MythForce (Xbox Series X) Review
By Brendan Frye,2023-09-25
If someone were to ask me how to describe MythForce best, I’d say it was a PvE dungeon-crawling action-adventure trapped in a 1980s fever dream, fueled by an overdose of Filmation Saturday morning cartoons (namely He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and She-Ra ). Supporting up to four players in co-operative multiplayer, MythForce swaps out Left-4-Dead’s zombie-shooting shenanigans for medieval-style hack-n’-slash antics but retains the episodic structure and chatty protagonist banter of Valve’s classic game and also incorporates modern first-person Hero Shooter and Loot Shooter mechanics into its main gameplay loop.
Effectively, it’s a co-op roguelite by way of Overwatch , with each character possessing three unique special abilities as well as an Ultimate ability that players are not only expected to master but also synergize with those of their teammates.
Visually, MythForce is exactly the kind of mind-blowing product that the 11-year-old kid in me would have begged his parents to buy him back in the day had game consoles of the time been capable of harnessing such power. The intentionally bog-standard fantasy tale is told primarily through cutscenes reminiscent of Filmation’s trademark, jerky sub-24fps style, with minimalistic yet well-defined character and creature designs that hit me right in the nostalgia feels. Meanwhile, gameplay on Xbox Series X targets 60fps and generally achieves it, lending those same models a surreal fluidity in battle.
Players are charged with taking control of one of MythForce ’s four intrepid heroes , Victoria the Knight, Maggie the Mage, Hawkins the Hunter and Rico the Rogue, in their quest to protect the kingdom of Eldryth from the evil vampire lord, Deadalus. Among the vampire’s minions are his equally formidable lieutenants, Beastor the Beast Lord and Hexstar the Necromancer, each commanding their own fearsome armies. Naturally, our heroes will have to fight through them all to reach Deadalus’ Castle of Evil and thwart his sinister plot. All that’s missing is a line of MythForce toys and action figures.
“Visually, MythForce is exactly the kind of mind-blowing product that the 11-year-old kid in me would have begged his parents to buy him back in the day.”
The game is structured as a “nine-episode season” broken up into three chapters, with each chapter being 3 episodes long. In each episode, players will explore, loot and battle their way through each section of the dungeon, crypt, maze or other environments they are infiltrating, face off against increasingly difficult mini-bosses, and ultimately conclude each chapter with a showdown against that that chapter’s Boss, i.e. Beastor, Hexstar and Deadalus himself. It may seem like a short game, but as a roguelite, MythForce is meant to be played over and over again with friends and/or other players, even offering three “Mythic Level” Difficulties beyond Easy, Normal and Hard.
And oh yes, belying its seemingly innocuous cartoon appearance, MythForce expects you to die and retry frequently, throwing waves of minions, challenging enemy combinations and numerous traps at you that can quickly end your run early on if you’re not paying attention or aren’t using your chosen character’s abilities effectively. As long as one member of MythForce remains standing, teammates can risk reviving each other during battle or they can resurrect all fallen players simultaneously at a checkpoint, but a team wipe will send everyone back to the start of the episode, stripped of all items, enchantments and perks they’ve earned.
Regardless of whether players suffer defeat in battle or emerge victorious from a chapter, the only elements that carry over to the next mission are currencies, which are the gold, glyphs and shards that players collect from looting chests, destroying certain objects or enemies, or find occasionally lying around in the open while on missions.
These currencies can be used back at MythForce’s base of operations, The Citadel of the Sun, to improve the base the attributes of their chosen character permanently, purchase more effective weapon sets and upgrades, unlock access to higher tier perks and items during gameplay, and perhaps most importantly, increase the drop rate of said abilities and items when on the battlefield.
In other words, while players effectively start every mission from square one with respect to their level and abilities, investing currency in one’s chosen character between missions ensures that players will have a much-improved chance of crushing their foes in subsequent runs as the winds of probability begin to blow their way. That’s provided, of course, that players can survive far enough into the mission to accumulate, stack and combine the various perks, enchantments and items that they come across to augment their existing abilities and, when applicable, complement those of their teammates.
“The cartoonish, canned audio cues from some enemies often make little sense in the context in which they are being used, and they lose their charm quickly.”
Case in point, I initially chose Hawkins as my main because I dug his lone wolf-POC-archer vibe, but for several evenings, I struggled to last beyond a couple of stages with him. This was in no small part because I was collecting perks and items in the field wily-nily, without taking a minute or two to consider how those powerups best compliment Hawkins’ skills carefully. For example, Hawkins’ “Spectral Detour” ability enables him to enter the spectral realm and slip past enemies unseen temporarily. Not only is it an invaluable defensive skill to have at the ready when overwhelmed, but it also allows Hawkins to quickly close or extend the distance between himself and his foes.
However, once I came across augments for Spectral Detour that that dealt elemental damage to enemies and buffed any allies that Hawkins came into contact with while in spectral form and stacked them on top of brief weapon enchantments and buffs that took effect the moment his Spectral Detour ends, I discovered that given the right perks, Hawkins readily transforms into an offensive powerhouse. And that’s just one of his abilities. It goes without saying that each member of MythForce ’s is equally versatile.
Unfortunately, there are a few aspects of MythForce that can detract from the enjoyment considerably, the most egregious being that outside of the aforementioned glyphs, loot is not equally shared in multiplayer sessions – it’s only available on a first-come, first-serve basis. This means that if you happen to have players on your team who already know the maps inside and out and who aren’t big on either sharing or communicating, your co-op session is likely to devolve into a vexing, non-stop scramble against loot-hogs for every treasure chest, travelling merchant’s table, health restoration shrine and single gold farthing lying about the map. Here’s why that sucks.
Obviously, less access to gold, magical items and shards will limit a player’s ability to level up, purchase upgrades and increase their powers while in-game, but it also slows the progression of their chosen character’s permanent attributes since they’ll have fewer resources to invest in levelling up their attributes, perks, and item attunement (i.e. preferred item drop likelihood) back at the Citadel. Even the loot-hogs suffer, since they wind up having to carry their underpowered colleagues and often quit when the team fails. Instancing different loot for each player could have solved this problem entirely. Inviting teammates to party chat or playing exclusively with friends is highly advised.
“MythForce swaps out Left-4-Dead’s zombie-shooting shenanigans for medieval-style hack-n’-slash antics but retains the episodic structure and chatty protagonist banter of Valve’s classic game.”
Audio is another notable flaw. MythForce ’s soundscape is pancake FLAT, with no option for different surround setups. Sound effects from across a cavernous chamber (e.g. a distant flame geyser trap spewing fire) sound like they are right in front of you, and the noise of your own footsteps doesn’t seem to emanate from below or in front of you, but strangely way off to the sides instead. The cartoonish, canned audio cues from some enemies often make little sense in the context in which they are being used, and they lose their charm quickly. Worse yet, enemies sneak up on you easily because they barely make any walking noises. There’s a severe lack of proper supplementary SFX overall.
Finally, occasional, crippling online lag often hinders the fun in multiplayer. At least once or twice per online session, I experienced moments where attack animations for Hawkins’ special abilities would freeze mid-cycle and wouldn’t let me fire my arrow, even though I could still move around. Players I played with in party chat reported difficulty picking up items found in chests and complained of occasional lag when using special abilities. Hopefully, a fix for these issues is imminent.
That being said, I highly recommend that players make time to play through MythForce’ s campaign solo and at their own pace so they can catch any cutscenes or conversations that they may have skipped during multiplayer. The animated scenes are well done in their 80’s mimicry and should not be missed, and the bespoke Left 4 Dead -style banter that springs up when different characters are paired together is amusing, albeit repetitive. At one point in a multiplayer match, my Hawkins and another player’s Hawkins even started up a conversation out of the blue that ended with both of them clowning on Rico. Oh, and the MythForce intro and theme song are 80’s butt-rock FIRE.