Sunday, September 3, 2017
Myth for our Time
Not to be confused with Mist, this is a series of three games, the first two of which were created by none other than Bungie Studios...before they became famous for the Halo franchise. The first entry Myth: The Fallen Lords is my personal favorite in terms of story, while the second Myth: Soulblighter improves on the gameplay of the original. Sadly, the third game was outsourced and is just all around bad. It should probably be forgotten. So how do these games play? Well the genre is a little bit difficult to classify. It's somewhere between an RTS and MOBA, but also has a few RPG elements woven in here and there. The setting is your typical middle-of-the-road fantasy world wherein the big bad has all but won. The narrative framing device comes from the journal of an ordinary soldier fighting in the war. Stylistically, I've heard comparisons to "The Black Company" novels by Glen Cook although I think most people who play the game will be reminded of J.R.R. Tolkien's writings more than anything else. After all, Myth features things like treants, dwarfs, a dark lord, and a heroic wizard. On the other hand there are some original aspects to the setting as well (such as The Tain, Myrkridia, Trow, Fetch and Ghols). The plot mostly revolves around "The Legion," a melting pot of warriors from a variety of different backgrounds. On one extreme you have shirtless claymore-wielding berserkers, while on the other end there are robe-wearing journeymen who use plant roots to heal the wounded. Rounding things out are the Fir'Bolg (stand-ins for elven archers), dwarves armed with explosives and surprisingly ordinary swordsmen complete with mail hauberk, surcoat, nasal helm and heraldic shield.
Contrary to my usual gaming habits, I did play quite a bit of Myth and Myth II online. In part it was because of Bungie's free, easy-to-use matchmaking service (a rarity in those days). There was also a ranking system although I never made it past the lowest crown tier. There were also some interesting mods for the game, including a vietnam multiplayer total conversion and a developer-endorsed fan-made single player campaign for Myth II entitled "Chimera."
The flavor text made visible by selecting a single unit hints at a much deeper and richer setting than what actually makes it on-screen. Steve Jackson Games actually ported over the setting to G.U.R.P.S. (Generic Universal Role-Playing System), but the sourcebook was oddly lacking in details. Particularly with regards to the cycle of light and dark. It's a bit of a spoiler, but the setting of Myth follows a 1000 (or possibly 500) year pattern of civilization rising and falling. The concept is kind of interesting considering the mediterranean followed a similar course with the bronze age collapse in 1177 B.C., followed by the fall of Rome in 476 A.D., and now with war in Syria, civil unrest in Egypt and a major financial crisis in Greece one wonders if this simply isn't the third time around. Even the "Leveler" takes on a quasi-symbolic importance in that the creator of one age is the destroyer of the next. It's all too topical considering recent matters having to do with fossil fuels and climate change. Did Bungie intend their IP to convey that sort of allusion to the real world? I don't know, but there's no denying its relevance even to this day.