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volume 1, issue 34

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Off the Shelf:
Myth II: Soulblighter

 

 

 

 

 

By Jason "loonyboi" Bergman

Title: Myth II: Soulblighter
Publisher: Bungie
Developer: Bungie
Average Price: $40 (PC/Mac OS)

 

eyond a doubt, one of the better games of 1997 was Myth: The Fallen Lords. If you never played the game, it was a pretty unique experience. Myth was innovative where few strategy games were for two major reasons: first of all, it was 3D, and looked really damn good, to boot. Unlike Total Annihilation before it, Myth was in true 3D, complete with hardware acceleration. This was really cool visually, but it carried with it some major problems. The interface required mastering its unique mouse + keyboard system, and frequent glances at the included quick reference card were necessary in order to play. Myth also managed to separate itself from the other WarCraft clones out there by doing away entirely with resource management. That may not sound like that big a deal, but pretty much every real time strategy game before it, and really since, has depended on resource management. It’s not a crutch for those games, as it works very well for them, but Myth has zero resource management. It’s a breath of fresh air, and it’s one of those things that makes Myth genuinely like nothing else out there. Myth: The Fallen Lords had a few other little flashes of brilliance, such as its demented sense of humor, and its cut scenes, which were done in a pseudo-cell animation style, as opposed to the standard CGI fare of its competitors. Pretty cool, all things considered. Also worth a mention is Bungie.net, the free online service for Myth players. Bungie has done an admirable job in creating a genuine community amongst its users, and I was surprised at how in many ways it actually surpasses Battle.net in this regard.

But Myth: The Fallen Lords was not without its flaws. Aside from the clunky controls and their insane number of keyboard commands, there was the problem of well…the game’s difficulty. The game started you off with a really cool tutorial that got you psyched and ready to rock. The first pair of missions weren’t too bad, but then…jeez. Suddenly the game went from normal to uber-freaky-hard. And it only got harder. Several people I know started having a little contest to see just how far we could get…and we all gave up after a while. Myth was a lot of fun, but it was just too damn hard. As far as single player games go, StarCraft is probably the king in this regard, as the game is difficult at points, but still ultimately playable. Myth: The Fallen Lords just got harder and harder until playing it became a chore. Oh well.

So hey…here we are, and Myth II: Soulblighter is out. Did Bungie learn from its mistakes? In a word: yes. Man, did they ever. Now before you get all excited, understand that Myth II: Soulblighter is still hard. Very hard, in fact. But, unlike the first game, it is much more accessible. You don’t need to be the Thresh of RTS games to play through it. It may be challenging, but at least it’s fun all the way through. But Bungie deserves a lot of credit for all the improvements in Myth II over its predecessor. At first glance they aren’t really apparent…visually, the game doesn’t look that different from its predecessors. But trust me…it’s a total sequel.

Like I said, it’s still a bit too hard…oh well…but no total crisis. Myth II: Soulblighter does indeed correct the interface problems. Whereas before you needed their arcane keyboard configuration, now you can use the mouse for just about everything. Hallelujah. The interface improvements show that Bungie really listened to the criticisms gamers had about the original, and they really tried their damndest to make the sequel everything we’ve been hoping for. Small interface touches, like fact that you can zoom the camera with the mouse wheel, don’t necessarily serve any major function, but they are handy, and much appreciated.

While at first glance the graphics don’t look much improved, trust me…they are much better than the original. After playing Myth II for a bit, go load up the original. You’ll be amazed at how flat and boring everything looks. For Myth II, Bungie made everything much more detailed, including lush foliage, reflecting water, and blowing leaves. Even the towns themselves have gotten a big beefing up, and the architecture is both more complex and realistic looking. On the combat side, the new units are welcome additions. There’s Heron Guards (hmm…methinks there’s a Wheel of Time fan somewhere at Bungie), Mortar Dwarfs (who like their brothers have a thing for big explosions), the Undead (yay! Zombies!) and the freaky-big Mauls (who just rock. Trust me).

Like the first one, there’s a great story here, complete with zombies and an evil bad guy named Soulblighter (hence the title…get it?). All of this unfolds via the game’s excellent cut scenes, but also during the game, as you arrive at a town and pick up new recruits (and save innocent people, if that’s your schtick). The game has 25 missions, making it a bit short, but again, considering how hard it is, it’s probably a good thing that it’s only got 25 missions. It’ll take you twice as long to finish the 25 missions in Myth II than it will to finish the 30 missions in StarCraft.

Multiplayer’s gotten a nice beefing up, and there are a couple of new mulitplayer game modes, and unlike most games, these aren’t variations on the CTF theme. These are actually original multiplayer modes that have nothing to do with CTF. Yes, it’s true, there was multiplayer gaming before CTF, and it’s possible for a game to be fun that isn’t CTF. Myth II has two new multiplayer modes, Stampede! and Hunting. Both are really unique, and definitely worth checking out. They may not be CTF, but they sure are cool. The whole Bungie.net setup’s gone through a nice renovation, and again, Bungie’s really listened to people’s requests for changes. Bravo.

The bottom line is this: Myth II: Soulblighter rules. It’s got a demented sense of humor, solid gameplay, and enough changes since the first one to actually earn the title of "sequel." If you liked the original, or just plain missed it, check out Myth II. It’s a whole heapload of fun.

- Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is the editor-in-chief of loonygames. It stands to reason, therefore, that this is all his fault.

 

Credits: Bargain Bin logo illustrated and is © 1999 Dan Zalkus. This edition of Top Shelf is © 1999 Jason Bergman. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is a majorly hostile gesture.