Mythos endured a lot of bumps in the road leading up to its unceremonious release. Initially billed as Flagship Studios' answer to Diablo, Mythos suddenly disappeared as Flagship closed its doors. Now, publisher Frogster has rescued it from complete cancellation, commissioning Redbana to finish it and transform it into a free-to-play MMO.
Flagship's influence still permeates every part of the game. Combat is the same streamlined click-fest as Diablo, complete with an identical – if a tad more cluttered – interface and inventory system. It works just as well here, with speedy battles allowing for efficient loot gathering. Instead of throwing away equipment when you no longer have room for more, you can turn it into material to make more with the new crafting system. It allows you to use these materials and those you find in the dungeons to make new equipment. You can even see touches that would eventually end up in Torchlight, such as the inclusion of 19th century-style guns.
The classes are somewhat predictable, what with your standard tank and caster classes making up two-thirds of the roster. The long-range specialist, however, has some clever ideas attached to it. Though the Gadgeteer specialises in Guns and Bows, it can also employ a number of “gadgets” that were clearly inspired by modern FPS games to do damage or cause status effects.
My favourites include the elemental turrets, which I threw out close to each other, got a boss enemy's attention, and ran around like a crazy person while the turrets drained away its health. New abilities like this are different enough that I wished all the classes displayed this level of originality, instead of merely copying what Diablo established.
Yet, while Mythos plays just like the Diablo games, its main focus is as an MMO. Now at a glance, Diablo II was practically an MMO from the start, given its focus on multiplayer and the nature of its quests, and Mythos proves just how naturally the usual MMO formula can fit into that template. Sadly, its eagerness to pile on quests and dungeons waters down the experience.
Tons of quests litter the town maps, and each one connects to a map full of mini-dungeons you can explore. But exploration is never the point, as the dungeons merely serve as locations to do bog-standard MMO quests in, such as killing a number of enemies or gathering a number of things. The quest dungeons themselves are never more than a floor or two long, so exploration is never rewarded and you never have very much difficulty with anything except bosses.
A familiar pattern of acquiring a quest, spending a few minutes in a dungeon fulfilling it, and going back to get rewards and more quests emerges quickly. But though you're left with nothing but repetitive, uninteresting quests, the fact that you're playing in compact Diablo maps makes the grind less offensive than it would be in a bigger, plodding MMO.
Where Mythos falls flat is in its messy, excessive design. While its segmented nature evokes Diablo II's structure, Mythos features far too many bland dungeons. Why have over a hundred dungeons when you could have just as easily condensed them into a smaller number of good ones? You'll occasionally find mild gameplay differences between them, like flame traps, but even with these very occasional wrinkles, there's no reason for there to be this much chaff in the game. High-level characters can gain access to more satisfying, substantial dungeons, but by then it's too late.
Of course, this all relates back to the fact that this game was created from the shambles Flagship left before it folded. The job Redbana was given was probably stitching together disparate pieces in a way that was MMO-friendly – and it shows. Not only is there a lot of wasteful, incomplete dungeon ideas thrown in here, there's also a general lack of polish. There's a lack of continuity between many of the areas, too, with teleporters and world maps stitching together every area.
Weird design flaws also showcase the seams of being rescued from development hell. While reaching Level 13 unlocks the town of Fort Hope, there's nothing to do there but buy better potions. All the NPCs refuse to give you quests until you are an even higher level, short-circuiting any feelings of progression a player may have gained from reaching this new zone. Why lock off an area only to let players find out that it's useless until much longer after they've unlocked it?
It's amazing that Mythos made it out at all, even more so considering how solid its core mechanics turned out to be. Flagship's DNA comes through clearly even as you sift through the mass of unnecessary content. But with so many competent Diablo clones out there already, there's little reason to play through the piles of slapped-together content that Mythos offers.