Mythforce - Disasters Of The Universe (Review)
Released: September 12th, 2023
Systems: PC, PS5, Switch (reviewed), Xbox Series S/X
I’m not a complicated girl.
A bit of cheap nostalgia is more than enough to get my attention, and cheap nostalgia is what Mythforce promised as it encroached upon my radar. The problem is, I want cheap, not the bottom of the bargain bin, and when it comes to nostalgic trappings, I need something a little more heartfelt than paper thin aesthetics.
Mythforce presents itself as a roguelite action game steeped in the flavoring of 80s Saturday morning cartoons. Within seconds of playing, it exposes itself as a clumsy half-baked mess for which the cultural research couldn’t have extended beyond watching half an episode of Masters of the Universe.
Look at this screenshot.
That is the first thing you see when playing Mythforce. This overwhelming and poorly laid out infodump of otherwise basic HUD explanations is immediately repellent, but it does teach one thing perfectly - it accurately demonstrates the kind of poorly conceived rubbish that follows.
Actually, Mythforce tips its hand even earlier than its “graphic design is my passion” tutorial screen.
Problems begin the very moment you boot up the game. Mythforce spends so long hanging on the startup screen I actually closed the software and restarted it the first time I ran it, convinced the thing must have crashed. I’ve never seen a game take so long to get off the company splash screen and reach a main menu before, but it turns out that’s just what’s supposed to happen.
Understandable though. If I were Mythforce, I’d be reluctant to start as well.
Like the tutorial, this initial experience is simply a portent. Mythforce is a fucking shoddy game, managing to be graphically threadbare while running like Crysis did on an average PC in 2007. My Switch version performs atrociously. Constant stuttering, visuals and audio falling out of sync, a framerate more taken under advisement than actually implemented.
Should more than three enemies appear onscreen at once, the whole world slows to a stammering crawl. Rendering new areas during exploration causes the game to practically trip over itself with haphazard chugging.
I’d argue that a literal tin of Vienna sausages is a better optimized game than Mythforce.
Technical failings drown the experience throughout. Items and characters clip through environments to the point of walls feeling incorporeal. The enemy A.I is among the stupidest on the market, with monsters prone to getting trapped behind objects or standing idle instead of attacking. Naturally, controls are unresponsive as hell.
As for the gameplay itself? Well, when you struggle through the shitty UI, the shitty loading times, the shitty framerate, and shitty glitches, I can confidently report that what you get in return is a roguelite action experience best defined as incredible.
Incredible in just how shitty it is.
With clunky, inaccurate, flailing combat no more refined from the messy disorientation you’d find in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Mythforce’s hack n’ slash trappings feel distinctly unpleasant to engage with. Combat is slow, but manages to feel chaotic through sheer force of sloppiness. Whether fighting in melee or at range, accuracy is in short supply, while every action unfolds via snail like animations.
Looking right at an enemy is no guarantee your inaccurate swings will hit it since everything’s so erratic. Attack ranges are deceptive, with blows landing about three feet past where they look like they should, and damage is almost unavoidable since you’ll be frequently harassed by melee attackers and projectiles beyond your peripheral vision.
Each of the four playable characters have their own fighting style with a number of special abilities on cooldown. None of these abilities are exciting, either mechanically or visually, and they’re also incompetently implemented.
The “easiest” character, Victoria, relies on a charging skill that launches her forward in a straight line. Mythforce thought it would be a brilliant idea to have abilities like that in maps teeming with pitfalls, explosive plant traps, poisoned pools, and wall mounted flamethrowers, all strewn randomly about in excessive numbers.
Can you see the problem there? Would you like to guess what happens when you use a character built around an uncontrollable long distance charge while surrounded by bombs, holes, and other lethalities? If you haven’t the slightest idea how much of an infuriating disaster that could be, congratulations, you might just be cut out for the world of game design!
These issues are compounded by the horrendous first-person look sensitivity. On default settings, looking around is twitchy and exaggerated, helped in no way by some aggressive acceleration as you move the stick. Despite offering a wide range of incremental tweaks in the menu, I couldn’t find a sweet spot between the camera moving too slowly or too enthusiastically. Considering you need to be looking directly at small objects to pick them up, and there’s no apparent aim assist, this is an omnipresent problem.
Even if it worked perfectly, however, mediocrity would remain an ambitious prospect for Mythforce. With its rudimentary combat, repetitive map layouts, boring suite of upgrades, and a dreary grind to acquire any permanent unlocks, this is one of the least interesting roguelites in recent memory.
Oh, and stamina consumption for even basic attacks is thoroughly egregious. Why this game even has stamina is a very fair question to ask.
As for the so-called “inspiration” of Saturday morning cartoons? Aside from really basic cel-shaded visuals and a grand total of two vaguely reminiscent sound effects, I couldn’t find anything that wouldn’t appear out of place in any generic fantasy setting.
I’ll acknowledge the fact it has a very cool theme tune and animated intro sequence, but they’re so good as to be completely misleading.
Even by the usual standards of vapidity, Mythforce’s fractionally hearted attempts at emulating old cartoons falls short. The voice acting is po-faced and unremarkable, with even the villains sounding bored as fuck. The setting and characters are so generic that if it hadn’t proclaimed its alleged inspiration, I’d have never guessed at what this game was supposedly trying to be.
The only way in which it pays believable tribute to 80s cartoons is in how cynically marketed it is.
Mythforce is shallow and inauthentic, hiding its creative mundanity behind the insincere promise of retro silliness. This lack of artistic integrity is matched by a lack of quality control, awkwardly bolted together as it is with unrefined controls, dreadful performance, and archaic gameplay. At its very best, we have a boring and bland dungeon crawler of a distinctly unrewarding stripe, but it’s almost always far worse than that.
Masters of the Universe was a show made as cheaply as possible, reusing the same backgrounds and animations about twenty times an episode. It was high fucking art compared to Mythforce.