Jason and his Odyssey is a tale from classical Greek mythology.
With lost love, evil creatures and momentous quests it lends itself very well to a computer game. Rise of the Argonauts is the latest attempt at bringing the story to the console, and it's best described as a mixture of a hack 'n' slash game and a role playing game.
Its a well known story, so no spoilers in saying that you'll be avenging the death of your soon-to-be wife and searching for a way to bring her back to life. The first combat sequence has you running from room to room tracking down the assassin and his henchman while at the same time introducing you to the combat elements of the game.
Combat is based on three weapon types; the sword for close-in slashing, which (if you get the combination right) will result in a body-splitting blow that cuts your enemy in twain. Where brute force is required there is the mace, and after smashing opponents shields to pieces you can go for the melon shot with satisfyingly gruesome results. Finding yourself overwhelmed there is the spear, which will keep your enemies at length, or offer them to the gods as Souvlaki.
As you progress, you pick up differing versions of these three weapons with various magical powers to further enhance the combat options. It's easy to change between weapons during combat, and when you combine this feature with shield bashing the combat can be quite satisfying. It is however hard to die in this game. When your health drops below zero you have an opportunity to regenerate by avoiding being hit. Being killed outright is rare though, as between your shield and your devastating weapons there's not much that can beat you.
As you quest you slowly build up your Argonauts who tag along to help thin out the enemies, but unfortunately you have no control over their actions and consequently they have little impact on the game. You also get the Argos which Greek Scholars will know as Jason's ship. Gone is the tiresome trireme with slaves at the oars, this is a veritable floating hotel. It's built to an enormous size with automatic rowing machine, armoury, shrine and even an early Greek GPS system. Less of a ship it operates as an adventure hub where you can rearm and level up your character.
With all things in Greek Mythology, the Gods also can't help meddle in the game. Your opponents (The Black Tongue) are followers of Hecate, while you have the deck stacked on your side with Athena, Apollo, Area and Hermes. Completing side quests will grant you favours from the gods and these can be traded for God powers. There is a Talent tree for each of your Gods and with 20+ talents in each tree there is a lot of opportunity to customize your character to your play style.
It all sounds relatively good so far however what destroys the game quicker than finding a vein in your Souvlaki is the enormous amount of talking you need to do. You have to walk from conversation to conversation to complete quests and unfold more of the story. There is some limited conversation choices and these can result in favours from different Gods depending on your response. The drag is that there is so much of it. Although you can choose to skip it, you inevitably miss something important.
You really have to talk to everyone you can and carefully listen to their tale. Its just tedious. With long trips on foot back and forth between the people you need to talk too boredom is a real issue with this game.
Graphically it looks great in places however on the downside some of the underground areas feel sparse and underdone.
The character detail is good however, and we had a lot of fun working out which famous people the faces were modelled on. Andre the Giant for one.
To summarize, Rise of the Argonauts has short periods of intense, graphical combat interspersed with overly long periods of tedious travelling and talking. If you are in to Classical Greek history, like beefy men in short skirts and your women in togas then you'll enjoy Argonauts.
Unfortunately we felt there was a great game in this title, but sadly it is weighed down in tedium.