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Critical Reception: Codemasters/Liquid Entertainment's Rise of the Argonauts

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Rise of the Argonauts, a Greek mythology-based action-RPG that reviewers describe as a "frustratingly limited product that fails to rise above the compromises made for its hybrid
This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Rise of the Argonauts, a Greek mythology-based action-RPG that reviews describe as a "frustratingly limited product that fails to rise above the compromises made for its hybrid design." The game debuts this week in North America to a Metacritic-averaged score of 50 out of 100. Charles Onyett at IGN rates Rise of the Argonauts at 6.2 out of 10, explaining that the mythology suits the genre well. "The fusion of elements from the role-playing and action genres isn't a new one," he begins. "It's part of the foundation of the ancient Greek epic poetry on which Liquid Entertainment's Rise of the Argonauts is based. Heroes like Jason and Odysseus roamed unfamiliar lands, encountered bizarre and powerful creatures, and often received rewards for their trials and tribulations." Rise of the Argonauts falls short in terms of execution, however. "Liquid chose to take a more streamlined, action-focused tack with its hybrid title," Onyett explains, "which, along with a few other factors, tend to limit its appeal." The simplified control scheme is especially harmful, according to Onyett. "By removing the typical RPG genre complications and adding a simple combat engine with a heavy emphasis on passive abilities and the mechanical repetition of light and heavy attacks, block, and dodge moves," he writes, "the game can't fully satisfy action or RPG appetites. It feels like Liquid sacrificed too much for the sake of its genre fusion." Onyett finds that the experience remains enjoyable at times due to the strength of its source material, but feels that its gameplay is lacking overall. "With a storyline and characters rooted firmly in Greek mythology, there's an element for those who know or admire the Classics to enjoy. The problem is how the game's put together," he says. "The result is a frustratingly limited product that, even as it weaves an interesting tale of deceit and betrayal, fails to rise above the compromises made for its hybrid design." GamePro's Tracy Erickson gives Rise of the Argonauts 3 out of 5 stars. "Rise of the Argonauts wanted so very badly to be a thrilling action adventure and sought to draw gamers in with a combination of entertaining gameplay and stunning visuals," he writes. "However, this adventure falls flat with a disappointing mix of substandard graphics and mediocre design." Erickson finds that RotA's skill system is a notable highlight. "Basic role-playing elements ensure you're rewarded for exacting massive damage on enemies thanks to an inventive skill tree that's tied to your combat performance," he explains. "A star map outlines deeds that Jason can perform to curry favor with the gods Aries, Athena, Hermes, and Apollo." "These range from killing a certain number of enemies to completing specific tasks," Erickson continues. "You're constantly acquiring new deeds, which you then commit to one of the four gods to receive an aspect point; you then use these points to unlock more skills, so the more deeds you finish and aspect points you earn, the more powerful and diverse your skill set will be." Action sequences also work well thanks to a streamlined control scheme. "For all weapons, pressing the X button initiates a basic attack and Y a more powerful one; moreover, holding down the right trigger allows you to augment your blows for greater damage," Erickson says. "It's a simple, yet satisfying system that performs well enough. Swapping weapons isn't nearly as smooth and seamless as promised, but Jason moves with great agility and you're given plenty of flexibility in varying attacks." Erickson finds that dull dialogue and repetitive level design often detract from the experience, however. "It's a real shame that the developers didn't surround the solid action and innovative skill progression concept with better presentation and design fundamentals," he notes. "If they had, perhaps the game could have lived up to the epic majesty of the myth that inspired its creation." At Destructoid, reviewer Jim Sterling scores Rise of the Argonauts at 3 out of 10. "Let me start then by saying that RotA is the most broken, glitchy, buggy, unfinished videogame I have played all generation. Possibly ever," he begins. "This game is so badly made, I cannot even comprehend how it got past QA, let alone made it far enough to be released." Framerate issues figure among the many problems Sterling notes with Rise of the Argonauts. "At random intervals, regardless of what is happening on screen, the game chugs and stutters as if it's struggling to process anything," he says. "Bad framerate, however, is a Godsend when you compare it to the real game breaking issues that plague this title. Whether it's falling straight through the floor or getting stuck in impassable areas, the opening hour of Rise of the Argonauts is so devastated that at one point, I found myself having to restart the game three times in five minutes." "The real shame of it all is," Sterling continues, "beyond the unforgivably numerous breakages, there is a genuinely decent game struggling to escape." Sterling explains that Rise of the Argonauts' dialog system contains potential. "What makes the dialog interesting is the "Aspects" system. Unlike your usual RPG-lite leveling mechanics, Jason improves by pleasing one of the four Gods watching his quest -- Ares, Hermes, Apollo and Athena," he writes. "There are generally four responses Jason can give in any conversation, each one in the flavor of a certain God. For instance, a macho response would please Ares, while something more cunning and witty would gain the favor of Hermes." "Although the idea of deeds and gaining favor could have been a bit more subtly woven into the game," Sterling notes, "it still provides something a little deeper and fresher than the norm." Otherwise, however, Sterling finds Rise of the Argonauts to be disappointing on the whole. "Liquid Entertainment had in its hands a game with real potential," he concludes. "Tapping into a story not often explored in videogames, with a deeper-than-average leveling system and solid combat, Rise of the Argonauts could have been a damn good game."

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