Pimpin Reviews: Dragon Age Origins vs Rise of the Argonauts
Recommended music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=em_asfslbow
*I know this is quite unusual for this site, and is way long, but its 2 games at once. Enjoy*
I have been an RPG fan since I was a very little boy. To this day, The Elder Scrolls has been a major part of my gaming life; evident by the time, money, and even fan fiction I have put into it. With every major RPG release of the past years, one can usually find me in line ready to poor heart, soul, and time into these games. The title of this review may be a little tricky, because as usual with this series, this review is not a heated debate about which game is better. Instead, have you ever wondered why Dragon Age: Origins went Platinum while Rise Of the Argonauts fell into the dark void of "who cares". This review intends to point out what went wrong, and compare it to a similar game that went right. So buckle down, and get ready to have your very odd question answered.
The victim: Rise of The Argonauts
Released in the 2007 Holiday season, Rise of The Argonauts had promised not only to be the God of War killer for the Xbox, but also completely change what we have expected from the RPG experience as a whole. Going away from numerical stats and upgrades, and making the game more accessible to the action craving fans with its critical hits and non-scorecard combat, Rise of The Argonauts seemed to be the perfect game for anyone remotely interested in the lavish world of Greek Mythology. However, being released to lukewarm reviews and the utter indifference of the gaming community, one has to wonder, what went so wrong?
Plot: Winner = Dragon Age: Origins
In Rise of the Argonauts, you explore the vibrant world of ancient Greece, and fallow a plot loosely based on the Myth of the Golden Fleece. For those familiar with Greek mythology, it should come to no surprise that the games Protagonist is Jason, King of Iolcus. Which is "in fact actually not a hybrid of lolcats and lolwalrus's, but rather an ancient city in northern Greece." The game starts you off at Jason's wedding, which for a King of a major city oddly only has a couple handfuls of guests. Tragedy strikes and your beautiful Wife Alceme is murdered by a mysterious group of assassins who worship the Titaness Hecate and believe her to be the true ruler of Tartarus. In Greek mythology, a person must be given last rites in order for their soul to pass on from this world and face judgment in the one above. Jason refuses to allow these men to win, and descovers that by useing the Golden Fleece he could undo what history has done in order to revive his fallen love. From there, we set of on a presumed to be epic quest to gather up descendants of the gods to march our way into Tartarus and turn back the clock on the evil plan of these devious foes.
Dragon Age's story is much simpler, but much more effective. Set in the savage world of Ferelden, our hero must stop both the civil war lying on the horizon as well as an invasion of demonic like creatures called Darkspawn. After creating a hero and playing through one of six unique origins stories, you join the Gray Wardens; a group of warriors who are key in uniting the lands and taking down the other world threat. While Dragon Age's story may not seem better on the surface, the style of telling it and the depth behind it are what makes the game a much more worth while experience.
The impressive thing about Dragon Age is that while it stands by itself as a game, it has an entire lore behind each and every person. object, and site that you stumble across. Being loosely based on Greek mythology, that gives the developers of Rise of the Argonauts space to allow to create their own world in an already established setting. The problem however, is that we don't know which is the developers creation, and which was actual mythology. This isn't helped by other than the characters the game seems pretty vague, almost as if its trying to hide away inconsistencies.
Another major problem is the dialogue trees. In Rise of the Argonauts, the player gets to choose from one of four options that sides with one of four corresponding gods. There's Ares, Athena, Hermes, and Apollo; and if you haven't guessed it yet, the Ares options are variations of pseudo masculine bullshit, while the the Hermes options are variations of "wit". The biggest fault is that Jason is a set character, we can role play all we want an pick any option we choose, but that doesn't stop him from being the overall hero no matter how many Macedonians I tell to suck my Gyros. Sure, the same thing can be said for Dragon Age, but at least the choices are a bit more morally gray. And even while you're still the hero, its a more "ends justify the means" approach. If I chose to be the dick in Dragon Age, I am a dick to get the job done. If I choose to be a dick in Rise of the Argonauts, well, I'm just a dick. And that doesn't make for a very lovable character.
To an even worse extent, Rise of the Argonauts doesn't give the player enough control of the story, or even worse the conversation that you're in. The set conversation choices are unbelievably vague, and picking an option that you thought would start a fight will have you make empty threats for a couple of turns simply because there's no scripted fight scene for the segment. In Dragon Age, options have a much bigger effect on both the immediate effect as well as the overal outcome of the game. The most frustrating part of all of this was that there's no way for the player to interact with the cutscenes. Which in a modern RPG is something that just completely blows my mind.
Basically, while Dragon Age's story is not necessarily better than Rise of the Argonauts, the method it is told is far the superior. Quite frankly, Rise of the Argonauts is not a role-playing-game. Decision making hardly matters, and when the option is presented its mostly just for niche appeal. Role playing with Jason would have been more fun, if the character would have had some personality in the first place. Switching from passive aggressive behavior to over the top showboating from sentence to sentence is as schizophrenic as it sounds.
Gameplay: Winner = Tie
Now, this may come as a surprise, but Dragon Age could learn a thing or two about combat from Rise of the Argonauts. Both games allow the usage of various weapons, tactics, and styles. However, RotA combat is much more involving and aesthetically pleasing. The control schemes for both games are pretty simplistic, but pulling off a kill in Dragon Age is never as satisfying as brutally beating a satyr.
In Rise of the Argonauts, Jason is able to use four weapons; each dedicated to one of the four corresponding gods. The sword, agile and nimble is the tool of the quick footed messenger god Hermes. The Shield, protective and glorious is preferred by the sun god Apollo. The spear, strategic and deadly is the weapon of the Athena; the goddess of wisdom. And lastly, the vigorous and powerful mace is the favored of the God of War [s]Kratos[/s] Ares. The most fun comes with the ability to quickly interchange these weapons mid battle. Wailing on a guy with your mace until his head cracks and then sticking your spear through his ribs is just orgasmic. There plenty of tricks you can use to impale, behead, and dice your opponents.
Conversely Dragon Age offers many weapons and styles, but limits them to different playthroughs. While specializing in more than one type of weapon or magic is
plausible, its very inefficient. The game limits you to six power spaces, with potions eating up one or two spaces depending on style. Its not helped by the fact that there just not enough level ups in a playthorugh to full unlock the final powers in more than a handful of areas. So while you may do something clever like freezing an opponent and smashing him apart, critical hits like loping a darkspawns head off are too few to enjoy combat to the max.
The biggest problem of both games is that battles are awkwardly placed. Scrimmages in Dragon Age are often way too few, or way too frequent. In a heavily story based game like Dragon Age origins, its frustrating in the later levels to have to go through hordes of enemies to advance the plot. And it doesn't get much sweeter the second time around. Let's not beat around the bush, the combat in Dragon Age was a chore. Few entertaining sequences like plunging my blade through the heart of troll is not worth my five hundredth fight with another Hurlock Grunt. As for Rise of the Argonauts, there's simply not enough of it. After the opening sequence, its something like three and a half hours before you ever see foe again. For an action
-rpg, thats inexcusable.
Speaking of unpardonable design choices, Rise of the Argonauts commits the
most cardinal sin against RPG fans. I'm talking about no loot; nothing, nada, rein. Admittedly, its not much better for Dragon Age. The set inventory space and now where to store items is a hassle for some, and I never understood why my strength had to be higher for my warrior to wear certain pieces of heavy armor. I guess Bioware just has a sense of fashion; I wouldn't wear my level 200 leopard skin thong of awesomeness until I was at least a master in sexiness.
But in RoTA they didn't even try; There's only a handful of of armors, and absolutely nothing to pick up from enemies. To my shock each armor was worse than the last, and other than the starting armor and the one picked up on the last quest there is absolutely no other one anyone with a sense of taste would ever wear. There's a couple of different weapons which can be collected through quests, and which to its credit are actually pretty good looking and useful, but some weapons don't match with the armor types and frankly look silly on Jason's back. Combine that with a lack of an inventory system and it isn't exactly a pleasant experience.
Companions: Winner = Dragon Age
Major features in both the advertising of the games as well as in the games themselves is the companions that you bring along. And a blind man could see that Bioware really knows how to make good companions. In RotA, you run into a dream team of Greek Mythology. From optimus prime look a like Hercules to badass action girl Atlantis, and while the characters look and feel good on the surface, they lack the depth and emotional value of Dragon Age. Its been a long time since I cared about other pixels in a video game, but I found myself not wanting to displease Allistar and took every chance to get closer to Morrigan.
The main problem is that there's not much interaction with the other Argonauts. While Herc and Jason share some serious bromance, the other characters really don't feel like they're ever needed. Achilles is also well developed, but this brings us to the next issue. RotA allows you to bring two other companions in any given mission, but with the serious bromance with Herc and Pan always complaining about being old and stuck inside, its hard to get to know any of the other Characters. There's no real personal missions like in DA:O, and without the intimacy bonus there was no real reason for a chauvinist like me to take along the female companion.
Other than that, there's no real way to dig into a companions desires and wants. There was this hot and sexy ex-foe that everyone was warning me about talking with and was constantly flirting with me, but with only a handful of subjects to talk about, there was no reason to ever come back to her. Conversations are very one sided, and unlike in Dragon Age feel very set and forced. There little to no animation going on between the characters who just stand in position and blurt out their deapest desires to a man they just met half an hour ago. Really developers? I thought we got over this last generation.
The only plus with these companion is that they were just plain awesome to use in battle; Herc would hold up smaller foes while I smashed them in bits, and at that part it really felt like the epic adventure it was supposed to be. However, without the emotional value to any of these characters it felt like a massive waste of time to talk to any of them.
Graphics and sound: Winner = Dragon Age
Now Dragon Age isn't exactly what we'd call a looker, but RotA isn't something that is badly in need of a good polish. While the graphics do look a bit better than Dragon Ages', the constantly low frame rate and gigantic bumps in the ratio really make the game look unfinished. Tack that on with animation that looks straight up laughable, and you got yourself a product that needed about another couple of months more than from what it was released.
Believe it or not, there is a method to my madness; there's a reason that the recommended music is a Dragon Age song. The music in DA:O just makes it feel like an adventure of unseen proportions, and from title screen to credit rolls the acoustics never miss a beat to impress -literally-. To be honest, there was no single theme or track from RotA that was the slightest bit recognizable. If you googled Generic combat music, I'm sure there's a couple tracks more interesting than anything in Rise of the Argonauts.
Its hard to judge a game on its own merits, and for that Pimpin reviews turns to its Vs series to find out just what went wrong. And from what we've seen, for Rise of the Argonauts its is quite a lot. Creating an epic adventure is more than just good combat. Looking back on RotA, there was not one single sequence that one defining sequence that would make this game unforgettable. Hype is a dangerous things, for popular games it can mar their reputation for years. But for lesser known games like Rise of the Argonauts, hype is the thing that leaves enthusiastic gamers more than a bit peeved. History has proved that Rise of the Argonauts was neither a genre defining game nor the God of War killer of our times, but a third rate bargain bin buy. An ambitious adventure, let down by lack of funds and abhorrent design choices.
The arena fight with Achillies
Odd looking tongues
Disclosures: Dragon was obtained via [Retail] and reviewed on the [Xbox 360/PC]. Approximately [78 hours] of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed 3 times)
Disclosures: The Rise of the Argonauts was obtained via [Rental] and reviewed on the [Xbox 360]. Approximately [13.5 hours] of play was devoted to single-player modes (completed 1 times)