Every action/dialogue-option you take will represent what deity you please the most and give points towards. Each skill-tree comes with intriguing upgrades such as making enemies bleed and stagger by sword-attacks, strengthen your comrades in combat or even gain a magical spell. The spells range in use, such as smashing enemies so hard that they fly off the screen, create a decoy by each dodge you make, or summon lighting.
There are so many special moves and spells to consider, that it feels heartbreaking that you have only 4 slots to equip them in. You can at any time change them out, so it feels off that you cannot have the option to equip more. I do like that you can only recharge the moves by attacking fiends with melee-moves, but you can only activate one at a time and have to recharge a bar completely again to use another one. It is never necessary, but when this amount of varied moves and spells are given, it feels like there could have been more freedom in using them, or at least better ways to make this limitation work. Perhaps with each slot having their own cool-down bar? It would also be nice with a clear distinction between what is a spell and a passive upgrade.
Whenever going off your boat and to a new location, you will be able to take with you upwards to two companions. All offer solid support and unique combat-skills, be they either melee fighters with swift weapons or strong attacks, or range-attackers in the form of either a mage and an archer. They will also serve as conversation-support and can even alter some dialogues if they have a familiarity with the environment or a character. Their AI is good and while they are not necessary as you are more than capable on your own, your companions are definitely nothing to shrug at either.
While this is all great, it is also here that I am puzzled by the game’s premise. While there is a good amount of combat, just as much time is spent on exploring small areas for accepting sidequests or just taking in the atmosphere. I really did not mind this though, as each area was interesting in design and the sidequests were always easy to find and figure out. Their stories were simple, but engaging and I always found that they gave me more things to do, such as playing a numbers-game or partake in a philosophical debate. Some quests would even reward me with new equipment, adding to the combat.
However, these are not the standard weapons with simple stat-upgrades. All comes with added benefits, such as a mace being blessed by Poseidon that creates a blast for blending fiends, swords to make back-attacks do more damage, or armour that could regenerate health. There are plenty of different sets for swords, spears, armours and maces, with all being more about gameplay preference. The only exception, are the first item of each type, and one armour that is obviously meant for the end-game due to serving a story-purpose.
Everything you do, be it sidequests, achievements, or exploring, feel worthwhile as they can lead to gain upgrades in the form of skill-points or new equipment. This is further helped by how the areas are designed by being condensed and easy to travel quickly through, but big enough to feel like you are actually exploring. Every objective is marked on the map which can make quests feel railroaded, but finding them requires searching and I do like how every conversation feels worthwhile gameplay-wise. Though be warned that auto-save is the only way to go, as saving manually will just put you at the closest checkpoint.
However, for as great in details and ideas Rise of Argonauts has, it only offers 6 areas in total to explore, with two of them being fairly linear. All are memorable and intriguing, with details everywhere to admire and making sure you get to fight from time to time, but with how little the combat evolves, it feels like there could have been more. In many ways, it is kinda like Diet Mass Effect. It might not be as grand, but it packs a fantastic punch within what it offers. While it could use more variety in enemies, everything else has such great detail to them and I was never bored during the 12 hours it took to complete this title. A fun and simple adventure, like what Homer would offer.
Gameplay Score: 7/10
Almost as beautiful as Hera
Taking you to the interesting and mythical world of Greece, Liquid Entertainment has done a magnificent job getting you immersed. This is thanks to the beautiful mix of the naturalistic part of the environment with botany being appropriate to this world, alongside architect that represent usage of building-materials you would find from this era, such as marble, clay or wood. It is wonderfully used on the cities, and it extends with details to make each location unique. Venturing through Mycenae where there is a blood red sky and a busy market outside of the coliseum, visiting Saria with woodland creatures and a mystical forest, or the dark world, Kythra, where ruins of what once was can be seen. It is fantastic how they use the architecture and nature of Greece to create a diverse and vast world.
This I will say extend to the weapon and armour-models, as they look unique from one another and each carrying a story. Be it weapons from the world beneath, blessed by kings, or made by blacksmiths who have powers beyond your imagination. This is very appropriate, as weapons, and especially shields, are impressively detailed in old Greek mythologies, and with how diverse designs every weapon has, this should be satisfying for any weapon enthusiasts. It is also nice how every piece of equipment is shown on Jason at all time.
In turn, this makes the combat engaging, as you will see their powers clearly come into to play with small explosions or quicker attacks, for example. By having magic being a rare element in this world and Jason’s divine abilities uncommonly used, it is easy to appreciate every move and feel their powers as they become more special. Smashing skulls to bits and pieces, cutting someone in half, or simply destroying shields, become sights to behold, and they are accompanied by wonderful sound effects that differ from not just the types of hits, but also between themselves to add some diversity.
With this, magical attacks are forces to be reckoned with, such as huge bolts of lightning, making Jason covered in silver, or activating an attack that will send enemies flying. It is a wonderful mix of believable and strong effects, similar to the actual Jason and the Argonauts movie from the 60s. As an added way of immersion, hub-icons are toggled off so you do not see Jason’s health bar, but rather witness him getting scars over his body, which is both a legit way of playing and more engaging.
The character-models are strong as well, with memorable and appropriate design for all the main cast. Hercules is strong and gargantuan with lovely-coloured attire, and Achilles has an interesting getup representing his agile movement and standard. All are well made and have attires that make them stand out, but not inappropriate to the Greek setting. Although, it is a shame we do not see many mythical monsters, as most common enemies will be just alterations of foot-soldiers, making them a bore, sadly. There are some magical creatures roaming and I do like how they are kept more of a mystery, but that does not change the fact that the common enemies are not much to admire. At least seeing them perish is neat.
However, I cannot deny that the character-model’s textures can be outright terrifying in some cases. Main-casts have good facial-animations if nothing spectacular, but lesser characters have simply their faces dragged and with unpolished textures, it is hard to not notice this blemish. As for the voice-actors, we have a surprisingly strong cast. Everyone has wonderful direction and clear motion in their tone, be it restraining their anger, joyful glee or other, and none falls below good. This is to be expected when you have the cast consisting of fantastic people like Brian Bloom, Susanne Blakeslee, Chris Cox and Quinton Flynn to name a few.
As for the soundtrack, it is composed by Tyler Bates and while he might not have many game soundtracks behind him, he is impressive within film-music, having composed for titles like 300 and the John Wick movies. His composition for Rise of the Argonauts captures the sense of wonder and mystery of Greece with this soundtrack, having plenty of echoed lyrical songs, string instruments from guitars to violins, with cello and drums adding to tense moments. It is not authentic to the era, but definitely highlights the familiar instruments that are associated with this era and each track is diverse and varied to be engaging and set the right atmosphere. It all comes with a dark tone that echoes in long runs, giving them all a sense of scope and events highlighted.
Presentation Score: 8/10
Achievements that actually mean something!
I have already mentioned how fantastic it is that the achievements actually rewards the player in-game, and it is neat that the more achievements you do in one category, the star sign associated with the accomplishments will become clearer. Although, for as short the game is, there is no form of a new game plus to make replays more entertaining. However, the stronger difficulty is a good reason to come back to the game for, as it makes challenges fiercer and rewards you more to the Deity-bars, and the game is in general fun to 100%. Even on a second run
Extra Score: 8/10
It might not be as grand as other titles in terms of what it wants to achieve, but Rise of the Argonauts does just as good of a job within its limitation. It does not overstay its welcome, its mechanics are engaging, the world is fascinating, the adventure is magical, and it is overall just fun. Compared to when it originally came out, Rise of the Argonauts has aged wonderfully and is one a hidden gem. Or a golden piece from the Gods, if you will.