Rise of the Argonauts Updated Impressions - Early Game, Story, Combat, Quests
We take an updated look at this action role-playing game based on classic Greek mythology.
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The mythology of the ancient world is a rich source of fantastic stories, and a fantastic story is a great start for a role-playing game. The story of Jason and the golden fleece is the basis of Rise of the Argonauts, the upcoming action RPG from Codemasters and Liquid Entertainment. The game will retell this classic tale with heavy-duty action game elements and an emphasis on storytelling and choices with consequences. We had an opportunity to take an updated look at the game and have much to report.
In Rise of the Argonauts, you play as the young Jason, the Greek king, who has just discovered that his darling wife, Alcmene, has been assassinated. In the early part of the game, you pursue the assassin and eventually exact revenge, but revenge does nothing to restore yourfallen bride. Jason, in classic dramatic fashion, resolves to seek out the golden fleece, the wondrous artifact said to have the ability to resurrect the dead. Over the course of the game, Jason will recruit the legendary battalion known as the Argonauts, consisting of such mythological luminaries as the mighty Hercules, the swift Atalanta, the invulnerable Achilles, and the satyr Pan. Jason's crew will be stationed on the Argo, the gigantic ship crafted for his journey, which will serve as his base of operations as well as a home for his teammates, who can be swapped out on the fly. At any one time, Jason can bring two active companions into battle.
We had a chance to see a few of the game's early areas in action, including the island of Mycenae, which is ruled by Jason's embittered father-in-law. Apparently, Jason's journey will take place across multiple well-known Greek kingdoms, which he can approach in any order, though Mycenae seems to have a good mix of role-playing and action elements. The denizens of the island loved their princess, and they blame Jason for her death--you'll see people on the street spit on him while dogs growl angrily. Liquid Entertainment's Charley Price explains that each area will have a different theme and inhabitants that will act differently toward Jason and his crew. Mycenae is both a center of commerce and a warlike place that has both a sprawling, vibrant marketplace and a rough-and-tumble arena where the invincible hero Achilles reigns supreme at the top of the tournament ladder.
In the streets of Mycenae, we had our first encounter with some Ionian thugs who had little respect for royalty and were itching to pick a fight. This gave us a chance to see the game's dialogue system, which generally offers four dialogue options in most conversations, each one assigned to one of four gods that Jason can follow: Athena, the goddess of wisdom, whose attitude is reasonable; Ares, the god of war, who tends to be more belligerent; Hermes, the god of trickery, who tends to be more deceitful; and Apollo, the god of the sun, who tends to be more sympathetic. Your devotion to each of these gods will define how Jason develops as a character; like in most role-playing games, you'll have a series of quests to perform, and once you complete any task, you can stop by a shrine and dedicate the quest to any of the four gods. Doing so earns you favor points with that particular god and will unlock a successive series of both active and passive abilities that will make Jason more powerful over time. You'll also be able to look up at the sky at any time to see the progress of your tasks in the constellations of stars--completing a specific set of tasks will fill out a constellation and net you additional rewards, as well.
Choosing the "Ares" route to respond to the taunts of the Ionians led to Jason simply smacking one in the face and drawing his sword on the other, though the street fight that would've began was stopped by a local guard, who proclaimed that we were not to be harmed until we received judgment...in the arena.
We then switched over to the Mycenean arena, where we were sentenced to do battle with a series of opponents, culminating in a fight with Achilles himself. Naturally, we were stripped of our primary arms and armor, but we at least had the chance to check in with the arena's provisioner, who turned out to be none other than the legendary engineer Daedalus (the inventor whose wings spelled the downfall of his eager son, Icarus). The engineer, who wasn't very enthusiastic about our chances in the arena, traded a few words with us then outfitted us in arena gear. According to Price, Jason's equipment will be gained in "meaningful" ways beyond simply buying and selling new swords and shields at a merchant's stall--there will be many different suits of armor and weapons that Jason will wield, and he'll gain them as part of the game's unfolding storyline.
After swapping words with Daedalus, we made the acquaintance of a failed merchant who was to be our partner in the arena. The foppish dandy apparently wanted nothing more than to be a musician, and knew very little about battle. We took the opportunity to give him instructions on how we wanted him to behave in battle--in this case, sticking close to us--then headed off to fight.
Unfortunately, our young merchant friend quickly gave up his life to help us get a better view of what Rise of the Argonauts' combat system will be like. The game will emphasize what Price refers to as "lethality" by allowing instantaneous kills on enemies when they are struck in unarmored spots--so yes, there will be plenty of decapitations and flying limbs when your weapons strike true. You'll have access to several fighting styles depending on what class of weapon you use (swords, spears, or blunt weapons); each one will determine your fighting stance and where your shield is placed. The game will apparently model physical collisions between your character models and your enemies', and all your gear, so weapons will physically be deflected from your shield. You'll be able to make use of various divine powers awarded to you by the gods, and these will also have spectacular effects, such as using a powerful attack from Ares to send your opponents flying across the battlefield, or summoning a black hole from Hades to suck in and instantly destroy any enemies who have left their feet.
Rise of the Argonauts is intended to offer something different for fans of both action and role-playing games; says Price, the game is intended to truly capitalize on the prospect of an action RPG beyond being either an action game with a few meaningless stats, or a point-and-click hack-and-slash game where your stats keep going up automatically. The studio is committed to telling a compelling story with comprehensive combat and a unique character-development system. The game is scheduled for release later this year on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.
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