TGR recently had the chance to chat with Liquid Entertainment, the studio behind the upcoming mythological action-adventure title, Rise of the Argonauts. Game designer Andrew Rubino was able to shed a little light on the choices the team was faced with during the development process, and answered many questions about what we can expect from the game when it is released later this month (Europe) or early next year (North America).
The Game Reviews: The tales of Greek mythology are replete with heroism: Perseus and his fight against the Medusa, the Trojan War, and other tales. Why was the story of Jason and the Argonauts selected?
Andrew Rubino: The Jason and the Argonauts myth gave us fertile ground from which to build a game, since (at a high level) the original story already resembles the structure for a strong gameplay experience. In the myth, Jason has a clear goal, find the Golden Fleece, and he travels from one exotic locale to another, recruiting epic heroes and encountering supernatural creatures that he must overcome.
From this foundation we crafted our own re-imagining of the myth. In Rise of the Argonauts, Jason is king of Lolcus, and the game opens on the day of his wedding. When his wife to be, Alceme, is assassinated in the middle of their vows, Jason can’t let her go; he must bring her back, somehow. He soon learns of the Golden Fleece, which has the power to resurrect the dead, but has been lost for centuries. Undeterred, Jason scours ancient Greece in his search, battling mythological creatures and recruiting heroes to fight by his side–whatever it takes to ultimately bring his wife back to life.
TGR: What sources and/or experts were used in the selection of characters to be portrayed in the Argonauts? How did you strike a difference between mythological accuracy and a successful party dynamic when creating the game?
AR: Rise of the Argonauts is a creative re-telling of the Jason and the Argonauts myth, and while it was very important to use to stay true to the spirit of the Greek mythology, we also wanted to be able to put our own twist of the characters the player will meet.
As far as choosing Argonauts, we didn’t want to be limited by only the characters from the myth.
We wanted the Argonauts to be the all-star team of Greek heroes, the mythological X-men, if you will. We started by looking at the most popular and well-known heroes, thinking about who players would really want to fight alongside. Much like the X-men, we also wanted to create an interesting team dynamic, where each member brings something unique to the table, while not always agreeing ideologically with the group.
From there we narrowed it down to a set of Argonauts that will support you in combat–Hercules, Atalanta, Pan, and Achilles–in addition to a host of others that will join Jason aboard the Argo and help in other ways.
TGR: This game incorporates numerous disparate characters, some of whom–like Pan and Achilles–were not originally featured in the story of the Argonauts. How will their backstories be made to fit within the overall theme of the game?
AR: Our goal was to ensure that every character felt like they were part of the same world, so we often wrote new backstories for characters, inspired by their actual mythological stories.
I’ll use Achilles as an example. While he was never an Argonaut in the myths, he is immediately recognizable as one of the most intriguing and familiar characters from Greek mythology. His personality also provides a great contrast to Jason’s: Jason sacrifices everything to bring his wife back from the dead, Achilles only fights for his own glory. We knew that he would be a great addition to the Argonauts, so we wrote a different backstory for him that fits with who Achilles was in the myths, but places him nicely in Jason’s story.
You’ll find Achilles in the Arena on Mycenae, the undefeated Champion who is only concerned with women, wine, and above all, victory. He has no concern for Jason when they first meet, and sees him as another opponent to dispatch. All of Mycenae comes to the Arena to see these two master warriors battle, and Achilles is surprised to finally find a worthy opponent. Their match ends in a draw, much to Achilles’ displeasure, but later events on Mycenae convince Achilles to team up with Jason, and ultimately joining his crew.
TGR: Rise of the Argonauts is clearly intended to be a unique game but could you tell our readers what gameplay features will be included to make it a memorable experience as well?
AR: There are a number of memorable features in Rise of the Argonauts. Jason levels up and gains new abilities by gaining Favor with the gods, which he can do at any time, even in the midst of dialogues. We also provide combat like you’ve never seen before in an RPG. Combat is brutal and lethal, where Jason can routinely kill enemies in only a couple of hits, provided he can get past their defenses. We also have the Argonauts, the best Ancient Greece has to offer, fighting alongside Jason and aiding in his search for the Golden Fleece.
TGR: Throughout Greek myth, gods and goddesses regularly involved themselves in the lives of mortals. How will they manifest themselves in this game and in what way?
AR: The presence of the gods is a major thematic element in the world of Ancient Greece, and their influence can be seen throughout the game. In addition to moments where Jason deals with them directly, the gods provide the means by which Jason levels up. With almost every action you perform, Jason can earn Favor with his four patron gods: Athena, Hermes, Apollo, and Ares.
One way to earn Favor is by making decisions in dialogue. Every dialogue choice is aligned with a god, and reflects that god’s personality. Hermes choices are cunning and crafty, for example, while Ares choices are direct and confrontational. The gods are always watching, so when Jason makes one of these choices, he gains Favor with that god. As a result, players are constantly leveling their characters through dialogue.
Jason can also gain Favor by dedicating Deeds to the gods. You can think of Deeds like Achievements or Trophies: they are given to Jason whenever he does something heroic and noteworthy. He can earn Deeds by anything from performing well in combat, to killing a legendary creature or tricking a guard. Jason can then go to a shrine to dedicate these Deeds to the gods, saying that he did them in their honor, which earns him their Favor.
If Jason gains enough Favor with a given god, he’ll acquire an Aspect which allows him to choose a gift from that god that will enhance his combat abilities. Each god has his or her own playstyle, and their Aspects will reflect that. For example, Ares grants Aspects that encourage Jason to wade into the thick of battle with no concern for his own well being–high risk, high reward.
Jason can also earn the right to call upon the gods to assist him directly with God Powers. For example, Hermes can grant Jason a God Power called Gates of Tartarus, in which he temporarily opens a gateway to the Underworld. If Jason can knock an enemy into the air, the gate will suck them into the void, ripping their body apart.
TGR: Accounting for the number of characters in the game will there be any form of multiplayer mode? If so how will this be created?
AR: Rise of the Argonauts is a single-player game.
TGR: How will the party system be set up?
AR: Whenever Jason leaves the Argo, his warship and mobile HQ, he can choose up to two Argonauts to join him. If the player decides to change Argonauts later on, he can return to the Argo and choose again. The Argonauts that Jason chooses will not only have an impact on combat, but also on the narrative–having different Argonauts in your party as you progress through the events on a given island will often cause them to play out differently.
TGR: Will it be an old-fashioned RPG combat setup or will the fights be arranged in real time?
AR: We want players to feel like they are playing a myth at all times, especially when in combat. In order to capture the brutality of battle in Greek myths, all combat in Rise of the Argonauts takes place in real-time.
Furthermore, in keeping with the myths, combat is swift and lethal. Jason doesn’t have to hit an enemy 20 times to kill him. He can kill an enemy in a handful of strikes, sometimes only needing one. Those who manage to survive one of Jason’s attacks are often crippled, and limp around the battlefield in a vain attempt to stay alive.
Landing an attack on an enemy isn’t an easy task, however. Jason must maneuver around or smash through enemy shields to get the chance to strike at their bodies directly. Weapons will collide with shields at any time, even if an enemy (or Jason) isn’t actively blocking, so positioning is very important. Of course, Jason can choose to simply shatter enemy shields (ideally with his Mace) if he’s not in the mood for fancy footwork.
TGR: Did you ever consider allowing the player to play as characters outside of Jason? What was the reasoning behind a single playable character?
AR: The story is all about Jason and his quest to reunite with Alceme, and we want players to feel the emotional impact of that story. In combat, Jason is effectively three characters in one, since each of his three weapons (mace, sword, and spear) feels very different and encourages its own playstyle. Combine that with Aspects, and players have the ability to create very different characters. In other words, keeping Jason as the single playable character allowed us to focus on crafting the most compelling experience possible and allowed us to give many mechanisms by which the player could craft their own character.
TGR: How has development progress on the individual platforms? Have there been any issues to date?
AR: Development has been going very well on all platforms. No matter what platform you get the game for, you’ll get the same great experience.
TGR: What kinds of enemies can we expect to see in the game when it’s released?
AR: There are a wide variety of enemies Jason will face. In the wilds of Saria, Jason must battle a vicious tribe of Satyrs while fending off the attacks of Hep’Naje, a Manticore that has been ravaging the centaurs who make that island their home. While fighting in the arena on Mycenae (and throughout the game), Jason will encounter crazed Minotaurs who will cut down their own allies to get at their prey. Furthermore, throughout his quest, Jason is dogged by the Cultists of the dark titan Hecate, who attack him with blood magic, often summoning tainted souls from the depths of Tartarus itself.
TGR: What would you say is the most enjoyable experience of developing the game thus far?
AR: I really enjoyed developing all the Aspects and equipment Jason will get throughout the game, allowing the player to really customize their character. But to be honest, my most enjoyable experience would have to have been showing the game to the public at PAX back in August.
After spending so much time developing the game, it was great to finally get it in players’ hands. Not only was it extremely useful to hear about wh at they thought of the game, it was really rewarding to see them get as excited about the game as I was. It makes all the late nights worthwhile.
TGR: Do you have any closing message for our readers?
AR: Our goal with Rise of the Argonauts was to bring mythological Greece to life and let players immerse themselves in that world. We wanted to create a true action/RPG that really delivers on both halves of that promise. If you’re looking to be step into the role of an epic hero both in and out of combat, or if you are simply a fan of Greek mythology eager to explore the world more fully, then this is the game you’ve been waiting for.