June 19, 2024
Grab your cereal and tune into MythForce, a Saturday morning cartoon inspired co-op roguelite, but is it a box hit? The Finger Guns review:

MythForce promises to be akin to the beloved Saturday morning cartoons of yesteryear. However, it’s closer to being a Sunday service. You know the kind that your parents dragged you to because the local Church of England school was the only one passing Ofsted. A look into my childhood aside, MythForce is a first-person co-op roguelite that really delivers on the vibes of He-Man & The Masters Of The Universe, or closer to my heart – Thundercats.

There’s a cracking introduction in the style of a cartoon’s opening credit, overflowing with 80s camp. Topped off with an anthemic synthpop tune hammering home the title – MythForce! Still in my head. This isn’t just a catchy tune though, as it also lays out the heroes, the big bads and your mission to defeat the evil that’s plaguing the lands. It’s a pretty simple quest, with villains heavily inspired by the cartoons I’ve already mentioned. But how does the rest of the game fare in comparison? Is it an epic cartoon-inspired roguelite? Or closer to smashing action figures together? Let’s get into it.

All A Myth

You have four characters to choose from. The nimble rogue Rico, whose sword and dagger make for great one-on-one encounters as well as a bow for ranged combat. Crowd-controlling knight Victoria, an expert at Captain America-ing her shield to bonk multiple foes, taking the majority of aggro and hitting multiple targets hard with a mace. Range specialist Hawkins with a mighty and versatile bow, with the power of the spirit realm at his fingertips. And finally, the mystical Maggie, a mage whose spellcasting abilities are more about positioning on the battlefield and aiding other teammates.

It’s a nice variety that takes the common role tropes of DPS, Tank, and Support and utilises each character to kind of meld into other roles, whilst keeping the identity of a core role intact. I wish I got to experience a full team of four working harmoniously with everyone’s abilities, causing devastation out on the battlefield. However, this isn’t the case during my playthrough, as there isn’t any crossplay or a high enough player count to facilitate such a journey. I did get into a few quick matches, but if you’re ahead of people in the game you’re just going back to the start with no level.

Whilst this isn’t entirely on Beamdog, the decision for no crossplay in 2023 is baffling. MythForce and every other online co-op game lives and dies on its player base, and even at launch, I can barely feel a pulse. This even carries over into my solo-playing experience. There are some obvious picks over other heroes when going on your own.

Forcing It

I had the most fun with the rogue Rico, his agility, abilities, and mix of long-range and close-range attacks, HP and Stamina worked best for me on my lonesome. Had I been Maggie, with abilities that are inherent to lifting up a team I don’t have, I wouldn’t have fared as well as I barely did.

As this is a roguelite, there are a lot of elements through your dungeon crawling that’ll change every foray. Like games before it in the genre, you enter a room, defeat the enemies and proceed. I very quickly became in tune with the main rooms I’d be up against each run. However, the rate at which new enemy types you’ll face is quite quick. You’ll start off with basic skeletons and before long you’ll be facing archers and mages of the mushroom variety, and they were not fun guys.

On your own, it gets quite overwhelming surprisingly early into the game. I was barely into the second level (episode) before I knew I was out of my depth. There were more enemies that took longer to kill – all with a variety of attacks aimed at me. It’s clear as Maggie’s crystal ball the intention isn’t for solo play at all. I kept my lobby open in the hopes that a hero would come along, and give me the strength to carry on, but I was Mariah buried in seconds.

The other option is to repeat episodes, level yourself up and grind for the gold and glyphs to upgrade equipment. Which I probably would have done, if the in-game economy didn’t reflect 1929. Everything is a grind to purchase with your variety of wares. The amours you can buy and equip in battle disappear when you die.

Cartoon Chaos

I have a better chance on a second mortgage than upgrading my weapons, and levelling up is at a snail’s pace. The grind would definitely be less present if I didn’t have to repeat levels and could proceed through the game as normal. There are also multiple difficulties that definitely add to the replayability, but that feels a long way out as I’m treading water early on.

During the quick matches I played, I was happily greeted by a fellow Rico and a Hawkins. It’s good to see you’re not locked out of a character if you have a favourite, but composition-wise down the line, it might be better to be diverse.

I do think a lot of my complaints about MythForce’s gameplay balancing, economy and grind would easily dissipate if I wasn’t alone. The actual moment-to-moment gameplay is pretty fun. The tutorial is as simple as showing everything on screen at once, nothing to ease you in but it does mean you’re straight into the action.

You can dash in any direction that isn’t forward, block or parry incoming attacks, everyone has three base-kit abilities to squander foes with and the combat itself is enjoyable, despite being not so responsive. Hits don’t have a heft and the hitboxes of enemies are strange. I found a lot of moments where I thought I was far away enough from an incoming attack, only to be bludgeoned as if I was in arms reach.

Beyond The Panels

The stamina bar is a slight hindrance to the experience. On the battlefield I’m trying to dash about and fight the enemies, utilising all of my arsenal, but it’s not that easy. Often is the case I’m facing up against a handful, out of stamina without the ability to block or dodge as it’s all tied to the bar and I would just die from an attack or the exploding environment.

Nevertheless, there are a plethora of abilities to obtain during your run. You can either buy them at a shop in the dungeon or acquire them per room. They’re either linked to your character’s stats, giving you damage or stamina buffs, sometimes with a bit of give or take. Or for your weapon, helping you with critical hits, elemental buffs or a general damage increase.

I can imagine a team of four all with buffs and upgrades being quite a ruckus, there in lies the potential magic in MythForce. You also have a special ability that builds up through fighting that you can enable, hearing the MythForce line from the song and regenerating all your abilities, health and stamina. All of these gameplay elements are foundations of the game, that I’m sure blossom the further you go in.

Some of the mixes of upgrades and abilities per run can really be devastating and cause a ton of damage. It isn’t necessarily exhilarating combat, but there is an enjoyment factor of just going to town and watching the skeletons crumple to the floor. It feels mindlessly satisfying and scratches an itch that makes you feel like you’re progressing.

Sharp Like A Blade

Performance is plain sailing for PS5, with a consistent 60 frames, though it can dip and stutter if you’re online. This is due to the game being peer-to-peer online rather than on servers, so if the host has a bad connection, you do too. There is a strange scratchy filter over the game, which I imagine aids that cartoon aesthetic but I wasn’t able to turn it off to help give the visuals are sharper look. Characters are cel-shaded but the environments are more naturalistic. It’s not a jarring juxtaposition, though it does lack a visual flare that would make this Saturday morning cartoon pop.

There is a little bit of variety as you demolish across the 9 levels, but it is usually castle-like ruins of some sort with a variation in colour palettes. The end result is a game that is consistent visually, but there’s only so much of the same four walls before it gets lacklustre.

There is a cool feature where different characters together in a game will have different banter, there isn’t a whole variation between the quips, but it does help with the immersion. Some of the mixing in recordings isn’t great as they can sometimes be tinny or overblown. I spoke about the opening theme, but I also think the in-game ambience of synths is a pleasant touch as you dive into battle too.

That’s All Folks

Overall, MythForce has a lot of starting factors that I can see the potential of a great game. However, right now it’s doing just okay. If they enable cross-play, fix up the in-game economy and have more accessibility options, this could be something to wake up early on Saturday for. The presentation is a great draw as it nails the vibes and aesthetics of 80s cartoons, and fans of that era might find something endearing about the game.

I would highly advise playing this amongst friends if you do choose to pick it up, as there’s a lot to love when you can just have banter and not look too deep into the cracks of MythForce. It’s a competent co-op game that’ll take up a couple of evenings of your time, but as a solo-player experience, I’m not watching the reruns.

MythForce doesn’t quite entice you to tune in to next week’s episode as the game has a lot of quality-of-life issues to contend with. There’s a big emphasis on co-op with it’s balancing of mechanics and cool team compositions, without the facilities to oblige – making it a slow and painful grind if you want to get anywhere on your own. It delivers on the aesthetic it goes for and the moment-to-moment gameplay is simply fun, but it’s not quite enough to make it out of a pilot episode.

MythForce is available now for PlayStation 5 (review platform), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam.

Developer: Beamdog

Publisher: Aspyr

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

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