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Yellow Fade
Myth II: Soulblighter
  4.5 stars

January 4, 1999
by Trevor Covert

SRP: $49.95       iconBuy now from Cyberian Outpost ($39.95)
Bungie
Myth II
Download Demo (40MB)

System Requirements: 100 MHz PowerPC (120+ MHz recommended), System 7.5 or later, 32 MB RAM, 4x CD-ROM drive, approximately 100 MB hard drive space for small install (default) or 500 MB for large install

Pros: excellent, progressive storyline; outstanding graphics and gameplay; well-implemented multiplayer games; unprecedented realism
Cons: none significant (some initial release bugs)

    "Vnarin, son of Snorro, best explained the character of the men of the elite mortar brigade when he said, îIt takes a certain kind of maniac to carry fire in his fist and death on his back." -Felling, Dwarven Mortar from Myth II: Soulblighter

    It also takes a certain kind of company to redefine a game genre, and that is just what Bungie Software has done -- again. After releasing their award-winning strategy game Myth: The Fallen Lords in November of 1997, Bungie has come back with a sequel that will be sure to please even the casual gamer. Myth II: Soulblighter builds on the standard that Bungie has set, and raises the bar for the industry to follow. Prepare to be blown away (literally) by this exciting game that is, without question, one of the most innovative of the year.

In The Beginning

    The story line in Myth II starts 60 years after the Great War. Alric rules the rebuilt city of Madrigal, and there is general peace throughout the land. However, as you might have guessed, chaos is once again lurking on the horizon, this time in the form of the awesome Soulblighter. It's your job to lead your troops through tunnels, over bridges, and across many hills to defeat Soulblighter and his minions.

click to enlarge    Defeating this monster is no easy feat; you'll need to learn how to manage your troops before you can begin your twenty-four level campaign. The tutorial is a good place to start. The tutor will introduce you to camera angles, movement, formations, attacks, and the use of special abilities. After you complete the lessons, you get a chance to play around with a handful of units; exploring the map and learning the strengths and weaknesses of each character's weapons. While the tutorial shows you the basics, you'll only learn real battle tactics with experience. You won't know to stop a dwarf from throwing a cocktail amongst your attacking warriors until it happens to you. The sound of the narrator declaring "Casualties" will echo in your mind the next time the situation arises.

Understand the Interface

    Myth II offers a comprehensive interface and controls are easy to use. Movement is as simple as clicking on your destination and attacking is as simple as clicking on the enemy. Formations are used with either a key of 0-9, or using the helpful control bar located at the bottom of the screen. The control bar has a number of other functions as well; buttons are included for stop, hold, scatter, retreat, and special. A similiar status bar is shown at the top that shows various information such as units selected, number of kills a particular unit has, veteran status, and number of items available to a unit. There is also a button that brings up a window containing general tips and mission objectives. Both bars can be shown and hidden using F6 and Shift-F6 within any game. If you're the forgetful type, Bungie provides a quick reference card in the box that lists every default keyboard command available.

click to enlarge    The overhead map warns you of enemy units (shown in red) and will help you keep track of your own units (shown in green). The yellow trapezoid in the overhead map shows you where your current field of view is and an arrow shows you which direction you are facing. The overhead map can easily be turned off using the Tab key, which can add a unique challenge to a game if you find it too easy. Of course, there are five difficulty settings that range from Timid to Legendary; the easiest three are very completable by a new player while the Heroic and Legendary settings will often take a veteran to conquer. A great new feature for new players is the half speed option available in single player levels, where you can slow the speed of the game to give you time to move your units during chaotic battles. Myth II is also fine for younger players with concerned parents, as Bungie has added a no blood option. Instead of seeing body parts and blood flying across your screen, they are replaced by armor and stars, respectively. The option is lockable with a password so parents can keep the setting intact.

    Just short of becoming a pile of body parts, your units will become injured in battle. They won't pant or cry out when they're close to folding over, so just hover your mouse over a unit to see their health which is shown as a vertical bar alongside the unit. Also, for units that possess magic, a blue mana bar shows how much you have available. Your mana is constantly regenerating at a fairly quick pace, but you do need to have mana available to use a spell or weapon, which keeps things balanced. If you click and hold on a unit or group of units, you'll notice a yellow arrow that pops up. This lets you easily tell the unit which directiuon to face. After all, your army can't fight unless they can see what they're about to slaughter.

Details, Details, Details

click to enlarge    Myth II: Soulblighter immerses you in an environment that is enjoyable and believeable with both obvious and subtle details. The terrain is absolutely stunning, where you can see every gradient in a slope, every reflection in the water, and every shadow on the ground. Windmills, village huts, wildlife, and waterfalls add to both the realism of the game and the enjoyment that great graphics provide. The scenery is not only great-looking, but is a tool that you must use and be aware of to be successful in battle. For instance, a dwarf can achieve a greater throwing range if he's standing up on top of a hill. On the other hand, if there is snow on the ground, that dwarf's molatov cocktails will have trouble exploding before they're put out by the moisture of the snow. Weather conditions also affect archer arrows, which are far less accurate when the wind picks up. The terrain can also be used as an ambush tactic; certain units can be hidden in swamps and rivers and catch an unsuspecting melee off guard. Of course, the terrain looks best with 3D acceleration and Myth II supporting both Voodoo and RAVE based solutions. One benefit that can only be used with a 3D card is 3D fog, which looks absolutely stunning. Otherwise, software rendering is very playable, albeit with slightly watered down graphics.

    Units are also extremely well-detailed. Each unit has a name and a short story behind it, both of which can be seen in the status bar at the top of the screen. You can change the name of any of your units, so instead of Balin the Great going on the suicide mission, it's your boss from work! Units are also visually appealing, with such subtle things as a wight surrounded by disgusting little flies wherever they go. Each unit also has a taunt which can be both amusing and annoying. Don't let those ghols intimidate your dwarf! Make your dwarves' molotov cocktails fly when a ghol comes near, because each kill for any unit contributes to their speed and accuracy. Arrows will hit more targets as archers gain experience and bezerks will swing their swords faster as well. These subtle details liven the gameplay and add a new dimension to battle tactics. îHero' units also add a different perspective to the game, with each one being able to endure greater damage and unleash their attack faster and with greater range.

click to enlarge    Bungie really spared no expense in the development of Myth II. One of the reasons that they could complete the project in eight months was that they had two seperate companies do their animated cutscenes and sound and music. Anime International Company, of Tokyo, Japan, a leader in anime-style animated cartoons and movies, was hired to do the cutscenes for Myth II: Soulbighter, and the result was absolutely amazing. The scenes are well-displayed and help draw the player into the story and all of its drama, although it would've been nice to have had more than a handful of them. Some pieces of the introduction movie could have been more detailed, but overall the quality is outstanding. The music and sound in the game, done by Total Audio, is equally well done and professional. Everything from the snort of the pigs to the cries of the villagers was very well presented. The voice acting was the best I have ever heard in a game of any genre, and really enhances the suspense of the plot. The sound in Myth II is one of the subtle quality marks of the game that add to its appeal.

Let's Go Global

    Granted, Myth II has some great single player levels, but the true fun only begins when you go up against friends and foes from around the world. Look no farther than Bungie's own free Bungie.net service (TCP/IP and AppleTalk games are also supported). It's very simple to use; fill out a short form on the website to get a login and password and then enter that information in the multiplayer Bungie.net screen. You now have access to players from around the world to play with, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

click to enlarge    Bungie.net consists of about 24 rooms seperated into two different types: ranked and unranked. In ranked mode, statistics such as damage inflicted, damage received, and place (1st, 2nd, 3rd) are recorded in each game you play and tallied into your totals. Your comparative rank is displayed in a caste system, where you start out as a single dagger and build up wins to eventually become an emperor. In unranked mode, no game records are kept and no ranks are displayed. Also, you can work on single player levels cooperatively with a number of other players. Rank statistics are listed for any other player to see; whether you're in a game or not. Besides your gaming performance, the statistics screen also has areas for city, state, and a quote from you. These are all optional for you to fill in, but it can be used as an intimidation tactic. After all, you're going to need all the help you can get going up against some of the best gamer's in the world. Up to 16 players in a game are supported (which actually works, unlike Myth I's 13 player limit).

    Bungie.net for Myth II offers an intuitive interface and has been greatly enhanced from the Bungie.net of Myth I. Games on the right show various options selected for that particular game, as well as a ping, which tells you how fast that host can send packets to your location (lower pings mean less "lag", or stalling of a game). Players with 28.8 modems can play a game on Bungie.net reliably and will have a very enjoyable experience. In fact, most players on Bungie.net are normal modem users and not only join games but host them as well! For games with more than 5-6 players, a host with a high speed connection is recommended. Bungie has learned from the known tricks of Myth I and put in safeguards against cheating on Bungie.net: four players must join a ranked game and press ready before it can begin, points are only given to players who master a wide variety of maps and games, and volunteer administrators are in place to keep order on the service. Support for orders, or formal teams of players, has been built into the service so it can track the performance of orders and give them rank accordingly. All registered members of your order are listed in the Order tab, and you can set up to eight buddies to be listed in your Buddy tab. This allows you to easily find and go to a player anywhere on Bungie.net; a process that used to involve jumping from room to room in a frenzied search.

    Once you have joined a game and it begins, there are several differences from single player game that are immediately apparent. First, in most games, a window will immediately appear at the top of your screen that allows you to choose which units you'd like to use for that game. Each team or player is given the same amount of points to use in choosing a suitable army, so the game remains balanced regardless of past experience. Messages can be whispered to teammates, or yelled to everyone in the game. The captain of the team begins with all of the units and disperses them to his team members. The overhead map includeds a pencil and eraser tool, so the captain can illustrate plans of attack for your teammates. Be sure to listen to what your captain tells you to do or your whole team could suffer from your mistakes.

    The multiplayer maps and games offered in Myth II: Soulblighter are varied and offer opportunities for numerous different battle tactics. With 20 different multiplayer maps and up to 13 games available for each map, the game will remain exciting for months on end. Also, Myth II ships with map and tag editors, called Fear and Loathing, so 3rd party individuals can make additional maps and units and share them freely with the Myth community. Additionally, Bungie itself will be releasing additional maps from their web site for free download, so there will be no shortage of new Myth experiences.

    After a game has ended, detailed statistics are shown for each player or team. A films of any game can be saved for later viewing, which is an excellent feature that allows you to study losses for mistakes or share your triumphs with friends across the înet. Films are extremely small in size and viewable on both Mac and Windows machines, which makes them perfect for sharing over the 'net.

The verdict

    Myth II: Soulblighter is a legendary accomplishment and a step forward for the entire game industry to follow. Bungie has once again blown life into a genre becoming increasingly repetitive, and this is one game that is arguably the most innovative of all time. Myth II is a sure fire winner that will delight players for years to come. tr


Download Saved Games
Level 2 - Salvation
Level 3 - Down a Broken Path
Level 4 - Into The Breach
Level 5 - The Baron
Level 6 - Gonen's Bridge
Level 7 - Beyond the Cloudspine
Level 8 - The Great Library
Level 9 - Gate of Storms
Level 10 - Landing at White Falls
Level 11 - Through the Ermine
Level 12 - The Stair of Grief
Level 13 - The Deceiver
Level 14 - With Friends Like These
Level 15 - Walls of Muirthemne
Level 16 - The Ibis Crown
Level 17 - Redemption
Level 18 - Relic
Level 19 - The Summoner
Level 20 - A Murder of Crows
Level 21 - The Wall
Level 22 - Shiver
Level 23 - Twice Born
Level 24 - The Forge
How To Access The Secret Levels

We won't provide these levels for you to download (that would take the fun out of finding them), but we will tell you how to get to them.

Level 3.5 - A Long Awaited Drinking Party
   When you are almost at the gate at the end of Level 3 (Down a Broken Path), split your units up into two groups, the archers and dwarves in one and the warriors in the other. When the gates open, rush your archers and dwarves in. Rurik follows the warriors, so he'll stay put outside the gate. Once you have your archers inside the gate, have the warriors enter. Right as Rurik steps inside the gate, have your archers shoot him. This must be done right as he walks in; if he takes another step you will end the level normally. You will then be taken to an... interesting... three picture cut scene. You will receive new units in Level 3.5, Poachers who are armed with old muskets. Their job? Kill all the deer. But watch out, these aren't normal deer...

Level 20.5 - Limbs, Heads and Smoking Craters
    After Soulblighter has flown away at the end of Level 20 (A Murder of Crows), exit the level to the north east instead of the south east. You will be taken to this... explosive... level.