Combat is slim on the ground in the game, what combat there is can be summed up very simply as a quick game of rock, paper and scissors. There are three main classes of weapon, mace, spear and sword. The sword will dart around a sluggish mace but isnít much good against a spear, a mace will batter a spearman to death but does not deal well with swords...and so on. You can perform shield bash attacks and dodges as well as other moves.
There are a smattering of God Powers that can be used (assigned to cardinal D-Pad directions) to help you in combat or provide aid to your AI Argonauts as they battle. You can also hot-swap weapons mid combo for extra damage and to surprise your enemies. Itís pretty fluid and for the most part the combat system works quite well.
With no HUD to speak of youíll have to judge Jasonís health by his physical state in battle and keep an eye on your allies as well. As long as you donít wade into combat as a button mashing psycho you should be fine, learning to block and counter with a simple tap of a button. You have a light, heavy and execution attack and the game teaches you how to use these skills right from the get go so you shouldnít have any trouble mastering them.
When it comes down to exploration, Rise of the Argonauts is a fairly linear game when youíre on the various islands and there are a couple of things to find. The Herms are an all important source of information hidden around the various maps; they provide insight into the location as well as giving you a final Deed on each island that you can use to dedicate to your patron gods. As you adventure youíll earn these Deeds, for defeating enemies, doing side-quests and various other things during the game. Each Deed can be dedicated to one of the four Patron Gods, Ares, Apollo, Hermes and Athena.
Once you dedicate a Deed to the god in question, it gives you favour with them. Get enough favour and you earn as Aspect Point and this can be used to buy skills from the pretty expansive Skill Tree. Itís a simple system and even though the gameís light on combat, you can still find places to use the earned God Powers to tip the edge in battle, especially if youíve been dedicating Deeds early on and building up your relationship with your Patron Gods.
Another way to earn favour is by dialogue choices, whilst these choices often offer short term consequences, they can be dedicated most of the time to the various gods and doing so earns a variable point reward to that deity. Youíll want to stop and check your Aspect screen in the pause menu from time to time to check on your points; itís often not quite clear when youíve gained enough to move up in your godís graces.
There is a map as well that helps you (though itís not a very good one) find your way to the next bit of your quest. All in all, the gameplay is a fairly decent mix, lacking in combat opportunities early on and beefing up later in the game. Finding new weapons and armour is done through story progression and side missions, some exploration and certain events. Never will you have to break another crate or spend hours on finding every chest.