Saturday, September 19, 2009

Myth III: The Wolf Age review.

Name: Myth III: The Wolf Age
System/s: Mac/PC
Developers: MumboJumbo
Release Date: 10/30/01

It's no secret that I love the Myth series of games, as I own every game in the series, including the Worlds edition of Myth 2, and the offshoot, Green Berets. Myth III is kind of an odd duck here as I've owned it for a while, but never played through it all the way, that is until now.

Myth III is generally regarded as 'pretty bad' be most of the myth community, and most constantly talk about how it sucks. (One sad thing to note, is that most of these people haven't played the game/given it a chance. Not all though) That was my impression upon playing the demo for the first time when it was released, and not touching it again until a few years ago, when I got back into Myth and snatched it up off ebay. I started to play it, and really liked it a lot, but technical difficulties prevented me from finishing it on that playthrough leaving me maybe a third through the game.

The back-story behind Myth III's development is what happens when you take a copy not caring about the source material and mix it with some of the most hardcore modders in the community, then chop the end off the development time.

Myth III takes place 1000 years before Myth: The Fallen Lords, and focuses around explaining some of the unexplained history behind Myth and Myth II. The main character is a barbarian named Connacht who is the first man to lead a successful defense against the monsters known as Myrkridia.

The story really shines in some parts, and falls flat on it's face in others, with plot elements being ludicrous, and very much reeking of plot devices. The whole story feels a bit like a high budget tribute to the older Myth games than a whole new game itself. A lot of lines and narration in the game is quite cheesy, especially compared to the previous games.

While the plot has it's ups and downs it manages to be worth while to finnish at least once, though the ending is perhaps the lowest point of the story. The rest of the story, depending on your point of view, can close some gaps and fill in the holes remaining from the other games.

Along with the story is the voice acting which ranges from above average to quite bad. Some of the voice actors are quite competent, but none of them really give off the unique sound that the voice actors from the previous games did, and come off as, at best, pretty generic. The voice acting isn't helped by bad writing for the in game dialog and lousy voice direction.

The music for Myth III is interesting, it's a very different style then Myth or Myth II feeling more cinematic. While the music does feel atmospheric, it is in a different way then the previous games. The music itself is pretty good, though suffers from not enough creativity, and the songs are repeated a lot with little variation. While the music isn't live-recorded music, it's pretty high quality and could pass for movie music.

The graphics of Myth III are perhaps one of the most updated parts of the game, with fully 3D units, projectiles and more, with dynamic lighting detailed textures for the ground, trees swaying in the wind and reacting to explosions, grass not just being a blanket, and water with waves being much more complex.

The units are a hit and miss, some look great, others look downright bad, with square heads, and ugly faces. In general, most of the units are great, though a bit low polygon for today's RTSes. I think the main problem is the art direction which feels a lot more bland compared to the earlier games in the series. The animations for the units are also hit and miss with some being great and others feeling like filler animations, such as the trow kick.

The gameplay of this will look quite like Myth II at first glance, but when you actually get down to playing it, it feels quite different. In some levels it feels better, with more of an adventure feel to it, but being an RTS, most of the combat parts feel far too simple and bland. The enemies move too fast most of the time to use your long range units, so it often boils down to just charging in with your melee units. In general, the gameplay feels just a bit "Off" to those who have played the other games in the series.

Another strange thing about Myth III is the difficulty being extremely difficult due to aforementioned lack of being able to easily use all your units, leaving you dead in most conflicts unless you are lucky on even the normal difficulty. The game only has three difficulties, Timid, Normal and Legendary. Normal is hard enough to be labeled hard to most casual players, making it feel pointless to be called "Normal"

Since the game is so hard, you will be saving all the time, which is very annoying for anyone playing coop, (online coop doesn't have any saving system). There were a few points in the game which had insta-death parts that I couldn't have known about until I died from it once, which isn't a very nice move, especially when in coop, where you would need to start the level from scratch.

The level design is quite different from the earlier games in the series, often feeling like they lack the charm of Bungie's levels, being simpler and not as memorable. However, Myth III's indoor environments trump anything possible in Myth or Myth II, with high detail and polygon environmental models and brilliantly done levels with great ground textures.

All in all there are some great levels in Myth III, taking cue from the more popular plugins for Myth and Myth II. As well as units to go along with them.

In the end as a Myth player, I believe Myth III is worth you time for a playthrough and maybe even two, depending on how much you like it. I stand by what I said before. Myth III feels like a book to move adaption of a game, some things were done right, some things were done horribly wrong, but it's great to see everything come alive.

What I liked:

Story: While it was not all good, I certainly was interested on seeing where they went with it, and I had fun while it lasted.

Music: I did like the music, and it grew on me more playing through the game, thumbs up here.

Graphics: Say what you will, I liked the graphics, even if the models were a bit low poly, the whole thing brings the Myth engine into new realms of possibility in terms of what you could make, but the atmosphere you could create.

Art Style: Not everywhere, as I stated before, I didn't like all of it, but the world map and some of the drawings are quite pretty in this.

New ideas/gameplay mechanics: While most of the time, Myth III stays being just like Myth and Myth II in gameplay mechanics, it does mix it up on a few levels, breathing some new life into the campaign, I liked this a lot.

Some nice small things: There were some great small interface or gameplay tweaks that I really liked. Having a formation bar was one of them.

What I didn't like:

Story: While a lot of it was good, some of it sounded like fanfic by a young kid, not fully caring about, or understanding the story. I almost face-palmed a few times.

Difficulty: I am not sure the intent, but this game has a far too hard normal difficulty, I assume Legendary is just ridiculous, and probably isn't much fun.

Voice Acting: Man, some of the voice acting in this was cringe worthy, Archers and dwarfs especially.

Glitches: While the updates fixed a lot of glitches, this game still has quite a few left over... One can only more more updates are somewhere in the future.

Rock Paper... what?: Myth was based on the concept of Rock-Paper-Scissors. Archers kill Dwarves, Dwarves kill Melee, Melee kills archers. Myth III seems to have forgotten this.

Not enough looked into: I feel a lot of things they could have gone into about the past of this world were not explored, instead focusing on lesser known of things a lot of the time.

Not enough of a reunion tour: While some would consider this a plus, Myth III doesn't revisit just about any locations from Myth or Myth II, making it almost feel like a different world all together.

I wasn't done yet?: Often times levels will end with you still fighting giving you a sense of unaccomplishment.

Ending: Bleah. Most of the ending felt thrown together at the last moment, with a badly done final level, with scripting glitches.

Plugins?: For some reason Myth III automatically enables all plugins that are in, and lists them in the map list, making it too easy to accidentally kick people for not having the same plugin, when you don't even realize you are using one. This also makes it have a loading time at start up.

Art Style: While some of it is good, in general, the game feels a lot more 'generic western fantasy' then the original games.

Gameplay?: Somehow Mumbo Jumbo ported the gameplay, but made it feel 'off'. There's just something about it that doesn't sit right.

Overall Scores:

Presentation - 8.5/10: This feels like a whole new game, which it should, and pushes the Myth engine in good ways, along with some good music, and average narration.

Graphics - 9/10: While the artstyle is a bit bland, and the units are low polygon, the overall graphics look great, big thumbs up.

Sound - 7/10: Good music, but coupled with average to horrid voice acting.

Gameplay - 6/10: While it's partially the same myth gameplay, the balance between units and pacing all suffer making this feel a lot more generic.

Lasting appeal - 6/10: While it's good for a playthrough or two, and contains the same 2-16 player LAN of Myth and Myth II, the multiplayer isn't as well done as Myth II.

Overall Fun - 7.5: I definitely had fun with this and can see myself going back to play it later down the line. Sure there are problems with this game, but it's also worth the time to play through and a good game it it's own ways.

Review by Jon God, Saturday September 19th, 2009, 3:49AM.

P.S. Keep your eye out for DarthRevan555's Myth III -> Myth II port, coming sometime in the future.

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