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Just like its soldiers, Myth only tells you what you need to know, leaving you to put together all the hints of greater things. Don’t confuse it for lazy storytelling, as the writing is anything but lax. Instead, the game slowly builds its world as it goes along, never revealing too much at a time. This is more than just an example of the “show, don’t tell” rule, but an entirely different one: “Don’t tell everything.” Instead of using scripted scenes and tricks to create the illusion that you have influence over the story, it crushes you with the brutal honesty that you have none. While you hear of major events secondhand, all you have to do is whatever small task you’re given and hope it’s not your last. This scaling grants more importance to Myth’s first few missions than some RPGs do throughout their entire games.
It’s not just the narration, but the very gameplay that builds the atmosphere. At the start of a mission, you’re given a handful of troops to accomplish your objectives. The enemy AI is outright devious. Your foes lead you on with skirmish tactics, draw you into larger ambushes, and generally harry you from all sides. Yet, fallen troops cost you tremendously, as you can’t recruit more. Every time the voice announces “Casualty!,” your stomach sinks a bit as you contemplate whether or not you’ll be able to go on. Every mission is made up of escalating tension followed by the cool breeze of relief (assuming you survive). Myth might play like a strategy game, but it feels like survival horror.
Myth features a physics engine, an awesome bit of tech for 1997. This means every arrow and bomb is a true ballistic weapon. This isn’t just for show, as friendly fire is in full effect here. You have to find high ground to use archers effectively to stop precious allied units from taking one in the head. Oh, and they will, especially when you bring the bomb-tossing dwarves into the mix. Half the time you’re your own worst enemy.
The same deterministic physics that work so well in the single-player campaign also make for killer multiplayer combat. Lacking any kind of economy or production, a single error can sink an entire game. Before a match, players assemble an army of a specific point value, carefully forming their teams much like tabletop wargamers do. After the last official Bungie server closed, the server code was open-sourced, letting players carry the torch onward. For the last decade, the rabid community has been hosting its own servers, running regular tournaments, and releasing new patches. Right now, there are still hundreds of people playing this 15-year-old game online. If that doesn’t speak to balance and design, I don’t know what does.
When Bungie was devoured by Microsoft, they lost the rights to the original Myth games to Take 2. This could’ve ended in tragedy. Instead, it spawned Myth 3: The Wolf Age, which might actually be tragic depending on whom you ask. Using actual 3D models instead of sprites for units, Myth 3 tried to improve upon both its predecessors. Myth 3 landed in deplorable condition after a rough launch. The developers at MumboJumbo who weren’t laid off after the game shipped stayed on and worked unpaid to release two huge patches, as well as community mod tools, to apologize. In the end, The Wolf Age was a worthy continuation of the series, even if not the most popular.
But after that, silence. Perhaps the market for real-time tactical games not named Total War dried up. Perhaps the forces of darkness finally prevailed and the world of Myth became just a shambling corpse of promise. Perhaps its spirit will be reborn in an indie game sometime soon. We might never know. “After writing these last lines, I will bury this manuscript so that it may survive even if we do not,” the anonymous narrator concludes. “After all the danger we have faced, it seems ridiculous to do that only now.”
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