Difficult and bloody as hell
Myth: the Fallen Lords
is one of the most impressive looking strategy games to hit the market. Looks, however, can only go so far, since this isn't Hollywood. After a short time playing, the player will soon uncover the extreme level of difficulty that plagues the entire game, leaving many (including me) occasionally cursing in frustration.
Basically, Myth uses the classic clash between good and evil, life and death theme. Using a poetic tone, the progress of this historic war for mankind is given to us through a number of journal entries, narrated before each battle, and cutscene, cartoon animations that precede (about) every third mission. The game's progress is marked as the player slowly makes his/her way across the map, protecting cities, escorting people, eliminating major enemy structures and saving people on the way. While each mission has its own individual goal, the overall idea present throughout the entire game is very much apparent: kill the enemy. In other words, there is no building, no structures to be upgraded, no wizards to be trained; the player is given only certain units for each mission, nothing more can be done. This is pure tactics, without the resource management common to other strategy games.
There are an average number of characters, both good and evil, present throughout the game, each with their own special attributes. The light side can equip warriors, journeymen (healers), fir'Bolg (arrows), Berserks (excellent fighters), and Dwarves (grenades). With similar qualities, the evil side can arm thralls (unintelligent skeletons with axes), Trows (bigger, better fighters), Myrmidons (throw knives), Ghols (good fighters), and Soulless (throws spears).
Myth utilizes some of the best graphics in the strategy genre today. While all objects throughout the game are the standard 2d sprites, the 3d engine creates great looking landscapes, and with the use of 3d acceleration, they are simply spectacular. The player will experience different types of weather effects as well: sunny days, rain and even snow. There are also a variety of different terrains, ranging from forests, to snow and deserts. Unlike many real-time strategy games, the player has the option to rotate the camera in any direction as well as zooming in and out. More appealing to the stomach, blood and body parts never leave the ground. This means all the blood, arms, legs and guts that are "strewn about" in the heat of battle will stay... for the rest of the level.
Along with awesome graphics, Myth's incredible realism will keep it above all the other mediocre strategies out there. The weather, for example, is not only pleasing to the eye, but will put out your dwarves' grenades. Also, like modern battle, crossing waterways or fighting lower ground is an extreme disadvantage. Positioning is a KEY element that can decide victory or defeat.
Realism has its downfalls, however. Friendly fire is a HUGE problem. Dwarves can be known to wipe out enormous chunks of your formations, both friends and enemies. Most importantly, the game is extremely difficult. Those with lesser skills in the strategy area might want to overlook this one, or many-a-headache awaits. There are a couple obvious reasons that can attribute to this difficulty. First off, in almost every battle, the player is noticeably outnumbered. The computer also has superior unit intelligence compared to your units, knowing when to attack, when to retreat etc. Lastly, your units can be frustratingly stupid-- especially when it comes to friendly fire.
However, those who play only for the single player aspect really miss out. Bungie
has set up an awesome and free Myth multi-player network. TCP/IP, Appletalk and TEN are all
supported an there are a variety of different types of
network games: King of the Hill, Steal the Bacon, Balls on Parade (each team
has balls, capture the balls), Flag Rally, Territories, Scavenger Hunt, and
Captures. Players have the option of organizing into teams, or playing every
man to themselves. In the case of teams, the team captain assigns each
player his/her units. In each person for themselves, each player
is given a certain number of points, which he must distribute among
different units (i.e. a Dwarf is worth 2 points, a warrior with 4 etc.)
Network play should keep most gamers with descent skills and a good internet
connection satisfied for along time.
The actual playing of Myth itself is similar to the unnecessarily large group of strategy games available today, but it does have something to add to the genre. The selecting, grouping, moving and attacking of units now seems pretty standard. There are, however, some new innovations. Selecting one group of units as well as selecting all units is made easy by simply double clicking on that type. There are a total of ten battle formations (variations of a standard line, rabble, deep and shallow encirclement, vanguard/wedge, and a circle) to organize units, along with commands like scatter, guard, attack and retreat. Then there is the "gesture-click" (which I personally despise), a difficult move involving flicking the mouse in a direction, which indicates the direction with which you want your group to line up.
Myth is a great game to look at. After beating the first couple of levels, the enjoyment could quickly turn to nausea as try after try fails to pass one single level. The graphics and realism are breathtaking, if only the single player game wasn't so difficult! Experienced gamers will certainly get their money's worth out of this one, but novices should run screaming. If you are into (and good at) real-time strategy games, definitely look into Myth.