A new Mythology.
Since the time of its release, Myth has kept up as one of the most advanced and innovative real-time strategy games on the market, wielding some of the most impressive graphical effects that the strategy genre has ever seen. Now, about a year later, Bungie has returned with Myth II: Soulblighter, a game that is both one of the best sequels to hit the scene and one of the finest titles on the RTS market. This, my fellow gamers, is what sequels are all about.
Sixty years have passed since the first Great War against the Fallen (the original Myth), and the people have returned once again to peace and tranquility. After responding to complaints of grave robbing in a small town called Willow Creek, you must lead another struggle against the Fallen, who are now led by Soulblighter, the last of the Fallen Lords. Like the original, each mission is preceded by a diary-style monologue that reveals the plot up to that point, as well as a brief cartoon about every four missions.
Myth II does an excellent job of varying all 25 of the missions and their settings. There is a huge variety of backdrops, from the open daytime of a castle to the stormy bow of a ship to the dark depths of a haunted dungeon. Like the original, environment has a huge affect on the game. For example, rain and snow will extinguish a dwarf's explosives, and upper ground gives a huge advantage over those below. In the end, Myth II offers some of the most creative and immersive environments in the industry.
Bungie made a few important adjustments when designing the control system in the sequel, but kept the overall idea the same. As a result, fans of the original Myth should feel extremely at ease with the controls in Myth II. While the keyboard can still be used to move, rotate and zoom the camera, players can now perform these tasks using only the mouse as well. A helpful control bar at the bottom provides easy access to "commonly used features," the most important being troop formations. Movement orders can now be given at both the overhead map and the main battlefield. And lastly, the two most important changes since the original are the use of the keyboard arrows to rotate characters (replacing the damn gesture click) and the availability of clear mission objectives at any time during a mission.
Simply put, Bungie did an excellent job at reading the faults of the original by making change where change was needed and leaving the successful areas alone.
Like the controls, Bungie made a few tweaks to the game's awesome 3D engine. There are more polygons and more frames of animation, an impressive feat given the low minimum system requirements. The excellent landscape design, smooth and detailed texture maps and sweet terrain effects are all still there, but with greater variation. The terrain has many more highs and lows, meaning deeper canyons and higher plateaus. In addition, improved water, shadow, and particle-based fire effects all help lead to the overall sense of awe that you experience when playing the game.
Probably the most aggravating aspect that plagued the original Myth was the nearly inexcusable lack of unit intelligence. Dwarves were quick to throw explosives into a crowd of their own allies and archers would shoot warriors in the back. Most of these annoyances have been addressed in the sequel and, as a result, the game is much easier and more enjoyable.
One of the most stressed aspects of the original Myth was extensive multiplayer support, and the sequel is no exception. Bungie's Myth network, Bungie.net, offers unlimited free Myth and Myth II network play with a nice, user-friendly interface. Like Myth, there are a huge number of different multiplayer modes.
In the end, whether playing single player or multiplayer, Myth II offers the best real-time strategy experience in the industry. It has everything that made Myth one of the best games of last year, plus a free set of steak knives. Like Star Control 2 and Godfather II, Myth II is simply one of the best sequels ever designed.