PAX West 2022 - Mythforce From Beamdog Studios
Nostalgia is a feature in this FPS hero-shooter
He-man and the Masters of the Universe, G.I. Joe, Thundercats. For many, these names invoke feelings of beautiful nostalgia. Early Saturday mornings relaxing on the living room floor, no school, pajamas on, bowl of cereal at the ready while you stare up at the massive tube TV shining its glorious cartoon graces down on you, not a care in the world. It was a very real weekly reality for millions of people who grew up in the 1980s, and it’s the main inspiration behind the aptly titled FPS hero shooter Mythforce.
Mythforce follows the story of four valiant heroes on their quest to rid the land of Eldryth from the tyranny of the evil vampire lord Daedalus. They are Victoria, the melee heavy knight and Mythforce leader; Rico, debonair rogue and melee subclass; Maggie, wise and powerful mage glass cannon; and Hawkins, lethal hunter and range fighter. They must carve their way through swaths of enemies in various stages to storm the diabolical vampire’s castle. Together, only they have the strength to overcome the challenges facing them and save the world from this ultimate evil.
I got the chance to sit down and talk with a few of the devs behind this wonderful romp into 80’s nostalgia and get a better idea as to why Mythforce wears its badass cartoon inspirations on its sleeve. According to the devs, Beamdog Studios is full of new parents introducing their little ones to the wonderful world of video gaming but oftentimes find themselves at a loss for what to play. The best way to overcome this was to make a game that appeals to both kids and adults - and create an art style that really hits that sweet spot. After bouncing ideas around for a bit, some exceptional 80s- inspired concept art gave birth to the full experience known as Mythforce. The devs decided to go all-in on the one thing that gave them all nostalgic chills - 1980s cartoons.
So, how does the game actually play? Really quite brilliantly. Being a hero-based shooter rogue-like means that there’s a huge emphasis on team combat and working together, with each class balancing the others and adding complexity to the annihilation of the hordes closing in on you. Despite this team focus, it’s still a joy to play in single-player mode. The controls are tight and responsive, and the level design is open enough to encourage exploration while linear enough to prevent confusion. The enemies are diverse in the way they deal damage and where they’re positioned, and it has enough looting, leveling, and on-the-fly upgrades to encourage the player to boot it right back up after Daedalus’s minions ultimately overtake you.
While it was designed with co-op play (especially with younger players) in mind, it in no way holds your hand in its execution. At times, Mythforce can be as brutally hard as any other rogue-like, with projectile-based, magic-using, and melee enemies closing in from all corners. The devs informed me that this was an intentional decision in order to invoke that nostalgic feeling of gaming in the late 80s and early 90s when games almost never held your hand. The game may be difficult, but I never found it frustrating, and that’s a huge distinction to make. All-in-all, Mythforce is a super satisfying and challenging FPS to play.
Where it really excels, however, is art style and direction. Beamdog’s artists did an incredible job making it feel like you’re playing an episode of a Saturday morning cartoon from the 1980s. The character models all have that satisfyingly simplistic design that is so connected with that era, all hard outlines and exaggerated features. The enemy designs are all exactly what you’d expect to see in an episode of He-Man: animated and angry skeletons donning metal helmets and massive shields, strange creatures of the woods, and a hulking hairy beast with the perfectly appropriate name “Beastor.”
The levels themselves are exaggerated and over-the-top, with a wonderful hand-painted feel along with a VHS-style graininess that pulls you into the world. It’s incredibly easy for an aesthetic like this to traipse too closely to the overly-campy side of things, but Mythforce beautifully balances the tightrope of being a cheeky callback, not an exercise in cringy camp. The cartoons in the 80s were a little before my time, but regardless of that, Mythforce’s unique art direction and tight, satisfying gameplay make me nostalgic for a time I wasn’t even necessarily a part of, and that’s a feat in and of itself. Mythforce sets itself apart by embracing the silly nature of the Thundercats of the world while also acknowledging what we all think but hate to admit - frankly, these cartoons kicked ass. If you have some kids you want to challenge or some friends you want to engage in some delicious nostalgia with, check out Mythforce.
The first episode is available in early access on the Epic Games store, with more episodes hopefully releasing in the near future. There’s an excellent community that’s rallied behind this awesome game, and the devs implore you to join their discord.
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