Friday, 30 January 2009

Rise Of The Argonauts - 360 / PS3

Plundering the rich world of Greek mythology for ideas should be a gift for games developers - an epic story, heroes doing great deeds, mighty gods and mythical beasts are, after all, perfect material for a video game.

The God of War series has drawn upon this source material with fantastic results, however, Rise of the Argonauts doesn't fare quite so well.

Following the murder of his wife, King Jason of Iolcos sets out on a quest to find the fabled Golden Fleece, which holds the power to bring his dearly departed back to life. Joining Jason on the journey are a cast of characters which include the hulking brute Hercules, and the pipe-playing Satyr, Pan.

So far so good, but things don't get off to a good start, with the player having to undertake several laborious quests, which involve Jason traipsing back and forth across his island, delivering messages to his subjects - not exactly the actions you'd expect of a king.

While these monotonous errands aren't much fun, things start to pick up slightly when it comes to combat. Jason has the ability to wield a spear, mace and sword and initially it's interesting swapping weapons in and out to figure out opponents' weaknesses - but unfortunately it soon degenerates into mindless button mashing. 

To help flesh out the story, Rise of the Argonauts features dialogue choices which are similar to those used in the excellent 360 title Mass Effect.

Unlike Bioware's engaging sci-fi epic, though, the conversations here tend to drag on a little too long. Add to that the fact you'll end up chatting to identical looking characters, and the whole experience quickly becomes a chore.

Visually, the game is a mixed bag. At times, Rise of the Argonauts certainly looks above average, with some nice graphical effects and interesting locations to explore. However, you'll encounter plenty of restrictive invisible walls on your travels, while Jason's running animation is clunky and looks completely out of place from the rest of the game.

The absence of any sort of HUD or on-screen mini-map doesn't help matters, while framerate issues and graphical glitches plague the adventure. You'll have to pause the game regularly to access the map, which just feels clumsy. 

As you progress, Jason stumbles across new weapons and armour, and you're able to assign abilities that enhance your character's stats. This is a nice touch, but it lacks the depth and range of customisation you could achieve in a game such as Final Fantasy XII

Rise of the Argonauts has a strong core concept, but unfortunately the experience as a whole just doesn't tie together. There's a decent game waiting to burst out, and I can't shake the feeling that with a little more time in development this could have been a very good game. But as it stands there are too many flaws to make it a must-have.

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