Nostalgia is an effective emotion. MythForce, released on April 20th, wields this nostalgia as effectively as any weapon in Beamdog’s dungeon crawling first-person roguelike. The opening credits animation and theme song invoke early 1980’s cartoons. MythForce‘s cheesy villains and four character classes all play into this cartoon esthetic. The 80’s nostalgic visuals will rightfully draw attention, however, the gameplay will keep players engaged.
Developer Beamdog is comfortable with traditional fantasy settings. The studio has ties to pre-EA Bioware. Beamdog founders Trent Oster and Cameron Tofer were co-founder and programmer (respectively) before forming Beamdog in 2009. Since the mid 2010s, the studio has worked on updating and re-releasing Bioware classics like the Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights series. Now in MythForce, they return to classic D&D setting for a first-person roguelike. Players choose one of four classes: knight, hunter, mage, or rogue to begin their run.
Graphics & Sound
MythForce opens with a pitch-perfect `80’s cartoon theme song. The opening animation echos the hand-drawn style of the period. Fortunately, this visual theme remains consistent throughout the actual gameplay experience. Screenshots depict the style, but they cannot capture the slight fuzz and softness over everything that makes it feel like a product of the 1980s. Fortunately, this softness prevents the game from losing the theme. It would have been possible to match the art style, but brighten and clean up the resolution to match modern systems.
Wisely, Beamdog takes care to maintain the intended time period. Additionally, this art style is not accomplished by a simple CRT filter. MythForce looks like how my childhood brain remembers after-school cartoons. Credit is deserved for the small touches. Light artifacting and scratching that could have existed with cel amination are present on screen. Beamdog’s artistic team even captures the slight blurring and out-of-focus effects of characters in the background.
This commitment and success in the art design help to carry the game in the early goings. The initial impressions of traversing the maps, exploring, and encountering enemies creates an appreciation for the art style and esthetic. As a first-person co-op roguelike, the gameplay shares similarities with Warhammer: Vermintide and Gunfire Reborn. Two of the four character classes are melee based, the knight and rogue. While the hunter and mage have varying degrees of ranged attacks. Gunfire Reborn’s tight rooms feel small compared to MythForce’s environments. However, areas in MythForce are frequently gated or closed off. This creates isolated battle arenas. These spaces quickly feel small as melee characters are surrounded by enemies. Co-op play and class-based abilities help to manage crowd control and make encounters survivable.
Furthermore, MythForce uses a stamina meter that depletes as the player attacks and blocks. Running out of stamina results in a visual effect that slows the player and limits movement and attacks. Balancing stamina and timing attacks create a layer of strategy that lifts gameplay beyond a simple hack’n slash. Progression through a level provides random drops of items and weapons, each with a rarity that impacts their power and effectiveness.
Progression and Abilities
Outside of the run based nature of the game, there is persistent progression at the character and account levels. 12 different artifacts unlock as characters gain levels. These artifacts provide buffs and abilities that are available to any character class. Each character class has infusion and ability unlocks and upgrades. The early infusion unlocks provide choices of health, mana, stamina, and damage increases. Characters each have three class abilities that also upgrade. These unlocks and upgrades are necessary for deeper progression into the game. Early on, even the first boss wave encounter can be punishing without other players or unlocked buffs.
MythForce’s Early Access Future
As with other early access games, players should expect continued balance tweaks and gameplay changes. Some of the initial difficulties may get adjusted over time. The refresh speed of character abilities would benefit from an increase as well. A faster timer would assist melee characters in escaping mobs. Consequently, adjusting the survivability of different classes would solo play across characters. But considering this is early access, the servers connections were stable during press access. And co-op is where MythForce really shines. Even playing with randoms provides a sense of camaraderie that matches the D&D party vibe.
Nostalgia Fuelled Fun
MythForce is incredibly polished. For an early access game, MythForce makes a great first impression. Fortunately, each failed run inspired another attempt. Each attempt provided the opportunity to appreciate more of the art design and develop a strategy for success. Even though I failed, a lot, the game never frustrated me. MythForce deserves to be experienced by players with childhood memories of Saturday morning and after-school cartoons. My childhood self would be in awe of a game that looks like it jumped right out of the TV. Roguelike and co-op fans, regardless of age or nostalgia, will find something to enjoy in MythForce’s progression and gameplay.
Sometimes games capture the exact aesthetic and vibe it sets out for. MythForce succeeds in this. Beamdog created a fun, yet lasting challenge, for players. Nostalgia is an effective emotion and MythForce is an effective game experience.