Rise of the Argonauts is kind of like a wounded animal—sure, it may be missing a few pieces and have a tendency to bite you with various bugs and glitches, but you can’t help but love it. The game sends you to several different locations in a decidedly Bioware-esque way, and while it strives to be its own game, the whole thing feels like an unofficial sequel to Jade Empire (or some kind of melee-weapon, mythological version of Mass Effect). That’s not a bad thing, though, because despite having a million and a half shortcomings, Rise of the Argonauts ends up being a ridiculously amusing game.
These aren’t your father’s Argonauts
It’s probably a good idea to mention that this isn’t a faithful retelling of the Jason/Argonauts/Golden Fleece story. Sure, there are plenty of nods to the mythology, but everything is changed around and some characters aren’t even recognizable. If that’s a big problem for you, then this is most definitely a game to be avoided. For the rest of us who don’t mind having the mythology messed with, however, the game’s story manages to be fairly amusing. Some characters can be a bit long-winded during certain sections, but Rise of the Argonauts feels pretty well-paced other than that, and its story, though a bit predictable, is quite enjoyable. Of course, there are no truly amazing additions to the story, but it’s entertaining in the same way mindless gladiator-type movies tend to be.
This review is going to sound very negative
There’s a lot wrong with this game, and to say otherwise would be a huge lie. However, I ended up enjoying it despite its many, many, many problems (and I’m rarely lenient when it comes to the kinds of problems I encountered), so while several of the issues I list may be deal-breakers for some, it still might be worth giving the game a shot anyway if you can find it on sale.
Worst. Subtitles. Ever.
Seriously. You can’t see the words half of the time because aside from a small bit of shadow, the words are written in white and are thus easily obscured by various things on the screen. It’s not an exaggeration when I say that this game has the worst subtitles in the history of subtitles.
I started off using mouse and keyboard controls on the PC version to try and gauge how well they worked. “Wrong” doesn’t really do justice to how awkward that felt. Switching to a controller wasn’t any better, though, because the controls are just way too floaty, as though none of the characters have any weight whatsoever. As if that’s not bad enough, the camera is way too close to Jason when he’s out of combat (fortunately, it zooms out when combat starts).
Rise of the Argonauts’ combat is fairly simple and straightforward, with each of your three weapons having light attacks, heavy attacks, and special attacks (like a mace move that knocks enemies back and a spear swing that hits multiple enemies). You also have access to a sword, and though the sword and spear each come with their pros and cons, I went through most of the game using the mace because of how awesome wielding it felt compared to the other two. You can freely switch between your three weapons as you fight, however, so you’ll inevitably be using a combination of all three.
Taken as a whole, fighting is actually incredibly enjoyable, but it has its share of flaws. The most obvious of those flaws would be the difficulty in aiming for certain enemies; if there’s a way to lock on to certain enemies, I certainly didn’t find it, and the end result was Jason randomly switching from enemy to enemy while attacking. Compounding this is the fact that having Jason decide to focus on one enemy (with normal light and heavy attacks) means that you can only hit that enemy. A few times I had my weapon go through an enemy because Jason was focused on attacking someone behind them, and that just didn’t feel right at all.
It’s easy except for when it isn’t
This really isn’t a difficult game. You’ll be smashing your way through waves and waves of enemies with ease from the very beginning, and those hordes of enemies will do little to damage you while you help them shuffle off this mortal coil. The boss fights, on the other hand, tend to be a bit trickier and can get you killed once or twice while you figure them out. There’s a fight against Achilles that’s especially difficult due to his ability to do huge amounts of damage and block many of your attacks. However, the rest of the game is easy enough that one or two difficulty spikes (that honestly aren’t that bad) aren’t too big of a deal.
Skipping dialogue is a bad idea
In most games, pressing a button/key to skip ahead in dialogue is a good idea when you read faster than the characters speak. In Rise of the Argonauts, however, it’s advised to avoid trying to skip ahead in dialogue. For some reason, certain sections of dialogue are treated kind of like cutscenes in that skipping them means skipping the whole scene (and with it, long sections of important story happenings), so you never know whether you’ll skip ahead a single line or end up in a fight without having any idea what’s happening around you.
Checkpoint saves are a pain
Yes, this game has checkpoint saves. You can make manual saves, but it’ll only save up to the last checkpoint, which is pretty useless unless you want to revisit a certain part of the game later on. Even if you save constantly in different slots (like I tend to do) to ensure that you can jump back to earlier points in the story, there are a limited number of save slots and you’ll end up having to overwrite a bunch of saves. The whole thing seems very console-ish in its limitations, and despite this making sense since the game is multiplatform, it’s still incredibly frustrating.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, it’s not always obvious where the game saves. While there’s a “saving” symbol that’s easy to see when you’re running around, parts of the game that jump from cutscene to combat and then to another cutscene don’t have such an obvious indicator of where those saves are. For example, I saved between fights during a stint in a multi-part arena tournament and the points where the game auto-saves (and thus the last checkpoint a manual save would leave me at) weren’t at all obvious; while there’s a checkpoint after the first fight, there’s no checkpoint after the second fight for some inexplicable reason. Because of that, I ended up having to repeat that second fight after my manual save sent me back to a checkpoint before the second fight. I really, really hate checkpoint saves and wish that developers would stop using them.
Interesting (but underused) leveling system
Rise of the Argonauts relies on an “achievement” system of sorts for leveling up in the sense that accomplishing various feats (such as killing X numbers of certain enemies or finishing parts of the story) grants you achievements that you can then dedicate to the gods. In return, this fills up a little circle, and when the circle goes around 360 degrees, you get a point to spend on one of that’s god’s powers. These typically grant you more health or allow you to do more damage, though there are also special moves littered throughout the upgrade trees. These special moves, or “god powers,” are activated during combat and have to first be charged through combat. An example of one of these powers is the Petrify power from Ares’ skill tree, which turns any enemies hit during its duration to stone.
The biggest problem I found with this whole system is that there doesn’t seem to be any clear indication of whether an upgrade is an active god power or a passive boost, so most of the time I was just upgrading blindly. There’s also the issue that upgrades in general are fairly pointless given how weak the waves of enemies you’ll face are, but they do make the harder boss fights a bit more bearable.
Not a lot of side content
A few of the places you find yourself in have sidequests that you can complete, but they’re meaningless fluff (albeit fluff that gains you achievements that you can use to unlock skills) and few in number. In fact, each place only has two or three simple sidequests that can be completed while you’re busy working on the main quest, so you’re mostly going to be railroaded into going down the linear story path. However, that allows the focus to remain on the story, so whether that relative absence of side content is a blessing or a curse depends on your personal preference. I’m on the fence, personally, because while I liked the emphasis it put on the story, it did make the world feel incredibly bare at times.
Three cheers for fun bugginess!
If you watch the video above, you’ll see plenty of rough edges that I had to deal with while playing. Surprisingly, despite the large number of bugs and various problems I faced, the game only crashed on me once or twice. However, there were some other bugs I didn’t manage to get video of, such as voice acting not triggering when it was supposed to (there were subtitles and no actual dialogue) and mouths not moving when characters are talking. Still, all of this stuff just adds to the weird charm of the game because of how amusingly weird it makes things.
The invisible walls can become very annoying, however. Running into obstacles that aren’t there isn’t that big of a deal and you quickly get over it, but it’s possible to hit enemies into areas that you can’t get to because of invisible walls. This means that instead of striking the killing blow, you’re left to wander off and find another enemy while waiting for the enemy beyond the invisible wall to meander back within reach. Again, the enemies are easy enough that this is never really that big of a problem, but it’s definitely an annoyance that irritated me a few times.
Holy blur, Batman
I make a lot of screenshots, so a lot of times I’ll have shots within a few seconds of each other. I noticed something strange about the blur in this game because of this: the background blurring comes and goes randomly. For example, say a companion is talking to you. The background will be perfectly clear during one sentence, while it’ll be blurred for the next. It’s not something I really noticed during gameplay itself, but I could see it getting on someone’s nerves.
The character models are also phoned in quite a bit. While companions are mostly fine (except for Achilles, who is quite possibly the ugliest video game character in existence), random NPCs have their faces recycled throughout the entire game. Even worse, the game’s textures have a tendency to be washed out and blurry, sometimes even to the point where Rise of the Argonauts looks like an early PS2 title. The game has its moments of prettiness, mind you, but it’s definitely not afraid to show its ugly side, either. This is never as evident as in the game’s rare video cutscenes, which are so hilariously ugly that they look like they were ripped directly from a 360p stream on Youtube.
Some good music, some forgettable
Most of the music in this game is unremarkable orchestral stuff in a style that everyone’s heard a million times before. I’ve learned to tune that kind of stuff out almost entirely. Still, there are one or two tracks that are unique and memorable enough to cause me to sit up and pay attention, and I even made a note so that I’d remember to mention how good those few tracks are.
Here’s what you should do: