Friday, April 19, 2024

Mythforce Is A Gorgeous But Repetitive Quest Through An 80s Cartoon

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Coming to us from Beamdog and Aspyr is Mythforce, the action roguelike inspired by Saturday morning cartoons from the 80s! Challenge evil with four different characters from the hero team Mythforce. 

Premise

Inspired by the likes of Thundercats and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Mythforce throws players into a world of swords and sorcery, where the four heroes of the titular Mythforce work together to defeat the vampire lord Deadalus and his foul minions. You’ll venture through nine episodes in the ever changing Castle of Evil, by yourself or with friends, on the quest to save your kingdom.

As with Days of Doom last time, we have a roguelike where the story is more or less confined to the setup. There is more in the way of character with Mythforce than there was with Days of Doom, both from the player characters and from the bosses, but there’s not much in the way of story. Again, this is a game carried by the gameplay.

Gameplay

Before we get into this I will say that I have only played Mythforce in single player. Some of my gameplay frustrations may be alleviated in a multiplayer run, however I would argue that any game with a single player option should feel manageable in single player, as exemplified by Borderlands.

Mythforce’s gameplay follows the ‘easy to learn, hard to master’ formula. You have four characters to choose from. Victoria, the knight, the easiest to manage, a tanky warrior with a shield and a mace. Rico, the rogue, who moves faster with his lighter blade. Hawkins, the hunter, your archer archetype. And Maggie, your mage, the typical squishy wizard and the hardest to manage on a single player run. 

Mythforce team

As you progress through the dungeons you’ll find power-ups that give boosts to either your character or their weapons, ones that will persist through your run but be lost if you die. There is also a home base, a place to spend the lingering special currency you find on your runs that allow you to upgrade the power-ups, as well as upgrade your basic weapons. Thus each subsequent run gets a little easier, and you go in a little more prepared.

However, combat is complicated by a stamina meter. Every time you use your primary weapon, or block an attack, you lose a bit of stamina and have to wait for it to refill. This ups the difficulty…but feels cheap, a way to artificially pad out the time you spend on each encounter. Each character has skills, which don’t use stamina but which do have a cooldown timer. The intention, I’m sure, is to require the player to think through each encounter, to time things properly, to upgrade those abilities as well as their health bars and/or weapons. In practice, however, it means being forced to back off of a boss and let it heal while you wait for your stamina and cooldowns to resolve, it means that some part of most encounters must be spent hiding and waiting for your ability to attack to come back. And the fact that in an action roguelike, you will spend some of your time unable to do even a basic attack, is…frustrating. 

Mythforce HUD

Ultimately, however, Mythforce’s biggest flaw is its rather repetitive primary gameplay loop. It is a string of long, procedurally generated arenas, all laid out in a basic corridor, and each begins to feel more or less the same after a while. The occasional treasure or merchant room can’t make up for the fact that, after a while, combat just begins to drag. 

Again, this might be an issue that is alleviated when playing with friends (though it should be noted that other players I’ve seen have complained about the multiplayer connections not being the best or most stable) but I suspect that, at most, that makes the loop hold you a few more rounds, not all the way to completion. However, I will also concede that this is subjective, and others may find more enjoyment in the primary loop than I did.

Aesthetics

Graphically, Mythforce is an absolute feast. It perfectly captures the somewhat sketchy, somewhat scratchy and janky, hand drawn aesthetics of the cartoons it draws inspiration from. Genuinely, this is one of the most visually distinctive and pleasing games I have played in a while, and I enjoyed every bit of it.

Mythforce aesthetic

In addition, the character designs are solid. I always know what I’m fighting, and when the enemies follow the Koopa model of just being variations on a few root designs, that is very important. While the first person view lessens the impact in single player, I quite liked the designs of the player characters as well as that of the distinctive bosses, especially the lieutenants of the main villain.

In terms of audio, things are more rote, less standout than the visuals, but still solid. The inspiration is still clear, and things are still conveyed neatly and cleanly. Everything about Mythforce’s aesthetics is a treat, provided you enjoy the specific era it’s trying to emulate.

Final Thoughts

Mythforce is a functional and very pretty game. It knows the aesthetic and vibes it wants to capture and it nails them. At the same time, it’s not something that I personally can play for hours on end. It was something I played a bit of, that I’d then leave behind for something else for the rest of my day, only returning the next day. 

Whether or not that’s a deal breaker is up to you of course. There is definitely a place for a game you take small bites of rather than binging your way through. And others may enjoy getting lost in the repetitive but hectic combat system. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t for me.

If you think it might be for you though, Mythforce can be found on Steam, Xbox, PS4 and PS5, and Nintendo Switch for $29.99.

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Summary
Mythforce is a gorgeous throwback to the golden age of Saturday Morning Cartoons, with solid but repetitive combat and some frustrating mechanics. Players looking for something constantly engaging may be disappointed, while those hoping to get caught in a gameplay loop may be rewarded.
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Images courtesy of Beamdog and Aspyr

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