Rise of the Argonauts Review
Regular readers of Gamerstemple.com might remember a review I wrote about six months ago for the PS3 version of the once-360 exclusive, Overlord, called Overlord: Raising Hell. Most of the review consisted of me expressing amazement that not only was this little-known game by the not-quite-household-name developer Codemasters actually rather awesome, but it was, in fact, as much or more fun than the bigger name games hitting shelves at the time, namely Ninja Gaiden II and Metal Gear Sold 4: Guns of the Patriots. After Codemasters' last triumph, I jumped at the chance to review their newest effort, Rise of the Argonauts, on PS3. While the Argonauts don't even scratch the surface of Overlord's brilliance, it isn't quite the disaster that some other reviews have made it out to be. Maybe I'm biased, being that I share a first name with the main character, but there is some fun to be had with this game, even if the total package feels like a missed opportunity.
Rise of the Argonauts bills itself as an action RPG following the classic story (and Ray Harryhausen stop-motion masterpiece) of Jason and the Argonauts. That isn't quite the case, as the story shares similarities with both the classic and the film, but tends to veer off in its own direction in a few key spots. Jason still needs the Golden Fleece, but his motivations and some of the more famous mythological characters that make appearances aren't quite based in the original or the film. Hey, I'm not a Greek mythology scholar, and you probably aren't either, so small deviations from the base story probably won't bug you or even register as such. I will say this, though; the story of Jason and the Argonauts has been around for a long, long time, and playing through this game makes that pretty evident. It is probably too much to call the plot formulaic, because it may have INVENTED the formula, but the story isn't the main draw of this game.
The other issue with Rise of the Argonauts billing itself as an action RPG with a classic story is that the game doesn't ever feel like an RPG, in even the loosest of terms. Upgradeable skills and weapons do not automatically make a game an RPG, and this one feels more like an arcade beat 'em up in the vein of Gauntlet or Final Fight than an action RPG like Kingdom Hearts or Diablo. There isn't anything wrong with that as the beat 'em up formula is a personal favorite, but those looking for an RPG need this warning - Rise of the Argonauts isn't one.
When viewed as a whole, Rise of the Argonauts is a fairly fun game marred by some serious issues, both in the presentation and the gameplay. Since you'll be seeing and hearing the game before you actually get a chance to control Jason and play it, we'll start there. The graphics, textures, sounds and voice acting are all, well, sub-par. The characters all have a boxy, polygon feel with muddy textures and herky-jerky movements, both in cutscenes and in actual gameplay. To make matters worse, the entire game has what I can only describe as a "glaze" effect, where it almost looks as though the designers purposely smeared the visuals, so those of us with HDTVs might not notice the below-average nature of the game's visual presentation.