Rise Of Argonauts Retro Review: Identity Crisis

Rise of Argonauts Review

Title: Rise of Argonauts
Genre: Adventure
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC (Reviewed)
Developer: Liquid Entertainment
Publisher: Codemasters
Release Date: December 12th, 2008

Liquid Entertainment and Codemasters’ Rise of Argonauts was one of those cash-in games that came out during the $60 craze where everyone and their mother thought that their title was worth the high-price of entry, even when they clearly weren’t worth the asking price.

The biggest problem is that the game has a serious identity crisis.

It’s presented like a grand action-RPG, the story is structured as if it’s going to be this 20 hour adventure, and the opening sequence gives the impression that it’s going to be a non-sto hack-and-slash romp. However, it’s none of those things.

Rise of the Argonauts is a six-hour game with a story that’s written bigger and better than what the gameplay loops can match, and in result you can see where the writers were shortchanged with an outing that comes across as a low-budget affair cheaply put together to milk unsuspecting gamers of their money from their wallets.

Rise of the Argonauts

Pros:
+Female designs
+Jiggle physics for the boobs
+Characterizations
+Story potential

Neutral:
▪ Combat mechanics
▪ Voice acting

Cons:
-Graphics
-Facial Animations
-Enemy variety
-Game length
-Game structure
-Not enough battles

Wokeness: Somehow even back in 2008 blackwashing was a thing. Daedalus was blackwashed to be an inventor who created the wings of Icarus. Aside from that the game is free of wokeness and they ensure that all the chicks look smoking hot.

Rise of the Argonauts

Jason’s Quest

The story follows Jason who sets out on a quest to retrieve the Golden Fleece after his wife Alceme is killed at the very beginning of the game. Jason attempts to recruit volunteers for his quest as he travels to three different islands in order to complete the vision of the Oracle and retrieve the Golden Fleece.

Conceptually the game takes the classic Greek tale and breathes a lot of life into its story, fleshing out certain characters (except for maybe Hercules, who appears to have an anatomy mirrored after Rob Liefeld’s drawings and about as much character depth as a shallow well), and giving dimension to certain tales the likes of which Sophocles and Homer would be proud.

Rise of the Argonauts

This is where the game hits its high points. It starts out as if Jason is going to go on this grand adventure to restore his wife after they’re attacked by a group long thought dead known as the Blacktongues.

Little do they know is that Jason’s uncle has been conspiring against him in order to take Ioclus for himself and has been working with Hecate to restore the Blacktongues to power using black magic, fueled by the blood of Prometheus and Epimetheus, both of whom were bound in the fetid trenches of Tartarus.

Jason is tasked with gathering the decedents of the gods so that he can travel to Tartarus to retrieve the Golden Fleece and bring his beloved Alceme back from the dead, as well as put an end to the rising Blacktongue army.

Rise of the Argonauts

A Worthy Main Character

Lore wise, they take the Greek tales of old and put a nice spin on them that not only makes sense but makes you want to see and learn more. It’s the kind of adaptation that would have made for a fantastic trilogy of films before Hollywood got woke.

Jason, more than the others, is depicted as an honorable, straight white male with integrity to spare. We absolutely do not get heroic characters like this in today’s media at all, especially AAA games. A lot of this has to do with the fact that at the beginning of the game, the gods entrust Jason with carrying out his task for the sake of honoring their virtues along the way; thus as he gains glory and attempts to revive his wife, he’s also paying homage to the gods and restoring the people’s faith in them throughout his journey.

He’s a vessel for all the good that they see in man, despite many of the hardships and losses he faces along the way. He’s very much depicted the way Captain America was during the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which would definitely resonate with people looking for inspiring characters to rally behind.

Rise of the Argonauts

Lacking Gameplay Loops

It’s such a shame that his character went to waste in such a shallow game.

Rise of the Argonauts doesn’t have much meat to its bones, in fact… all it has is a mediocre combat system. There is no other gameplay beyond that.

I know this sounds ridiculous but it’s true.

There are no mini-games, no vehicles, no flight, no special mechanics.

Majority of the game is padded out with Jason running back and forth around linear environments talking to NPCs.

Battles are sparsely featured across each of the main three isles and only during the finale of the game do you finally get some non-stop hack-and-slash action.

So what do you do most of the time? Well, run back and forth talking to NPCs who will give you a quest to talk to other NPCs or battle a few enemies before you move on to another quest of a similar nature.

The dialogue system affords you to make some multiple decisions, however, but most of the decisions render hollow results. Only a few times throughout the game will you have some dialogue encounters where you can actually mess up, such as during the debate with Phaedon or a game or two that’s played in Mycenae and on the Argo with Pan and Achilles. Beyond that the dialogue choices only influence the points you earn for the skills.

Rise of the Argonauts

Laud-Worthy Skill System

The skill tree is actually very well done as far as how you earn points.

Basically, every achievement you make in the game is used as patronage toward one of the four gods: Apollo, Athena, Hermes, and Ares.

I wish more games had a setup like Rise of the Argonauts because doing simple things like helping out NPCs, or killing 50 enemies, or using a certain weapon a number of times, or choosing a certain kind of dialogue will earn you points that can be used toward patronage of the gods.

In most games earning achievements is pointless, but here you’re compelled to do so because you can turn them into skill tree levels, which in turn unlocks new special moves or increases Jason’s and his companions’ defenses or attack power.

Now the game doesn’t have stat stacking or an RNG system. You won’t be min/maxing or combining certain equipment to fight against certain enemies.

It’s not that kind of game.

Nearly every new piece of equipment you unlock is better than the last piece of equipment, which is both good and bad. The good part is that it makes you stronger, but the bad part is that if you don’t like the way certain items look you’re kind of stuck with it unless you want to downgrade and wear a better piece of armor at the expense of losing a special trait or ability.

Rise of the Argonauts

Unlocking New Equipment

You see, as you progress and earn new equipment, they usually come with one of the god powers from the skill tree automatically activated. So you might have a sword that automatically adds lightning abilities to your weapons if you complete a certain number of combos during battle, or some armor might add a dodge-roll decoy when an enemy attacks.

This means if you haven’t purchased those abilities from the skill tree, you no longer have to if your equipment does it for you.

For the most part, Jason’s equipment looks pretty cool. I especially liked the upgraded armor Daedalus made for Jason during the gladiatorial games. It looked badass.

It’s just such a shame because you don’t really get to fight with as often as you should have.

As mentioned, the battles are sparsely scattered throughout the game. For instance, on Mycenae you only really fight during the gladiatorial trials, and there are only two segments where that happens. There are multiple stages to the trials but it’s lodged in between like an hour’s worth of talk.

The fights also seem to be over with fairly quickly. It’s not like you’re spending half an hour traversing cool environments and fighting enemies like in Devil May Cry or Bayonetta. There are only two segments where that takes place, in Tartarus and at the very end when you storm Ioclus.

Rise of the Argonauts

Weak Bosses

The boss fights are also really short and forgettable.

Achilles is a boss that eventually joins your quest, and his fight starts difficult just until you learn his pattern and then it becomes extremely easy.

Other than that the only two bosses that gave me trouble was in Tartarus and Pelias. The Tartarus fight wasn’t that hard, it was just that – once again – I didn’t know his pattern at first and died a couple of times.

Pelias was difficult only because I had no idea what to do at first, but once I figured out that you had to block his laser beam to remove his shield it became super easy.

I still don’t understand the third part of the Pelias fight, though. I poked at him with the spear a few times and he died even though he had his shield up, but I’m not even sure if that was supposed to happen or if the game glitched.

Rise of the Argonauts

Mediocre Combat

The other problem with the game’s combat was that despite being as sparse as it was, it wasn’t even that great.

It would have been different if it were as dynamic or as cinematic as the Prince of Persia: Sands of Time trilogy, with a lot of clearly visible sword strikes and dodge mechanics.

Part of the problem with Rise of the Argonauts is that the collision boxes for the character actors are really large, so it’s sometimes hard to judge what’s an appropriate distance to strike with certain weapons.

It’s made worse with the shields where the collision boxes are even larger but the hit detection is sometimes inconsistent, especially with the spear, so it creates instances where it looks like Jason and his enemies are ice-skating around each other and their invisible boxes looking for an opening. It also rarely feels satisfying killing enemies with the spear unless you’re getting instant-kills or throwing the spear like a javelin. A lack of a jump button or leaping strikes also diminishes some of the appeal with the combat.

However, it does feel satisfying when the mace does connect and it shatters an enemy’s shield or you decapitate them with an uppercut blow.

It also looks pretty cool when it goes into slow motion when you use a dashing sword strike to slice an enemy in half.

Rise of the Argonauts

I just wish the block and counters didn’t feel so janky.

Trying to move around the character boxes to find a proper position so the hit-detection works as it should feels cumbersome, and takes away from the flow of combat. It’s not very smooth or fluid looking at all, and – as I mentioned above – you certainly don’t get the sort of cinematic battles you find in other games.

It all looks clumsy and disjointed.

It’s a huge shame, too, because some of Jason’s equipment looks rather exquisite, and you can tell the art team really wanted to pay homage to classic Greek architecture and aesthetics.

Rise of the Argonauts

Graphics Fall Flat

But another problem is that the graphics just aren’t that great.

The character models aren’t bad, and the texture work for some of the items are decent. The environments look pretty awful, though, and the pre-baked lighting is bland and uninspired, along with the blocky polygonal structures. In a few scenes you can also see the texture seams where the ground maps were connected.

I was also annoyed that in a few segments where light streams of water were on the ground; you could see the reflections in the water but there were no splash effects when Jason and the others run through them.

The game was running on the less-than-stable version of the Unreal Engine 3, and so not only did the game not have fanciful features such as proper subsurface scattering or dynamic physically based rendering, but the on-screen character count was low, too.

You only fight a handful of enemies at a time, but given that the game often looks like an end-of-life OG Xbox title, one would have expected the game screen to be filled to the brim with enemies, sort of like Sega’s Spartan: Total Warrior, which absolutely ran circles around Rise of the Argonauts both in terms of combat and in terms of on-screen character count, as evident with the screenshot below.

It was so disappointing because it left me thinking a lot of times “Where did all of the resources go?!” Given that Rise of the Argonauts was on the PS3 and Xbox 360 one would have expected massive army battles, yet it seemed to have fewer characters on-screen than visual powerhouses like Uncharted 2 or Gears of War 2, despite both games looking leagues better.

The game also really needed a special shader filter or better lighting because it looked really drab or uninteresting throughout most of it.

Unlike Prince of Persia, which amazingly came out the same year, there’s nothing visually defining about Rise of the Argonauts, especially given how much you could tell the team invested into wanting to make the game look unique.

But it’s not all bad for Rise of the Argonauts.

Visually some of the characters were actually done quite well.

As I mentioned above, the women look gorgeous and exotic. They gave them large, perky breasts that bounce and jiggle when they move, and almost all the chicks are barely dressed.

Rise of the Argonauts

Hot Chicks

Most of the main female characters are only wearing small, cleavage-baring tops, or loin cloths.

In some cases the females aren’t wearing any panties at all, with the tattoo-clad Medea leaving very little to the imagination.

It’s quite the shock that a Western gaming studio had invested so much time and energy into making appealing-looking characters, with the men being masculine and the females being attractive.

Rise of the Argonauts

Also, some of the other character designs are done really well.

I liked how the Blacktongues looked and a lot of the intricate details they added to them to really make them stand out.

I also liked how they designed some of the centaurs… Nessus in particular.

He was supposed to be a beastmaster and a legendary warrior, and they absolutely made him look that way.

Rise of the Argonauts

Their Faces Are Tired

It’s just a shame because the art design’s inconsistency really hurt Rise of Argonauts since so much of the game relied on the talking segments.

Mass Effect also had a lot of talking but they made sure that the vignettes and dialogue featurettes looked good. Proper use of lens flare, lighting, and camera angles all helped the original Mass Effect make the most of the Unreal Engine at the time and stand out greatly from everything else that was on the market.

Here, the lead character Jason had some of the worst animations during the dialogue sequences, which made them painful to sit through. He often suffered from fish face, where only his lips moved and hardly anything else.

To be a main character you would have thought his facial animations would have been top priority, but they weren’t, and neither were a lot of the other characters. Atalanta and Pan were given some decent facial animations and their voice acting actually matched their visual depictions.

The villains had some cool designs and were animated decently enough.

Medusa’s facial expressions in particular were also quite well done and matched her very disturbingly unique design.

Rise of the Argonauts

But for everyone else it was hit or miss, and more miss than hit.

The fact that you spent so much time looking at and listening to people talk, you would have thought that they would have at least made that aspect of the game look better, but no.

I did find it funny that they made the oracle in the game a loli, which is something that would be completely verboten during this era of Western gaming.

Rise of the Argonauts - Loli Oracle

Not Worth The Journey

But overall the game lacked a lot of polish, replayability, and gameplay length.

I think that’s what hurts the most because the team that created the story made something bigger and better than what the actual gameplay could deliver.

If it were as long as Mass Effect, and consisted of more locations and adventuring than just spending five of the six hours gathering your party (which ironically is something you spent the entirety of Mass Effect 2 doing), maybe it could have been remembered as something that truly stood apart from everything else on the market at the time. It’s not like we get these kind of games often, or with the kind of originality in characterizations and skills featured in Rise of the Argonauts, yet it was squandered on a cheaply made game with hot chicks and a barely passable combat system.

Maybe at some point in the future a South Korean or Russian company can tackle Rise of the Argonauts and expand on every aspect that Liquid Entertainment failed to perfect. I could only shudder to think as to what an American, British, Canadian or Australian team would do with the property; feminism and LGBTQIA+ propaganda galore, more than likely.

Verdict:


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