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Myth 3: The Wolf Age Review

publisher: Gathering
developer: Mumbo Jumbo
genre: Strategy

PII 400, 96MB RAM, 8MB Video Card, 250MB HD
ESRB rating: M

release date: Oct 28, 01
» All About Myth 3: The Wolf Age on ActionTrip

November 12, 2001

There is a good reason why the Myth series captured my imagination for so many years. In order to have a "successful anything" in this entertainment business, you have to provide people with a rich and consistent fantasy world. How many of you are die-hard fans of The Lord of the Rings, or Star Wars series? I rest my case...

Because of the fact that it has an intricate and engrossing world to back it up, the Myth series has had great success with the gaming crowd, and a very loyal fan base that kept the torch burning brightly, ever since the first game came out. Who can forget the Fallen Lords and our epic battles against the forces of the dark? The characters were imaginative, scary and entertaining, and they were all connected by a vivid and gripping storyline. Back then, Bungie was known as "that company that developed Myth", and HALO was something that very few people could expect at the time.

The year is 2001, and a lot of things have changed since Myth II. Bungie became MS's prize development team, and Mumbo Jumbo - a little known development company has stepped in to fill the boots of their famous predecessors, and now, fans of the series (myself included) are poised to find out if the old Myth magic is still there. Can MJ (no, not that MJ) deliver what everyone expects of them?

"Myth III is a prequel to the two previous games, taking place 1000 years before the first Myth. The hero of the story is Connacht the Wolf -- a hero so great that they named an entire Age after him.

Connacht's allies are none other than the very Fallen Lords from Myth: the Fallen Lords, when they were still champions of the Light."

You might think of Episode I and Jar-Jar for some reason, but rest assured that the story in Myth III is on a par, if not even better (and with more twists and turns) than in the previous installments. The fantasy world of Myth is depicted in great detail and consistently, with believable characters and great dialogue. So much so, that I wouldn't even mind reading a book based on it. The excellent storyline is told with the use of some great narrative, and very good voice acting. All this holds the game together, and the story alone is good enough to make you keep playing. These days, we're constantly bombarded with shallow plots and uninspiring characters. However, Myth III manages to rise above the mediocrity and truly refresh this stale segment of PC gaming. Whoever did the story, and I suspect he/she had nothing to do with Mumbo Jumbo (as they don't appear to be as thorough), should be congratulated on a job well done. I just wish there were more stories like this in today's games.

To add to the fantastic storyline, Mumbo Jumbo has succeeded in creating a visually striking 3D RTS, with rich landscapes and amazingly detailed units. Further more, the game is not a hardware hog, and if you do happen to have a more powerful system, be sure to zoom in fully and marvel the details. I've read somewhere that the Myth III 3D code is in fact a modified version of the Myth II code, which is amazing really, but it also explains why we haven't seen any improvements in the use of camera. You can rotate the camera by moving the cursor to the corners of the screen, zoom in and out (not as much as you'd like), just like you did in Myth II.

Mumbo Jumbo was left a great literary and visual heritage, and there was no conceivable way (if they had half-a-brain) they could screw up this element of game design. However, that is more than you can say for the some of the other very important issues, like: gameplay balancing, AI, and of course Q&A testing. On the bright side of things, the interface is tight and intuitive, which is of course very important for both the single player and multiplayer games. The mission design and the puzzles are fairly entertaining (it's not strictly hack and slash), but the mission dynamics are a bit off. The mini-map is actually scrollable, which is a major set back, because the maps are rather large, and key spots are sometimes hard to find. Scrolling through the mini-map won't show the entire terrain, and you will have to hike across the map with your units to open various doors, activate devices, etc.

Myth III (as it was the case with other Myth games) offers plenty in the way of battle tactics. You can easily speed up the game or slow it down by a half, and that gives plenty of time to set up various battle strategies. Speeding up the time also helps a great deal during puzzle-searching, and that subsequently helps to ease the pain of aimless map-wandering. Players can preset various unit groups, and easily assign formations and formation direction. This makes the action flow better, and it makes the battles more intense.

Unfortunately though, you won't get to enjoy the battles as much as you'd like to, because the game can get devilishly hard at times. So, Mumbo Jumbo wanted to make a challenging 3D RTS (as Bungie did with Myth 1 and 2), but did they stop for a second and even think about gameplay balance? There is a fine line between "challenging" and "frustrating", and MJ has managed to cross that line on a couple of occasions. And as if that wasn't frustrating enough, the programmers have "went out of their way" to overlook a bunch of annoying bugs and forget about certain programming fundamentals of RTS design. Missing sounds, music and narrative, unsynchronized sound effects, units refusing to move, inexplicable slow-downs, and finally, awful path finding and some rather questionable AI routines.

What's up with that? Is that how you follow up on one of the most influential strategy games of all time?

Mumbo Jumbo obviously could've done a lot better. Not only did they slack off while writing AI routines, and ship a buggy game, but they also didn't innovate the series in any way; let alone take it to the next level. As a big fan of the Myth series, I find it inadmissible that someone could sit on such a wealth of potential and do such a sloppy job in the end. Myth III was still fun to play, though at times extremely frustrating, but it pains me to think what Bungie would've done with it, had they the chance to do it themselves.


7.1   Good

Visually striking, storyline;

In terms of game design, Mumbo Jumbo is no Bungie. Annoying bugs.



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