Myth II: Soulblighter
It's 10.00am. Chicago. We have invaded Bungie Software. No other word can really describe it. Around 20 journalists from across Europe have been invited to swarm into their offices to have a look at Myth II: Soulblighter, the sequel to Bungie's hit strategy game of last year. I say Cswarm'; Cstumble' is a more appropriate word. We're zombies. Getting us all here to Chicago has involved long flights from most of the countries in Western Europe. The Dutch girl from PC ZONE Benelux has been sitting next to a crying baby for nine hours. The red rims around her eyes tell more of a story than her words ever could. The Spanish, Italian and Swedish contingent are furiously puffing on cigarettes by the elevators, the only smoking area in the building. The French are huddled quietly in a corner keeping to themselves.
Someone in a baseball cap - we suspect he's American, and therefore our guide - suggests a tour of the office. We dutifully stagger off after him. Thankfully he starts with the kitchen area, and 20 pairs of hands are instantly scrambling for the coffee and doughnuts lying on the table. We move on, taking in such wonders as the marketing manager's desk (empty), the tech support department (empty) and the press officer's cubicle (empty). Something tells me they knew we were coming. The German trio are photographing everything in sight with an almost giddy fervour.
10.30am. The presentation proper begins with the Bungie guys giving us a demonstration of the first Myth game for those who don't know anything about it. It's obvious that they're uncomfortable with us. It's equally obvious that we're just as uncomfortable with them. The journalists are also uncomfortable with each other. But everyone's trying to be professional, despite the average age in the room being about 23.1 position myself at the back and switch on my tape recorder. 10.35am. Five minutes is apparently enough to cover Myth. We're now being told about Myth Il's exciting new features: new units, magic spells, improved graphics, ambient life, realistic fire, interior locations. Every tiny little option is being scrutinised, prodded and poked by an enthusiastic German guy and a French woman. 10.43am. The very confusing storyline is being explained. I haven't followed a word.
10.45am. The game has started reminding me of Commandos, at least in terms of the mission structure. There's now more to each new level than just killing things. One mission, for example, requires your troops to capture an enemy officer before he escapes from his mansion through a secret tunnel. Another sees you defending an ancient library while your shaman ransacks its books. Thankfully there's still loads of blood.
Game For A Laugh
10.55am. A moment of great hilarity. A dwarf blows up a chicken on-screen. This provides the Bungie guys with about five minutes of stand-up material and becomes a running joke for the rest of the day. French Woman seems worryingly obsessed with it. 11.02am. Do that in Diablo! Bungie Guy #1 is showing off the impressive new interior locations -something that was lacking in Myth 1. The improved formation handling is also being shown, along with the units' improved pathfinding ability. A line of soldiers is being rotated onscreen by using the cursor keys. It may look like Riverdance with weapons, but it seems to work pretty well.
11.12am. The context-sensitive music demo isn't working. Bungie Guy #2 is under the desk messing with wires, but it proves fruitless. In the meantime, French Woman and German Guy have started arguing about 3D accelerator cards. Things are looking grim. Bungie Guy #1 offers to hum along to the demo. We decline.
11.20am. Lots of talk about Bungie.net. The Bungie Guys are discussing how popular Internet play proved in the first game and how they want to retain that appeal here. There is talk of setting up individual online Crooms' for different countries. I look at French Woman and German Guy and can't help but feel it'll lead to war.
11.27am. German Guy suddenly makes a good point. Bungie Guy #2 was talking a lot earlier about how important the formation handling was, yet whenever he's been showing the levels to us he hasn't bothered using them, preferring the more traditional playground bundle tactic. Bungie Guy #3 explains that this is because Bungie Guy #2 is rubbish. Seems like a fair point.
11.30am. Bungie Guys explain how they've improved the combat Al to take positioning into account, meaning your units no longer wander around aimlessly looking for someone to kill, but do their best to take the landscape into account. French Woman is still obsessed with killing chickens, and whoops with delight as another one goes up in flames. From nowhere, German Guy insults the developers by claiming all Americans are fixated with hunting deer. Bungie Guy #1 just smiles politely and moves on. Plainly this isn't the way he wanted to spend his day.
11.35am. French Woman and German Guy are arguing about 3D cards again. French Woman insists that the Voodoo phenomenon is all but over. This has incensed German Guy. Order is clearly breaking down. Bungie Guy #2 is talking about the two development tools, Fear and Loathing. Both are being included with the game enabling techhead players to pretty much create the entire game themselves. Fear deals with all the small details in the game, such as unit appearance, stats and so on. Loathing takes care of the maps and Al scripting. Suddenly the front row starts applauding. No idea why, since French Woman's head is blocking the monitor as she continues to go at it with German Guy.
11.53am. Weather effects. Someone asks about snow, and Bungie Guy #1 tries - to find some. He loads a distinctly snowless desert level by mistake. French Woman exclaims with all seriousness that the snow looks great. She is clearly mad.
11.58am. Lunch approaches, so the presentation ends and the Q&A begins. As always there is an uncomfortable silence, as no one wants to go first. I try to help out by asking about the Al and whether units have any degree of self-preservation. Apparently they do indeed try to avoid enemy fire without prompting..
We discuss Bungie's continuing support for the Macintosh, their faith in their new partnership with GT Interactive, the pressures of getting the game out by Christmas, and how Eidos' Braveheart isn't really much of a competitor. French Woman has obviously cracked under the pressure and asks if you can smoke in Chicago. Bungie Guy #1 ignores her and calmly announces that it's time to eat. We all slowly file out, agreeing that on the whole it looks pretty damn good. Except for the Swede, who is complaining about his arse.
Download Myth II: Soulblighter
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Last year's awesome medieval strategy game is slated for a tune-up in this year's sequel. Look for the great 3D battles and easy interface from last time, plus indoor environments (storm the castle--then inhabit it), more working models of objects like drawbridges and windmills, better A.I., colored lighting, more detail in the terrain, 3D fire that damages what it touches, and ambient life such as birds and squirrels (which you sickos can destroy if you wish). Network and Internet play have been enhanced as well, with new games like Assassin and the intriguingly named Choke the Chicken. The Mythology continues in time for the holidays.
Bungie's sequel to Myth: The Fallen Lords is close to fruition, and based on the incomplete beta we played, things are looking quite promising. The familiar top-down view is back, along with the rotating 360-degree camera. Bungie also threw in ambient life (such as squirrels and chickens), new characters, more realistic terrain (including building interiors), and other gameplay goodies. Magic, for instance, has been substantially tweaked: In the original, the number of spells available to units was limited, but Myth II's spellcasters will have a blue mana bar over their heads that depletes with each spell, but replenishes overtime. For the squeamish, there's also an option to turn off the blood factor (but what fun is that?). Multiplay over Bungie.net will be supported, and plans to include a map editor are being implemented. Can Bungie rock the real-time strategy world twice in a row? Find out around Thanksgiving.
SOULBLIGHTER SEEKS REVENGE in Myth II, a strategic sequel that outdoes its predecessor at every turn.
Graphically, Myth IPs environments outdo Myth's with the inclusion of buildings, structures, and sweeping 3D fire that toasts your enemies. The well-designed polygonal characters maintain the same stunning realism from the previous game, while a new Command & Conquer-style health meter lets you instantly view their status.
Myth 2's sound, however, is a mixed bag. The characters' voices lend them personality and the in-game effects and crisp ambient sounds are excellent, but there's no music during battle. What gives?
The game's best improvement is its interface. Bungie (the developer) delegated more command to the mouse by including a control bar, which makes most options just a click away. Leaving no town unpillaged, it also expanded the game's multiplayer options, featuring new scenarios and improved performance on Bungie's free online service. Unfortunately, though, Myth II's single-player game is lacking: Why isn't there an Undead campaign?
Myth 2's simpler controls, helpful tutorial, and difficulty adjustment setting make it very user-friendly for such a complicated title. Still, the easily frustrated should beware--Myth II is definitely a difficult game to master. Fans of the franchise and most real-time strategy buffs, however, will love this vastly improved sequel.
- Keep your bowmen and dwarves spread out in a loose line so they have a dear path to the enemy.
- Keep injured warriors out of the fray so they live to fight again-experienced characters are smarter and stronger.
- In "Down the Broken Path," march toward each contingent of the undead, or they'll flank and converge on you.
- Spend a good amount of time with the tutorial program to brush up on the art of war.