Rise of the Argonauts: “Akin To Mass Effect”

By Jim Rossignol on July 3rd, 2008 at 6:31 pm.


This week we were brave enough to extract a few words of Homeric wisdom from Charley Price, the lead designer on Codemasters’ new action RPG, Rise Of The Argonauts. Needless to say, the Liquid Entertainment man was keen to talk up how RotA is rather different from previous videogame interpretations of classical Greek mythology, and tell us how the game was “akin to Mass Effect”. Head clickwards for the words, and a bunch of brand new Argonauty screenshots.

Price explained that the Jason story we will play through is one of their own devising: of bringing his murdered wife Alceme back from the dead. The opening scenes take place after the princess’s assassination: “Our first moments of gameplay follow Jason’s bloody chase of the assassin through the halls of his massive palace,” said Price. “Joined by Hercules, Jason tears through hordes of vicious Ionian mercenaries using his lethal expertise with sword, mace, and spear to ultimately cut off the assassin’s escape.”

This done, and assassin duly eviscerated, the game begins proper, with the warship Argo being decked with heroes, general baddy-slaying house-keeping, and the witch Medea entering the story from a rather different angle to that of the original tale.

Clearly, this isn’t a serious attempt to retell the original Argonauts mythology in videogame form, so what’s the real influence? The 1963 film? Are we going to be facing badly animated skeletons? “The Harryhausen film is a classic”, Price observed, “And his amazing work on both Jason and the Argonauts and Clash of the Titans defined the look of mythological Greece for several generations. That said, one of the reasons why we were so eager to work on a game like Rise of the Argonauts is to continue that tradition of bringing the world of Greek mythology to life in a new an unique way – capturing the lushness and richness of the world, the sense that the Gods are always watching.”

The Gods are integral to how the game plays out – effectively defining how you’ll fight in combat and how your character will develop as the game goes on. Yes, that’s right. This isn’t a God Of War type beat ‘em up, it’s an role-playing game… but what kind of RPG should we expect?

“At Liquid we have always gone out of our way to provide the player with a unique, immersive experience while at the same time planting our flag somewhere new,” said Price. “When we set out to create Rise of the Argonauts, we didn’t start with the intention of creating an action game or creating an RPG – rather, our goal was to recreate the experience of playing a myth. Thus, instead of just grabbing various elements from action games and dropping them into an RPG, we only drew upon those components that served the best interest of our goals and discarded the rest.”

Oh really? Like what? “For example, we wanted to make sure that we had a rich character progression system beyond Jason arbitrarily getting stronger every time he kills enough rats. That’s not compelling or heroic, and it provides a constant reminder that you’re playing a game, breaking you out of the experience. Furthermore, to really capture the experience of mythological Greece, it was important for us to create an atmosphere wherein the player felt the gods were always watching. Thus, Jason’s progression is based upon his Favor with his patron gods (Ares, Athena, Apollo, and Hermes). Furthermore, since the gods are always watching, all of Jason’s actions – from dialogue choices to heroic Deeds in combat – can earn him Favor and develop your character in a unique and rewarding way.”

Okay, but what kind of RPG are we looking at here. Is it really Titan Quest with 3D visuals? God Of War with level-grind stats? “Every choice has a demonstrable impact on your character and the world,” said Price. “Beyond that, we offer a rich, cinematic narrative experience akin to Mass Effect, with all the great characterization and important decisions that fans of that game will appreciate.”

The parallel between the two games could indeed go further: both use the ship as a means of travel, story-telling, and quest-bridging, as Price explained. “The Argo is Jason’s mobile headquarters, home to him and the Argonauts on their voyage. In a way, the Argo becomes another means of chronicling Jason’s journey. As he travels from island to island, gathering Argonauts to his side – they will occupy various rooms aboard the ship, reflecting where Jason has been and the choices he has made.”

Also like Mass Effect, the Argo becomes a place to interact with the other characters and figure out their place in the story. “The Argo also provides a great glimpse into the group dynamics of the Argonauts as a whole. In addition to being able to learn about their backstories and unlocking unique events, it’s not uncommon to walk in on Hercules and Pan debating about which mythological creature could win in a fight, or Atalanta rebuffing one of Achilles’ off-color remarks about a woman’s role in the world. We really wanted to make the Argo feel like a real place where Jason and the Argonauts spend a lot of time together. I think it gives players who are interested in the details a great opportunity to really get a sense of what these characters are all about.”

But there’s more: this will also be game of swords and ultra-violence, and not cartoony ultra-violence either: “While our combat system is certainly visceral and satisfying, like a God of War or a Ninja Gaiden, combat in Rise of the Argonauts is unique – most notably in terms of its lethality. In most games, you end up stabbing an enemy 20 times before he’ll finally fall down and die. In Rise of the Argonauts, if your weapon is able to connect with an enemy’s flesh (rather than their shield) you can kill them in a single, glorious attack.”

Price also had something to say about where is the action-RPG might be going. What would Rise Of The Argonauts’ contribution to the development of this genre be? “I think games in general are moving towards more complete and immersive experiences,” said Price. “At Liquid, we’re fond of saying that movies aren’t advertised with things like ‘We’ve got track cameras, and 18 varieties of guns and 7 different monsters…’, instead they talk about the story and the characters, what the movie is about, not what it is composed of. Games are moving in that direction, where we can stop talking about how many weapons you can collect, and start talking about the experiences that you’ll have.”

“That is what Rise of the Argonauts is trying to do. Yes, we have more than our fair share of creatures, weapons, and unique skills and abilities, but what makes us compelling is our powerful story set in a rich world that responds to the player’s actions. It is the level of immersion that the player feels, the sense of, ‘yes, I am in this world and I am doing these amazing things’ that makes Rise of the Argonauts something really fantastic.”

Could it be that Rise Of the Argonauts is going to surprise us all by being a jolly good action-RPG? It’s hard to know. Liquid Entertainment have surprised us before with Battle Realms and Dragonshard, but their last title was… Desperate Housewives?

Rise of The Argonauts is set for release in September this year.

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42 Comments »

  1. PaulMorel says:

    “Are we going to be facing badly animated skeletons? ”

    Blasphemy!

    That film is a classic! The special effects were awesome for the time, and in my opinion, have stood the test of time better than most special effects!

    Don’t forget that 20 years later the Robocop and Terminator movies were using the exact same effects on the evil robots!

  2. Jim Rossignol says:

    Haha. Before John could even post the skeletons comment we had discussed before publication!

    Harryhausen was a genius, natch.

  3. Jonathan says:

    Oh I’m getting totally fugging pumped for this. But I guess I’m just waiting for my crushing skepticism to return.

    Were you aware you’re advertising sexy Greeks? Eligible Greeks no less.

  4. MisterBritish says:

    This has been elevated from ‘raised eyebrow’ to ‘twirling moustache’.

    Do want.

  5. Fumarole says:

    Ditto on the Harryhausen praise. There’s a reason the name of the bar/cafeteria/nightclub in Monster’s Inc. has that name.

    If this game basically let’s me play the Jason and the Argonauts movie I’ll be one happy campy.

  6. plain says:

    I wish that dude’s “round” shield wasn’t made up of obvious polygons…

  7. MisterBritish says:

    ‘Rise of the Argonuats’ in ‘Everything is made from triangles!’ controversy!

    “I swear I thought they were round…” claims lead designer Charlie P…

  8. chesh says:

    The combat has me very intrigued. Bushido Blade on PS1 is still one of my favorite fighters.

  9. Al3xand3r says:

    I hope this isn’t an overhyped pos but the few gameplay videos which have been shown indicate a very mediocre game with early 3D style gameplay design errors whereas everything else has been hyped to hell and back. I hope they weren’t indicative of the final product, it’s just the vibe I got from them. I hope for the best but expect the worst. On polygonal shields, it looks fine to me, it fits the art style enough and is probably not quite as noticable in motion, even when it’s placed on your guy’s back and it’s all you’re seeing. It also most certainly has more than 20 polygons as it looks multi tiered and not just a multi sided pyramid.

  10. plain says:

    You don’t find it jarring? Next to the awesome sword effect and decently-rendered face and background it just stands out really clearly to me.
    Yeah, neat sarcasm, but curved surfaces are old tech in games these days – in fact it looks like they have some used elsewhere. Or they could at least devote a few hundred polys to it instead of 20.

  11. Erlam says:

    This quote in particular pique’d my interest:
    “…Rise of the Argonauts is unique – most notably in terms of its lethality. In most games, you end up stabbing an enemy 20 times before he’ll finally fall down and die. In Rise of the Argonauts, if your weapon is able to connect with an enemy’s flesh (rather than their shield) you can kill them in a single, glorious attack.”

    I am so sick of games where you’re supposed to be this crazy badass killer – and yet the enemies can take anywhere between 5 and 50 attacks to kill.

  12. Deuteronomy says:

    Mass Effect wasn’t an RPG, oh right ACTION RPG. The real RPG is dead.

  13. Ash Firelord says:

    I find this game very intriguing, really looking forward to see if it’s such a break from the cookie-cutter RPGs of today as they claim it to be.

  14. Faust says:

    @Deuteronomy

    So just because Mass Effect was exciting in parts makes it not a true RPG? Since when does giving the player control over his character directly mean it’s no longer an RPG. I always find it quite tiresome when people claim something isn’t an RPG. Technically all games are RPGs.. and just because Mass Effect had some third person shooty in it doesn’t mean that it’s not a proper RPG. It had just as many RPG elements as KOTOR, if not more, and while there wasn’t quite as many options as something like Baldur’s Gate, I feel that was only to streamline the narrative.

  15. Janto says:

    Man, Oblivion, now that was a REAL RPG…

  16. sigma83 says:

    ‘Mass Effect wasn’t an RPG, oh right ACTION RPG. The real RPG is dead.’

    Purist eh.

  17. Dolphan says:

    What? If you’re talking about the Baldur’s Gate style of PC rpgs, Neverwinter Nights 2 is pretty squarely in that box, and has an expansion out soon. The Witcher’s not far off either – having to time attacks doesn’t really transform it into an action game. For the console/JRPG bracket Lost Odyssey is pretty much the epitome of the tradition.

    Or do you mean it’s been dead since something like Ultima VII?

  18. Albides says:

    Janto:

    Man, Oblivion, now that was a REAL RPG…

    Nice one. Expecially since that person probably comes from the RPG Codex, where splitting hairs seems to be the typical pastime and where recently it seems they’ve taken a break from mining the internet for quotes they can use to criticise Bethesda or bashing stupid dumbed down games like Space Siege to respond with elation to the announcement of Diablo III. Oh, woops..

  19. gameplayer says:

    This is looking awesome, can’t wait.

  20. Doubtful says:

    It sounds like they advertising a movie rather than a game, which probably is going to mean tons of prerendered cgi stuff, limited choices and super rigid storyline with canned ending. Yep that’s what it sounds like. Anyway that developper has NEVER released a good game, so it’s doutful this one will be anything more than a vague God of War concept ripoff without any of the gameplay.

  21. Chaz says:

    Mass Effect but set in Greek mythology. Well that sells it for me (pending reviews of course).

  22. ILR says:

    Is it just me, or does every second protagonist these days look like the guy from Limbo of the Lost?

  23. simbo says:

    Is it just me, or does every second protagonist these days look like the guy from Limbo of the Lost?

    What, like some global payback conspiracy? What an ironic twist of fate that would be.

  24. Ozzie says:

    Except that he doen’t look so stupid and ugly?
    Oh, and his body is much more muscular, his skin a bit darker, the eyes sharper……..

    Well, must be a straight rip-off I guess!

  25. James T says:

    Rise of the Argonauts: “Akin To Mass Effect”

    So, a bit rubbish then. Lawl!

  26. Mistle says:

    “Doubtful” you gotta be out of your mind, in your world “good games” are games that get atleast 9.5 in magazines and ones that everybody talks about, seriously, expand your horizons instead of relying on previous succesful game. Your comment about “GoW ripoff” shows all about what kind of person you really are, did you know GoW took alot of things from other games? Rise of the argoes does not have anything similiar to god of war, there are no sick context sensivtive finishers, enemies does not require 20 hits with a flame sword and jason cant jumb 4 metres up in the air and stay there for some secs.

  27. Janto says:

    On a more serious, less snide note, I have really become quite jaded towards the idea of computer RPGs, because really, what’s the point? Now, you may say, what’s the point of any game, but the thing about RPGs is that, well, there’s already a better way of making an RPG. And that’s the old-school, rulebooks and dice approach. If we’re talking about real RPGs, then that’s the only thing you can point to and say ‘Behold! The Living Role Playing Game!’ About the only thing that cRPGs can really do better is number crunch, which, you know, is great if you’re 14 and playing D&D, not so much use if you’re playing something where people’s opinions are important and your actions have consequence. Also not great for dramatic experiences.

    No fancy algorithm or database system can duplicate even an average human GM’s ability to make decisions appropriate to the character’s actions. What’s the point in having well written dialog or fancy camera angles when you’re limited to going down pre-defined routes? (Let’s face it, this is games writing we’re talking about here, it’s hardly the most inspired field.)

    All too often your choices come down to bottlenecks where almost everything else you’ve done is irrelevant, except for the gear and experience you’ve acquired up till then.

  28. Cigol says:

    It’s not a very compelling argument Janto. Limitations aren’t reason enough.

  29. Jochen Scheisse says:

    Well, I like PnP very much, but on the one hand, you definitely need 4-5 people who are able and willing to meet regularly. You need a GM who’s ready to invest shitloads of time into adventures for those ungrateful PC bastards who can’t even remember the name of last time’s NPC. Especially the first thing can be a problem.

    And yeah, calculating damage or character progression is one thing, but if you ever tried to calculate stuff like grenade damage in Shadowrun, with the reflecting wall rules and all, you’re more than grateful to have a program that lets you sit back and just attack that damn Dwarf.

  30. Stromko says:

    Tabletop pen-and-paper is really about socializing and scarfing junk food with your friends. I think most folks are more apt to roleplay in an online setting where they don’t have to look their friends in the eye whilst trying to seduce an elven barmaid.

    Rise of the Argonauts thus far strikes me as more a part of the Diablo family. Lots of smashy smashy, gain loot, get stronger. It’s a thin line really; is the actual gameplay really so different in Baldur’s Gate II than it is Diablo II? It’s more about how much time you spend bashing skeletons vs how much time you spend considering your dialogue options and determining how to solve a quest.

    I have this nagging feeling that the promised Mass Effect trilogy isn’t going to happen, and since I quite enjoyed M.E. (I enjoy both shooters and RPGs and found the combat system to be more visceral and fluid than Deus Ex’s), I’m tempted by the references between it and Argonauts.. but I’ll believe it when I see it.

  31. malkav11 says:

    Tabletop roleplaying is great, but I don’t know why that means we can’t have videogames with strong stories, plenty of chances to meaningfully change outcomes, character upgrading, and phat lewt.

    I thought both Battle Realms and Dragonshard were great, though Battle Realms I find stupidly hard. I even hear Desperate Housewives (the game) is surprisingly decent for what it is.

  32. Albides says:

    I know Wikipedia isn’t a reliable source, and I’m not sure how widely accepted this thing is, but I was reading this article, and wondered is it so wrong to simply say that different people get different things out of RPGs, and there is no definitive ideal? Some like bashing monsters and fulfilling their power fantasies, and probably care little for choice. Some care more about seeing themes unfolding within a narrative, like some sort of participatory novel. Still others like the simulation aspect of being able to do anything within wide limits. And yeah, I can see how freedom to choose and make decisions can be important, but is that the only reason anyone plays roleplaying games? Wouldn’t even the most patient GM eventually get frustrated with repeated attempts to do whatever you want? (I honestly don’t know, as I’ve never played a pen and paper rpg, though have looked at a few sourcebooks and such).

    Then there’s the question if CRPGs are in any way the same animal as pnp rpgs. Haven’t CRPGs historically been dungeoncrawlers, making labels like action-rpgs a revisionist attempt at promoting a certain ideal?

  33. Kieron Gillen says:

    I always find the word “Real” applied to any argument a bit of a WARNING! WARNING! sign.

    KG

  34. sigma83 says:

    i.e. NOT A REAL FALLOUT GAME!!!! sorta thing?

  35. Albides says:

    Not a “real rpg” I think he means.

    Though that might apply too, I’d guess.

  36. Kieron Gillen says:

    It applies to any and all of them: “It isn’t REAL music” “It’s not a REAL game” “They’re not REAL people”

    KG

  37. Albides says:

    “Those aren’t real boobs.”

  38. Klaus says:

    I’m interested in the ‘They’re not REAL people’ one. Where else could you use that outside of atrocities?

  39. Janto says:

    This was more of a personal rant about why I got jaded with cRPGs, playing any of them really felt more like a compulsion than an enjoyable experience after a bit. And genre nitpicking makes me lightheaded and violent, atop of my ivory tower of dice.

    I was going to say more power to the likes of Vince D. Weller and Age of Decadence, but cut it because I ran out of time. I won’t play it, it doesn’t excite me, but so what so long as it’s someone’s idea of fun, and they can make a profit out of it. And the same to Jason.

  40. Deuteronomy says:

    It’s also a warning sign if someone is unable or unwilling to exercise their power of categorization. I guess it’s a symptom of the times.

    Mass Effect was a great game, certainly sported aspects of the RPG genre, but ultimately was more of an interactive movie with a third person shooter thrown in.

    Simply put Mass Effect was too linear and too focused on action. A REAL cRPG is far more sandbox and presents you with far more complexity. Again, Mass Effect was a fine interactive movie, and a decent shooter, but if ME was an RPG than so was Deus Ex and Dark Messiah. I don’t blame Bioware. Producing a true cRPG with the production values everyone expects these days would be prohibitively expensive.

  41. Skalpadda says:

    Oh dear, this is starting to look like one of those discussions my friends have where they argue for hours about which heavy metal sub-genre some random band belongs to. Taking this stuff too seriously just can’t be good for your mental health.

    Anyway, since when did an over-arching story and lots of combat prevent something from being an RPG? Just as in a PnP RPG game, sometimes the GM will let you poke around and encourage you to write most of the story yourself and sometimes you’ll have a GM who tries to hold everyone more firmly to a central story. I can’t see where one is more or less roleplaying than the other.

    Why would computer RPGs need stricter rules to be classified as such? In the end, the important questsion surely has to be; Am I enjoying this?

  42. Derek K. says:

    I don’t mind Mass Effect type RPGs. But I do want an RPG that has *no* twitch involved. Even Lost Odyssey had all the rings and such.

    I want a game when I have infinite time to select what I want to do for each character, where I get my list of actions, and pick one, and then something happens, and then I pick the next.

    I’m older now, I’m easily distracted, and often times I’m playing with one hand while the other is busy feeding a baby, or fending tiny hands away from my mouse. I want something that I can pace as I like, and doesn’t require any co-ordination. I’ve got TF2 when I’m ready to twitch.

    And yeah, the existence of PnP games is really irrelevant to the cRPG – two totally different experiences, and commitments.

    I can play Mass Effect for an hour after the kids are asleep, or while they’re napping at the same time once in a blue Saturday. I can’t go “Oh, hey, I’ve got an hour free – let’s get the guys together, break out the books, get everything organized, order pizza, and play the campaign!”

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