Previews

Rise of the Argonauts

It's a Greek X-Men...

Until now, all we've had to go on for Rise of The Argonauts is a bit of art and mutterings about a new blend of action and RPG, but the rough cut of the first 'act' that we were invited to see by Codemasters left us quietly confident that the game's mix of reimagined mythology and an original dialogue-fuelled combat system could actually serve us up with a definite Must Play this autumn.

And if the early game-play we locked eyes on wasn't promising (which it was), then the rhetoric of fast-talking Liquid Entertainment President Ed Del Castillo would have left us in no doubt that the developers are definitely passionate about creating an intelligent, innovative adventure that furthers gaming's evolution from minority pastime to mainstream entertainment.

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This is a 'creative retelling' of the Ancient Greek myth starring you as rookie King Jason - one minute you're at the altar about to wed your bride, Princess Alceme, the next thing you know followers of Hecate storm the kingdom and slaughter the bride mid-vow.

This gives Jason a whole new motive for going after the Golden Fleece, and your epic journey begins in Alceme's hometown, where your inability to save the People's Princess has done nothing for your popularity. Serfs spit on you as you roam the streets, and the only way to clear your name is Trial By Combat. This won't be your average RPG battle though - you won't suddenly cut to a high viewpoint and wade into a series of button-mashing moves, or skip to a turn-based sideshow - this fighting is a part of your quest, and must be prepared for.

One of many gripes about existing RPGs which Liquid hope to avoid is the abundance of pointless NPCs that litter the gameworld. Here, if you can chat with someone, they usually have a role to play in your quest, and how you deal with them will affect your fate.

Jason King
Del Castillo is sick to death of "RPGs that start you off killing rats", so Jason's a strong warrior from the start - even if he does have a lot to learn. Down in the dungeons, you can talk to future adversaries to get an idea of how they fight, or even influence their performance in the arena. Grecian inventor Daedalus is also on hand to dispense advice and get you tooled up - but once the scrap's underway, you're on your own. You'll have to triumph, not just to get the crowd on your side, but to beat Achilles, the greatest fighter of them all, and convince him to join you.

This Magnificent Seven element of putting your crew together reveals Liquid's real inspiration - Hercules the muscle-mountain, Atalanta the lithe archer, Achilles the arrogant hunk... this is a superhero team, just like Justice League or X-Men. But one look at ROTA - at the depth of characterisation, the heavyweight combat, the variety of options and possibilities at every stage of the quest - and the same thing will probably occur to you as it did to us: why can't real superhero games be even a tenth as ambitious?

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We've only seen a rough prelude to Jason's adventure, but we've heard plenty of PR schpiel in our time, and Liquid are on the level. Between now and the autumn, they won't rest until they've created a genuinely outstanding adventure that will make both casual gamers and RPG-heads sit up and take notice.

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