There was a certain magic when it came to Saturday Morning cartoons in the ’80s. Sure, they were mostly a marketing tool used to sell toys but the cheesy and colorful presentations were a delight at the time and the properties that sprung forth from some of the most popular franchises, such as Transformers, GI Joe, and even He-Man have continued in various forms of success even to today. As such, when MythForce revealed itself to harken back to that era with a wonderful looking intro sequence and promised some enticing roguelike action, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to present a unique looking experience with an original property. Unfortunately, while these cartoon influences remain fairly impressive parts of the package, the overall experience leaves much to be desired as MythForce struggles to find an identity.
After watching a delightful opening sequence, players will select one of four heroes from the MythForce to begin their adventure that spans across three chapters, each of which has their own little animated sequence as well focusing on showing off the primary boss that players will eventually face down as they progress through the nine total stages, three stages per chapter. These cartoon animations give great samplings that fit perfectly with the theme that MythForce is aiming for but don’t really offer much more than that as players looking for story lore, world-building, or much in the way of personality beyond a character’s surface representation will feel a bit disappointed here.
Even during standard gameplay players won’t find much in the way of lore. Playing in multiplayer will see heroes interact with one another from time to time though they will often repeat their lines so frequently it seems that there really isn’t a lot of variety even between different members of MythForce. It is a bit more enjoyable while playing through stages as players take on multiple mini-bosses with some taunting by the area bosses Beastor, Hexstar and finally Deadalus. That being said, it doesn’t help that, once players manage to run through every stage and even reach the final boss, the final confrontation doesn’t even feel that epic in scale nor does it even offer a satisfying ending in any way… seeming sacrificing its attempt at telling a heroic tale in an effort to stick true to its roguelike design.
At its core MythForce is a roguelike that allows players to select from one of four heroes that they will be controlling through a series of randomized levels within a stage. These heroes come in the form of Victoria, the tank-like knight, Hawkins the long-range damage dealing hunter, Maggie who wields magic from a distance, and Rico the speedier rogue that serves as a blend of damage dealing and damage avoidance. Each of the four heroes can equip two sets of weapons and have their own unique set of skills that they can use on cooldowns including an ultimate gauge, that when triggered when filled, blasts the MythForce theme-song while improving all of their abilities immensely.
MythForce doesn’t feature an intuitive tutorial in any way, instead opting to present four static arrow filled UI descriptions about what is shown on screen before dumping players into the game. Nearly every room that players travel through will have a set amount of enemies to defeat before the door will open to the next location, offering a choice of buffs that will persist through the rest of the run. Some of these range from improving or adding new abilities to one of the character’s weapons or even a complete stat buff. Players will also obtain “trinkets” that serve as pieces of equipment from treasure chests that can provide various buffs as well that will remain through that run.
The first person combat is often a bit odd and floaty feeling, with melee combat not offering the type of impact that players are usually looking for, especially when it comes to most enemy types. Similarly, enemy attacks have rather strange wind-ups to the point it is easier to simply dodge them rather than trying to block or parry them. It is also worth noting that the game has an absolutely ridiculously limiting stamina system, with attacks costing a certain amount of stamina that will leave players “exhausted” if emptied and leave them vulnerable. Ranged combat is far more enjoyable when used properly, though obtaining magic books for the few characters that can use it is far better than using the bow and arrow. Along these same lines though, enemy magic has a rather ridiculous lock-on time and accuracy to the point that players will be running around a stage to avoid an incoming blast and still get hit by it because of near-permanent lock-on. Instead, it is best to slay any mages as soon as possible, if you can find them that is. Enemy AI is rather poor most of the time, with enemies either spawning and standing around waiting for players to hunt them, getting stuck on the level design, or just rushing around blindly with no tactics or effort of any kind, with only bosses having some semblance of a unique feeling encounter.
The title is fairly simplistic and straightforward so such an anemic introduction isn’t too much of a problem but when the game doesn’t even indicate that their seemingly generic background buildings on the main menu are actual upgrade shops, it is something of an issue. These shops are where players will be spending the various resources that they gather during their times running through the stages and carrying anything they may obtain back with them, with things like gold, glyphs, and star crystals all of which can be used to purchase upgrades that will persist throughout their following runs. Glyphs can be used to upgrade the quality of a shop, improving the upgrades available while crystals can enhance a character’s overall abilities, with the ability to swap and fuse them together for even stronger improvements to their character of choice while money can then be use for literally any upgrade, including improving the traits of trinkets and perks they pick up during their dungeon runs.
Grinding for these upgrade materials is unfortunately not an enjoyable experience thanks to the rather poor design of MythForce’s stages and the way they progress through every level. Each level consists of a set number of rooms, with these rooms having extremely limited variety to the point that, on multiple occasions, we saw ourselves traveling through the exact same looking room four times in a row, fighting enemies that appeared in the exact same locations with the same traps. This lack of variety is only exacerbated by the fact that the only real alternative levels are the occasional treasure room or one with a shop in it where players can purchase an in-run upgrade at the expense of gold best saved for a more permanent upgrade. This repetitive nature makes even the more enjoyable gameplay aspects quickly lose their luster, especially with how limiting MythForce’s online gameplay can already feel.
Not only does the title lack any form of local co-op, an extremely strange choice given the rather limited design of the product, it also happens to not feature any form of crossplay between consoles. This means that players will find their total player base a bit on the limited side at times and while it is entirely possible to invite friends to fight off the various monsters as a party of four, others may need to rely on simply tapping the “Quickplay” button and hope they get placed in a solid enough team, if they are lucky to find anyone else at all already. That being said, it is nice to note that players can have an open lobby, playing through a stage and allowing others to drop in and out without affecting the host.
Audio & Visuals
One of the most appealing aspects of MythForce is the Saturday Morning Cartoon style aesthetic which both looks and sounds like a perfect copy when the game’s few animated cutscenes play out. The actual game also features some fairly impressive looking cel-shaded character models and bosses, though enemy design and variety is a bit on the disappointing side. It is also worth noting that, as mentioned before, the dungeons themselves feature extremely repetitive designs and are almost entirely bland to actually explore, making repeat runs through the game feel like a chore as they don’t take any advantage of the unique visual aesthetic of the theme. There are also a surprising number of visual glitches when it comes to enemies, especially “pot” enemies that always spew out awful looking effects that are so bad and glitchy, we can’t even tell what it is meant to be.
The voice work is fittingly cheesy with the characters all fitting their tropes quite well and really playing it up nicely. As for the soundtrack, the background music is mostly generic outside of the catchy Mythforce theme song that plays at the start of the game as well as when players use an Ultimate.
MythForce has a great sense of style but unfortunately doesn’t capitalize it as much as one would hope. Instead, past the Saturday morning cartoon stylings lies a relatively basic roguelike with decent combat that is both quickly repetitive and relatively bland in nature, turning its grinding efforts into a chore that will often see players barely return once they see the conclusion to the story. Playing with friends may be fun, especially since the drop-in co-op works great online, trying to find a new group can be challenging, especially with a surprising lack of split-screen, leaving this heroic tale one best left untold unless you really want to scratch that cartoon itch.
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