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The swords and sandals (S&S) genre is a sorely undernourished one in the world of gaming as people prefer to shoot terrorists and space marines. This is a shame as the world of mythology is a rich one. S&S games can be about your average Roman soldier, but in most cases the world of Gods are used. Ultraviolent games such as 'God of War' have shown the scale that the genre can bring, whilst the likes of 'Viking' and 'Conan' were underappreciated, but great fun when I played them. The fact is that if you slap in a few Gods and some magical powers I am far more willing to overlook poor game development. 'The Rise of the Argonauts' was a game reputed to have more than its fair share of problems, would it be good enough for my S&S love?
The Role Playing Game (RPG) is nowhere near as popular on the 360 as it has been on previous consoles with developers sticking to the apparently safe world of First Person Shooters when they can. Therefore, to have an action RPG from the West is always a good thing. 'Rise' is based on the story of Jason and the Argonauts and plays out like 'Mass Effect'. Throughout the game you are given tasks that you can attack in a variety of ways from violence to reason. Each action affects the Gods and you can become popular with them; these include Hermes, Athena and Ares. Ares will reward fast action and warfare, whilst Hermes prefers guile.
The multiple ways that you can approach the game are not as impactful as could have been, but are fun. The game itself sees you control Jason; on various occasions you get off the Argo and may take two of the Argonauts with you from Hercules to Achilles. When on land you interact with the population and they provide tasks, all of which eventually end up with you getting the Golden Fleece in which to bring Jason's bride back from the dead. The RPG elements are pretty talky so only RPG fans will like them. To mix things up Liquid Entertainment have added some action elements in the fight sections that are also decent. The use of swords and magic are a good mix. Both the action and the RPG elements are decent without being exceptional. There is nothing in the game that cries for you to buy it, but if you are a fan of the genre you will like the gameplay. (3 out of 5)
With the basis of Ancient Myth the story of 'Rise' should be the strongest element and for me it was! I have an interest in history so was able to follow what was going on. The game does follow the basics of the Myth, but messes with it when needed. I think that a basic understanding of Greek mythology does help and the game even has some elements that require it for puzzles. Liquid Entertainment has not created nuanced characters, but they are fun to play and have their own distinct mannerisms from Hercules's loyalty to Achilles' arrogance. I liked the fact that you could make Jason what you wanted as you have four choices to most questions. I found myself choosing what was appropriate to the situation. I usually play a good guy, but if someone threatened my loved ones as Jason I could show no mercy and not be branded evil, but a follow of Ares. The basis in Greek Mythology was the element that lifted this game for me. (4 out of 5)
RPGs are traditionally the longest of the genres with 70 hours not being seen as that intensive. 'Rise' does not reach anywhere near this sort of length, but still clocks in at a reasonable 20 hours or so. The problem is that an enthusiastic gamer could rip through the central elements in perhaps 7 hours. This would be a shame, but it proves that the core story is a little lacking in length. Like all 360 games there are achievements for people looking to extend gameplay. They are not the easiest to get and would probably require at least two playthrus - not something that I like to do. (3 out of 5)
The one element that will have people switching on 'Rise' and then immediately switching it off is the graphics. The game is pretty ugly with only the main characters looking good. The rest of the world is ok, but the textures are flat and the glitching is poor. You spend a lot of the time fighting with an unhappy camera and you character popping in and out of existence. In modern gaming this is not really acceptable and the game could have done with 6 months polish. However, the graphics do not break the game like in some cases. (2 out of 5)
Another poor areas is the level design. You are given access to around 5 hub worlds that are open for exploration. Unfortunately, they feel small and can be traversed in minutes. When talking to the people the world feels alive, it is a shame then that the missions they send you on are all down linear paths. There are walls and blockages everywhere and in a RPG you do not want to feel hemmed in at all times. With a few more open world ideas the game could have progressed far more entertainingly. (2 out of 5)
When you find a game with poorer graphics and level design the case is often that it is a low to moderate budgeted title as is the case with 'Rise'. The next element that usually falls down is the vocal talent as they cannot afford top actors or they use text instead. However, this is not the case here as 'Rise' is completely voice cast and although no big names appear the actors used are solid enough. Jason is not the most charismatic of creations, but I liked the noble feel that all the in game actors created. In terms of sound effects and music they swell and fall at the right times without being outstanding. (3 out of 5)
In my cynical brain the bordering on broken graphics and limited level design should make 'Rise of the Argonauts' a 2 star game. Many people will take one look at it and say not for them. However, a number of elements mean that this is a game that is for me. Firstly, the Western RPG is an underused genre this generation, so any new game will always catch my eye; add some Mythology and some fun action elements and the game ticked many of my boxes. Therefore, if you are a fan of Sword & Sandal games I feel that you will look pass the numerous issues with the game and give it a chance. If you do you will discover a flawed, yet fun, title that entertains for around 20 hours. (3 out of 5)
Maker: Liquid Games RRP £50
Amazon uk £24.55
(I picked a copy up for £10 in a shop)
An epic scale action RPG, Rise of the Argonauts immerses players in a gladiatorial adventure set in the vibrant and powerful world of Ancient Greece brought to life. Taking the role of Jason, players will battle alongside Hercules, Achilles and other Argonauts as they engage in brutal combat against formidable beasts and enemies, in a vast world alive with wondrous inhabitants and stunning panoramas. The search for the Golden Fleece is not only one of exploration but of transformation: from warrior king to exalted hero touched by the gods.