Myth 2: Soulblighter
When Myth: The Fallen Lords came along last year, it was definitely ahead of its time. It combined a truly dynamic game engine with luscious 3Dfx visuals to provide wargaming strategists with a novel twist on a deflated genre. Oh, and it had blood - gallons of the stuff.
With the sequel, Myth 2: Soulblighter, developers Bungie Software found themselves struggling with the age-old problem: how to fix something that wasn't broken. Thankfully, a quick gander at the screenshots reveals that they appear to have found the solution. Instead of returning to the drawing board and producing a radically different game, Bungie appear to have allowed Myth 2 to become the logical evolution of its proud father, rather than a total departure from it.
Indeed, your objective remains the same: take charge of your medieval army in a brutal battle of brawn and wits against computer or human adversaries; last man standing wins. Familiarity shouldn't breed contempt though, because what's under the Myth 2 exterior has, thankfully, been vastly enhanced. You'll notice a cleaner and smoother 3D engine, courtesy of support for most next-generation 3D cards. There's improved artificial intelligence, a plethora of new and more engaging campaigns, and hordes of new enemies to massacre. You get to use a variety of sadistic weapons to blow your opponents away (messily and colourfully), and there are some gloriously meaty sound effects.
The main criticism aimed at the original Myth was that it suffered from something of an identity crisis. It pitched itself as a thinking man's game, purporting to require a degree of strategy and planning, and then it just dumped you into the middle of frenzied Cmurder, death, kill'-type situations. Many a beginner was carved up faster than a Sunday joint.
This time around though, the programmers appear keen to address this potential flaw, as a peek at their online development diary shows: We've been doing a lot of work making the game easier for novice players - things like improving the in-game interface. We've made the beginning levels easier, adding ingame hints and mission objectives. Hardened gamers need not fret, however, as the diary goes on: We're approaching level design with the goal of making the Ctimid' difficulty level a breeze, Cnormal' a breeze for the first few levels, and Clegendary', well, that - that's just legendary.
Since its released last year. Myth has gained cult status with Web-heads. That's probably due to the addictive Internet and LAN multiplayer modes. Myth 2 will offer you a similar opportunity to meet, fraternise with and slaughter human opposition, and will no doubt also gather a devout following as a result.
Work on Myth 2 continues apace Hopefully, with the enhancements in place, the game will appeal to a broader section of the gaming community, rather than just fans of the genre.
Cuh. The undead are plaguing the land again - messing up my neatly-ploughed fields, dirtying my freshly laundered washing and tearing my peaceful, god-fearing townsfolk limb from limb. It's not a particularly pretty sight either, blood and entrails sloshing down the lush green hills.
But this is what's supposed to happen - after all, it is Myth II: Soulblighter, a fantasy strategy game with knights and demons fighting it out in the name of Jesus and the Devil. It's a ruse to provoke empathy for this senseless loss of life, and a shoehorn to spur you on to greater acts of digital conquest...
What am I talking about? Yes, Myth II: Soulblighters a real-time strategy game. And a very gory one at that.
Got A Good Engine
On the face of it, Myth II seems extremely similar to Myth: The Fallen Lords - in terms of the engine, at least. And why not? We're talking 'state-of-the-art spinny-rotatey 3D engine' here, with superb physics effects that enable the blood and guts to fall realistically. So that's cool. Play the game for more than a few minutes then compare it to The Fallen Lords, however, and a number of fundamental changes come to light.
For starters, the much requested zoom in/out feature has now been implemented. And guess what. It doesn't make a blind bit of difference to the gameplay, except that it's now far easier to see around you because you can zoom further out than before. More positively, the point-and-click/drag-and-direct C&C-style control system is now as good as it could possibly be, enabling formations to be easily managed (double-click on one unit to select all the nearby units of the same kind - neat), faced and sent into battle against the undead. A more varied range of player and non-player characters also adds to the mayhem.
Although the single-player scenario is still linear by design, the individual missions vary far more than they did in the previous game, and there are also two secret levels to discover, making 26 in total. Dulcet briefings once again set the scene, and the developers have even enlisted the talents of a top Japanese Anime studio to create the rather decent cut-sequences. Once in though, the action is pretty relentless.
The first episode sees you attempting to rescue a town overrun by undead raiders. Dispatch these (not easy, as exploding Wights plague your troops with their paralysing spells) and a proper story begins to open up. Subsequent victories tell of a massive undead army raised by an evil nutter called the Soulblighter, and how you're the poor sucker who's got the task of sorting him out.
After five or six levels things really begin to hot up. There are bridges to blow up, castles to rush, prisoners to spring, knights to protect and barons to assassinate. Control occasionally switches from one group of characters to another, so that while one group works on one side of the enemy, another sneaks in behind to do them over. Some levels even open with rudimentary 'in-engine' cut-scenes showing the enemy massing before your first move. The feeling of involvement and progression in 'the bigger picture' is commendable.
Task In Hand
As with The Fallen Lords, Soulblighter is hard, even on the 'normal' skill setting. The handy tutorial helps, introducing you to new units and new 'special' attack commands (such as the archer's flaming arrow - useful for setting fire to things), but newcomers may find the going tough initially. Myth experts (like myself), on the other hand, should progress at a fairly satisfying rate, such is the addictive nature of the game. And after completing the single-player game there's a mix of multiplayer fun to had, whether it be over a network with your work mates or against Americans on Bungie's free website.
On the downside, there are still AI problems - the usual kind of thing such as units walking aimlessly into trees or shooting into middle space - but they rarely seem to get in the way of the task at hand.
It's Hot, Baby
But back to Soulblighters good points. You can't fault the graphics: rolling hills and cute little medieval villages are recreated in loving detail, with falling leaves and bouncing bunnies sprucing up the countryside, and puffing smoke and wandering villagers giving life to towns. Fog, rain and lightning effects not only look nice, but also affect how you play - especially when you try your first grenade attack in the middle of a thunderstorm. Water reflections are much better (and surprisingly realistic), and there's now far more variation in the make-up and elevation of the landscape. The much-lauded physics engine is also quite superb - limbs and blood falling realistically (obviously I've murdered enough people to corroborate that), and height advantages really counting in the heat of battle. And hot it is. If you liked the original Myth, you'll love this.
Graphically, Soulblighter is much better, and there's not much wrong with the gameplay (so long as your skills aren't compromised by the sometimes twitchy AI). There's a fine singleplayer game to get your teeth into, and an easily workable multiplayer alternative to back it up. There's even a campaign editor which enables you to make your own missions. Add all these things together and you have to conclude that Myth II: Soulblightens undoubtedly an excellent package.
Download Myth 2: Soulblighter
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
Myth 2: Soulblighter Screenshots and Media
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