Have You Played… Myth: The Fallen Lords

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Before vanishing up its own Halo for the best part of a decade, Bungie tried its hand at real-time strategy. The first two games in the Myth [official site] series are splendid creations, with an almost unmatched atmosphere of war-weary exhaustion and dread. There are also superb dwarves armed with explosives that send body parts bouncing across the terrain.

Myth is a linear experience and the strategy required for each map can sometimes feel too much like a script to follow, but the setting is delightfully dreary. Your troops always seem to be on the verge of defeat and the narration between each battle is as grimly evocative as Darkest Dungeon’s excellent voiceover. It’s rare for a strategy game to capture the plight of the footsoldier effectively but Myth is convincing. It portrays a world on the brink of destruction and it does so, on the whole, by putting the player at the frontline of desperate skirmishes rather than gesturing toward enormous armies clashing and grand spectacle.

I’m surprised I didn’t draw a comparison when I was playing The Banner Saga last year. Like Stoic’s game, Myth concentrates its focus on a determined people striving to survive a trek across a land that is not only hostile but that seems to be coming to its end.

On a personal note, it’s also the first game that made me realise that enjoyably meaty physics have a place outside first-person shooters.

Edit: the best way to experience modern Myth appears to be Project Magma, which includes all manner of resources, including a way to run the first two games (and that’s as far as I’d recommend anyone goes) in a single enhanced engine. You’ll need the original core files to make use of Project Magma plugins and mods. Thanks @dominictarason.

56 Comments

  1. Traipse says:

    Such an amazing game. The graphics are a bit rough these days, but the game still plays well — you can download all of Myth I’s campaign as a Myth II mod.

    What I really miss is the multiplayer. I probably spent more hours on Myth than on any other multiplayer game I’ve played before or since. It had a great online community, with lots of genuinely nice people and surprisingly little in the way of rudeness or griefing. (And I say that having been one of the bungie.net admins, so I saw it at its worst, and its worst wasn’t very bad.)

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      “A bit rough” is surely an understatement. Myth is my go-to example for the horrors of early 3D games, which looked awful even 3-4 years later. Whereas something like Warcraft II still looks basically fine.

      • Aben Zin says:

        Well the first 2 games didn’t have 3D models- they had 2D that were animated in 3 dimensions.
        The 3rd game (Wolf Age) wasn’t made by Bungie and used 3D character models, which haven’t aged well.

        What really made Myth shine was the physics engine- arrows were blown of course by wind, explosions sent heads and limbs rolling down hills, archers could use higher ground to arc their shots to get better range… Really in terms of realism it blew Warcraft out of the water! Add to that the fully controllable camera, able to pan, rotate and zoom in right on the action – technically it was miles ahead of the competition!

    • dontnormally says:

      Multiplayer is alive! Not nearly as populated as it was in its heyday, of course.
      link to gateofstorms.net

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  2. Sinkytown says:

    A precursor to Darkest Dungeon also in its named and rename-able units. Alard, you died memorably. Ejaculating an improbable amount of blood.

    • Lamb Chop says:

      Casualty.

      • Shakes999 says:

        I don’t think I ever beat the 3rd missions from the first game. I was so terrible at it. A common theme with RTS’s that has followed me still to this day. That being said, my brother was great at it. I just watched him wreck shop and I still loved it just the same. Infact *rummages in closet* yep, still have the original CD and case, thou time hasn’t been too kind to it.

      • Dachannien says:

        Please, take all my upvotes. You deserve them.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    Love the Myth series.
    One of my favourite gaming moments was the end of the first game, where I strung a long line of troops out in an attempt to slow down Soulblighter as he chopped his way through the ranks to the last dwarf carrying Balor’s head.
    As he gets near, I hear him growl:
    “FILTHY DWARVES!”

    That’s stuck in my head forever that is.

    Then there was the fun I had creating exploding deer in the editor that shipped with Myth 2.
    I crashed my Mac by making the explosions recursive. The sight before it died of ever-expanding ululating craters was awesome.

  4. EhexT says:

    Myth is amazing and should make you hate Microsoft even more. Bungie had tremendous RTS experience, and Halo was going to be an RTS. It would have been incredible especially since it wasn’t going to be shackled to crappy console hardware limits.

    • keeki says:

      Halo had long since moved away from its RTS roots when Microsoft came along.

  5. strangelet3345 says:

    OMFG i used to be all up on the mod scene for this game. we decided to do a total conversion from dwarves and archers n stuff to Colonial Marines and Xenomorphs. the mod was called ALIEN: DARK TIDE and it was fking fabulous tho i say so myself, featuring power loaders, alien queens, facehuggers, all the marine gear.

    much fun was had in MP – i think the thing is still floating around on myth fan sites. omfg i’m reinstalling this when i get home from work. maybe i still have the source to the unreleased solo campaign :P

  6. kyrieee says:

    I’ve only played the second one but it’s easily one of my favourite games of all time. That narrator is amazing.

  7. ananachaphobiac says:

    “Welcome to Myth: The Fallen Lords. Follow these instructions, or die horribly…”

  8. Conrad B Hart says:

    Yes! I loved Myth: The Fallen Lords. The game was good but the writing and the atmosphere, boy, those were nothing short of excellent. I remember fleeing the Watcher’s armies out of Covenant, freezing my bum off in the snow to make a desperate stand against The Deceiver, hearing of Rabican’s death… the tools were simple but the style and the writing gave me chills.

  9. RuySan says:

    Didn’t one of the Myth games had a bug that installing the game meant formatting the hard drive?

    This is something that mobile app makers should think about doing today, instead of asking me to rate it on Google Play.

    • frogulox says:

      Naw.
      upon uninstalling it cleared the reg list of everything BUT myth.
      it is my first memory of a required patch on launch.

      Still worth it.

  10. Lamb Chop says:

    Myth and Myth II defined a year or two of my childhood. The show-paced chaos lent by the physics and pacing lent a sense of inevitability and dread…as the satchel charge flies through the air, as the archer flees far too slowly from certain death, as the wight emerges among your footsoldiers. In Myth you saw your doom coming, and you couldn’t stop it.

  11. doxasticpirate says:

    Thank you for this writeup! Definitely one of my favorite games, and one I still think about all the time.

    Part of it could be the impressionable age I was when I played it, but the atmosphere of this game was pretty much perfect. I’d love to just sit back and watch the inter-mission narration scenes again. I became so attached to some of my veteran units — I had archers that made it through most of the campaign, and seeing them die was almost physically painful. It also made me feel all the more callous for ordering berserkers to charge at enemies, knowing that any shock troops I had were fodder; I actually felt bad about ordering my units to charge in a way that I haven’t felt again (though some moments of XCOM come close).

    And yeah, the 3D-ness felt sweet at the time, but looking at screenshots now seems a bit sad…

  12. CurseYouAll says:

    You are actually quite wrong to recommend only the first two games – I’ve played them all and IMO, Myth 3: The Wolf Age developed by Mumbo-Jumbo is the strongest installment.

    It’s a prequel to the other two and has better graphics, better interface, more tense missions, amazing story and narrative, and memorable music.

    • frogulox says:

      .. so .. did you work for MJ or wut?

      The engine wanted to be ok as a more 3d realised installment but they completely missed the tone and lacked the engagement completely. When I played this at the time I thought wow, maybe my mmory has clouded my judgement here. ReInstalled the first two and played through happily.

      This was the first time I learned that a new entry in a beloves series does not equal a new beloved title.

      • CurseYouAll says:

        No my dear friend, I did not work for MJ but unlike many others here, it seems, I did in fact beat all three games from start to finish.

        To each their own of course, but for me Myth 3 was the best, followed by The Fallen Lords and then Soulblighter.

        The 3D engine of The Wolf Age may not have preserved the dull pastel pattern of the originals and their melancholic mood but the mission structure, story, music and gameplay are much superior.

        Btw, another clue that the author of the article doesn’t have much clue is the fact he used Soublighter artwork next to The Fallen Lords heading..

        • Aben Zin says:

          Actually it’s a combination of of Myth 1 and 2 covers. :p

  13. Dorchadas says:

    Your troops always seem to be on the verge of defeat and the narration between each battle is as grimly evocative as Darkest Dungeon’s excellent voiceover.

    This was the real draw for me. On further reflection, the broad strokes of the plot are basically the same as The Lord of the Rings–take the MacGuffin to the one place where it can be destroyed in order to break the power of the dark lord, since force of arms is useless–but there are so many moments in Myth that I remember. My last surviving berserks frantically hacking into the Watcher to bring him down before dying. Killing what I thought was everyone in Shadow of the Mountain and no having the game end, before hearing that tell-tale ground shaking and having to fight a Trow I had somehow attracted to the hill. The crows in the forest congealing into Soulblighter and getting sucked into the Tain. Destroying dozens of Thralls with Dispersal Dream. “Before he left, Alric told us that Madrigal had fallen.”

    “Kill him! KILL HIM!”

    “The Siege of Madrigal” is still my most-played song on iTunes after all these years. Thank you for writing this article.

  14. Morph says:

    Yes! I’d forgotten all about the game, even though I was obsessed enough with it at the time to run a tabletop RPG campaign in the world.

  15. Dawngreeter says:

    This is literally the best RTS I have ever played. Such an awesome atmosphere, it felt more like playing an adventure than anything else.

  16. kael13 says:

    One of the few games available for Mac in my early childhood, so yeah I played this one. Fond memories of the warlock-y guys chucking fireballs.

    • Maritz says:

      Used to play cross-platform, me on my PC, my mate on his Mac. Those were the days! Those warlock guys were great as their fireballs used to do tons of splash damage.

    • davidelrizzo says:

      Yes, yes yes! Back in those days the Mac had so very few good games. I was a huge fan of the Marathon series that was the idea Bungie would spawn Halo from years later (Marathon’s S.P.A.N.K.E.R rocket launcher was almost the exact same model used in Halo 1). I remember building so many custom maps for that game.
      But when Myth came along it changed everything. So revolutionary to have an RTS where you didn’t need the tedium of building your own forces and you could use the world physics to win the day. Also loved how they used bitmap images for the ground textures. Where every other game had tiles like Warcraft I remember a level at the end of Myth 2 where black tendrils of corruption spiralled around the map meeting at the final boss location.. so epic!

  17. Shardz says:

    Played it? Hell, I was IN it! :D

  18. Rizlar says:

    Aw yeah, played the crap out of Myth 2 as a kid. Never realised it was Bungie!

  19. Brigand says:

    Ah yes, the panic fueled frenzy of clicking as you try to scrabble together enough archers to bring down that Fetch you just noticed sneaking up on your army. Casualties.

  20. an_old_friend says:

  21. an_old_friend says:

    Have I played Myth? Pshhh

  22. horsemedic says:

    Remember the physics engine? I’d never seen anything like it at the time—and come to think of it have rarely seen anything like it since. Every grenade, sword, shard of debris and chunk of decapitated flesh on the map was a projectile. You could use a Ghol to pick up a dead warrior’s broken blade and huck it at someone for a tiny bit of damage. You could melt your Wight with a journeyman and use his gas-bloated organs as grenades. You could saturate a river with fizzled grenades, then use a lightning bolt to fry the water and blow an army trying to cross the stream sky high.

    The ultimate example was probably the lightning powered artillery cannons some of us would experiment with in multiplayer games. So… you had units called Fetch that zapped lightning bolts in long arcs, which besides killing things created a small electromagnetic field (or something) that blew any small debris away from the bolt. You also had dwarves, which lobbed molotov cocktails into the air.

    Toss a molotov and have a Fetch zap the ground underneath it right before it lands, and the cocktail would be repulsed back into the air. Use 15 dwarves and 5 fetch—and perfect timing—and you could send artillery barrages across the entire map, raining molotovs down on a camping enemy who couldn’t even see you. They were inaccurate and ineffective, but amazing fun and an amazing thing to be able to play with at the dawn of the 3D age.

  23. SpaceAkers says:

    Myth 2 multiplayer will probably forever remain my favorite multiplayer RTS.

    WW2 mod 4 life.

  24. Geebs says:

    The dwarves in Myth were glass cannons aimed at themselves. I never stopped sucking at those games but they were fricking amazing.

  25. Stardog says:

    Unforgettable for me. Played it tons just because of the way everyone splatted.

  26. AngusPrune says:

    Between them, Myth and Diablo were the reason you couldn’t call my family in the mid 90s. They were among the first handful of games that had multiplayer matchmaking built in rather than a dodgy external service. Kids these days will never know the endless frustrations of setting up a direct modem connection game where the only way you have to communicate with the other person is through the phone line the modems are using. Those were the days.

  27. Joey Viner says:

    You guys should check out the upcoming Deadhold. Closest we’ll get to Myth.
    http://www.deadhold.com

  28. Rufust Firefly says:

    One of the other things that was great about Myth multiplayer is the ability to watch replays of old games. We’d often have as much fun watching those as we did the actual matches.

  29. ibdoomed says:

    Myth is not a strategy game. It’s a puzzle game. You have to figure out how the devs intended for you to win each scenario. Myth is the reason I hate bungie and have boycotted them since.

  30. Orful Biggun says:

    Wot? Not a single mention of The Black Company? Not even in the comments? For shame!

    For the uninitiated, I’m referring to Glen Cook’s masterpiece epic (The Black Company). The first novel in the series, at least, undoubtedly served as a tremendous influence on those responsible for the story and atmosphere of this game. IMO any die-hard fan of Cook’s work should have seen that as a wonderful homage or “inspired-by” design we could love, never as a rip-off. I wish more games would do the same thing.

    Note: if you’re skeptical, do a search on “Myth Black Company”; there is a link to a site that outlines the similarities.

  31. malkav11 says:

    I weep quietly whenever I look at Marathon and Myth (and even Oni and Pathways Into Darkness) and then look at what’s happened to Bungie since. This isn’t, per se, a knock against Halo. I’ve only ever played the first one and a bit of Reach and you can certainly see the innovation, talent, and quality of worldbuilding and narrative that was so prevalent in Bungie’s earlier games in that first Halo. If it hadn’t been so relentlessly console-centric, I might even have become a long term fan of the series. But making Bungie make Halo and nothing but Halo for a decade or more and keeping them locked into that console space was criminal. And boy, it didn’t feel like Halo had evolved much at all in that time frame when I played Reach. (I mean, granted, prequel, but…)

    And now they slipped their Microsoft leash and their first project out of the game is…this ten year FPS project that’s more than a little Halo. And still not on PC. Blah. Again, not knocking Destiny…I hear very very mixed things about Destiny and I’m not convinced I’d like it, but I haven’t played it so no judgment here… but I really wanted them to branch out a bit, stretch their legs. And apparently they have no intention of doing that. :(

    • Traipse says:

      It’s really not the same company any more; they’re orders of magnitude larger, personnel-wise, and only a few people are still around from the pre-Microsoft days. Same name, but that’s about it.

      • malkav11 says:

        Yeah, I’m sure that’s true. I just want the company Bungie could have been, not the one we’ve ended up with.

        • pepperfez says:

          An interesting consequence of Bungie just totally abandoning its great early series is that fan patches and mods have sprung up in spite of janky, mod-unfriendly engines. Oni got and unofficial Anniversary Edition, which gets the game to run on modern systems and handles updates, mod packages, and makes you even sadder about modern Bungie.

  32. pennywyz says:

    Myth is my favorite game of all time. I played it not too long ago and it was every bit as good as I remember (I personally don’t think the graphics are as terrible as some are saying).

    I will never forget watching some guy’s replay where one of his units was killed by a cleaver falling randomly from the sky. When you watched the replay again you could see a ghol blow up as it walked over a pile of satchels. That was across the map and probably a full minute before you could later see the cleaver fell back to Earth on some poor unsuspecting unit.

  33. bilharzia says:

    The ‘Men of War’ series is the obvious inheritor, with AS2 being the latest update, if you want multiplayer and are not too put off by the WWII setting.
    link to store.steampowered.com

  34. cpt_freakout says:

    I think the reference to Banner Saga is quite apt: tragic, and with great music to boot! I’ve a very soft spot for tragedy, and you got me thinking maybe, in part, it’s due to having been exposed to Myth as a kid. I wish I could revisit it… *opens GOG wishlist*

  35. kerrybenton says:

    Played and loved.

    I was a Macintosh kid, so gaming was always rather a bleak and sad situation. But Myth was the first game I played that NONE of my PC having friends even knew about and it was really something special. It’s always been something I speak lovingly of whenever given half a chance.

    III was a terrible disappointment to me. Visually improved, but somehow neutered… I never recaptured the visceral engagement I had with I and II… one of those things I wish I could experience again for the first time.

  36. cimota says:

    Myth II was really the pinnacle of this series, especially due to the amazingly imaginative mod community (which produced everything from samurai to green berets to civil war heroes to star trek ships).

    I wonder why there hasn’t been a myth-a-like produced. Especially for those other gaming devices that people carry around.

    • malkav11 says:

      There have been a couple of other RTSes that had similar designs, like the Ground Control games, if not the storytelling chops or worldbuilding. Nothing terribly recent that I can recall, though. As to why there haven’t been more…the RTS genre has been pretty moribund for some time and it seems like if they’re made at all, they’re made closer to the vastly more successful Starcraft formula. Why not for mobile devices? Well, to me that would be a UI/control nightmare.