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Retrospective #004: Rise of The Argonauts

by: Dabe ; edited by: Michael Hartman ; updated: 4/17/2012 • Leave a comment

It hardly a retrospective when the game came out at the end of 2008, but Rise of The Argonauts represents something quite rare, a game that is technically flawed yet has such a gravitas around itself to warrant praise and appreciation. Read on to find out why it went completely under the radar...

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    Gaming Retrospective: Rise of The Argonauts

    RoTA Box Showcasing that games can be technically lacking in polish, perhaps even unproficient, yet still provide a satisfying and often brilliant experience. Rise of The Argonauts exceeds the sum of its parts by cutting its teeth in the harsh and expansive setting of Greek Mythology, culminating in a brave attempt at showcasing dialogue and character interaction over combat or the God of War hack and slash approach.

    Hardly fitting for a retrospective to look at a game that hasn’t even collected 18 months worth of dust, but the cumbersome details and focus on interaction without necessarily tapping X to destroy an opponent, granted that happens and its done marginally well, is worth the investment. Also, it gives me a chance to vent my appreciation for this title, which came and went from the gaming consciousness within seemingly the same instant.

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    Jason and the Argonauts

    RoTA 001 Rise of The Argonauts is a game directly influenced by the mythic tale of Jason and the Argonauts who searched for the hallowed Golden Fleece. The major difference is that in RoTA, Jason’s wife Alceme has been assassinated, with the Fleece being the only thing that can resurrect her.

    Teaming up with Hercules, Achilles, Atalanta, Medea (Jason’s wife in Grecian lore) and Pan while traversing along with an exotic gamut of helpers, they travel across Ancient Greece, going to such locales as the oracle’s dwelling of Delphi, the port city of Mycenae, Jason’s home Iolcus and even Grecian hell in the form of Tartarus. The game has a sprawling world and does a good job at immersing you into the characters and their predicament.

    Fighting Centaur, Satyr, undead and mystical assassin foes hands out a broad spectrum of fantastical beings which can be savagely combated with some off the wall moments of blood lust in the combat. The mystical assassins, known as the Blacktongues, provide the contextual impetus to advance some sort of combat focused game elements while giving an almost perfunctory requirement for antagonists in the story.

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    Rise of The Bioware

    The setup is remarkably similar to the Bioware games Knight of The Old Republic and Jade Empire with a hub vessel being used to traverse between 5 or 6 separate locations that culminate with finality in the narrative and an apparent ending area to battle through.

    RoTA 002 This system works well, given the ability to choose between the locations in any order up to the said finality. When progressing through the “levels”, a cutscene or two will further develop the ancillary characters and their sinister motives while Jason and his assembled crew are happily sailing to the next area of interest.

    The main divergence from Bioware games is in the morale system and its subsequent implications on skills, levelling and advancement. Instead of 3 morally simplistic choices representing Good/Neutral/Bad, the choices will be interpreted as being aligned to certain gods in the Greek pantheon.

    With Ares devolving into antagonistic comments, Hermes showing guile and playful responses, Athena providing a mediating voice and Apollo giving the heroic and often best options for dialogue. When you choose each of these different approaches, they level the gods up, currying favour to them and giving you points to spend on skill upgrades etc. Its a novel system and gives further contextual depth to the setting of mythic Greece.

    Continue on for some more deliberations and stunningly accurate appraisals in this Retrospective look at Rise of The Argonauts...

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    Rise of The Argonauts Shortcomings

    With these positives, comes a bucket or slew of negatives that game reviewers, critics and commentators have voiced appreciable concerns over. However, this is where my own personal divergence takes place.

    Rise of The Argonauts has numerous shortcomings, with poorly implemented collision detection, obtuse scripting errors in cutscenes and dialogue, frame rate dips, subpar graphics and steadfast game breaking glitches (corrupt save games being a personal faux pas that I endured).

    RoTA 003 It is the abilities of the storytelling, character investment and well adorned locales that RoTA can transcend these inherent shortcomings and provide a remarkably under appreciated and underrated experience.

    There is a massive irony in a game thats supposed gameplay elements are what make it a poor experience and it isn’t often we witness such a disparity in quality between the two elements of narrative and mechanics (unless we count the failed experiments of games like Fahrenheit).

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    Game Retrospectives Number 4

    The often overzealous use of dialogue is a great way to circumvent the combat issues and the systematic side-quest deliberations and KoTOR influenced progression. It showcases that it should neither be necessary nor a pre-requisite to flood your game with solid combat mechanics or constant investment in glorified button-mashing.

    RoTA 003 Game mechanics invariably can be so much more than just another extension of fighting and while the dialogue may be painstaking to the average game player, its this differing approach that helps carve out a worthwhile experience with Rise of The Argonauts.

    Another facet of the games aperture towards being nigh on bereft of polish comes from the puzzling graphical deficiencies and fluctuating quality.

    RoTA 004 Jason can look as good as Leonidas from 300, or to a lesser extent Maximus from Gladiator, while the other characters (Achilles in particular) look somewhat dismal and become more a blast from 2002 than a leap into 2008 and the “next-gen” whenever they appear on screen.

    This clunky remit of textures isn’t the be all and end all of the game, as previously stated, but it’s clear that the developers had to apportion time to the more pressing design areas, i.e., Jason and Alceme, Hercules or Pan.

    Fortunately this prefab approach derives some successes however, giving the player a more immersive requirement to negate the technical aspects and imagine Brad Pitt (of Troy fame) instead of the steadfast replacement Achilles on tap in the game.

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    Rise of The Argonauts Review

    Rise of The Argonauts surfaces as both technically downgraded from most big-budget games and shares a resemblance to older PC games that took several patches to come out all guns blazing.

    It’s formulaic approach, reminiscent of Bioware games from last gen, is a good crux to the progression and provides at least some choice of where to manoeuvre next in the lands of mythic Greece. The game comes with a notable and minimally deceptive twist, an arena area, plenty of side-quests and a heap of well intentioned dialogue, which I personally find tolerably voice acted, even superlative in some rare cases.

    This culminates in a weird experience, the game as a whole is a timely reminder that KoTOR or Jade Empire were special games and furthers the idea that if Rise of The Argonauts was created for the last generation of consoles it would have been a standout piece of entertainment, shame it missed the boat by 4-5 years then...