Publisher: Flagship Studios
Developer: Flagship Studios
Release Date: TBA
I remember when I first played Fate. I thought to myself, "What a cute little Diablo clone." Then I played Dungeon Runners, and I thought, "What an great Fate clone." Now, playing the beta for Flagship Studios' upcoming Mythos, I can't help but think, "What a beautiful Dungeon Runners clone." The punchline to this little circle is that the lead developer on the Mythos project used to be the lead developer at WildTangent, the team that made Fate, and many employees at Flagship used to work for Blizzard, developers of Diablo. I don't think there could possibly have been a more incestuous arrangement behind the production of a game than there is for Mythos. It's awesome!
The basic skinny is this — Flagship is crafting together a much-anticipated A-List game called Hellgate: London. As has been widely reported, Hellgate: London will feature a hybrid "free to play online multiplayer, pay for perks" system, incidentally the exact same system Dungeon Runners uses. Flagship wanted to test out their networking infrastructure for Hellgate: London, so they came up with Mythos as a way to see if it all works. That it will probably generate at least some additional revenue is just gravy, really.
Set in the lands of Uld, the rough setting is one of rebirth. Uld was recently in the grip of a war that spanned generations, and now that it's over, the time has come to crawl out from under the ashes of that conflict and reclaim what was lost. As an adventurer, your task is to rediscover lost civilizations and treasures.
When creating avatars, you may choose from one of three races: human, satyr, or gremlin. It's all aesthetic, really. Further options include male or female, hair color, face, hair style, and skin color. Standard stuff. There are also three classes to select from — bloodletter (warrior archetype), pyromancer (fire-wizard archetype), or gadgeteer (ranged sharpshooter archetype). Now go forth and kill up some glory, adventurer!
Like all other titles in this genre, you generate experience as you kill enemies and complete quests. Experience leads to levels, and levels lead to five development points per level for your attributes and one point for your skills. These skill trees break down into three categories per class, with multiple abilities per category and several levels per skill with higher levels of a given skill being a pre-requisite for higher level abilities. I'll use my Bloodletter, Grimnebulin, as an example:
I have the Martialist, Crimsonate, and Red Hand trees to choose from. I've selected Crimsonate, which generally centers on skills that involve making the enemy bleed. I have thus far put most of my efforts into Piercing Flurry (a quick series of thrusting attacks that not only slay with speed but also increase the damage percentage I do) and Arterial Wounds (a percentage change to cause additional bleeding damage). Grimnebulin is only level five, and as soon as I've leveled up a bit and have at least six points into Crimsonate skills, I can pick up Blood Siphon, which allows me to generate health from mobs that I've made bleed. This is the basic template all three classes use, and it does seem to provide quite a good deal of room for customization. I imagine there is still a significant amount of balance left to do, though, so don't use my description here as an absolute guide or anything.
Now, Mythos may have been developed primarily as a tester for another game's hardware, but that doesn't mean there's anything done in half-measures. Graphically, this is shaping up to be a very eye-friendly release. The art direction is cartoon-like, and there is fairly strong use of bloom lighting, meaning the end result sits somewhere between World of Warcraft and Guild Wars. It also seems to have been built to perform on lower-end machines, something Blizzard is well known for and an admirable trait in design. Also, for a title built on the principles of "basic," there are hints of the kind of depth we traditionally ascribe to "real" massively multiplayer titles. For example, there is crafting, but I haven't been able to figure out how it works yet. it's quite possible that the feature hasn't been included at this time. In fact, there seems to be some pretty major changes still to come. The official web site lists Elves as one of the playable races, but somewhere along the way, they morphed into satyrs. Also, quests seem to give out at level 10; after that, it's either grind while waiting for new content or start a new character with another class.
Here's the thing: Mythos brings absolutely nothing new to the table. I don't say that scornfully, or with even a slight trace of derision. It's just the way it is. It will be free to download and play, just like Dungeon Runners. You'll pay a fee if you so choose for additional content and perks, just like Dungeon Runners, and just like Hellgate: London. It plays in exactly the same manner as Diablo, just like Fate (and every other top-down isometric action-RPG since 1997). It has a lush, over-saturated color palette, just like Warcraft III. It has an over-exaggerated artistic style, just like World of Warcraft. It uses the same basic class breakdown as Diablo, it shamelessly "borrows" the skill-tree of World of Warcraft, and it even has socketed items, just like Diablo II. In short, Mythos is an amalgamation of as many component features from prior Blizzard games (or games that themselves scam from Blizzard games) as the developers could get away with without actually getting into intellectual property battles. In my opinion, however, none of these factors can be held against it. People will be looking at Flagship as the new Blizzard, and people love Blizzard for very specific reasons, reasons that Flagship are clearly wearing on their sleeve.
The impression this beta has given me is that Mythos will be deeper than Fate, less "jokey" than Dungeon Runners, and an excellent "lite" MMoRPG. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing the finished product.
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