Rise of the Argonauts Preview
If you’re a fan of mythology, you’re probably wondering to yourself: “why aren’t there more video games based on the ancient Greek Gods of power and wonder? Don’t they lend themselves perfectly to video game context and concept?” The answer to that is a resounding “yes,” of course, but for some reason, while many game theories are indeed based on one form of mythology or another, we rarely have a high-profile title centered directly on the primary players that frequent the always entertaining tales of mythology. Kratos is a new creation, despite the atmosphere, for example. Therefore, Codemasters has decided to step up and introduce us to Rise of the Argonauts, featuring the legendary Jason and his band of traveling heroes in their ceaseless quest to secure the Golden Fleece. This one is an action/RPG – potentially of the highest order – that may give us a truly unique next-gen experience. Provided they get the mechanics right, it could be a very worthy adventure.
Obviously, it should come as no surprise that you play as Jason, and you will be assisted by iconic heroes the likes of the aforementioned Hercules and Pan (yeah, wouldn’t you like to control Hercules every now and then?), and you can select one hero to be your partner for any given mission. Not only do you have to take into account the vastly different skills and abilities of each available character, you also have to realize that each fighter allies with one particular God. Hence, that will factor into your preparation decision, simply because the various Gods also have different effects in battle. So for example, if you’d rather have some physical help, sign up Hercules and watch him rip men apart – literally – or if you’d rather play the cautious card, select Pan, who uses the God Apollo to heal and help. Jason, on the other hand, doesn’t bow to the alter of any one God, which means the player will have the option to revere one God and gain the fruits of his returned appreciation. By obtaining certain accomplishments, you can spend points on any skill tree you choose, even though some points can only be given to one God.
The difference between “God-specific” points and regular points remains a little hazy right now, but that’s okay. We do, however, know how to earn favor with the Gods, and here’s where the role-playing aspect comes into play in Rise of the Argonauts. As is the case with the likes of Mass Effect, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and other more freedom-oriented RPGs, decision-making is a key part of the experience. While we don’t expect Liquid Entertainment’s effort will rival those RPGs in terms of open-endedness, there will be a reason to consider each dialogue answer. See, there will be plenty of dialogue in this game, and depending on your response, you may satisfy one God or even anger another…or, and this is just as possible, the answer will have no effect whatsoever. We know what you’re thinking, too- “can’t I just keep siding with one God to get maximum benefits?” No, you can’t, so there’s no reason not to be diverse.
Still, all this being said, it seems the focus of Argonauts remains firmly focused on action. Perhaps labeling it an “action/RPG” is a stretch because of this, but the role-playing elements are, while not as significant, indeed undeniable. The action is going to be fast and brutal, and all you God of War and Devil May Cry fans out there will appreciate the simplicity of the standard upgrade system. You can acquire new weapons in your travels, but as IGN says in their hands-on time with the game, “there are no loot drops, no stat sheets, and no inventory screens.” …can’t get much simpler than that, can you? Basically, the combat and adventuring will appeal most to action fans and less to RPG fans, and considering the subject matter, that’s not a bad move. It can always be fun to micromanage and prepare to your heart’s content, but we’re talking about men who lived on the battlefield, and probably didn’t spend half their lives preparing. Jason fights; he doesn’t waffle around with the town-folk all day.
But even though the action and combat should be pretty straightforward, and about as bloody as one can expect, your options don’t end with the dialogue. If you’d like to visit certain areas of the world, you may be able to accept side-quests that are separate from the main story, and sometimes, if you’re merciful…the benefits can be worthwhile. Remember, these weren’t just bloodthirsty warriors; they were doers of good, which means you should maintain that mentality throughout all battles. There may come a time when you have the option to play the role of savior, and in all actuality, isn’t that the foundation which many mythic heroes built their legacy upon? Getting back to the combat, we’re expecting a typical third-person slashfest, something similar to the likes of GoW, and that ought to intrigue a wide spectrum of gamers. Everything from massive combos to spells will be available to Jason and Co., and we’re also hoping for some combination attacks between Jason and whoever you chose to be your traveling companion. They could come up with some serious crowd-pleasers!
Rise of the Argonauts is scheduled to arrive for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC on September 26 in Europe, and on October 14 in North America. It makes it out before the giant blockbusters like Resistance 2 and Gears of War 2 drop in November, so while you lie in wait for those, perhaps you should consider taking to the ancient seas and battlefields with some of the most recognizable and singularly powerful heroes in mythology.
9/2/2008 Ben Dutka