Review by Vulgari

"Rise of Argonuts to Mass Effect - it's like lite beer vs. rich dark ale"

This review is based on the PC version of the game (Intel Quad Core at 3.2 ghz, 8 gig of ram, Nvidia 8800 GTS 512 running Vista HP 64 SP1), so the technical part of the review applies to the PC, not Xbox 360.

Overall Game Ranking: 7/10

I was really looking forward to this game, and as it showed great promise during the previews. Regrettably, due to some flawed design and execution decisions, a potentially great game became quite average. There are moments of greatness in the game, but overall, it's a shame they couldn't turn it into a true masterpiece. Guess I'll keep on waiting for Dragon Age in 2009.

Quick Pros:

Engrossing storyline, great atmosphere, gory battles, some interesting quests, and awesome music.

Quick Cons:

Mouse and Keyboard control scheme do not work very well. You really need to use a console controller to get the most out of it (I used a Xbox 360 controller running off Window wireless adapter). Game can be buggy at times with unexplained crashes to the desktop. Combat may be too simple, and it's hard to tell how beneficial some of your God Powers and equipments are.

Detailed Review:

Graphics: 7/10

The Unreal game engine graphic are contemporary to other recent games. It's not going to wow you, but it does the job adequately. City and zone designs are quite atmospheric and combat graphic is nicely done. The cut-scenes using the Bink video technology is grainy at times and leave a bit to be desired, but I'm running on a 24" monitor at 1920 x 1200, so it may just be me.

Sound Effects & Voice Acting: 7/10

The voice acting is decent and the sound effects are good. But it seems the voice recording is buggy at times. Now and then the the characters will repeat the same dialogue lines twice during a storyline conversation. Thankfully this bug didn't happen too often. Additionally, it seems some of the character voices were recorded at different volumes, so it was hard to hear certain characters at times.

Music: 9/10

The music is composed by the guy that did the music for 300 and he knows what he's doing. Very atmosphere and truly an excellent job.

The Story: 8.5/10

The main story and the background information offered through character dialogues is definitely one of the strong points of this game and came very close to Mass Effect in certain specific zones. There are epic moments in the game where it makes you feel like a true mythical hero and it really shines.

The problem is a lack of a real freedom of choice. Sure, you can change the order of islands to visit and who to take with you on the islands, but those are cosmetic changes. The main storyline is not going to change, and the one ending isn't going to change, so the incentive to replay it isn't going to come from the storyline, unless you are the type that likes watching the same movie over and over again.

Exploration: 7.5/10

Each zone is designed lovingly and is very atmospheric. However, there are only 7 zones in the game, and you can't revisit a zone after you are done there, so the railroad track feeling is very strong here.

I played on the Legendary (hardest) level and basically talked to everyone and did almost everything out there. And even then it only took me about 20 hours to finish. So don't expect this game to keep you busy for more than a day or two if you're a hardcore gamer.

Combat: 6/10

Combat is graphically exciting with all the blood and particle effects. But there really isn't that much depth to it. Even at the legendary level, the game isn't that hard and you can basically button mesh your way through everything with a mace (because it's good at bashing through shields, which are very annoying).

What gets annoying at times is that certain boss battles require range attack, which is only available from one specific move of the spear line. So it forces you to use a spear ever so often. Otherwise there is really no need to use anything else other than a mace.

Finally, the designer made a conscious decision to hide the numbers from us, but the downside is that it becomes VERY difficult to feel an increase in power. Jason gets prettier looking armors and weapons throughout the game, but with only vague descriptions and no real numbers, it gets very difficult to know which weapon/armor are the most effective.

The same problem goes with God Powers. The active God Powers are pretty obvious (healing light heal, rampage boost combat, etc), but the passive ones are like a huh? With the vague description and lack of numbers, it's hard to know how effective they are. And while the active God Powers are obvious, you can only map four of them to the controller at a time, so it is limited as well.

Thus, in the attempt to simplify the game, the designers took away a possible reason for people to replay this game by dumbing it down too much.

Misc Gameplay issues: 5/10

This game is more buggy than it should be, and while there is a big map with quest goal markers to guide you in the pause menu, the lack of a mini-map/compass detracts somewhat from this game. I get the feeling that this game was rushed for the holiday season, hence the bugs and the feeling that it's a bit shorter than it should be.

Also, the ending seemed a bit abrupt, and the lack of an epilogue for the npcs and cities (like the Fallout series or Bioware games) was a bit disappointing.

Rent or Buy?

Definitely rent if you are on a console. You can finish it fast. If you really enjoy it you can pick it up from the bargain bin later, but there's very little incentive to replay the game once it's beaten. As for PC, I paid $39.99 for it and don't really regret it. However, if money is tight, you may want to wait until the price drops a bit and a patch shows up to address some of the bugs.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 12/23/08

Game Release: Rise of the Argonauts (US, 12/16/08)

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