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game: Mythica
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
date posted: 12:00 AM Thu Jun 5th, 2003
last revision: 12:00 AM Thu Jun 5th, 2003

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By Todd Allen

Searching for a new angle in the crowded online RPG market, Microsoft has decided to appeal to our huge egos with the Norse god-game, Mythica. Take your vitamins, say your prayers, kick some butt and at the end of the day you just might elbow Thor out of the spotlight. Think it's awkward for a celebrity to get mobbed by fans when they go to the grocery store? Wait till you walk into town to do some business and find 50 NPCs (non player characters) bowing down to you. Talk about an ego trip.

As mentioned before, Mythica is set against a backdrop of Norse mythology. Players take up the mantel of a fallen hero. At this point you are an immortal, but not quite god material?yet. First you have to prove that you have some serious clout as well as the support of a great many mortals. The gods give you plenty of opportunities to show your stuff, though. The land is being threatened by the Fire Giants, a potent force of evil giving the gods a run for their money. Naturally with their invasion all heck is breaking loose and someone needs to protect the poor mortals from being annihilated. Time to go to work.

Perhaps one of Mythica's most unique attributes is the way you build your character. Much of your avatar's identity has to do with which group of mortals he or she decides to watch over. Say for instance that you want to help out the Dwarves. As you continue to protect and aid the Dwarves, they look to you as their patron. Once this happens you have the ability to begin molding your character in the image of his or her Dwarf followers. You may begin by changing small physical characteristics here and there until eventually you end up looking like a full-fledged Dwarf. Interestingly, developers hinted at your ability to aid more than one group and taking on a more hybrid appearance. Of course this would only be possible with two races that get along with each other. This in conjunction with the class you choose will basically decide your career. Mythica will offer several classes to select, from mages to the berserker, a warrior who wears no armor and relies on glowing tattoos for power and protection.

Mythica ties your eventual goal of godhood to your desire to aid mortals through the worship system. Once you start helping people out they attribute loyalty to you in the form of worship. Now each race is tied to a certain type of energy, namely dark, light, physical, etc. The more worship you attain from that race, the more deeply you can draw from those pools of energy in order to utilize spells and various skills. While it's possible to be proficient in more than one type of energy, by helping more than one race, you are not able to become proficient with energy types that oppose each other such as light and dark.

Another aspect of Mythica's gameplay is the use of "playscapes." Many know this by its more common term, instancing. This represents a new trend in massively multiplayer realm. Often people complain about not being able to finish a quest or recover a piece of treasure because there's a line of people waiting for the same item, or "camping." To combat this some games are separating crucial areas and quests from the main public areas. Basically you and your friends will be able to play through a quest by yourselves without having to wait in line or compete for kills. Mythica is taking this a step further with playscapes. There will be a large public area containing numerous settlements of the mortal races along with lots of monsters to fight, quests, and territory to explore. Several sections of the game have been cordoned off, though. These areas represent rites of passage for you and your friends that will test your strength and determine what kind of god you'll become. Automatically this should tell you that there is often more than one way to complete a playscape. To compliment their flexible nature, much of the environment within is destructible--sweet.

Teamwork is getting an awesome twist in the world of Mythica. At the E3 demo we were shown a group containing a Firemage, a ranger-like Huntress. The Huntress was able to use an invisibility skill to sneak into enemy camp to mark important units and structures. At a safe distance the Firemage saw the marks show up on her screen and launched some serious heat, throwing the camp into bedlam. Then she proceeded to use a catapult, one of the several pieces of siege weaponry available, to further pound the opposition. I was also told that several of the most powerful spells and skills require energy from opposing sources, light and dark for instance. By now you know that one person can't possess both types, which leaves only one option. Oh yeah, baby, we're talking group spells. Banding together like that against a huge enemy will surely make for some epic encounters.

Mythica is still deep in development with a release sometime in 2004, but already its visuals are top notch. The characters are beautiful and the special effects please with ease. Based on what Microsoft has brought to the table so far, Mythica definitely has a chance of scoring a large following. What is yet to be seen is how well they can execute all those less glamorous, behind the scenes elements like balancing and mechanics. Without them no amount of graphics or playscapes will save this game. Based on the work done so far, though, that won't even be an issue.